Read, then answer. Easy? Easy. November 11, 2010 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Please either answer the questions that people actually ask, or don't answer the question.

All you have to go on is the information that the OP has given you. When you don't bother to actually read the question before you type stuff in the answer box, or you fill in blanks with imaginary details of your own that you assume to be true, you're derailing someone else's thread.
posted by freshwater_pr0n to Etiquette/Policy at 9:24 PM (301 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

how about a link?
posted by mlis at 9:26 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd post a more apropos reply, but I'd be filling in blanks with imaginary example threads of my own that I assume to exemplify your complaint, so...
posted by vorfeed at 9:27 PM on November 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Why are you yelling at ME?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:29 PM on November 11, 2010 [14 favorites]


TL;DNR
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:30 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the mods do a good job of deleting answers that don't actually answer the question. Flag it and move on.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:30 PM on November 11, 2010 [12 favorites]


I swear to dog this is so frustrating you should be banned for a week for starting a Meta and not stating your case with examples and citations.
posted by mlis at 9:31 PM on November 11, 2010 [34 favorites]


"Read, then answer. Easy? Easy."

No, not easy at all. We have no idea what you are talking about.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:36 PM on November 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


The etiquette/policy in this respect is quite clear and the mods seem to be doing a damn fine job of keeping things under control. What gives?
posted by vidur at 9:36 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you have a problem dealing with obnoxious know-it-alls, you should probably stay out of AskMetafilter.
posted by item at 9:37 PM on November 11, 2010 [17 favorites]


This is weird.
posted by John Cohen at 9:37 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


if this is a satirical meta post taking the piss out of people who provide insufficient information, then well done.
posted by Challahtronix at 9:37 PM on November 11, 2010 [11 favorites]


Hmm. That didn't come out quite how I meant it. Oh well.
posted by item at 9:37 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


All you have to go on is the information that the OP has given you.


. . . not much in this case.
posted by Think_Long at 9:42 PM on November 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


The OP may be talking about her recent AskMe, although I don't see anything still in the thread that isn't relevant to the question.
posted by emilyd22222 at 9:45 PM on November 11, 2010


Flag, then get on with your life. Easy? Easy.
posted by pompomtom at 9:46 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The OP may be talking about her recent AskMe

Sure, if we want to fill in her blanks with imaginary details.
posted by John Cohen at 9:48 PM on November 11, 2010 [13 favorites]


almost a MeTa free day ruined by this claptrap. someone needs a hug
posted by edgeways at 9:53 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I asked Jessamyn to delete the question, and she did, so no link. Long story short, I asked for suggestions for cruise-ship-like vacations that didn't involve actually being on a cruise ship because my mother wanted to take a cruise and I didn't. Using clear, specific language, I detailed what I was looking for.

The thread devolved into people telling me that I was being selfish and that my mother was a nice lady who'd done so much for me and who deserved a cruise. More people came into the question to tell me what a jerk I was being. Go on! Take that cruise! Whether or not my mom is a "nice lady," and whether or not going on a cruise is an option, were not part of the question.

I grew up having people tell me what nice people my parents were and getting scolded for not being a good enough daughter. A lot of abused kids do. Hearing that again was incredibly traumatic.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:57 PM on November 11, 2010 [16 favorites]


So essentially, people were telling me to do something that would end in my suicide, and scolding me for not doing it. There, are you happy now?
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 10:02 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Deal with the people who chastised you, don't drag the rest of us into this.
posted by boo_radley at 10:02 PM on November 11, 2010 [19 favorites]


Askme is like magical Russian Roulette.

Sometimes you get a bullet, sometimes you get a million bucks, sometimes you get a turd, and sometimes you get a non-euclidean lifeform quoting Alexander Woollcott poetry.

It's a gamble, and you gotta take the bad with the good, even though it's frustrating sometimes. And if you got a problem with that that goes beyond what flagging can for you, you a) have never looked at Yahoo Answers for comparison, and b) probably shouldn't be asking strangers on the internet about your problems.

Lambasting the userbase is unlikely to resolve this tension, it's inherent.
posted by smoke at 10:04 PM on November 11, 2010 [20 favorites]


freshwater_pr0n's, unless you detailed your relationship with your mother in your in question there's really no way anyone could have known that.
posted by 26.2 at 10:11 PM on November 11, 2010 [32 favorites]


So essentially, people were telling me to do something that would end in my suicide, and scolding me for not doing it. There, are you happy now?

I am not happy and am sorry you are having a difficult time. Recently I read something on Mefi that was incredibly painful to me and wound up sobbing at my desk so I can understand the intensity of your reaction. I am not a huggy person, but, er, hugs?
posted by mlis at 10:13 PM on November 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


You know what was awesome? In my last AskMe people were all "You're making terrible assumptions and your question is bad!" And you know what? They were totally right. I learned way more from that than if they had answered my question to the letter. It solved my problem, which was essentially an attitude problem I didn't know I had. Thanks, Mefites!
posted by stoneweaver at 10:17 PM on November 11, 2010 [25 favorites]


Also, I think you've been around here long enough to know that people do this all the time. Your Metatalk thread isn't the first one to complain about it. It's just one of those things that's going to happen no matter what you do. Breathe in, breathe out, close the browser window and realize that there are more important things to worry about other than words on the internet.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:17 PM on November 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


So essentially, people were telling me to do something that would end in my suicide, and scolding me for not doing it. There, are you happy now?

No, I am not and I am sure nor are others in this thread. If you are going to make a thin MeTa post, people are going to ask you to elaborate on it. This is not to goad you towards any horrific actions, but is simply how things work here and in life.

I'm quite certain that people who responded to you in AskMe were also responding (mostly) in good faith (and the mods usually take care of the bad faith responses). How are they to know of special circumstances not alluded to in a question? Filling in the gaps is how we all work - and especially how AskMe works. Without our brains filling in the gaps with assumptions, life would be a never-ending quest to decide with 100% certainty which side of bed to get out of.
posted by vidur at 10:23 PM on November 11, 2010


How are they to know of special circumstances not alluded to in a question?

Again, if you don't want to link to the question, we can't really know whether that's what happened or not. Maybe it was just a lot of meanies who hated you and wanted you to be miserable. I have a hunch that that's not quite how it happened. I also completely and totally understand not wanting to air your issues with the internet at large, but you've got to recognize that if you choose to withhold a very relevant detail it can derail the answers.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:29 PM on November 11, 2010


So essentially, people were telling me to do something that would end in my suicide, and scolding me for not doing it.

I do not mean the following in a snarky way whatsoever.

If you are actually in danger of suicide based on an answer from someone on Metafilter, I think there are some inherent and significant issues that, to me, would suggest that your mental well-being might be better served by avoiding AskMe as a resource for personal questions altogether.

If you are not actually in danger of suicide based on an answer form someone on Metafilter, I think your general experience in AskMe might be better served by dialing back the hyperbole a little.

Either way, I think it might be a good idea to develop a more realistic idea of what people can and cannot be expected to know and/or infer about your personal situation and familial history in any given situation here. We are not a community of mind-readers, though I think on the whole we are a community that tries in good faith to be thoughtful and even compassionate with the facts at hand.

Again, absolutely no snark intended, and if you are truly experiencing the level of distress that you indicate, I sincerely hope you have reached out for therapeutic help.
posted by scody at 10:34 PM on November 11, 2010 [105 favorites]


Stop the inanity.
posted by iamabot at 10:48 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You get what you pay for. And sometimes a bit more.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:49 PM on November 11, 2010


yeah, pretty much what scody said... both sides.

You don't always get the answers you want from AskME, and sometimes that is a good thing. If a set of answers is going to so emotionally throw you that you'd consider killing yourself, perhaps... just perhaps you should lay those guidelines out to start with, rather than delivering the sucker punch after the fact.

I, and I expect the majority of people here, wish you no harm. Quite the opposite in fact. I don't know you, but I know others who have been in analogous situations and so by extension I've great sympathy for you.

be safe, be well, find the help you need
posted by edgeways at 10:55 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you have a problem dealing with obnoxious know-it-alls, you should probably stay out of AskMetafilter.

If you have a problem dealing with obnoxious know-it-alls, you should definitely stay out of MetaTalk.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:02 PM on November 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry your AskMe didn't work out here. Others have commented on your specific question, but I wanted to say something about the more general point of "just answer the question stupid" because it comes up a lot.

A lot of times, people ask questions that are of the form "How do I do X?" To us answerers, X sounds like a pretty strange thing to do ("How do I clean my gutters using a shotgun and the muffler from my 1973 Chevy?"), or X might not even tell us what you're really trying to accomplish ("How do I turn the muffler from my 1973 Chevy into a ladder?"). Sometimes we all get so bogged down solving sub-problems of the original issue, we forget the goal entirely (when you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remind yourself that your initial objective was to drain the swamp). In yet other cases, askers bring their own baggage to the question, but neglect to tell us about it ("How do I make mushroom ragout, but I won't tell you that I'm deathly afraid of fungus and will be offended if anyone suggests I handle mushrooms?").

Given that many questions involve some elements of the above and that most of us aren't psychic, problems like the one we have here can come up. Sometimes "don't do X; do Y instead" is a perfectly reasonable response to a question. If Y upsets you and we don't know that you have baggage around Y, there's not much we can do about it until you get upset. Sometimes "why on earth are you trying to do X?" is a perfectly reasonable response to a question. If you refuse to acknowledge that doing X might not be the most rational way to get to your goal, there's not much we can do about it.

In short, getting answers you might not want is the price you pay for asking strangers for advice on the internet. In fact, it's part of the price you pay for asking virtually anyone about anything. If answerers are responding in good faith (and as vidur says, they usually do around here), it seems rude to insist that you don't want to hear some answers because they don't fit the exact template of what you're looking for. When it comes down to it, they are just answers on a computer screen. No one is forcing you to follow them and certainly no one is really passing judgement on you based on your short question on the green. You post to AskMe, you'll get some advice, but only you can look at the range of answers given and decide what to do based on your specific situation.
posted by zachlipton at 11:10 PM on November 11, 2010 [25 favorites]


So this incident took place a week (or more) ago, I take it? Why are you only posting this now? This sort premeditated angry/upset reaction MeTa is very strange. If this is still bothering you, several days later, I (like scody and others) am more than a little concerned for you. Maybe it's time to take a break from Metafilter for a while?
posted by phunniemee at 11:16 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, there are plenty of examples of people obviously not having read the question and posting answers anyway. Here is just one.
posted by mlis at 11:18 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


How are they to know of special circumstances not alluded to in a question?

You can't know, which is why you should assume that the facts and constraints given in the question are true and exist for a good reason. Yes, if it's one of those "my requirements are so ridiculous as to be impossible, and I really need to reconfigure my expectations" kind of questions then it's fine to question assumptions, but I remember this question and it was totally answerable. She asked a question specifically about finding workable alternatives to cruises; if they exist (and they do) then what is the benefit of telling her that she should go on the cruise, other than to give advice that is unnecessary and unsolicited?

I feel like there are a lot of "I don't have an answer but I do have an opinion" responses in AskMe and I'm wondering how hard it is to just not type anything when you find yourself in that situation.
posted by stefanie at 11:27 PM on November 11, 2010 [16 favorites]


It just happens. You can even say in your question, "please don't tell me to (do this thing) because (here's why I can't)," and inevitably some people will tell you to do that thing.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:46 PM on November 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


How are they to know of special circumstances not alluded to in a question? You can't know, which is why you should assume that the facts and constraints given in the question are true and exist for a good reason.

That's well and good in theory, but it is my opinion that the constraints given in the question very often aren't true and/or don't exist for a good reason. One of the most common cases for people asking questions is that they don't know exactly what question to ask. Often, given that we're smart people around here, if we know precisely what question we want the answer to, with all the constraints rationally defined, we can find the answer ourselves without needing to post on AskMe at all (one exception being "help me find this song" type questions).

AskMe isn't a magic universal truth machine that spits out a response narrowly tailored to the question that comes in. Such a machine is technically impossible, but that's not the point. We take your question as a narrative of your situation, apply some human "I think you mean..." magic, and tell you what we think we would do if we were in your shoes. Sometimes that means questioning the asker about part of their question.

You're right. You can't know the special circumstances behind the question, but the solution to that is to ask more questions in response, not to blindly accept every word of the question as gospel.

Or, to put it in joke form: "Doctor, Doctor! Every time I drink coffee I get this sharp stabbing pain in my eye." "Well try taking the spoon out first." Sometimes a right answer isn't what the asker is looking for.
posted by zachlipton at 11:59 PM on November 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


While I agree with the general response to this post (give an example, dial back on the hyperbole), the point made here is well worth repeating.

Just answer the question. At different times, I've gone through phases of noticing lots of this. I'm sorry I'm too tired to go dig up a bunch of examples right now to illustrate my sense that this is really widespread, but I remember drafting a Meta thread about four months ago after several threads that week wherein people filled in the ambiguity with negative assumptions about the poster and then gave lectures or scoldings rather than helpful answers. I'd bet I've done this myself, but it's not right. There are probably people in the world who need those scoldings, but commenters should look for clear evidence in the post before jumping to negative conclusions about an OP, and even then, consider how to word the comment so the OP can actually hear it.
posted by salvia at 12:18 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


http://ask.metafilter.com/161061/A-Supposedly-Fun-Thing-I-Never-Want-To-Do-in-the-First-Place

This is the question the poster is referring to, it was posted July 31, 2010.
posted by CarolynG at 12:24 AM on November 12, 2010


This is the question the poster is referring to, it was posted July 31, 2010.

Wow. That was a spectacularly civil and well-intentioned thread. freshwater_pr0n gave more information about her mother's problems then her own problems, thus leading people to logically conclude that freshwater_pr0n just doesn't like cruises. I don't see anyone there who harbors bad intentions towards freshwater_pr0n.
posted by shii at 12:29 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


If you have a problem dealing with obnoxious know-it-alls, you should definitely stay out of MetaTalk.

I knew someone was going to say that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:29 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with salvia. There is a time and a place for challenging the asker's framing of her own question, but those times are very rare and specific. Askme answers in human relations questions sometimes (more often lately?) take on a trashy daytime talk show vibe: "you thought you were coming here for a makeover, but we have your ex backstage and we're going to talk about how you had an affair!" That sucks and should stop.

freshwater_pr0n, I don't know if it helps to hear that it's not just you or your question. I remember a thread a few years ago that began: "you whiny people, why do you even come to Askme, just go call your mom, I'm sure she wants to hear from you and you probably never call her." And then other people chimed in to say "look, my mom passed away recently", then "I never had a mom", then "hooray for moms", then "some moms are bad", then "hey I'm a mom", etc. People are coming from all over the map on this, and it's risky to make any assumptions about family.

Even though people were being thoughtless, I'm sure they didn't realize what a nerve they would strike in making random guesses about your situation; I'm sure they didn't mean any harm and would certainly not want to cause you as much upset as it obviously did. I hope you're able to detach from that whole thing and just forget about those answers.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:31 AM on November 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


Hey, just so everyone knows, I'm a licensed and ordained minister. I'm willing to join any two Mefites in holy matrimony, provided they're legally able to become wed in whatever backwards part of the world they live in. Certainly there're a couple of assholes 'round these parts that'd like to be married, if only for shits and giggles. Takers?
posted by item at 1:10 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


do you take checks?
posted by clavdivs at 1:18 AM on November 12, 2010


Only with a cash deposit.
posted by item at 1:38 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I finally understand why people respond with "i dont understand" .

I really dont understand.

Is this a real threat of suicide or a fucking hyperbole?

Why is a metatalk post showing up about something that happened (or possibly didnt happen) four months ago?

Are you ok, for reals, OP?
Im being sincere here.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:52 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


So wait, over three months later, OP is still angry because she's been stewing about the responses to her AskMe question this whole time?

I'm going to have to concur that OP should seek help for her problems elsewhere as they are too much for AskMe to handle. Talk with your therapist about letting go of the little things.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:08 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


You don't always get the answers you want from AskME, and sometimes that is a good thing. If a set of answers is going to so emotionally throw you that you'd consider killing yourself, perhaps... just perhaps you should lay those guidelines out to start with, rather than delivering the sucker punch after the fact.

In fairness, when she said she was told to do something that would end in her suicide, I think she meant that had she taken the cruise, she would have killed herself.

freshwater, it's clear this is still really an open wound for you. Abuse can be an incredibly difficult thing to deal with even long after you're an adult and think you have it all behind you.

I see no answers in the thread calling you a bad person for refusing the cruise, unless those answers were deleted; I do understand how over time a comment like "You only have one Mom. Let her have her way this time." can read as "Are you trying to control what your mother does? What a terrible child!". Try to remember that the people answering these questions are, effectively, strangers. They're not sending you the same coded messages you may have gotten throughout your childhood.

However: reading over the question, I can see how your overall tone might have elicited the answers it got: you would "rather not" go on a cruise; she, on the other hand, "has a severe anxiety disorder". Can you see how the answers would have been framed in terms of "how wonderful your mom is for dealing with her fear issues!" and "why not just go on the cruise?" You made it sound like her issues were more urgent than your issues. In reality, her anxiety aside, you were equally anxious about the trip, but this was information you did not provide.

I doubt you will turn to AskMe for a similar question, but in the future for questions like this, it's more helpful to provide motivations rather than reasons. We actually didn't need to know that your mother suffered from severe anxiety disorder; all this served to do was to make her more sympathetic and make her case seem more important than yours. In the more inside you could have simply said,
My mother hates sightseeing, playing the tourist, and unfamiliar experiences, which is why she likes cruises. I really, really don't want to for personal reasons I can't get into. The things my mother enjoys about cruise ships are the wide variety of foods, non-threatening entertainment, pretty views and getting to sit around and relax and read a book without any obligations, all in one self-contained ship that she never has to leave.
See, now all of a sudden, your mom is this stick in the mud who hates normal travel, and you're someone who for their own reasons hates the idea of a cruise. It no longer matters what is going on under the hood that might affect the answers. Some people might still say that a cruise is the way to go, but they're not going to call your mother a hero.

By the way, a perfect counterpoint is your most recent question. There, you do an excellent job of laying out the contrasting motivations of two different individuals (your quip about the ADD, while it may have forestalled one or more armchair diagnoses, was probably unnecessary; while severe organizational issues are a trademark of ADD, being so organized as to actually put things back where they belong, even if it is a jumbled basket or a multi-purposed bookshelf, speaks to someone who is high-functioning at least in terms of organization. I'm often content so long as my belongings are clustered into somewhat logical heaps on the floor rather than scattered across the entire apartment. Ms. Deathalicious disagrees).

I hope that your vacation with your mother, if it happened, went smoothly and that you are able to work through and be healed from your negative history with her. I cherish my relationship with my parents and always feel sad when I hear stories of friends whose relationships are so messed up.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:17 AM on November 12, 2010 [22 favorites]


I agree with Deathalicious, but I'd say that in general it is usually wise to to go over your question a bit like a lawyer and and just completely cut out material that you don't want addressed in the answers — so here it would have been better to edit all the specific mentions of your mom and related issues, and just go with something like:
"What are some options for "cruise-like" vacations that are not cruises, but are structured in similar ways, and cost a similar amount. Ideally this would be something in New England or New York that would include things like a wide variety of foods, family-friendly entertainment, pretty views and getting to sit around and relax and read a book without any obligations, all in one self-contained area. I have this vision of a woodsy resort in the Catskills or the Berkshires where visitors can relax and be able to stay for a whole week without getting bored, but I'm having a hard time finding it.

I've looked at all-inclusive resorts, and they all seem to be way more expensive than a cruise, and they're all in sun-and-sand type places like Florida or the Bahamas."
Sure, some people might have been all "why not a cruise," but you could just say "sorry, complicated family holiday planning here, and an actual cruise is just off the table, but I would love any creative ideas about something that's similar in the ways I've mentioned."

I totally understand why you wrote it the way you did, because you were dealing with all sorts of feelings and fears that were at the base of the whole question, but it unfortunately introduced context that wasn't helpful for what you wanted. I've done the same thing myself, and I imagine most people who've used AskMe for more than completely objective questions have had very similar experiences.
posted by taz at 2:39 AM on November 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


freshwater_pr0n's account is disabled. I hope everything is ok.
posted by Houstonian at 2:51 AM on November 12, 2010 [13 favorites]


Are we really having a Meta discussion about an AskMe question that was deleted three months ago?
posted by crossoverman at 2:57 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


FW_pron's complaint is a common one. It is offensive when responders go off topic or even answer in ways already eliminated from her desired outcomes list. That makes it feel like either you dont care what the question is and you want to voice your opinion & FW_p can go hang, or you didnt read it at all. Often, in my experience, it's the latter.

Here's an idea:
why not add to the number of ways that a questioner can steer the thread? At present, a questioner can mark as a favourite any reply and can mark as best answer the, er, best answer.
How about marking a reply in one more way - say 'off-topic' // 'not what I am looking for' // 'outside the constraints I posed in the question'.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:03 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


dash_slot: I think that's a really good idea. I'm not too crazy about "not what I am looking for" as an option, but agree with the idea of providing options of the sort that you are suggesting.
posted by bardophile at 3:07 AM on November 12, 2010


I don't think introducing extra functionality is needed. No need to over-complicate things. If suggestions are going in a direction that the asker isn't interested in, it's easy enough for them to drop in a note that says "Thanks for the suggestions to do X, but unfortunately X is not an option for me due to Y and Z (or ...due to complicated circumstances I'd rather not go into). I would be grateful if people could suggest things more along the lines of A or B".

Sure, people will ignore or miss that, but probably less than would miss a "not what I'm looking for" indicator, however that would be displayed. Askers' responses within a question are already highlighted so it's pretty easy to scan down and check for any existing clarifications from the asker before posting your own answer.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:21 AM on November 12, 2010


Plus for completely off-topic stuff, there is already the Noise or Derail flags, or the option to directly contact the mods and ask for off-topic stuff to be removed.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:22 AM on November 12, 2010


Its just an idea, EOInvention. Flags are not seen in detail by the whole community, and the whole point of this function I propose is to be visible to all so as to provide feedback in a non-defensive way.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:34 AM on November 12, 2010


An idea:

A button or link is presented next to each answer, which only the OP sees.

If the OP feels an answer is off-topic or fighty or whatever, s/he hits the button and the div is subsequently hidden to readers.

Readers, in turn, have the option of showing answers that have been hidden by pressing a button or clicking a link to show OP-hidden answers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:59 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


We already have a "best answer" function. I don't think a "worst answer" function is really needed, or indeed a good idea.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:20 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


BP -- a good idea, but how would that work with anonymous questions (which are legion)?

Sincerely, that's a good idea, I'm just afraid that the anonymous factor would make that unworkable.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:22 AM on November 12, 2010


freshwater_pr0n, for what it's worth, I'm right there with you; my last ask.me question was rife with non-answers, particularly the second response to the question.

Q: Are there any recipes I could make that require getting started now?
A: any food cooked now would almost certainly be spoiled by Thanksgiving


...followed by 3 paragraphs of off-topic asininity that seem to assume the question was, "Say some things about Thanksgiving meals, just whatever comes into your head first, don't be shy"

Q: hey metafilter I would like to buy a TV, can you recommend a particular model of TV?
A: the Wire is a show that is on TV, try watching The Wire
posted by Greg Nog at 4:23 AM on November 12, 2010 [31 favorites]


All these technical solutions to the "problem" don't really solve anything IMO. If people aren't being helpful or offbase, then the OP should say so, in a generally polite way, within the thread.
posted by nomadicink at 4:23 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]




I agree with Deathalicious and taz. But I think we all have to fight off the urge to over-share if indeed all we want is the question to be answered. Here's an example from today:
Thanksgiving is coming and I'm going to need to digest. Where can I buy Underberg in New York?
Anyone know where I can buy Underberg in New York, preferably Brooklyn? I always go on about how no one can even digest a meal without a digestif, and I'd really like to show up to my friends' house with Underberg this Thanksgiving. I'm well aware of Campari, Cynar, Fernet Branca, and every other bitter. I've already given some of these to my hosts. I only seek Underberg.
Notice that the OP is giving too much information and then knows he is giving too much information and, rightly, expects that people will chime in with digressions about other digestifs or about helping digestion in general. So, he goes out of his way to try to fight that off. But, really none of that is necessary. The question should really be:
Anyone know where I can buy Underberg in New York, preferably Brooklyn?
So, why can't we write questions like that? Is it our urge to chat.
posted by vacapinta at 4:32 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


How about marking a reply in one more way

Oh jesus, no. For a start, you could interpret this whole thread about a plea for mefites judging people less, not more - something like that would contribute to derails not prevent them. and secondly, come on: you're asking people - strangers - on the internet, random questions, for free. Frankly, you are not entitled to expect a certain answer, in a certain style beyond common courtesy and good faith - you're not entitled to get any answer. You get to ask, that's the deal. If you want something different, pay for it, or ask people you know.

Hell, that's the explicit compact that askme represents: You are throwing your question (and self) open to a large, broad, close-to-anonymous community that owes you little and knows you less. You can't pretend it's like a circle of friends answering your question, or something different than what it is.

My experience - and I've had questions that kind of glided around the answers I wanted, or ridiculed my naive or awkward phrasing instead of addressing the question, but you know what? I take my lumps, baby. That's what you get asking such a broad group random questions on the internet. If I want advice where I can exert social pressure or a level of empathy and knowingness to influence my answers, I'll ask my friends, or my family, or my doctor, etc.

Askme isn't some kind of ultimate arbiter of truth; the answers don't have to be anything more than you want them to be. More often than not, especially in relationship questions, it's a few perspectives from a limited and ignorant viewpoint. That's all. If you don't like, just ignore em. They're coming from people who don't know you or your life anyway, and have jobs, and partners, and their own cares and worries; how angry can you get at em?

There's no point trying to make askme into something it's not. It's a glass, darkly. And if you don't like looking through that particular glass, there's plenty of windows other windows out there.
posted by smoke at 4:34 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


The question should really be:
Anyone know where I can buy Underberg in New York, preferably Brooklyn?


I would bet that if someone asked that question instead of the above-mentioned one, you would get at least one person saying, "Have you tried Fernet Branca?"

OP: Looking for any verifications of one guy's psychic predictions -- "Please note that this question is a straight-up request for verification of any of these predictions"
A: It is extremely important that everyone know that I think "psychics" are stupid
posted by Greg Nog at 4:46 AM on November 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


So, why can't we write questions like that? Is it our urge to chat.

I asked a question a long while ago (and under a different handle) about buying X. I specifically mentioned that I wanted X, and not substitutes Y or Z. I still got answers about how I could find Y or Z, but they were deleted because I had specifically mentioned I didn't want either. Had I not mentioned Y or Z, then they wouldn't have been deleted and, furthermore, I probably would have gotten 20 other people telling me just to get Y or Z.

When I write an Ask.Me, I tend to think, "What's the BEST way I can avoid people giving me the answers I don't want?" And, rightly or wrongly, it's usually easier to add more details in anticipation of off-topic answers rather than remove them.
posted by meese at 4:51 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've always found it useful to hang around for an hour or two after asking the question just to head off any wrong turns in the answering. It's really hard to ask a question in a completely unambiguous way - and with that I mean adressing not only "how do I do this" but also "here is what I really, in the depths of my heart, want to achieve by doing this". So I expect the first few answers to be shots in the dark (or twilight) and I redirect if I think it will help.

And mostly, all it takes is a polite "These two answers are what I'm looking for, answers like this one won't work because -"

I've found that most people here are remarkably attuned to watch out for clarifications like this and the subsequent answers really get better.

And I keep in mind that people will often answer with their own emotions in mind. For instance, many people here have a sort of sentimental attitude towards their parents ("you only have one mother", "one day you will wish you had let it slide, I speak from experience" or something like that. It helps to remember that it says more about them than about me and I just pick what works for me.

It sounds like the OP here got kicked in the ass by her own emotions about the subject and I hope she is ok.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:51 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, for what it is worth, AskMe is not the Kobiyashi Maru. No points are awarded for out of the box thinking. This isn't "The Question is Moot". This isn't about the most clever way to deconstruct the premises of the question. No finger-snaps from the po-mo crowd as you reveal the self-negating duality of the question.

If the question brings forth an emotional response in me, about half of the time, I decide not to even attempt to answer, because that's when I get stupid. This goes for hot button issues, taboos, societal expectations that provoke reflexive response, things with which I have had bad experiences, and so forth. If I cannot laugh about it, I probably do not have the perspective to answer.

I try to restrain myself from "knowing better" than the OP. This is hard because, hey, they're asking a question, they don't know. This appeals to the ego. "They do not know. We must know better." So I take a deep breath and imagine that the questioner knows their own mind, knows what they want, and just has some tiny gap in their knowledge. I'm here to fill in on something they missed in class that day. Or to supply the word on the tip of their tongue. Or that thing that most people would not reasonably know because they didn't spend a couple of semesters weirdly obsessed with black hole dynamics and don't have autographed copies of Gravitation.

I try to pause and self-censor after I have written something in AskMe. If I find that my answer is one of those "question the assumptions" kind of answers, I'll mull it over. Maybe it is a derail or interesting only to me. Maybe I have not looked hard enough for the question proper. Four times out of five, I will delete that answer and move on because the question looks like the OP is serious about their problem constraints. Yesterday, I spent about ten minutes writing up something about how the positive and negative feedback in azeotropes is mathematically similar to the Lagrangian points, then realized, "You know what? I don't think the OP is interested in the dynamics of the distillation so much as theoretical ways to identify what pairs of compounds would give rise to that behavior." It's a shame, because it was kind of interesting, but it was more or less tangential to what the OP was after, so I dropped it.

I do not always succeed. Sometimes I go back over my old answers, some a few years back, and squirm inwardly as I realize just how worthless and non-contributory my little outburst truly was.
posted by adipocere at 5:04 AM on November 12, 2010 [21 favorites]


AskMe is frequently a no-win place in terms of asking the "right" question. If you try to only include the facts or information you think is relevant, you'll be pestered for more details. (Do a Google search for site:ask.metafilter.com "we need more" to see what I mean. "We need more information." "We need more details." "We need more info.") And if the OP includes a ton of details in an effort to stave off responses like that (often seen in anon questions where they think they can't follow up), people will often say (in MetaTalk, anyway) they included too much pointless backstory, or too many details we didn't need, like in this thread right here.

So, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, but either way, responders in AskMe will frequently do as freshwater_pr0n has said and either read details into the question that aren't there, or just jump in with whatever tangentially-related-to-the-question flotsam happens to be floating in their frontal lobe at the moment without actually reading the question, as Greg Nog has shown examples of. It's irritating. I flag. Once in a while I'll add a smalltext comment, like I did here. I don't know what else to do. I know the mods are unlikely to make further changes to the interface to solve what is really a social problem.

I think, at least, that the OP should be permitted to pop in and say, "Please read the question" without people getting het up and accusing the OP of "moderating their question." Sometimes it's necessary. On the other hand, sometimes respectfully questioning the OP's motivations or premise is necessary.
posted by Gator at 5:08 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Come back freshwater_pr0n, we need you here. Not snark, not bs, plz don't leave here hurting; they're many in this community who are caring and will not ever snark when you've opened to them sincerely. Come on back, plz.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:10 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Three months of hang time, followed by a temper tantrum and a /ragequit? I'm sorry it didn't work out, but flaming the place as you leave is, well, old.
posted by DWRoelands at 5:13 AM on November 12, 2010


I strongly recommend people never assume anything about another person's relationship with their parents. You really just have no idea; be conscious of that. It really sucks when the relationship is terrible but everyone assumes that the parents are great.
posted by Jpfed at 5:29 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


The question was idiotic and unanswerable, I'm not sure why this is even being discussed.
posted by fire&wings at 5:37 AM on November 12, 2010


how would that work with anonymous questions (which are legion)?

Anonymous already loses a lot of features, like the ability to respond (except through the moderators, which renders anonymity moot). This would just be another trade-off, I think.

I like the idea to the extent that readers can see what the OP is hiding, if anything, and determine if the OP is acting in good or bad faith in using Ask Metafilter. It also gives the OP some ability to focus the answers in the "right" direction, which is useful when the question allows more freeform answers that might not be useful.

It lets the OP and the community both moderate the thread, to a degree, and allows the moderators to spend less time with clean-up, making fewer subjective and possibly contentious calls about what to delete and what not to delete.

Above all, it's just a bit of JavaScript to hide and show divs. No one user is being sent "custom" HTML, just what the browser hides or shows. So it should be relatively, technically easy to implement.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:37 AM on November 12, 2010


If the OP feels an answer is off-topic or fighty or whatever, s/he hits the button and the div is subsequently hidden to readers.

Readers, in turn, have the option of showing answers that have been hidden by pressing a button or clicking a link to show OP-hidden answers.


We already have people who challenge the poster over that the answers they've marked as best (if they have), and I can't imagine that the ability to hide worst answers would engender less fightyness.

Sometimes challenging the premise of a question is a good thing, and perhaps the only right answer (see: the recentish series of questions from the guy who broke up with his girlfriend and then wanted to ask her to marry him).

Strangers answering your questions can be a feature, since people who don't know you at all can sometimes have a clearer view of what's happening than people who know you. It's also a bug, because people who don't know you can't have all the information about the situation you're asking about.

freshwater_pr0n, I hope everything is okay with you.
posted by rtha at 5:38 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


AskMe is not the Kobiyashi Maru

Not only do I want to hug you for this statement, I want to have it engraved on the top of ask.me.

Also:
Sometimes I go back over my old answers, some a few years back, and squirm inwardly as I realize just how worthless and non-contributory my little outburst truly was.

Yeah, I feel you on that, too.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:43 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


AskMe is not the Kobiyashi Maru

Not only do I want to hug you for this statement, I want to have it engraved on the top of ask.me.


In all sincerity without a trace of snark, could someone explain what this means?
posted by vincele at 5:47 AM on November 12, 2010


In all sincerity without a trace of snark, could someone explain what this means?

From wikipedia: "The Kobayashi Maru is a test in the fictional universe of Star Trek. It is a Starfleet training exercise designed to test the character of cadets in the command track at Starfleet Academy. The Kobayashi Maru test was first depicted in the opening scene of the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and also appears in the 2009 film Star Trek. The test's name is occasionally used among Star Trek fans or those familiar with the series to describe a no-win scenario."
posted by nomadicink at 5:49 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I totally hear where you're coming from, freshwater_pr0n. I've been there. Part of not killing myself is knowing that I can't change everyone. I can't change Metafilter culture. I can't change my parents. I can't change US politics. I can't change you.

I think it's admirable to try, though. I like that you did. So I'm trying, too: you shouldn't kill yourself. It'll get better.

Also, threatening to kill yourself because of something that somebody said to you on a website is manipulative bullshit, and you shouldn't do that, either. There are better ways to seek sympathy.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:49 AM on November 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's a Star Trek reference. The Kobayashi-Maru test is a battle simulation for Starfleet officers-in-training. It's impossible to win the battle, so the puprose of the test is to see how a potential officer copes with a hopeless situation.

BUT our beloved Captain Kirk refuses to play by THE MAN's fuckin' RULES; he hacks into the test in order to change its premises, and essentially wins by cheating. The reference is used within Star Trek to demonstrate how Kirk's the kind of guy for whom outside-the-box thinking is perfectly reasonable, even if other people (like Spock) bristle at said thinking's violation of social norms.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:54 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's impossible to win the battle...

Maybe, maybe not.
posted by nomadicink at 5:58 AM on November 12, 2010




When you don't bother to actually read the question before you type stuff in the answer box, or you fill in blanks with imaginary details of your own that you assume to be true, you're derailing someone else's thread.

I personally like to think up what I imagine the most repeated answer will be among those who suck at reading, and preemptively call it out, like "My mother has done a lot of shitty things to me, and I really am not interested in being nice to her just to be nice. I am not asking to be coerced into going on a cruise. Anyone responding with "Just go on the cruise, be nice to your mother" has not read the question and is being unhelpful."
posted by 23skidoo at 6:10 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy crap, almost everybody who answered this question didn't read it.
posted by Gator at 6:10 AM on November 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


A few months ago, someone told me that I was a giant nerd, and I was all, "No, I'm not -- it doesn't even make sense to call me a giant nerd, you're totally wrong about that! PSH."

Ever since then, when I find myself in a situation like this, where I am shocked and flabbergasted that someone would need the Kobayashi Maru explained to them, I think back on that conversation.
posted by meese at 6:12 AM on November 12, 2010 [19 favorites]


Also, threatening to kill yourself because of something that somebody said to you on a website is manipulative bullshit,

This never happened. She said "people were telling me to do something that would end in my suicide." In other words, had she followed some of the advice (aw, just take your mom on a cruise, whydon'tcha), she might have committed suicide, because it would have actually been that painful/disturbing, for her.
posted by taz at 6:12 AM on November 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


Holy crap, almost everybody who answered this question didn't read it.

It was easy to misread as the clarification that "two shows have to mention each other and refer to the other as fiction" rather than a simple "one fictional show mentioning another" was only on the More Inside. But yeah, classic misread there.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:16 AM on November 12, 2010


Three months of hang time, followed by a temper tantrum and a /ragequit? I'm sorry it didn't work out, but flaming the place as you leave is, well, old.

It's ok not to pile on. The OP is clearly having some issues, it's understandable, it happens sometimes.

Hopefully, as the rest of the world wakes up to this, they can see that and avoid berating the OP.
posted by nomadicink at 6:17 AM on November 12, 2010 [13 favorites]


Sometimes questions get derailed by early answers, which can be unfortunate. Sometimes people don't read the question carefully, also unfortunate. Relationship questions are especially complicated. It's difficult to give enough information without tipping over into tl;dr territory. Sometimes, when answerers go beyond the specific question, and try to give broader advice, it's welcome, not always.

In this case it seems like people tried to give you honest advice. You also got some specific answers to your question. It doesn't look like a trainwreck to me.

Ask.Me is not therapy. However, I've gotten help from anonymous questions that is better than some therapy. In my perfect world-full-of-ponies I'd have a coaching team composed of several talented Ask.Me answerers.

So, let me answer a question that is not what you asked. You sound irritable, miserable, and while I think you used the word suicide with hyperbole, you used the word 'suicide.' These are signs associated with depression. Getting treatment for depression, or getting good therapy to deal with life issues that may be complicated and difficult might help you feel a lot better.

Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 6:19 AM on November 12, 2010


Somewhat apropos to this meta is the current AskMe about tv shows "colliding"--it is really amazing that almost no one (other than the poster marked with best answer) is responding to the OP's actual question. The OP, in fact, specifically states that s/he is not looking for the exact types of answers that s/he gets. If AskMe were a reading comprehension test, most members would fail.

Posters: write clear, concise questions. The backstory typically is less helpful than you imagine.

Respondents: read the question; answer the question. If step 1 does not enable you to move to step 2, repeat step 1, ask for clarifications, or move on.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:20 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


A few months ago, someone told me that I was a giant nerd, and I was all, "No, I'm not -- it doesn't even make sense to call me a giant nerd, you're totally wrong about that! PSH."

Ever since then, when I find myself in a situation like this, where I am shocked and flabbergasted that someone would need the Kobayashi Maru explained to them, I think back on that conversation.


meese, I am even more shocked and flabbergasted because I thought I was a giant nerd and I thought I knew a lot about Star Trek, or at least TNG, but apparently I am not all that.
posted by vincele at 6:21 AM on November 12, 2010


I understand where the OP is coming from. I recently went through the same thing in my AskMe from Nov 11 (not linking here because I asked that it be deleted). I gave the whole question serious thought, posted under my MeFi name, and also asked for no opinions and judgments in my opening paragraph. I put in details that I thought might nip any questions in the bud. I laid out the summary first, then left it up to the reader to delve into the details if they were needed.

I was taken to task for a few things anyway. I was told to immediately remove the post or change to anonymous. I was chided for not letting the attorney do his job. I was reminded that the situation revolved around someone doing something illegal in my state. Honestly, I expected to be reminded of all of these things. That is just the nature of the beast when one puts themselves out there (anonymously or not), to a large and diverse group of people, for their thoughts. When I saw that the question was, in fact, not really answerable except for folks to give their two cents on the topic, I took the advice and asked that it be deleted.

But if I had not at least tried, I would always have wondered if maybe, just maybe, someone out there would have been able to give me some angle that I had not thought of. So, in some way, my question WAS answered.

If you come here with a need, you're going to get feedback, that is certain. Whether you like or accept the feedback is your choice. I'm still glad that I put myself out here, despite the lack of a solution (so to speak). It does require a bit of thick skin, and there are always going to be folks that either do not read the entire question, or put in their opinion, or whatever.

I hope that the OP comes back, and finds a way to peace.
posted by sundrop at 6:21 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


freshwater_pr0n's account is disabled. I hope everything is ok.

Me too, I hope she's just having a bad day and changes her mind.

We all have buttons that can get pushed but online or not, it's hard to engineer things in a way that they never get pushed. I've gotten my buttons pushed online. Hate it. In real life when someone pushes your buttons there's a often a transmission of feeling-you can tell you've upset someone-then there's an explanation of intent, explanation of feeling, apology, resolution...someone pushes your buttons online and they don't see you sucking in your breath with your hands on the keyboard and your shoulders up around your ears. Or vice versa, you make a casual one-off statement and your sparkling wit fails to shine through and you hurt someone's feelings and don't even know.

Online interactions are weird.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:25 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Somewhat apropos to this meta is the current AskMe about tv shows "colliding"--it is really amazing that almost no one (other than the poster marked with best answer) is responding to the OP's actual question.

I almost gave a wrong answer in that thread (Family Guy's take on Star Wars which mentioned Robot Chicken). It's a weird question, because as I was reading it, I could almost feel the (wrong) answers coming up and the desire to be FIRSTFIRSTFIRST or CORRECTCORRECTCORRECT about an interesting piece of pop culture was almost irresistible.

The wording of it is so close to the phenomenon of shows mentioning another, I think people hear what they want to hear, without reading specifics. It's probably a social thing, where the individual wants affirm connections with others, thus cementing their feeling of belonging within a group.

We should probably just groom each other, like the apes, it would make things less fighty..
posted by nomadicink at 6:28 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


It was easy to misread as the clarification that "two shows have to mention each other and refer to the other as fiction" rather than a simple "one fictional show mentioning another" was only on the More Inside.

See, that's the thing, I really don't think it's too much to ask that people actually read the "more inside." And this wasn't some mile-and-a-half-long relationship screed, it was short and specific and gave examples of what the answer was and was not. Couldn't have been a more perfectly-asked question, really, and yet.
posted by Gator at 6:30 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think people hear what they want to hear, without reading specifics.

When I was griping to a friend of mine about the off-topic answers to my aforementioned recipe question, I was like, "It's like getting answers from fuckin' Eliza! 'I SEE YOU ARE THANKSGIVING RECIPES. HERE IS HOW I MADE A THANKSGIVING RECIPES.'"
posted by Greg Nog at 6:33 AM on November 12, 2010 [34 favorites]


I don't know the specific examples the 'colliding' question lists, and so it took me three reads to get to thinking I understood the question, then I came back here and saw that I was still wrong. Maybe I wasn't reading it as closely as I could have those three times, but I was giving it an honest try (and I'm not a failure at reading comprehension!). It's just a really confusing question, if you don't know the specific examples they list.

I think, the more Best Answers get selected, the more on-task answers will get.
posted by meese at 6:33 AM on November 12, 2010


Can this turn into a conversation about how Kirk has tacit authorization to violate the Prime Directive with such intensity on such a regular basis that there's a hybrid baby/spawnling/larvae that looks like him on every class-M world from here to the Delta Quadrant?
posted by griphus at 6:37 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can this turn into a conversation about how Kirk has tacit authorization to violate the Prime Directive with such intensity on such a regular basis that there's a hybrid baby/spawnling/larvae that looks like him on every class-M world from here to the Delta Quadrant?

No, I want to know the antics of the other members of the crew. Surely Sulu was having a ball on many a planet.
posted by nomadicink at 6:38 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Besides, Kirk probably got snipped after David "Oops" Marcus was conceived.
posted by Gator at 6:40 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't ask a lot of questions in AskMe, but on the ones that have gone really well I just expected and tried not to be outraged by totally wrong answers. Some of it is reading comprehension and some of it is simply people being well-intentioned but kind of clueless. They want to help, they know something about (or at least have an opinion about) one or two of the key words in your question, and come hell or high water they are going to tell you about it.

It's such an ingrained and reflexive part of how AskMe operates that you could probably think of it more as a feature than a bug. Answers are always going to go wide, rather than deep, and they are always going to either ignore or question the premises of the question. It's a given, and as an asker you kind of have to almost embrace it or get angry, and I'd rather find the humor and embrace it. Being angry isn't much fun.
posted by Forktine at 6:41 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can this turn into a conversation about how Kirk has tacit authorization to violate the Prime Directive with such intensity on such a regular basis that there's a hybrid baby/spawnling/larvae that looks like him on every class-M world from here to the Delta Quadrant?

If we do this, I'm going to have to bring up "Justice" from Season 1 of TNG, where it's, like, official that they're all supposed to go and hang out and have sex with the people on the planet, even though the people are clearly not technologically advanced enough to understand space explorers from another planet. And, honestly, we're ALL better off, the less we have to talk about Season 1 TNG.
posted by meese at 6:44 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Surely Sulu was having a ball on many a planet.

I wonder if Takei had ever decided that Sulu was gay. I don't remember the character ever having any explicit romantic/sexual subplots, so it was probably left to his discretion. Considering there was a Russian on board and a (compelled, but still) interracial kiss, I wouldn't be surprised.
posted by griphus at 6:46 AM on November 12, 2010


I think people hear what they want to hear, without reading specifics.

Or hearing them. When I broke my ankle a few years ago, I of course had to explain to lots of people what happened, and no matter how carefully I stated that I slipped and fell while walking across the basement floor (and I got more careful every time I told it), virtually every person I told it to heard "I fell down the basement stairs."
posted by JanetLand at 6:46 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


virtually every person I told it to heard "I fell down the basement stairs.

Which is crazy, because it was the fall down the dinning room stairs that caused the wrist fracture.
posted by nomadicink at 6:49 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


See, that's the thing, I really don't think it's too much to ask that people actually read the "more inside." And this wasn't some mile-and-a-half-long relationship screed, it was short and specific and gave examples of what the answer was and was not. Couldn't have been a more perfectly-asked question, really, and yet.

Oh yeah, I mean I'm not excusing them. I read the question correctly, after all, as did at least a couple of others :)
Having said that, the question probably could have been condensed to a clearer "What are some examples of two TV shows mentioning each other as fictional? Made up example: someone in Star Trek TNG says they are a big fan of the TV show Firefly, while someone in Firefly talks about their favourite episode of Star Trek TNG".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:52 AM on November 12, 2010


I wonder if Takei had ever decided that Sulu was gay.

Nope. (He's talked about it before on Stern.)
posted by amro at 6:53 AM on November 12, 2010


See, that's the thing, I really don't think it's too much to ask that people actually read the "more inside."

I agree, but I think a lot of what was/is happening in the TV show thread is similar to your brain filling in the place where a is missing in a sentence - you don't notice it's not there, because your brain put it there and told your eyes that they had seen it.
posted by rtha at 7:03 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


the question probably could have been condensed to a clearer "What are some examples of two TV shows mentioning each other as fictional? Made up example: someone in Star Trek TNG says they are a big fan of the TV show Firefly, while someone in Firefly talks about their favourite episode of Star Trek TNG".

Heh. Which brings me back to my previous point of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" include details or examples or clarifications. But if people would just slow down and not be in such a hurry to vie for that precious, precious "best answer" tick and actually think about the question before answering, the framing of the question wouldn't seem to matter quite so much. (Framing always matters, but on Ask it seems to matter WAY too much for some people.)

One of the interesting things about Reddit is its occasional use of "you are trying to submit too fast" roadblocks for commenting and posting. I think it's tied to your "karma" on individual subreddits, which means it would never work here, but it makes me wonder about certain people's haste to "answer early, answer often" over here and how it might be discouraged.
posted by Gator at 7:07 AM on November 12, 2010


someone had bitchflakes this morning...
posted by krautland at 7:09 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, krautland. Super-helpful. Thanks.
posted by rtha at 7:14 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, threatening to kill yourself because of something that somebody said to you on a website is manipulative bullshit, and you shouldn't do that, either. There are better ways to seek sympathy.

I don't believe she did that. In response to multiple complaints at the start of this thread that folks didn't understand what she was talking about, she explained what was going on:
The thread devolved into people telling me that I was being selfish and that my mother was a nice lady who'd done so much for me and who deserved a cruise. More people came into the question to tell me what a jerk I was being. Go on! Take that cruise! Whether or not my mom is a "nice lady," and whether or not going on a cruise is an option, were not part of the question.

I grew up having people tell me what nice people my parents were and getting scolded for not being a good enough daughter. A lot of abused kids do. Hearing that again was incredibly traumatic.
And then said:
So essentially, people were telling me to do something that would end in my suicide, and scolding me for not doing it. There, are you happy now?
As far as I can tell, she's not threatening anything, nor was trying to manipulate the community into feeling sorry for her. She's explaining, (as asked,) why she felt the thread's answers were extremely unhelpful: people were urging her to do something that she thought would be traumatic enough to drive her to suicide.

You know, it's okay not to defensively vilify and attack people who are dealing with trauma in their lives. Even if you happen to think they're being melodramatic.
posted by zarq at 7:16 AM on November 12, 2010 [15 favorites]


And, honestly, we're ALL better off, the less we have to talk about Season 1 TNG.

I'd really like to ignore that there were any Trek series without Kirk, Spock, etc. I just watched an episode of TNG involving Troi's mother and Worf's son a few days ago after not having seen TNG for about twenty years and wow was that really, really bad television.
posted by octothorpe at 7:21 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, it's okay not to defensively vilify and attack people who are dealing with trauma in their lives. Even if you happen to think they're being melodramatic.

I agree with this, especially the second sentence. If you believe someone is being melodramatic, really the easiest way to handle that is simply to refuse to engage it on that level. Rising to meet the other person's emotional state is a guaranteed mess.

This is something I learned by having toddlers, but it turns out it works pretty much everywhere and is especially effective on the internet.
posted by padraigin at 7:22 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nope. (He's talked about it before on Stern.)

I really don't mean to turn this whole thing into a full-fledged sexuality-in-Trek derail, but I would love to hear him talk about this, if it's anywhere online.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:24 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


TL;DNR

Too Long; Do Not Resuscitate?

In other words, had she followed some of the advice (aw, just take your mom on a cruise, whydon'tcha), she might have committed suicide, because it would have actually been that painful/disturbing, for her.

As much as I feel for freshwater, we as a community can't be responsible for making harmful suggestions when there is no way to know ahead of time that they are indeed harmful. Of course, spelling it out like this, no one would suggest the cruise. But she didn't. And to bring it up later "Your advice was so bad that I would have killed myself!" is needlessly shaming people who were honestly just trying to help.

It would have been very different if she had mentioned exactly the implications of going on the cruise in the question. As is, I feel horrible that she's in so much pain, but at the same time, I feel like lashing out at people is rather uncalled for as no one could have possibly known the gravity of the situation.
posted by sonika at 7:25 AM on November 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


Maybe you should take one of those cruises where they serve SPAM and mayo sandwiches? With no water, toilets or electricity?
posted by fixedgear at 7:26 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course, spelling it out like this, no one would suggest the cruise. But she didn't.

This is why we have a social norm — in Metafilter and in the rest of the world — that you don't go around offering unsolicited advice to people. And contrary to what some people here apparently believe, when someone asks you for advice on one topic it does not then give you carte blanche to hold forth with your unsolicited advice to them on any and all topics that may clatter into your brain.
posted by enn at 7:34 AM on November 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


I think one problem is that to some small extent we have this belief that here on AskMe, we are this wise body of people who can cut through people's self-delusion and tell them how it really is. The reality is that we have nowhere near enough info in most cases and risk making negative assumptions, alienating people, and just plain not being helpful.

It's true that there are occasional questions where people seem blind to their part in a situation, and occasional questions like "I want to move from this spot but don't want to go north, east, south, west, up, down, or any combination thereof." In some cases, we do probably appropriately focus on the OP's contribution or the lack of options they are leaving themselves. But a lot of times, even when the question doesn't show issues like that, answers still blame the problem on the OP or ignore their requirements.

Take the cruise question. Half the answers were "go on the cruise." Clearly the OP knew that was an option, so there was no blind spot. She was seeking another solution, so it wasn't so overbounded that answers just had to break at least one boundary. People just didn't respect the boundaries set.

I've seen follow-ups answered by versions of "you don't know what you really need," so I doubt that reiterating the original question would have helped. And I'm not sure whether more detail of her dislike of cruises or her relationship with her mom would have gone into helpful territory.

I don't think the problem is that "you get what you pay for." At Yahoo Answers, you get a lot less than you get at AskMe, because of the moderation and the conversations here in MeTa. I think it's about culture, our assumptions, and our expectations of one another. We could begin to expect that answerers won't disregard the question or critique the OP without a good, clear reason, and in its absence, flag those kind of answers.
posted by salvia at 7:54 AM on November 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


Somewhat apropos to this meta is the current AskMe about tv shows "colliding"--it is really amazing that almost no one (other than the poster marked with best answer) is responding to the OP's actual question.

Guilty, and self-flagged as noise*. But to be more than fair to myself, the above-the-fold question seems to assume that people would immediately recognize the reciprocity of the references**.

*Do self-flags get more mod attention than others?

**I love both shows, that wasn't a snide "Is this something you'd need to have a TV to know about?" kind of remark. But being far away from where they are produced, I'm not entirely current on either show, so I didn't know they mentioned each other.

posted by solotoro at 7:56 AM on November 12, 2010


I think with AskMe, you pay for what you get (and you get what you pay for). Have extremely low expectations when posting, and you might be pleasantly surprised. Expecting great, professional advice and careful reading of a long, dramatic, and/or involved question will only lead to disappointment. You're asking strangers on the internet about travel plans; not everyone is going to take the question as seriously as you do, and not everyone knows your own life story.

Personally, I would have asked the question here and posted the same question to a travel-specific website elsewhere.
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:56 AM on November 12, 2010


*note: I'm not saying the OP's question was long/dramatic/involved, as I haven't read it, but I'm just talking in the general sense.
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:59 AM on November 12, 2010


And contrary to what some people here apparently believe, when someone asks you for advice on one topic it does not then give you carte blanche to hold forth with your unsolicited advice to them on any and all topics that may clatter into your brain.

Wow, I wish I could move to that planet, because in my experience this certainly happens (particularly with relatives).
posted by aught at 8:04 AM on November 12, 2010


freshwater_pr0n's account is disabled.

There are way the hell too many black highlights in my contact list. Argh.

freshwater_pr0n, I really enjoyed meeting you at the 10th ann. meetup, and maybe you'll reconsider.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:06 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd really like to ignore that there were any Trek series without Kirk, Spock, etc. I just watched an episode of TNG involving Troi's mother and Worf's son a few days ago after not having seen TNG for about twenty years and wow was that really, really bad television.

I used to think this too, and I was kind of embarrassed about how big a role TNG played in my childhood. Then I got bored and started watching reruns on BBCA, and I realized that, wow, actually, some episodes of TNG are really, really good. Yeah, some are absolutely awful, too... But some of them, I think, are absolutely exceptionally good TV.

Also, I'm a total fan of Data's. Data beats everyone.

If you want to give it another shot, I suggest watching the second season. I actually ended up buying the complete series (it's nearly 50 DVDs... but like I said, I'm not a nerd), and I was surprised about how, after the travesty that is the first season, you get some absolutely amazing episodes in the second season.

Also, when you consider the show, throughout its seasons, as a whole, the Borg storylines are just mind-boggingly good storytelling. At first, the Borg are just hinted at, and you get this horrible foreshadowing that BAD WILL HAPPEN, and then it takes complete seasons to get to that badness -- it's just really impressive.

You can memail me and I'll give you a guide to some of my favorite episodes, which I think represent everything that is good about Star Trek, regardless the series.
posted by meese at 8:07 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nope. (He's talked about it before on Stern.)

I really don't mean to turn this whole thing into a full-fledged sexuality-in-Trek derail, but I would love to hear him talk about this, if it's anywhere online.


Not legally. And if you did find a way to listen to old Stern shows online, I think you'd have to listen to every show George has been on (he's a guest announcer for a week twice a year for the last five years), because I have no clue exactly when he discussed this.
posted by amro at 8:09 AM on November 12, 2010


As much as I feel for freshwater, we as a community can't be responsible for making harmful suggestions when there is no way to know ahead of time that they are indeed harmful.

We shouldn't be held responsible for giving harmful suggestions when there is no way to know about them ahead of time.

We should TOTALLY be called out for giving suggestions that completely ignore the question that the asker wants answered. The question was not "Should I go on a cruise or not?", it was "Help me plan a vacation that my mom will like that is NOT A cruise."
posted by 23skidoo at 8:12 AM on November 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


freshwater_p0rn, I'm sorry that question was eating at you, I can understand how it's something that would bother you a lot given the unstated background of the whole thing. That said, making a context-free metatalk post like this to give people in general a hard time for not knowing what the situation was with the post that inspired it wasn't really a great idea; for this sort of thing to be useful, details do matter somewhat. There's a need for a lot of give and take on all fronts on the site; people need to be flexible in both directions when it comes to making threads (whether here or in the green) work as well as possible, or to in the worst case let threads that aren't going well just sort of dismount gracefully, etc.

And I'm sorry if you're having a rough time right now, whether it's been a rough few months or just a bad night. Know that if/when you decide you want your account back open you can drop us a line via the contact form and we'll be totally happy to do it for you.

As for the thread-steering suggestions:

why not add to the number of ways that a questioner can steer the thread...

A button or link is presented next to each answer, which only the OP sees...

Neither of these are going to happen. We've got flags for stuff that's unambiguously off topic; mefites, the asker in particular, are allowed to make straightforward and civil clarifications if folks (a) seem to be reading the question wrong or (b) are filling in absent details at odds with the asker's intent. It's straightforward and transparent and easy to explain to new users, it keeps metagaming discussion to a relative minimum.

someone had bitchflakes this morning...

This is a shitty thing to do. Do not do this sort of thing. Thank you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:17 AM on November 12, 2010 [25 favorites]


She's got a point. When I read freshwater_pr0n's most recent question,

Mr. Pr0n likes to keep his stuff in neatly labeled bins. I like to keep my stuff close at hand. How do we find a middle ground where I don't feel suffocated and he's not irritated by clutter? Concrete examples of our organizing styles inside.

my mind saw the Pr0n and jumped to thinking that the question was about organizing pornography. Having known folks who obsessively sorted their downloaded smut into nested subfolders, and others who would just leave like ridiculous bestiality clips or whatever on their desktop, it seemed like a valid enough question. ("Honey, I told you, Penthouse Letters XXVII goes in the bin labeled Erotica, Text, Mainstream (2005)!"

Answering that without a rereading of the original question would have been intensely embarrassing for everyone.
posted by a young man in spats at 8:28 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Greg Nog:

I got your answer RIGHT HERE. Had it in Iceland. Holeeee crap. Put it on/in/around your turkey for a delicious, smokey Sheepurkey.

If that's not long enough, or complicated enough, then WE JUST CAN'T HELP YOU SON.
posted by functionequalsform at 8:37 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


PS-- I too am sad FW_Pr0n seems to be having a rough time. Hope all is well.
posted by functionequalsform at 8:38 AM on November 12, 2010


I think a nice feature in AskMe would be a function that assigns a probability p to each post, using a function which is monotone in the length of the question and asymptotic to 1 as the length tends to relationship infinity. Then when the post button is pressed, the question would either go through as normal with probability (1-p); or, with probability p, the post would be directed to /dev/null (or possibly, just for a lark, to Yahoo! Answers) and the poster would receive a message reading "There, don't you feel better now?"
posted by Wolfdog at 8:42 AM on November 12, 2010


I asked a question about an issue I was having where a coworker needed to attract my attention while I had my headphones on. I made it clear that I fully comprehended that the way I wanted to have it work was inefficient and whimsical, but I wanted to do it that way.

I got a whoooole buncha answers that were basically 'I know better than you do what you want, missy!'

That is the nature of people who want to help - sometimes the helpy spills over into the bossy.
posted by winna at 8:45 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had never heard of Underberg until this thread. Now I have some on the way. God damn it, I love you, internet.

* single tear *
posted by everichon at 8:47 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


23skidoo: "We shouldn't be held responsible for giving harmful suggestions when there is no way to know about them ahead of time.

We should TOTALLY be called out for giving suggestions that completely ignore the question that the asker wants answered. The question was not "Should I go on a cruise or not?", it was "Help me plan a vacation that my mom will like that is NOT A cruise."
"

QFT. And now we come full circle to addressing the original MeTa post. A pity we couldn't do so without questioning the OP's motives, criticizing the time it took them to ask, and accusing them of 'Lambasting the userbase.'

ALL of which could have been avoided if people weren't so eager to assume. Assume an intent. Assume we know all the background. Assume there is only one interpretation for any action.

Honest question: How does it help anyone personally to have a different set of standards of polite conversation online from offline? Because if I were talking to anyone IRL and they started talking back with the same kind of assumptions that happen here on a regular basis, I'd be calling it for what it was - a dick move.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:53 AM on November 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


And contrary to what some people here apparently believe, when someone asks you for advice on one topic it does not then give you carte blanche to hold forth with your unsolicited advice to them on any and all topics that may clatter into your brain.

Wow, I wish I could move to that planet, because in my experience this certainly happens (particularly with relatives).


No kidding. And as far as I can tell, I have never been in a situation where the other party doesn't have the right to say whatever it is they please. My $5 sure didn't give me right to decide how everyone is supposed to respond, my questions are just fodder for community discussiopn. They do have carte blanche -- they paid their $5 too -- to go wherever they want with the question. Its a conversation, not a recital. My only right is the right to leave.

Allowing the poster to send answers they don't like to the cornfield would suck the air out of AskMe. I don't want or need it to be santitized for someone else's protection.
posted by rtimmel at 8:57 AM on November 12, 2010


They do have carte blanche -- they paid their $5 too -- to go wherever they want with the question. Its a conversation

What? It's a resource for people to get answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. It's most definitely NOT a place to have conversations, and your $5 doesn't give you any sort of carte blanche to respond unhelpfully. Off-topic, jokey, and unhelpful answers are removed pretty consistently, as long as they're brought to a mod's attention. This is spelled out in the guidelines, and right there at the bottom of the comment box is the helpful reminder, "Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer."
posted by Gator at 9:03 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


And as far as I can tell, I have never been in a situation where the other party doesn't have the right to say whatever it is they please.

Really? You go up to random strangers on the street and tell them how they should dump that loser, or throw that terrible shirt into the fire? Of course you don't, you're totally full of shit.
posted by enn at 9:05 AM on November 12, 2010


Had freshwater_pr0n gone into detail about their situation, I'm guessing most of the responses would be 'Why on earth are you going on vacation with that person?!?' which could be equally distressing. People do need to be more attentive when answering, but knowing what we know now, I'm not seeing a satisfactory result come out of that question regardless, primarily because the relationship seems pretty fraught. As useful as AskMe is, people need to lower their expectations and try to craft their questions to be as lazy-answer or erroneous-reading proof as possible, especially if there are intense personal circumstances involved:
Like a Cruise, But Not a Cruise

Is there a way to plan a vacation in New England or New York that is like a cruise vacation (Wide variety of foods, non-threatening entertainment, pretty views and getting to sit around and relax and read a book without any obligations) - but not on a cruise ship - at a similar price? We aren't looking to do touristy things like sightseeing or other excursions as there are agoraphobic and anxiety issues involved, but I have this vision of a woodsy resort in the Catskills or the Berkshires where we can relax and be able to stay for a whole week without getting bored.
All the best to f_p.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:15 AM on November 12, 2010


I'm reading that fictional universe thread that has been mentioned a few times and even after multiple people are pointing out that people are not reading the question, people are STILL getting it wrong. Is it really that difficult to understand it? I got it right away and I'm not all that smart.

If I were the OP I'd be throwing things around my house in frustration right about now.
posted by bondcliff at 9:16 AM on November 12, 2010



Really? You go up to random strangers on the street and tell them how they should dump that loser, or throw that terrible shirt into the fire? Of course you don't, you're totally full of shit.


Erm, if that stranger told me all about their crappy boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse (as people do in AskMe), then yes, I probably would tell them to DTMFA. I mean, I don't have any investment in whether or not they stay with them, so I have even less of a reason not to be 100% honest with them.
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:17 AM on November 12, 2010


In my experience of my own relationship dilemmas and those of my friends, it is almost always beneficial to have people question the premises of the question at hand. Whenever I've been most stuck in life between option A and option B, the right answer is usually (not just occasionally) an option C that I hadn't thought of. That's no reason to be rude and bullying to Askers, but where human relations questions are concerned, a monomaniacal focus on "answer the question! just answer the question!" would strip AskMe of most of its value.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:18 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


My $5 sure didn't give me right to decide how everyone is supposed to respond, my questions are just fodder for community discussiopn.

Balls to that, I'm still irked by the guy who said 'Unless you're a ten-year old on a baseball team, you shouldn't wear a hat'. You better believe I flagged that shit.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:18 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Come on back, freshwater_pr0n, I miss you already.

Your perspective on dogs is simply irreplaceable, among a number of other virtues.
posted by jamjam at 9:24 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


where human relations questions are concerned

Asking for cruise-like non-cruise vacation options is not a human relations question, for crying out loud. It's a fucking travel planning question, not an invitation to practice DIY psychotherapy.
posted by enn at 9:24 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


RE: That fictional universe colliding AskMe, it's sort of funny that in the Seinfeld universe, Mad About You is a television program, but in Mad About You they share a universe.

Actually, that's probably the only thing funny about Mad About You. How the hell was that crap pile on so long?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:26 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a victim of a shitty, abusive childhood, here are the things that would piss me the hell off, no matter how well-meaning, and why:

You only have one Mom
Wow, thanks, I didn't notice that we only get one mom, and that mine sucked! Oh, and the extra side of guilt. That's great.

Don't try to push something new on her just for your comfort.
"Just" my comfort? Yes, my mental health and ability to deal without punching her or offing myself is "just" my comfort, like an extra inch of legroom on an airplane.

Give her the credit she is due. You don't know her. I don't owe her anything. The fact that I speak to her at all is a miracle of patience and hard work.

Etc.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:27 AM on November 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


bondcliff, you and me both. Wow. I really don't see how you could read (not skim, actually read) that short, specific question and think it was asking for ludicrously-broad "examples of fictional characters mentioning other fictional characters." At least the OP got one good answer, which, if it was me, would be the only thing keeping me from giving up on AskMe altogether.
posted by Gator at 9:28 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a fucking travel planning question, not an invitation to practice DIY psychotherapy.

As phrased, I think it's a borderline question between the two, actually, which is probably what caused the trouble.

Also, what some people call "practicing DIY psychotherapy" is what a lot of other people call meaningful human interaction. I'm still not defending every response in that thread, but overall I'm glad I live in a world where people respond honestly (if messily and sometimes inappropriately) to questions rather than pretending to be robots.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:29 AM on November 12, 2010


I agree with you, the young rope-rider, but I think you have to understand that most people haven't had your experience and without any context in your situation, or in the OP's situation, people aren't going to automatically assume that you had a crappy childhood or that the OP has major anxiety issues. Having said that, those quotes you just listed are annoying even WITHOUT any context because they're condescending and judgy IMO.
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:32 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a fucking travel planning question, not an invitation to practice DIY psychotherapy.

Unless some answers were deleted, no one did DIY psychotherapy. Instead, what you got were a few people saying, basically, "Honestly, in this situation, given your options, you may want to consider that a cruise is actually your best bet." That's all they intended to say, from what I can see. That's now how freshwater_pr0n read their answers, but that seems like a reasonable interpretation of them.

What we've learned from this thread is that what freshwater_pr0n really needed was psychotherapy, or someone to say, "You're focusing a lot on your mother's issues, and that makes my wonder why it's so significant to find an alternative to a cruise. Is there something else going on, here, that can explain why accepting your mother's choice isn't a good idea?" But that clearly would have been reading far too much into the question and going far beyond appropriate prying.

This was a crummy situation, and I feel really sorry for freshwater_pr0n, who it seems is suffering and needs kindness. But this was a situation where we were not aware what kindness and help was needed, given what information we were provided, and a few people, with all the best intentions and without having the ability to have known better, said something that was taken in the seriously wrong way.
posted by meese at 9:32 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


The lines the young rope-rider quoted are not only inappropriate when they are addressed to people who had a crappy childhood. They are inappropriate, condescending, and invasive addressed to anyone, except maybe to a very, very close friend whose openness to such advice you are in a position to judge.

And no, actually, thinking that doesn't make me a "robot." Jesus fucking christ, go fuck yourself, game warden, you condescending jackass.
posted by enn at 9:35 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, for pete's sake, the young rope-rider. Have you not read any of the "I had no idea of the shitty backstory about your relationship with your mom" comments in this damn thread?

Because here's the thing: shitty backstory or no shitty backstory, how shitty can it be if you agree to vacation together? Hell, I WANT to go to Sweden with my mom, but I think we're about 10 years of therapy away from that (assuming that it actually goes somewhere), and I can't even bring myself to go to her house for more than an hour at a time. And she lives five miles away.

So no, I don't blame anyone for thinking that those were appropriate responses, because that was all we were given. Which is probably why my AskMe questions about my own relationship with my mom are ridiculously long and rambling, but it's not fair to gang up on people who just don't know.
posted by Madamina at 9:37 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


What? It's a resource for people to get answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.

I think you miss the point. AskMe is part of a community website, and when you ask a question you are openning a conversation about the question with the community. Posters don't have the right to demand that the community focus exactly on what the poster want the community to focus on. The site is more conversational that that.

If you need tight, percise answers to questions, there are plenty of people you can pay to do just that (doctors, lawyers, therapist, tech services, etc.). Here, its more like friends and less like employees. And when I ask questions of friends, its pretty common that they don't stay exactly on point.
posted by rtimmel at 9:38 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm reading that fictional universe thread that has been mentioned a few times and even after multiple people are pointing out that people are not reading the question, people are STILL getting it wrong. Is it really that difficult to understand it?

It's because the example on the front page is only one directional. "the series Glee exists in the fictional universe of Dunder Mifflin". If they had added "and vice versa", they would get much better answers.

If your question on the front page doesn't match the more inside, you are going to get bad answers. More inside only works for adding more details, not for adding more restrictions. It would be great if that wasn't the case, but it's not a battle you can fight.
posted by smackfu at 9:39 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus fucking christ, go fuck yourself, game warden, you condescending jackass.

I know it's MeTa and all, but this is not so great.
posted by Dumsnill at 9:39 AM on November 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Because here's the thing: shitty backstory or no shitty backstory, how shitty can it be if you agree to vacation together?

Exactly. I was just about to say the same.
posted by amro at 9:39 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know it's MeTa and all, but this is not so great.

Calling somebody a robot is pretty fucking insulting.
posted by enn at 9:40 AM on November 12, 2010


"I like the idea to the extent that readers can see what the OP is hiding, if anything, and determine if the OP is acting in good or bad faith in using Ask Metafilter. "

NO

NO NO NO NO NO

This is the worst, worst, worst fucking part of Askme. "Good faith"? What the hell does that even MEAN? We're not entering into negotiations. We're not making an agreement that requires everyone to do their part. We're answering questions on a website for fun (or possibly to help someone out) and we need to get over ourselves if we think that the askers owe us so much that they need to make a show of "good faith".
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:41 AM on November 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


when you ask a question you are openning a conversation about the question with the community

No.
posted by enn at 9:41 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


You only have one Mom

For some of us, this isn't even true! I do only have one mom, but I have three dads. Now, you can make the argument that only ONE of them donated chromosomes, but in terms of adding value to my life? Yeah, I have three and they're all of near equal importance. (My biological father is actually probably lowest on the totem pole in terms of life contribution - being that everything he did in my childhood except providing the materials for conception was counter productive.) So, no, not everyone only has one mom and putting it in these terms is way over simplifying the concept of family and re-inforcing the idea of nuclear one-mom one-dad families as "normal," which, in reality, it increasingly isn't.

So yeah, I do object to the "only one mom!" guilt trippy line of reasoning, especially since in so many other ways MetaFilter strives to be progressive. Enforcing family norms from circa 1950 isn't helping anyone.

WOW END TANGENT OK.
posted by sonika at 9:43 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Posters don't have the right to demand that the community focus exactly on what the poster want the community to focus on. The site is more conversational that that.

Askers don't precisely have that right (or, rather, site guidelines don't mindlessly enforce that regardless of what a given asker might demand) but neither is askme intended to be nearly as conversational as the blue or the grey. Answers absolutely don't have carte blanche to go wherever they like in response to a question.

The reality is that we grant answerers some leeway to gently question or seek clarification on the premises of a question if they can do so in a way that doesn't seem needlessly confrontational or dismissive of the asker's stated goals, and we're okay as well with the asker offering gentle course corrections and clarifications if they feel like people are missing the point. That's about as far as it goes; in general, people need to answer the question, not chat about whatever they like, and askers need to understand that misunderstandings or disagreements are going to be part of the responses they get sometimes.

Anything more overt than that in either direction should probably get flagged, and I'd say the bulk of what we remove from askme on any day is precisely comments from people who have failed to treat the question like something their supposed to be actually helpfully answering.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:45 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think you miss the point. AskMe is part of a community website, and when you ask a question you are openning a conversation about the question with the community. Posters don't have the right to demand that the community focus exactly on what the poster want the community to focus on.

Actually, they do. AskMe has rules about answering the question, as in, that is what you should be doing. It is not a chatfest. It is not for discussion. It is for answering the question. Some questions encourage, explicitly or not, speculative answers.

But if someone asks a question about, for instance, handling religious discrimination at work, it's not license for people to question the person's religious motives or begin discussing the effectiveness of the flu vaccine (not that anyone there seems to be doing that, last time I looked).

It even says, right below the text box where you type your answer: Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer.
posted by rtha at 9:49 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not to be all nerdy about this, but a lot of people go to library school to learn how to turn someone's question into something by which they can get the resources they need to answer a question. There are some obvious resources in the library [google, readers guide to periodical literature, the online catalog] and some obvious ones in AskMe [therapy, medication, getting more exercise, garlic]. I don't personally find it surprising that

1. sometimes people try to read between the lines and figure out a question that seems to them, on its face, confusing
2. sometimes people project their own personal circumstances into a situation even though the OP is framing it as something else
3. people muddle through and often give answers that reflect their personal experience even in situations where it doesn't really fit
4. people react badly to questions or answers that push buttons for them
5. often whatever options are given as "off the table" seem to be ones that people focus on for whatever reason
6. people with diametrically opposed situations often have a hard time being fully empathetic to people's lives that seem opposite of theirs [we see this a lot in MeTa where people are like "This question can't be real!" and it turns out it's quite real indeed... most of the time]

So while I sympathize with a lot of people and there's certainly no such thing as practicing librarianship without a license, the question of what something is "about" or what someone is looking for as an "answer" is tough. The library world has it easy because people by and large don't offer relationship advice. Things are tougher here because it is tougher to tell where people's boundaries are. If someone asks a question about their sex life is it okay to tell them that you think they might be bisexual? Or in a family dynamics question is it okay to tell them you think they're being abused? All of these decisions have fallout and people tend to look at the fallout as if it's predictable and obvious when it rarely is.

I'm sorry freshwater_pr)n closed her account, but this was clearly a sore spot and I hope she comes back when she's feelign up to it. The rest of you, please stop calling each other names, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:49 AM on November 12, 2010 [21 favorites]


On lack of preview, listen to cortex.
posted by rtha at 9:50 AM on November 12, 2010


Because here's the thing: shitty backstory or no shitty backstory, how shitty can it be if you agree to vacation together?

Her shitty backstory involves sexual abuse. I empathize with this and I can tell you that going along to get along is a fundamental dynamic of families of all stripes, especially those within which there is sexual abuse.

You might as easily wonder why it took her three months to complain about this, and why it ate at her for that long before she said something.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 9:50 AM on November 12, 2010


"Oh, for pete's sake, the young rope-rider. Have you not read any of the "I had no idea of the shitty backstory about your relationship with your mom" comments in this damn thread?

Yes I have. I am trying to clarify for people who genuinely want to know what, exactly, was shitty about those (WELL-MEANING) answers.

Because here's the thing: shitty backstory or no shitty backstory, how shitty can it be if you agree to vacation together?

You have no clue. Maybe her father is dying and she puts up with her mother because she wants to spend time with him. Maybe her mother is dying. Maybe she's trying to go on this vacation to rebuild her relationship with her mother. WE DON'T KNOW. And it's not our place to judge her abuse as "bad enough" for her to be upset about it.

I know it's easy to get defensive when intentions were good but you make a mistake anyway. It sucks to feel like you tried your hardest and still hurt someone. But sometimes we fuck shit up by accident, and maybe learning from it is better than defending it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:52 AM on November 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Is this MeTa about shitty answers in AskMe questions, or people trying to answer questions orthogonally to what the asker wanted?

If we're really just bitching about bad answers, FFS, welcome to AskMe. God knows I've dumped some bad ones into threads. The OP is free to ignore answers that he/she doesn't like, and the mods do a good job of deleting the really bad ones.

But are people really saying that commenters shouldn't be able to question the OP's assumptions? That they can only answer the stated question? Jesus, that would be terrible. It reminds me of the guy who was like: "I'm going to propose to my ex, what should I say?". And the entire community was all "OMG no, don't do it". Can you imagine a world were Jessamyn came in and deleting all those answers because they didn't tell the OP how to propose? And this isn't just true in Human Relations threads. I've seen lots of things along the lines of "Best way to learn perl?" and people answer "why not try python?". Often times the best response doesn't answer the original question at all, and I consider that a feature, not a bug.
posted by auto-correct at 9:52 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because here's the thing: shitty backstory or no shitty backstory, how shitty can it be if you agree to vacation together?

Things are rarely black and white; people's relationships are weird and full of conflicting forces and motivations. Someone can have a shitty history with their mom that makes things complicated and unfun for them and still have a sort of sense of familial connection or obligation, etc. Shit's very multifaceted and complex, and beyond that we all have different ways in which we have dealt with, or think in another situation we would deal with, any given set of constraints and complications.

So it's not really so easy to take "well, if this were me than my reaction would be x", which is a personally reasonable thought to have, and extend that to "well clearly if your reaction isn't x then this can't be the situation you're describing" or anything similar to that. The world is a big, strange, complicated place and everybody has different life experiences. This place works better if people keep that in mind at all times.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:53 AM on November 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Calling somebody a robot is pretty fucking insulting.

Well, telling someone to fuck off sure fixes that problem.
posted by rtha at 9:54 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


AskMe is part of a community website, and when you ask a question you are openning a conversation about the question with the community. Posters don't have the right to demand that the community focus exactly on what the poster want the community to focus on. The site is more conversational that that.

AskMe is structured and moderated differently from the rest of this site. It's not meant to be conversational. Look through jessamyn's AskMe contributions: probably about half of them are variations on the "few comments removed, answer the question or go to MeTa/MeMail/go for a walk" theme. (The other half are, of course, helpful answers to people's questions.) Asking a question on the Green should not be a construed as "starting a conversation" because it's specifically not for that.

This thread reminds of this question from a couple of months ago, in which ND¢ blithely refused to provide the details and examples people were demanding, because he knew they were just going to lecture and criticize and beanplate his parenting skills, when all he was asking for was some parenting books. They continued to berate him for his word choices anyway, but he didn't give in, and ultimately they were forced to answer his question and recommend some doggone books, as he requested. ND¢ became my AskMe hero that day.
posted by Gator at 9:55 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


But sometimes we fuck shit up by accident, and maybe learning from it is better than defending it.

I don't really understand how you learn from this though. Assume everyone has had the worst life ever?
posted by smackfu at 9:56 AM on November 12, 2010


Well, telling someone to fuck off sure fixes that problem.

Maybe you're willing to let people insult you to your face and sit there and smile beatifically. I'm not. It's not my job to keep MetaTalk a happy cheerful place.
posted by enn at 9:56 AM on November 12, 2010


I don't really understand how you learn from this though. Assume everyone has had the worst life ever?

How about "Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer?"
posted by enn at 9:57 AM on November 12, 2010


It's not my job to keep MetaTalk a happy cheerful place.

Sure it is. Didn't you read the "Note:"?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 9:57 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Posters don't have the right to demand that the community focus exactly on what the poster want the community to focus on. The site is more conversational that that.

This is completely false. It says it right there, where you type in your answer: "Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer." If I ask a question about what cruise-like vacations exist that are not cruises, then "Cruise!" is NOT an answer to my question, and it doesn't help me find an answer.

In AskMe, you don't get to just post whatever you want.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:58 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Really? You go up to random strangers on the street and tell them how they should dump that loser, or throw that terrible shirt into the fire? Of course you don't, you're totally full of shit.

And you just go up to strangers on the street and tell them they're full of shit? No, but we're all in this community fiction together, kind of like we're friends. the only reason we are here is to talk to one another and keep each other entertained. Yet, some peple think that AsdkMe is different -- that its facts and only facts -- and everyone better toe that line. But you don't demand that firends answer your questions exactly the way you want them to. Thats a demand that you can make only on people you pay.
posted by rtimmel at 9:59 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


And no, actually, thinking that doesn't make me a "robot." Jesus fucking christ, go fuck yourself, game warden, you condescending jackass.

Easy there. I wasn't calling any specific person a robot. I'm just saying that I'm not about to start following a strict policy of suppressing all my normal human instincts when it comes to formulating a good-faith response on AskMe. If I ever ask a question of this nature I actively hope people will call its premises into question if needed, so that I might find a solution.

I of course have lots of sympathy for the OP, in view of what they've said since. But to say "Ah but these answers would have been terrible if delivered in a context where the answerers had access to a whole lot of information that wasn't included in the question" is completely irrelevant. This is always true of all communication and using it as a reason for curtailing responses would render virtually every AskMe question unanswerable.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:59 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


" I don't really understand how you learn from this though. Assume everyone has had the worst life ever?"

Maybe "your family isn't the template for everyone's family, so try to tread lightly when it comes to giving people unsolicited advice about how they should behave differently in situations that are complex and unknowable"?
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:01 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because here's the thing: shitty backstory or no shitty backstory, how shitty can it be if you agree to vacation together?

Anyone who needs this question answered, please feel free to email me about "jessamyn's family vacation to Maine after we found out Mom had cancer." This sort of thing happens, a lot. I just think people who haven't lived through truly awful situations may have a misguided notion about how truly awful people's situations can get. Sort of like what the young rope-rider said. It's not your responsibility to assume everyone's had a bad life, just to be open-minded about what people's experiences may be and to try to take what they say at face value, or ask questions.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:03 AM on November 12, 2010 [16 favorites]



Maybe you're willing to let people insult you to your face and sit there and smile beatifically. I'm not. It's not my job to keep MetaTalk a happy cheerful place.

Huh. To your face?
posted by josher71 at 10:03 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


rtimmel: "I think you miss the point. AskMe is part of a community website, and when you ask a question you are openning a conversation about the question with the community. Posters don't have the right to demand that the community focus exactly on what the poster want the community to focus on. The site is more conversational that that. "

I would tend to disagree. The guideline has consistently been that answers have to be near the topic. There's a whole spectrum of what that might be, but it's not to e.g. open up a conversation. So yeah, keeping things around the question is totally not out of line, and staying on topic doesn't have to approach the "tight, precise" answers that a professional might give. The idea that askers have to accept whatever answers are given isn't axiomatic, and it's a curious novelty to suggest otherwise.

As long as I'm going to write this, I'll also ask: have the mods reached out to f_p to see if she's ok?
posted by boo_radley at 10:03 AM on November 12, 2010


I don't really understand how you learn from this though. Assume everyone has had the worst life ever?


The "worst life ever" tract is a red herring. Here is what you learn from this: Before you hit "Post Comment", re-read the AskMe. Locate the question mark. Isolate the question. If your comment does not specifically answer the question, then don't hit "Post Comment".

Even if someone had the BEST life ever, you make AskMe less useful by answering questions that are NOT the one the person asked.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:03 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


enn: "It's not my job to keep MetaTalk a happy cheerful place."
Pretty sure it's also not your job to make it worse.
posted by boo_radley at 10:04 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


No, but that I do for free.
posted by enn at 10:07 AM on November 12, 2010


Ask Me, Ask Me
Can't you see I've got a question?

Ohhh, Ask Me, Ask Me
Is it safe to eeeeeeat this?


Bonus points and a free Hootie and the Blowfish country album to the person who can tell me what tune the above poem is set to.

Aaaaaaaand...
ACTION!
posted by Mister_A at 10:07 AM on November 12, 2010


So, you guys are hiring?
posted by nomadicink at 10:08 AM on November 12, 2010


[Because here's the thing: shitty backstory or no shitty backstory, how shitty can it be if you agree to vacation together?]

You have no clue. . . .WE DON'T KNOW.


I see. So you're willing to extend the "we don't know" conceit to her, but not to others.

I agree with cortex. I just don't think it's particularly fair to allow one person to be very "multifaceted and complex" and ignore the rest. Jumping on someone for not understanding the experiences of someone who has been abused doesn't take into consideration the fact that maybe someone else might respond differently than you do -- e.g., by simply dismissing a callous, uninformed response as just that, aka ignoring or FIAMO. Solutions and responses (by those who have and have not been affected by these issues directly) are just as diverse as problems and questions.

God, people are so WRONG on the INTERNET today. I really need to back off and have some lunch.
posted by Madamina at 10:08 AM on November 12, 2010


Actually, that's probably the only thing funny about Mad About You. How the hell was that crap pile on so long?

I enjoyed Mad About You quite a lot. But I also hated Seinfeld, so I understand that my sitcom-evaluating skills are suspect at best.

I also believe that there have been no good live-action sitcoms since Arrested Development was cancelled.

But Raising Hope may cause me to reconsider that.

posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:10 AM on November 12, 2010


people aren't going to automatically assume that you had a crappy childhood or that the OP has major anxiety issues

No maybe not. But neither should they automatically assume that your mother is super wonderful and that the OP should sacrifice what she wants. We didn't even hear why she didn't want a cruise. (And she wisely didn't go there.) For all people knew, she gets intense seasickness requiring hospitalization. People wanted to judge for themselves whether f_p was justified in wanting what she wanted. But she didn't ask to be second guessed. That's the kind of unsupportive "help" that actually undermines someone. It's the kind of thing I'd approach a bit delicately even with many of my in-person close friends. When people have made up their mind about what's best for them, I generally try to support them in trying out that approach, maybe noting that I don't completely agree but then STFU and be a good listener unless they want more details on my opinion. The way to make fewer assumptions in either direction (really? you think you have enough information to tell her how she should interact with her mom? and whether she should suck up her reasons for not going on an oceanic cruise?) is often simply to answer the question.
posted by salvia at 10:11 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


But Raising Hope may cause me to reconsider that.

"Health insurance?! Sure, I'll just have the butler go get!"
posted by nomadicink at 10:14 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Madimina, I'm not trying to jump on anyone.

I'm not pricing pitchforks on eBay.

I know that everyone had good intentions and said so multiple times.

Maybe I'm not communicating well--I don't think anyone here is a horrible person. I don't think anyone deserves any kind of punishment or humiliation or shaming. I do think that it's important to encourage people to think beyond their own situation, and hopefully give them some insight into the thought processes of those of us who come from abusive families.

(Or, at least my thought processes--I can't guarantee that I'm speaking for everyone, here, but I think I'm able to make a decent guess.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:20 AM on November 12, 2010


The idea that askers have to accept whatever answers are given isn't axiomatic, and it's a curious novelty to suggest otherwise.

No, its not. I don't have to like it, I don't have to use it, and I don't have toact on it, but I most certainly don't have the right to bitch about it. When I toss a question out, you're doing me a favor by answering it.* Its bad form to complain about a well-intentioned gift, no matter how much you don't like it.

*Granted, this discussion is assuming that we are talking about the confins of MetaFilter, where the answers are make in good faith.
posted by rtimmel at 10:20 AM on November 12, 2010


When I toss a question out, you're doing me a favor by answering it.

When I ask a question, you're not doing me a favor by ignoring it and answering a completely different question. That's not a favor, that's an insult. I know what question I want answered more than you do.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:25 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Maybe you're willing to let people insult you to your face and sit there and smile beatifically.

No one insulted you to your face, and there is no requirement for you to smile beatifically even if you had been. But between "smile beatifically" and "fuck off" is a vast territory of responses, nearly all of which might be more useful/less grar than what you said. Especially given that gamewarden didn't say "You, enn, should answer questions like the robot you are" or whatever you imagined his response said.

Wasn't this a thread about people misreading questions or creating motives for the OP that don't actually exist?
posted by rtha at 10:29 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


There doesn't seem to be anything that can be done about the JudgeMe brigade. Their existence is the central problem in most relationship questions but they pop up everywhere. There's even one still on the front page of MeTa. The JudgeMe brigade cannot answer a question without making some kind of implicit moral commentary on the OP and the question. I suppose it makes them feel better about themselves or maybe they just do it all the time and don't notice it or they've been sent by the Galactic Morality Patrol or something. I go into a blind fury myself when I see them - there was one at the end of a dog question recently that I really wanted to say something about - but I forced myself to walk away and say nothing. It seems as if they just can't help themselves and they usually do answer the question, it's just that it's done in that particular way that seems planned to make the OP realize that they are a bad person who should feel bad. Making people feel like shit is often not the best way to get them to see something, you know? Shame doesn't work all that well.

That said, maybe there could be a flag reason added - judgey might work (it would definitely spawn multiple metas about how it's not a word, bonus) - or just judgmental. My guess is though that there's nothing to really be done about the JudgeMe people: right along with the reading comprehension keyword people go the "I have to express my innate superiority and comment on how this person's lifestyle/dog food/clothing/parenting/relationship/shopping/vacation/literary taste is just absolutely wrong in every way" people. Fortunately, they aren't the only ones answering questions but it does kind of suck that you need a thick skin, sometimes, to Ask Metafilter.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:34 AM on November 12, 2010 [13 favorites]


I don't think I'm misreading anything, rtha. game warden characterized people like me as "pretending to be robots" and contrasted that with "respond[ing] honestly" and "meaningful human interaction." I don't think the reading that he's calling me an affectless, emotionally stunted automaton in contrast with real people like himself is a stretch.

But between "smile beatifically" and "fuck off" is a vast territory of responses, nearly all of which might be more useful/less grar than what you said.

Useful to whom? You may value lack of grar. I know the mods do, and I am sorry to do things that make their jobs more difficult. But I'm not going to do things I'm ashamed of because it will make those jobs easier. And failing to fight back when someone decides to pick a fight with me is something I would find pretty contemptible in myself.
posted by enn at 10:35 AM on November 12, 2010


Posters don't have the right to demand that the community focus exactly on what the poster want the community to focus on.

But quite clearly, on AskMe, according to the guidelines, they do. As long as the question poses a clear problem to be solved, the community is expected to answer with a view to solving the problem as the poster has framed it. i.e. focusing on what the poster asks us to focus on.
posted by bardophile at 10:35 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


And failing to fight back when someone decides to pick a fight with me is something I would find pretty contemptible in myself.

You are imagining this fight. Calm down.
posted by Dumsnill at 10:41 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


I guess we will have to disagree about that.
posted by enn at 10:42 AM on November 12, 2010


"Oh dear, I've been insulted! I must defend my honor."
posted by smackfu at 10:45 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


And failing to fight back when someone decides to pick a fight with me is something I would find pretty contemptible in myself.

We should be crystal clear then. Don't tell people to fuck themselves. If we see someone telling someone to fuck off on the site, generally, we'll delete the comment and if it happens multiple times you'll get some time off.

You can resolve this with your personal moral compass however you need to; lord knows I don't get to act exactly how I'd like to on the site either. Since the comment in this case was responded to already and we didn't see the need to jump in and do some sort of scorched earth thing, it's staying. If it's a pattern, it's a problem.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:45 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


sorry. failed to preview.
posted by bardophile at 10:46 AM on November 12, 2010


Hey, OP, I'm sorry you're hurting. I hope you're okay.
posted by NoraReed at 10:53 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


And failing to fight back when someone decides to pick a fight with me is something I would find pretty contemptible in myself.

And again, there are ways of disagreeing with what you perceive to be someone's characterization of you personally without ramping up the grar. Walking away from a fight or working to de-escalate it is not a sign of weakness.
posted by rtha at 10:56 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think the reading that he's calling me an affectless, emotionally stunted automaton in contrast with real people like himself is a stretch.

I absolutely did not mean to imply this, and I apologize if I gave that impression.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:03 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


/me hugs freshwater_pr0n.

Come back when you can. You'll be missed.
posted by loquacious at 11:09 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Regarding TNG, there's a good reddit thread about the essential episodes.
posted by Jpfed at 11:19 AM on November 12, 2010


Actually, that's probably the only thing funny about Mad About You. How the hell was that crap pile on so long?

What few people realize is the meta way the narrative of the show - about a newly married couple - is tied into the narrative of an actual couple who are newly married.

HONEYMOON PERIOD:
Actual Married Couple: We're grown-ups now and we make the rules! Let's embrace our new life together and make wonderful choices and take chances and not be like our parents!
Mad About You: NBC is thrilled to sign Paul Reiser, people there believe in him, hey go crazy and try all sorts of new different stuff!


A LITTLE LATER:
Married Couple: Sure we CAN party with John & Marsha again this weekend, but no one says we HAVE to. That's the point. We can choose to stay in.
Mad About You: Wow those first seasons were exhausting. Ok, look, we'll keep the spirit alive but just dial it back. A little bit. NBC has a lot of notes they want us to look at.


A LITTLE LATER STILL:
Married Couple: Honey I think we're in a rut
Mad About You: Hey doesn't this episode remind you of that other episode?


WE CAN FIX THIS:
Married Couple: Ok, we're going to Paris baby!
Mad About You: OK, THIS episode will be all one shot...wait wait, THIS episode will have legendary guest stars and sly references to their past work!


TOO LATE:
Married Couple: "When are you going to have a baby already?"
Mad About You: "When are you going to do the episode where you have the baby already?"
posted by mikepop at 11:23 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


freshwater_pr0n, it seems really clear that nobody meant to upset you in the thread about the vacation, and I'm sorry that people upset you by accident. Feelings are hard.

I hope you come back when it feels OK for you to be here. Even though you hurt a lot of feelings in this thread. It's okay; we all do that to each other, and we understand. Don't be a stranger, my friend.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:24 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If we see someone telling someone to fuck off on the site, generally, we'll delete the comment and if it happens multiple times you'll get some time off.

I can confirm this.

As an aside, I'm on a private email list where we said "Go Fuck Yourself" so much, that it's pretty much an all purpose conversation defuser anytime someone says something that's going to end in another tedious goddamned argument that we've already been through 100 times.

Like so:

Windows fanboy: "This is just typical Steve Jobs bullshit, and I don't know why all the Apple fanboys keep falling for it."

Apple fanboy: "GFY."

Boring flamewar averted.

Then we go back to talking about important subjects like pooping or youtube videos of cats instead, or whatever.
posted by empath at 11:32 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


FWIW, I once asked a quested, and there was an answer so good that it even made it to the sidebar, it however did not answer the question how I wanted it answered. And in hindsight that was a "very good thing". It was not the answer I wanted, but it was the answer that was needed. The horribly inefficient, but fucking fantastic thing about being human is we operate with such loose parameters in some areas it allows us to ignore preconditions and arrive at answers that are so much better then what we want. If people want to leave out critical information about WHY they can't/don't want to do something then they WILL get people challenging that condition. I, personally, think that is a good thing.
posted by edgeways at 11:33 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who flagged most of the stuff in the "fictional universes" thread? I can see that the OP isn't upset about it, but now it's turned into openly "this is a derail but remember the episode when" stuff.
posted by Gator at 11:36 AM on November 12, 2010


"Oh dear, I've been insulted! I must defend my honor."

Keyboards at dawn, sir! You will receive email from my second.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:36 AM on November 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


Jpfed: "Regarding TNG, there's a good reddit thread about the essential episodes."

I really just don't like TNG. I don't like the characters, the writing, the plots, the costumes, the ship designs, the Holo Deck, the Ferengi, the fact there there are little kids running around the ship, etc. It's just a bad show.
posted by octothorpe at 11:53 AM on November 12, 2010


Ooh, that reminds me I should go flag some stuff in the 'repeated nonsense refrain' thread.
posted by box at 11:53 AM on November 12, 2010


Regarding TNG, there's a good reddit thread about the essential episodes.

Here's mine!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:57 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


That, Greg Nog, is a fantastic list.
posted by meese at 11:59 AM on November 12, 2010


I can see that the OP isn't upset about it, but now it's turned into openly "this is a derail but remember the episode when" stuff.

And even now, 43 comments in, someone mentions about Mork meeting The Fonz.

Now, if during an episode of Mork and Mindy they were watching Happy Days, and during an episode of Happy Days Potsy was reading a comic book about Mork From Ork, that might be a valid example. But Mork meeting The Fonz is not what is being asked about.

It's almost comical. I'm waiting to see what other bad examples there are. I should mention the time The Flintstones met The Jetsons.
posted by bondcliff at 12:03 PM on November 12, 2010


So Greg Nog -since you asked- you know what I like most about Thanksgiving? My mom makes fresh muffins in the morning.
posted by yeti at 12:03 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


And even now, 43 comments in, someone mentions about Mork meeting The Fonz.

Once you realize most AskMe responders don't read the other answers on polling questions, this makes a lot more sense. Sometimes they do a cursory search for something like "mork" to make sure it's not a double but that's all.
posted by smackfu at 12:06 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Greg, that was awesome!

Octothorpe: the episode "Darmok" doesn't have most of the things that irritate you.
posted by Jpfed at 12:14 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


So what kind of response was the OP looking for that would not have resulted in her disabling her account?

Whats the point of this meta now?
posted by hal_c_on at 12:20 PM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


On the topic of this post, I really think that strict rules on 'answering the question' don't serve the site or questioners very well. Sometimes people are just asking the wrong question and if they knew how to ask the right question, they wouldn't have had to use Ask Metafilter to beging with. I know I've asked questions before where the right answer was actually the answer to a question I hadn't even thought to ask.

I've spent 10 years working on help desk-like jobs. And one of the first and most important skills you have to learn is that you need to not just know how to answer people's questions, you also need to know why people are asking the questions to begin with, because many times you can't answer the question they are actually asking in a way that's satisfying to them (An IT example -- "Can you unblock my email server?"), but you can solve the actual problem that caused them to answer the question in the first place ("We can give you free hosted email.")

If you include background information, you are inviting people who don't have a good answer for your actual question to look for other ways to help you by resolving the 'question behind the question'.

If you have a question you want answered without people guessing at motivations, don't include extraneous background details. There's no way to answer a question like: "What are some vacations that are like cruises that aren't on cruise ships." besides giving you examples of vacations. People might ask for additional details, but they aren't particularly likely to pry into your personal life. If you bring your personal life into the question, then people are going to be personal in their answers.
posted by empath at 12:22 PM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


In fairness, when she said she was told to do something that would end in her suicide, I think she meant that had she taken the cruise, she would have killed herself.

She did say that. But in fairness to the people who have complained about this, there was also a distinctly moralistic overtone to her comment of how-dare-you-suggest-something-that-if-I-did-it-I-would-kill-myself. Scody is right.
posted by John Cohen at 12:25 PM on November 12, 2010


enn, you seem to be aggressively misinterpreting and mischaracterizing things people have said in many of your comments here. All these comments are by you:

You go up to random strangers on the street and tell them how they should dump that loser, or throw that terrible shirt into the fire? Of course you don't, you're totally full of shit.

It's a fucking travel planning question, not an invitation to practice DIY psychotherapy.

And no, actually, thinking that doesn't make me a "robot." Jesus fucking christ, go fuck yourself, game warden, you condescending jackass.

Calling somebody a robot is pretty fucking insulting.

Maybe you're willing to let people insult you to your face and sit there and smile beatifically. I'm not.

posted by John Cohen at 12:37 PM on November 12, 2010


She did say that. But in fairness to the people who have complained about this, there was also a distinctly moralistic overtone to her comment of how-dare-you-suggest-something-that-if-I-did-it-I-would-kill-myself. Scody is right.

Scody was not exactly right, although I think her suggestion that the OP not expect people to be aware of her family situation was spot on.

The OP was asking that people stick to questions being asked and not range further afield (Apparently in their judgmental speculation of what she should be doing.) When multiple folks in this thread demanded that she explain why she made this Meta and what she was talking about, she explained what she meant.

Per scody's comment, the OP never threatened to commit suicide. She never said that the answers she was being given would make her commit suicide. Scody misread this part of her comment.

freshwater+pr0n said that the answers she was being given were unhelpful because if she followed them she'd be doing something traumatic that would result in her committing suicide. That's why she was asking that the answers stick to the question being asked.
posted by zarq at 12:40 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


zarq, I think you're being inordinately deferential to the OP's framing of things. Scody got it exactly right.
posted by John Cohen at 12:46 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who flagged most of the stuff in the "fictional universes" thread?

No. And we're keeping an eye on that thread and left another note, so people who are flagging tons of comments don't need to anymore. Generally speaking and for the record, once you've flagged two or three comments in an AskMe thread, it's got our attention and you can stop flagging. Since we look at every AskMe flag pretty much, flagging a dozen things in the same thread isn't any more effective than flagging three.

I dropped the OP of this thread a note to make sure she's okay, but it might be best to wind down speculating on things that she's not really around to discuss.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:48 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I were the OP I'd be throwing things around my house in frustration right about now.

That's AskMe. Every single question has that answer. Every time I ask a question, there's a "Are you f-ing kidding?" answer. It seems like every question I read, there's quite a few WTF answers -- maybe even some of them *are* mine.

But that's the joy of it, too. There are lots of answers, focusing on different parts of the question, bringing people's life experiences into it, their value judgments. Seeing all the answers -- even the ones that are wrong -- add value. OK, maybe not with the "Where can I get X kind of pickles in San Francisco" questions, but if everyone were worried about always providing the correct answer, you wouldn't get as many answers, and likely wouldn't get as many different perspectives.

Just like anywhere else on the Internet: If you try to swoop in and reframe and drive too much in ways that doesn't feel like you're grateful that these strangers took their time to think about your life and dilemma, you're going to have a pile on.

I'm grateful to MetaFilter for helping me through some of the terrible times. Because, while therapy was not the right answer, DTMFA was, getting a dog walker was, blowing off my selfish friends was. Even if y'all don't know where to get half sour pickles when my husband asks, you know cult movies I don't, remember the titles of books I've forgotten, have interesting taste in music and know of 16 self-help books for any given occasion.
posted by Gucky at 1:03 PM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Am I the only one who flagged most of the stuff in the "fictional universes" thread? I can see that the OP isn't upset about it, but now it's turned into openly "this is a derail but remember the episode when" stuff.

The OP is more patient then I would be. Once it went from "I didn't read the question carefully" to "I did read and understand the question, but I'm going give examples that don't fit the question anyway," I'd be asking the mods to just kill the damn thing already.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:28 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


At this point, it's past patience-trying and well into hilarious: Followup clarification from the OP, polite mod note from cortex, aaaaaaaand, "There's an early Seinfeld episode where they watch Melrose Place." Snerk.
posted by Gator at 1:39 PM on November 12, 2010


I just think people who haven't lived through truly awful situations may have a misguided notion about how truly awful people's situations can get. Sort of like what the young rope-rider said. It's not your responsibility to assume everyone's had a bad life, just to be open-minded about what people's experiences may be and to try to take what they say at face value, or ask questions.

-jessamyn

And yet, you assume that people whose attitude to this question differs from yours 'haven't lived through truly awful situations'. As if disagreeing with you is proof they're spoiled children who've lived in clover their whole lives. So open-minded! Perhaps you should set up some sort of tagging system that lets us know which posters you don't consider 'real' enough to have opinions on certain issues.
posted by Very Nice Person at 1:55 PM on November 12, 2010


Whoa that's some textbook consequent affirmation! Not only are you Very Nice, You Have A Good Grasp Of Logic!
posted by boo_radley at 2:01 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm. Someone really likes to play games.
posted by nomadicink at 2:03 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Knock it off, Very Nice Person. You're not impressing anyone.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 2:06 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bit lame for Friday evening. Can't we cook up something better for the mods?
posted by Namlit at 2:06 PM on November 12, 2010


Perhaps you should set up some sort of tagging system that lets us know which posters you don't consider 'real' enough to have opinions on certain issues.

Man, talk about interpreting comments in the worst possible way. Most of us (including Jessamyn, I would think) assume other commenters aren't total shitheadsl.
posted by Dumsnill at 2:08 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dumsnill: "shitheadsl"

What is the worst broadband plan, Alex?
posted by boo_radley at 2:09 PM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that is a pretty bad one.
posted by Dumsnill at 2:10 PM on November 12, 2010


Very Nice Person is at least honest on their profile page.
posted by rtha at 2:19 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can understand about feeling offended, hurt and angry by something said to you... in any arena, including on line. The feelings that come up are real and painful.

When someone gives a critical or unfair answer in an AskMe response, you can try to imagine why they're doing it. Whatever guesses you come up with will probably have only to do with that person answering, and nothing to do with you. The whoever just feels like chiming in, even though they don't have an answer. They're having a bad day and think that makes it okay to be harsh to someone who's doing them no harm. They want attention. And so on, dot dot dot.

When you're irritated, sad, or insulted, it's very easy to take things personally. When someone acts like a jerk, though, it's all about them.
posted by wryly at 2:22 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoa that's some textbook consequent affirmation! Not only are you Very Nice, You Have A Good Grasp Of Logic!

Last week, he or she was accusing us all of being privileged.

Next week, we'll no doubt be subject to yet another yawn-worthy, trollish riposte.
posted by zarq at 2:31 PM on November 12, 2010


Very Nice Person, if you have some reason to want to be on Metafilter other than to come out of the woodwork to act like a jerk, write us at the contact form and explain what exactly that is. At this point, having given you a little while to show some indication to the contrary, you still seem not to have any good-faith reason for being here and I don't really want to sit around waiting for the next edition of Here's A Random Crappy Comment From Functionally Anonymous Person.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:35 PM on November 12, 2010


Very Nice Person is at least honest on their profile page

Yeah, it says "this account is disabled"
posted by Namlit at 2:58 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. Two disabled accounts in one MetaTalk? Ouch. Good riddance to Very Nice Person, but I am really going to miss freshwater_pr0n. I hope that at some point you feel comfortable coming back to MetaFilter, you will be missed.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:05 PM on November 12, 2010


Someone chime in with another inappropriate comment and let's go for the hat trick.
posted by Aquaman at 3:09 PM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Uh "hat trick"? I thought it was recipes. How do you cook hat?
[Sorry. I always get sad at good riddance posts, deserved or not, so I need a recipe. Now]
posted by Namlit at 3:11 PM on November 12, 2010


Someone chime in with another inappropriate comment and let's go for the hat trick.

MINECRAFT SUX, AMIRITE?!
posted by nomadicink at 3:18 PM on November 12, 2010


YOU TAKE THAT BACK RIGHT NOW!
posted by Aquaman at 3:20 PM on November 12, 2010


Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add a couple of cloves of garlic, minced. Throw in your greens. Sautee. Add salt, coarsely ground black pepper and crushed red pepper. Serve.
posted by fixedgear at 3:28 PM on November 12, 2010


This should all be very instructive for anyone who writes, or wishes to. What you leave out is often as important - if not more important - than what you include.

It's human nature to want to head off misunderstandings by including as much information as possible. But each tidbit of information is a potential point of confusion or derail. Often, the road to communicating clearly is to trim words instead of adding them.

Janetland's anecdote is a great example. If you combine the words "I fell while I was walking" with "basement," people will automatically fill in "stairs."

Whereas if you were to just say "I tripped," I doubt anyone would say "Oh my gosh, you fell down the basement stairs, that's so terrible!"

(Not to pick on you, Janetland, I just think it's a really awesome example.)
posted by ErikaB at 3:40 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


MINECRAFT SUX, AMIRITE?!

GFY
posted by empath at 3:41 PM on November 12, 2010


Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add a couple of cloves of garlic, minced. Throw in your greens. Sautee. Add salt, coarsely ground black pepper and crushed red pepper. Serve.

You forgot the lemon, you jerk! WTF is wrong with you??!?!?1
posted by rtha at 3:50 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


ah thanks. Green hats. hmm
posted by Namlit at 4:34 PM on November 12, 2010


Having said that, the question probably could have been condensed to a clearer "What are some examples of two TV shows mentioning each other as fictional? Made up example: someone in Star Trek TNG says they are a big fan of the TV show Firefly, while someone in Firefly talks about their favourite episode of Star Trek TNG".

....Oh, is THAT what the question was?....


Yeah, that would have been WAY clearer if it had been phrased that way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:04 PM on November 12, 2010


I never eat at McDonalds, so I'm unmoved by the return of the McRib.
posted by ob at 5:15 PM on November 12, 2010


hey...hey freshwater i know your reading this. been there done that. if disabling your account means no mefimail i APPLAUDE. im a fool so there. i assume that about mefmail, come back and say
"no clav you nattle brained typonaut it is a personal matter now go destroy some nouns and take a few neologisms while your at it."
or "If you fucking people only knew". i get that.

well, you love dogs and I do too and i gotta go let my two out...
and just forget the prattle of the others, they just needed exercise and here is the room.

in some ways, it is cathartic.
posted by clavdivs at 5:54 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


sic sp
posted by clavdivs at 5:55 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


See I spelled it write.
:)
posted by clavdivs at 5:56 PM on November 12, 2010


Here is a similar example from my posting history of answers not answering the question:
Q: Having lost my wallet three times in six months, I need to streamline the process of replacing my drivers license. How can I make it as efficient as possible?

More than half of the responses were along these lines:
A: Don't lose your license!
A: Don't lose your wallet!
A: I think you need the pain of getting your licence renewed so you stop losing your wallet.*
A: What about this wallet; would you lose it?
A: Here are the problems with losing your wallet.

My main mistake was engaging with "why do you lose your wallet?" early on. I should have been quite clear that this was not the help I needed. So, for that thread, I'm mostly the one to blame.

But for the record, not losing my license was always Plan A. That failed. I didn't need anyone's help to know that it would be more convenient to not lose my wallet. I have gone years without losing my wallet, just not recently.

Perhaps my next question should be "how can I not lose my wallet?" But this question didn't have enough information to make answers to that question productive. Example: get a wristlet so you don't lose your wallet! Well, funny thing, one of those lost wallets was a wristlet. I would've mentioned that if I was asking for help on not losing my wallet.

But when I asked the question, and likely again in the future, I needed help with Plan B, what happens when Plan A fails, when I need to replace my DL expediently. If people don't have any ideas for Plan B, fine, that's cool, don't answer. But its necessity is not going to go away just because Plan A is better.

* I propose a deal: if you tell me how to request a duplicate Drivers License online, I promise to punish myself for losing my wallet in some other way, okay? Just in some way that doesn't risk making me cancel travel plans...
posted by slidell at 6:27 PM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh look, a fresh example.

Sidhedevil, why did you feel the need to tack that "why is this your business" addendum on there? Maybe the OP is supporting them and has good reason to be concerned about the son-in-law's employment status. Or maybe not. They didn't say. The question was simple and answerable as written, why the finger-wagging?
posted by Gator at 6:51 PM on November 12, 2010


Hey, Gator! Flag it and move on. FLAG IT AND MOVE ON.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:11 PM on November 12, 2010


The reason I "felt the need" to write what I did was because it was what I wanted to write in response to that question. I presume that if people don't like it, they'll flag it, and if the mods don't like it, they'll remove it.

Why did you feel the need to come over here and call me out at the tail end of this thread? Why the finger-wagging?
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:12 PM on November 12, 2010


I assure you, I did flag it. It might not be considered serious enough to be removed, but I still thought it was a crappy thing to say and a perfect example of the kind of this this MeTa thread has been talking about all day. The OP asked a simple question. Why did you feel the need to read more into it than what was there and accuse the OP of being inappropriately nosy?
posted by Gator at 7:17 PM on November 12, 2010


There are times that I'd love to flag a comment I see on AskMe, and choose as the reason "Mark as terrible answer."

I know there are lots of reasons not to do it. After all, it's probably an awful suggestion, it's certainly a ridiculous one, and it would definitely to unbalanced implementation throughout the various sites. But try to convince me that being able to click that option wouldn't serve to release a whole lot of tension for a whole lot of people.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:17 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why did you feel the need to come over here and call me out at the tail end of this thread? Why the finger-wagging?

because metatalk is for discussing meta issues with the site - in this instance, people coming in to ask.mefi questions and seemingly not caring about the question at hand in a rush to gets firsts or jerk points or something. i've flagged 3 or 4 things today for this exact problem. your response was one of those. i do believe the full saying is something like, flag it and move on and if you can't do that email a mod or bring it to metatalk. gator was following the rules, you were not.

The reason I "felt the need" to write what I did was because it was what I wanted to write in response to that question

"what i wanted to write in response" is not the same as "answering the question"
posted by nadawi at 7:19 PM on November 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


To freshwater_pr0n:

It is a problem, I sympathize with the way you feel, and it can get pretty frustrating. All the more so because you know you're not supposed to overly moderate the thread, so there are only so many times you can come back and try to gently clarify the question a bit.

And yet, even though I know how derailing that behavior can be it can be, I know I'm guilty of it myself, so I can't get too frustrated by it.

If you decide to come back, which I hope you do, these are things that seem to work when you make a post, and you really, really, really do not want derails.

1. (This is the most important thing IMO) Emphasize at the very beginning that your question is extremely specific and/or narrow and/or limited in scope, and while you understand people might have other thoughts, you're only seeking answers that don't derail from it.

2. Actually *make* your question specific and narrow. Focus on what you really want to know, and try to keep other details out. In the question of yours that we're talking about, what you really wanted to know was: what are vacations that are not cruises, replicate X, Y, and Z about cruises, don't require leaving the vicinity, and are in the northeast.

Those are all the details anyone needed to know. The question might have gone better if it had been just a sentence long. Bringing in things about your mom, her anxiety, and all the other stuff, is what leads to derails. That's not your fault, but that's just the nature of how things go a lot of the time.

3. If you feel the need for whatever reason to add in more details, make use of bolding and italics for the important parts, parts that you don't want to be skimmed over, or parts that might be misunderstood. I think we're all a little overconfident about our reading comprehension here for whatever reason. Bold text sometimes helps a lot more than you would think.

4. If people derail, step in immediately. You can thank them for taking the effort to post, but clarify ASAP that you do not want to focus on whatever the derail was. It might help to bold some of this.

I am sorry you had such a frustrating experience with your question. Good luck...
posted by Ashley801 at 7:39 PM on November 12, 2010


Slidell,

Next time yiu're getting a license, request a state id as well. Keep the id at home. When you lose your license...it shoukd make it easier if you bring your state id.


But yeah...thumbprint...yeah...good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:40 PM on November 12, 2010


Thanks, hal_c_on. I could combine that idea with sammich's in the thread: use the ID for things like banking, and keep the Drivers License un-lost for when I specifically need to rent a car for work.
posted by slidell at 9:28 PM on November 12, 2010


This thread reminds of this question from a couple of months ago, in which ND¢ blithely refused to provide the details and examples people were demanding, because he knew they were just going to lecture and criticize and beanplate his parenting skills, when all he was asking for was some parenting books. They continued to berate him for his word choices anyway, but he didn't give in, and ultimately they were forced to answer his question and recommend some doggone books, as he requested. ND¢ became my AskMe hero that day.

Wow, I was torn over that thread. On the one hand, I can understand that ND¢ did, in fact, want book recommendations. And there were people who answered and even said something like "you don't need a book" which was ridiculous.

On the other hand, I couldn't help but notice that ND¢ was very careful to favorite people who only gave brief book recommendations, and bypassed several people who gave LISTS of book recommendations, and then may have offered some advice or encouragement in addition. That seemed unecessary to me; it was clear that those people DID answer the question, but tried to go above and beyond in case extra information would help.

I can't help thinking ND¢ was not showing entirely good faith. It seemed like, if he wanted answers that were ONLY book recommendations, there was no need for any backstory in the OP. As it was, it seemed like, well, baiting.

There is a difference, I think, between answering the question and then adding extra info in case it may help, and just refusing to answer the question at all. I just think it's an important distinction.
posted by Nixy at 9:49 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Welp, bad on me for posting without reading the whole thread. Basically what empath said is what I was trying to say, less elegantly: If you have a question you want answered without people guessing at motivations, don't include extraneous background details. There's no way to answer a question like: "What are some vacations that are like cruises that aren't on cruise ships." besides giving you examples of vacations. People might ask for additional details, but they aren't particularly likely to pry into your personal life. If you bring your personal life into the question, then people are going to be personal in their answers.

Also this quote seems applicable:

"Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination."
Albert Einstein
posted by Nixy at 10:15 PM on November 12, 2010


I sympathize with freshwater_prOn, and agree that folks are pretty quick to challenge the premises of the question. There is, however, a reason this happens. A significant portion of questions are in one of the following forms:

Dear AskMe,

I want to fly to the moon. Spaceships are not an option. Please do not bring up spaceships in your answer. Answers about spaceships will be ignored. How can I fly to the moon?

Dear AskMe,

My romantic partner belittles me in public. What should I do to make this situation more tolerable? Breaking up is not an option. Answers about breaking up will be ignored.

Dear AskMe,

The cashier gave me a paper bag when I clearly asked for plastic. Is the bag manufacturer liable, or just the cashier? I know someone has broken the law, so answers that no law has been broken will be ignored.

Dear AskMe,

How does Reki healing work? I was healed by a reki practitioner, so I know it does work, just not how. Answers that say reki healing is bunk will be ignored.

Dear AskMe,

I am bleeding pretty badly. What should I do? Going to the ER is not an option. Answers directing me to the ER will be ignored.

Sometimes, the right answer really is that the question is wrong.
posted by Marty Marx at 11:27 PM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Reiki. Of course. Reiki.
posted by Marty Marx at 11:29 PM on November 12, 2010


Yes, this happens... but it isn't true of freshwater_pr0n's cruise question (which I don't think you're trying to assert!). Especially for somewhat complex AskMes that I find myself wanting to answer, I eventually developed a habit of going back to the original question and just searching the "?"(s) in the post, to try to get the kernel of the question... and I find that I'm often attracted to answering things that I have no business answering.

Sometimes I realize that the question is "if you've had X [very specific] experience, can you tell me how you worked that out?" and hey, guess what, I never had that [very specific] experience. Sometimes I realize that I'm wanting to respond to some throw-away part of the post instead of the seed question (like an assumption that I think is flawed). Then I have to think, can/should I still answer the question while correcting the assumption? Do I even want to? For any wrong assumption, I can certainly count on MeFites to address it, so there's a great chance I'm not needed here.

And I also try to remember that a rather startling percent of the time my base motivation for answering a question is simply ego-driven. Sometimes I write up whole answers and reading over them I see that really I just want to sort of brag about that one thing I did right that one time, or how super-awesome my dog is or something. Okay, maybe this can be helpful sometimes, but when I'm just repackaging advice that's already been offered with my own self-serving brand? Probably not. I don't always successfully fight these urges, but I'm sincerely trying.

I also should ask myself, did you have wine with lunch/dinner? Was it a particularly leisurely lunch/dinner? Yes? Yes? DON'T ANSWER! ... but the more leisurely the lunch, the less likely I am to remember this vital criteria. Even though they might not be all that obvious to others, if I were to (and I won't) go back through all my AskMe answers, I bet I could be like: NO WINE; NO WINE; NO WINE; WINE!; NO WINE; NO WINE; WINE!; etc.
posted by taz at 2:10 AM on November 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


nadawi: I think I'll have this tattoo'd on my computer: "what i wanted to write in response" is not the same as "answering the question" because i need to remind myself constantly that the i don't necessarily have anything of value to add to ask.metafilter.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:12 AM on November 13, 2010


"On the other hand, I couldn't help but notice that ND¢ was very careful to favorite people who only gave brief book recommendations, and bypassed several people who gave LISTS of book recommendations, and then may have offered some advice or encouragement in addition. "

Why can't he favorite what he wants? Mark as "best answer" whatever answers he feels are best?

Maybe he finds long lists to be difficult to manage or prioritize. I know I (ADHD) get overwhelmed by long lists because I go "well, not going to find all of those...fuck it, I'm going to get a beer" or halfway through the list my eyes glaze over.

I mean, I don't think I've ever looked at a question and tried to find out exactly what the poster favorited. I don't get it.

(To be fair, his question was provocative, but still--the point holds.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:54 AM on November 13, 2010


Yeah, Nixy, I hear what you're saying and agree to a certain extent, but I think our tendency (and I've been guilty too, like with "marry my ex" guy) to scrutinize the "best answers" people choose is another symptom of the JudgeMe problem.

And the "don't include extraneous details if you don't want people to address them" is another thing, like I mentioned upthread, where you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. I think people are generally trying to include as much info as they think might be relevant -- the Ask guidelines encourage you to "Give people as much information as they might need to help you," and responders are always, always, always demanding more details, examples, and info.

Perhaps (and this is a charitable guess) it comes from a determination not to just answer the question, but to solve the underlying problem for the asker. I think we all know people (and some of us ARE those people) who always want to solve your problems for you, and sometimes that's genuinely helpful, but sometimes you just want your question answered. And you shouldn't have to spend hours pruning "extraneous" details and painstakingly crafting your question so as to stave off judgmental interjections about the way you framed your post. Again, framing always matters, but it seems to matter WAY too much for some people.
posted by Gator at 7:11 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dear AskMe, Dear AskMe,
We have a complaint
You are what you're not and you is what you ain't
So listen up Asker, and listen up good
Stop wishing for answers we misunderstood.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:19 AM on November 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


I got a note form freshwater_pr0n and she's fine, by the way, in case peopel were curious.

I think our tendency to scrutinize the "best answers" people choose is another symptom of the JudgeMe problem.

I agree with this in general terms. People who start commenting on the best answers people are choosing and/or going back through old questions to come back to the thread with "Aha!" sorts of links to past questions are often not improving the situation. Not that every questions needs to be a tabula rasa, obviously people's history can be looked at, but sometimes people seem to use past questions or answers and/or the best answers chosen as stronger evidence that the person is somehow operating in bad faith than what the person is actually saying.

My take on ND¢'s question, in case it matters, is that he made a somewhat funny [to him] post which other people did not find funny and then his thread became a battle of the wills as to who would ignore his provocative framing and actually answer the question asked. Interesting to watch, annoying to moderate.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:53 AM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


jessamyn: I just think people who haven't lived through truly awful situations may have a misguided notion about how truly awful people's situations can get. Sort of like what the young rope-rider said. It's not your responsibility to assume everyone's had a bad life, just to be open-minded about what people's experiences may be and to try to take what they say at face value, or ask questions.

But in the specific case of the thread, I think that what's looking like a series of assumptions about a happy family life is actually a bunch of people empathising with the mother's anxiety experiences, because that's in the question and has been raised, and not realising there are other big factors in play, because they haven't been raised. I don't presume to be reading anyone's mind, but empathy with someone's difficult experiences as raised in the AskMe is what I read from that thread.

slidell, sorry for contributing to the license derail, it was hard not to relate excessively while also being unable to be helpful on something location specific. I felt guilty afterwards.
posted by carbide at 1:59 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Re: rope-rider, Gator, and jessamyn-

I knew when I posted that it might come across as an attack on ND¢, and I was hoping it wouldn't get taken that way, but I should have been more careful. I meant that it seemed like bad faith and baiting, not that it WAS bad faith and baiting. I really have no bone to pick with ND¢, just that the thread was illustrative of a larger point. I tend to agree with Jessamyn that it was probably originally meant as a joke, and of course people can favorite whatever they please (did not mean to imply they shoulnd't in any way!) - but I still think hackles may have been raised on both sides after some of the responses. I was really just hoping to minimize that all around.

In any case, I apologize if it seemed like I was trying to accuse ND¢ of anything. I should follow my own advice and stick to generalities and not specifies if I don't want repsondants to stick to specifics.
posted by Nixy at 3:22 PM on November 13, 2010


Oh, I didn't think you were attacking him. I agree the whole "my kid is bad" thing certainly didn't look good to a lot of people, and he's been here long enough to have known that it would grate on some nerves. I just wish we all (and I include myself in this) were not so intent, sometimes, on getting into the asker's head. I may just be seeing a different larger point on these things.
posted by Gator at 3:48 PM on November 13, 2010


Nah that's cool Nixy, I didn't think you were attacking him either. It w3as a really interesting perfect storm of a question/responses/best answering and I know we can talk about ND¢ without him flipping out, so it's a good example for Meta purposes.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:40 PM on November 13, 2010


1. (This is the most important thing IMO) Emphasize at the very beginning that your question is extremely specific and/or narrow and/or limited in scope, and while you understand people might have other thoughts, you're only seeking answers that don't derail from it.

2. Actually *make* your question specific and narrow. Focus on what you really want to know, and try to keep other details out. In the question of yours that we're talking about, what you really wanted to know was: what are vacations that are not cruises, replicate X, Y, and Z about cruises, don't require leaving the vicinity, and are in the northeast.


I agree with both of these tips from Ashley801 about how to reduce the risk of derails, but I'd add that point 2 is more important than point 1. In fact, point 1 can actually be counterproductive. If you insist that people can't give answers about ____, you might only be giving people the idea to talk about ____. This happens regularly on AskMe. I'm not saying that's a good thing or bad thing; it's just a fact of life.

If people strongly feel that there's a certain angle that should be brought up in a thread, no disclaimer is going to stop them. How many AskMe threads about relationships are there where the OP asks for no suggestions to break up, and then people still go ahead and recommend breaking up? I'd guess about 5,000.

If you mention X and Y in your question, you are always, always, always creating a risk that the answers will combine X and Y in ways that are objectionable to you. There's just no possible way to guarantee that this won't happen.
posted by John Cohen at 5:25 PM on November 13, 2010


Yeah, but when it's put that way, it sounds like the burden is on the OP to prevent bad comments because the answerers are these automatons without moral sensibility or standards of behavior. I'm not saying there's no burden on them, but that it's shared. And I'd rather that the community standard shift toward respecting the boundaries set by the OP a bit more.
posted by salvia at 6:21 PM on November 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


No worries, carbide! I didn't do enough to try to discourage it.
posted by slidell at 6:43 PM on November 13, 2010


End in your suicide? Honestly, if you start talking about suicide or threatening suicide, that's obviously not right and you should seek help asap. Because if you can't handle the comments that come from well-intentioned Mefites because they don't magically sense you've been abused and you roll out a "if you don't answer my question like I want, I'm going to kill myself" then maybe what you need to do is go to a therapist asap because it's not right and it's not okay to put that burden on people who don't know you.

And I actually think the mods ought to alert someone (or whatever they do when someone threatens suicide) because this suicidal stuff is really worrisome. It's not okay to joke about doing that or having that kind of ideation.
posted by anniecat at 8:23 PM on November 13, 2010


anniecat, it sounds like you may not have seen jessamyn's comment saying that freshwater_pr0n is alright. No need to worry.
posted by salvia at 8:52 PM on November 13, 2010


AskMe seems to work really well for some people and not so well for other people. I guess there are differences, but also similarities. Also: I remember I had a single-player TOS strategy boardgame, but it was too intensely complicated for young me (math in a board game?! THERE'S SO MANY TINY CARDBOARD SQUARES WTF!) and so I never played it. It had the Kobiyashi Maru simulated in it. You have to go pick up a ship that's going to explode and it's dangerous and not routine at all and then everybody shows up and everybody's angry and then the hurting starts and I heard fucking Picard sang his way out. Does that answer your question?
posted by fuq at 7:06 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


> anniecat, it sounds like you may not have seen jessamyn's comment saying that freshwater_pr0n is alright.

It sounds like she also hasn't seen the 5,000 comments pointing out that her understanding of the suicide thing is completely wrong. But there's no way to make people read carefully, which is what this thread is about.
posted by languagehat at 7:13 AM on November 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I just thought of something else:

An impossible test: Kobiyashi MARU! Think outside the box!
posted by fuq at 7:19 AM on November 14, 2010


I don't know why we're ragging on reshwater_pr0n for waiting three months to post a meta. These things are best done once one has had the chance to cool off.

dash_slot- writes "How about marking a reply in one more way - say 'off-topic' // 'not what I am looking for' // 'outside the constraints I posed in the question'."

People already whine and complain about how Best Answers are marked; I can see little good and a lot of angst from something like this.

Blazecock Pileon writes "If the OP feels an answer is off-topic or fighty or whatever, s/he hits the button and the div is subsequently hidden to readers.

"Readers, in turn, have the option of showing answers that have been hidden by pressing a button or clicking a link to show OP-hidden answers."


This is even worse. One of the strengths of Metafilter is the vast majority of people view it in the same way because the site itself doesn't support options that effect which comments are viewed. No kill files, no favourite thresholds, no avatars.

Madamina writes "shitty backstory or no shitty backstory, how shitty can it be if you agree to vacation together?"

Pretty shitty for all sorts of reasons. I've noticed that there is a significant percentage of members whose apparently go to answer for any kind of interpersonal conflict is DTMFA. "Suggestions for coping when my wife of 10 years with whom I have three children has hangs out with someone I don't like?" "DTMFA" etc. ad nauseum.

Sidhedevil writes "Hey, Gator! Flag it and move on. FLAG IT AND MOVE ON."

Just what I did even before reading this thread; glad it was deleted. It was horrible asker blaming for a question that had a very simple, easy to verify, correct answer.

Marty Marx writes "Dear AskMe,"I am bleeding pretty badly. What should I do? Going to the ER is not an option. Answers directing me to the ER will be ignored. "Sometimes, the right answer really is that the question is wrong."

Maybe the OP is stuck on a ship at sea, or in some backwater wilderness area 4 days from a hospital. Maybe they just have a debilitating fear of hospitals, doctors, or both. Maybe they are escaped from prison and are in pursuit of a one armed man. If they can't go to an ER telling them to go is not helpful.
posted by Mitheral at 10:54 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe, Mithreal. Or maybe the OP is concerned about troubling the doctors with a problem without validation from people on the Internet that yes, the ER really is an option (by analogy, see every single, "should I break up with my SO?" question ever). So either the OP has internet access and no access to the ER or the OP really can go to the ER but does not want to go. To answer the question, you've got to decide which one of these is more likely. Absent some specific information ("I'm four days from a hospital."), assuming that the ER is actually an option and the OP is really asking for encouragement to go is a perfectly reasonable way of answering the question. Strict constructionism isn't any better an answer here than any other textual interpretation.
posted by Marty Marx at 12:15 PM on November 14, 2010


In case freshwater_pr0n is reading this, Foxwoods is the answer to her AskMe. It's in New England, woodsy, lots of shops, spas and different foods and gambling. It's basically a cruise ship minus the water.
posted by horsemuth at 6:05 PM on November 14, 2010


*flips out*
posted by ND¢ at 7:17 PM on November 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Or perhaps I was wrong....
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:28 PM on November 14, 2010


To answer the question, you've got to decide which one of these is more likely.

No. To answer the question "What are some cruise-like vacations that are NOT cruises", you don't have to second-guess the asker at all. The question isn't like "Send me to the moon without a rocket ship", it's "What's something that's like ice cream, but has no dairy?"

The best answer there is not "Just go ahead and have the ice cream." It really doesn't matter WHY the person wants to avoid dairy, the question is still totally answerable with that restriction. Not every person who places a restriction on the answers they will accept is using the restriction to preemptively discount the obvious/best answer.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:37 AM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


And then you answer the question as posed in the headline, and the OP still gets sniffy.

Communicating is hard. There's a broad margin for misunderstanding. I wish people wouldn't get so upset about it, or communicate more precisely.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:45 AM on December 10, 2010


Yeah, and it's been deleted now, so I won't link to it, but there was just one about how to further pursue the offender in a hit-and-run accident that devolved into "your initial response was bad." That wasn't the question. The actual question was "what do I do next?" Maybe informing them that their original response was notso hotso could've been part of a constructive answer, but 90 percent of the comments were not framed that way.
posted by salvia at 5:12 PM on December 10, 2010


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