Good answers or derail? February 14, 2011 5:43 PM   Subscribe

34 answers (and counting) and only 4 that answer the question directly.

Should Jessamyn have pruned with more prejudice, IYO? My opinion is stated in the thread, but I'd be interested to see what you think. Specifically, I'm interested in your opinion about how we can answer questions like this faithfully. Not a call-out on Jessamyn, by the way, and I'm not trying to make her job harder.

Here is a similar thread containing unsolicited parenting advice, though I'm not sure if it was pruned (I want to say it was, but my recollection is vague).
posted by Brocktoon to Etiquette/Policy at 5:43 PM (104 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

There are certain things that you can ask that just won't end well. Keylogging isn't nearly as severe as, say, spanking a child, but it's a violation of the child's rights all the same. Metafilter users are pretty forward-thinking with respect to children's rights, and these sorts of answers are to be expected.
posted by explosion at 5:48 PM on February 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


The question carries a "parenting" tag, FWIW. Also, a lot of answers are seeking more information, while relating their own experiences.
posted by vidur at 5:52 PM on February 14, 2011


Look, it's real simple: It's perfectly valid and ok to say "this is probably not a good idea and here's why." Clinging to this idea that every AskMe question can only be answered directly is ignoring the years of history and explicit statements by the mods.

Let it go, draw yourself a warm bath, pour a glass of wine, read a book, get shitfaced on shooters, smoke crack, snork paprika, WHATEVER. But just move along.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:55 PM on February 14, 2011 [17 favorites]


Keylogging isn't nearly as severe as, say, spanking a child, but it's a violation of the child's rights all the same.

What a ridiculous way to characterize both issues.
posted by Dasein at 5:57 PM on February 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


If I've learned one thing from reading Ask Metafilter, its that if I ever have kids of my own and I don't want MeFites to give me parenting advice then I shouldn't bring up my kids in my question. Had I been the OP I'd have just asked:

What is the best stealth keylogging software for the Mac, free or otherwise?

Not saying one way or another whether the advice should stay or go, but as a practical matter there are ways to avoid unsolicited advice in most cases.
posted by Green With You at 5:57 PM on February 14, 2011 [16 favorites]


Let it go, draw yourself a warm bath, pour a glass of wine, read a book, get shitfaced on shooters, smoke crack, snork paprika, WHATEVER.

I'd think twice if you happen to decide to smoke nutmeg
posted by MattMangels at 5:58 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


explicit statements

Cite?
posted by Brocktoon at 6:03 PM on February 14, 2011


cite!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:12 PM on February 14, 2011


Cite?

This seems fairly explicit:

[few comments removed - if you can't answer non-snarkily, you need to go away from this thread. OP needs advice. It's okay if the advice is "dont do this" and not okay if the advice is "you're a bad person"]
posted by jessamyn at 1:27 PM on February 14 [+] [!]

posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:12 PM on February 14, 2011


I'd think twice if you happen to decide to smoke nutmeg

Huh, I never knew nutmeg was psychoactive.

The more you know ---===☆
posted by clearly at 6:12 PM on February 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


Not a call-out on Jessamyn, by the way, and I'm not trying to make her job harder.

The easiest way to make my job easier is to not open a MeTa thread calling me out directly. That said, that's what it's here for so...

Didn't like the question particularly, but I don't have to like them in order to approve them. I'm down with the flu or something so I figured I'd have time to babysit it. When the question went as it predictably did I was able to delete a few comments, leave a note and make sure that people tried to keep answers constructive. If you were a kid whose parents had installed keylogging software, and you can respond to the OP in a civil way, that seems to be an okay way to gently question the OPs assumptions. People who were assholes or eye rollers or otherwise got their answers deleted. I think I removed three answers total. Comments asking questions like "How old is the kid?" are likewise okay. I only removed one comment from the Otterbox thread.

There's a certain expectation, possibly unwarranted, that people know what the community is like before they ask their question. There's a strong kids' rights streak here, so you sort of have to ask kid discipline/parenting questions with the same caution you'd ask relationship questions or "how do I deal with my neighbors of differing ethnicity" questions. You're welcome to ask them, but you might not wind up with answers you like. Generally I thought the OP asked a well-framed question and they're getting mostly decent if somewhat off-topic suggestions.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:13 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I live in a world of forbidden knowledge so I make my own judgements on whether an individual can handle the information they seek responsibly or not. Ultimately its his decision to draw his own ethical lines & make his own judgements. So I answered the question as asked as completely as I could, along with the least amount of editorializing I thought necessary to the situation.
posted by scalefree at 6:16 PM on February 14, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: "draw yourself a warm bath, pour a glass of wine, read a book, get shitfaced on shooters, smoke crack, snork paprika, WHATEVER."

Soon.
posted by boo_radley at 6:24 PM on February 14, 2011


I think this is the only topic that makes me GRAR in AskMeFi. In fact, I've been unsuccessfully trying to write something coherent and not ranty for the last 10 minutes so I'm just going to shup.

P.S.: I can't express how grateful I am that my parents trusted me.
posted by Memo at 6:27 PM on February 14, 2011


This answer of muddgirl's is pretty damned good.

It includes a link to a Mac keylogger and then this:

Please Mefimail me if you are interested in my feeling when my mother confronted me with information that she obtained on this keylogger - I suspect I was older than your son at the time, but not by much.

Kind of covers it all without assuming anything.
posted by philip-random at 6:33 PM on February 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Thanks for pointing this one out, I didn't see it before and now I've answered it.
posted by headnsouth at 6:39 PM on February 14, 2011


Huh, I never knew nutmeg was psychoactive.

I tried it in, like, 1979. Made me nauseous and not-at-all high. Cannot recommend.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:52 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I didn't get involved, but let me answer your question with a question: If someone asked about how to do something on a table saw, and I told them, but I neglected to mention that a table saw was a terrible tool for doing the job and they were likely to be impaled by their workpiece when the inevitable kickback happened, would you call that answering the question faithfully?

Because I think that is pretty much what is likely to happen here only instead of a table saw it's a key logger and the kickback is going to be having your kid never trust you again and hide even the most innocent of things from you.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:52 PM on February 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


> I think this is the only topic that makes me GRAR in AskMeFi. In fact, I've been unsuccessfully trying to write something coherent and not ranty for the last 10 minutes so I'm just going to shup.

Yep , that's exactly how it's supposed to work. There's no need to answer people who push your buttons, in fact it's a bad idea. I pretty much stopped reading Ask and responding there a few years ago, when it became a place mostly populated by non-contributors to the blue, and filled up with a many (what I felt were) pretty inane questions.

Then, when the advertising thing started, I asked Cortex directly if it made any difference if I turned ad-block for mefi, as I am not very perceptive. He told me that the best way to give back to the site was by being a helpful contributor, so I decided to do this by deliberately reading Ask more, and contributing answers in areas where I have some experience or expertise. When I read stuff that annoys me ( a lot of it ) or that I think is outright inane ( not so much, but noticeable) I ignore it.

I broke this personal rule a few weeks back, when someone was asking fashion advice about a ski resort, and I answered the question, but also threw in my snarky opinion about fashion in outdoor sports, and the poser dipsticks who infest the outdoors. I figured it was pushing the envelope of acceptability when I posted, and sure enough, it was deleted. ( Thanks Jess, you make me seem a lot more tolerant than I really am.)

If you can't answer the question without bringing a ton of emotional baggage into it, you really shouldn't try. Plenty of other posters will be doing that, anyway.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:56 PM on February 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Aw... you know how we do.
posted by Kloryne at 6:59 PM on February 14, 2011


As a man without kids, the one of the things askme does is assure me I'd raise your kids better than you.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:02 PM on February 14, 2011 [17 favorites]


Careful, cjorgensen, you may get some offers.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:08 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


IYO? --- Since you're asking for opinions, I think she should have deleted one more reply to that thread. It doesn't answer the question, and usually meta-commentary like that is excised.
posted by crunchland at 7:09 PM on February 14, 2011


Careful, cjorgensen, you may get some offers.

That's usually my joke when people ask me if I want kids. I say, "Sure, but most parents watch them too closely." It usually takes people a while to get it.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:22 PM on February 14, 2011 [19 favorites]


You don't ask AskMeFi a question unless one of the answers you think you should be aware of is the hive mind's virtually unanimous opposition to your proposed course of action.

(In this case, you would go to a hacker forum or something.)
posted by J. Wilson at 8:41 PM on February 14, 2011


Having posted in that thread about using the spectorsoft keylogger on my son's computer, and all this nonsense about losing parental high ground and his trust forever - that is utter bullshit. Our son loves and trusts us, and we have always had as open and as honest of a relationship as possible. We made it clear when we put the program on his very own first computer, that the problem wasn't that we didn't trust him, it was that we didn't trust everyone on the internet. He knew that the keylogger wasn't there to snoop, it was there for his safety. I've mentioned before that parenting teenagers who've grown up with the internet expanding as quickly as it has, presents its own set of challenges. Privacy being one of primary concern. And no, not your personal individual privacy that could be violated by reading your diary, I'm talking about that deeper privacy that you must protect from a larger group of people who may not have your best intentions at heart, and not just some nosy mother.
posted by msali at 8:44 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


We denizens of AskMe are not really obligated to do a damn thing you want us to do.
posted by chairface at 8:45 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good answers or derail?

They can't be both?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:09 PM on February 14, 2011


We denizens of AskMe are not really obligated to do a damn thing you want us to do.

I rest my case.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:13 PM on February 14, 2011


yea, but there's the difference msali, you told your kid you were doing it ahead of time, and explained why - that's not snooping behind their back, so it's not comparable.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:17 PM on February 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


It is comparable, it's just not the same thing
posted by mannequito at 9:30 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


We made it clear when we put the program on his very own first computer, that the problem wasn't that we didn't trust him, it was that we didn't trust everyone on the internet.

What I took away from that OP was that the poster was not planning to tell the son about the keylogger, but instead confront him later with "evidence".

I have never known that to work out well, and I thought it was useful for folks in the thread who had had that experience to share (or offer to share) their views on that.

Your approach--saying "It's OK for you to be on the Internet in our home with this keylogger we're installing to protect you from potential predators"--seems different to me from the "gotcha!" tone I took away from the OP.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:41 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


5_13_23_42_69_666: "yea, but there's the difference msali, you told your kid you were doing it ahead of time, and explained why - that's not snooping behind their back, so it's not comparable."

Absolutely -- he'll still think it sux but he'll at least know to go somewhere else if/when he wants to do something tacky and/or something which you as the parent might not approve of. And continuing on using the journal metaphor, and you saying that his journal was safe from your eyes -- cool. You telling him that you'd put a key-logger on that puter is the same as saying that "Hey, here's a nice blank journal and a pen, have fun writing in it, but know that I am going to read it anytime I want to." Then he can throw it out the window and get a book of his own to have his private thoughts.

I still hate key-loggers but if a parent is determined to use one, this is the only way that is even in the neighborhood of ethical, this letting the child know.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:45 PM on February 14, 2011


Diaries and journals are not the same as the internet. There are distinct levels of privacy at play here, and the privacy that I am talking about is certainly one that was not in my young son's grasp to make decisions about himself. He trusted me not to read his personal stuff, and I didn't. He also trusted me in that the decisions I made were in his best interest.
posted by msali at 9:57 PM on February 14, 2011


Here's a direct quote from the question in question: "My wife and I have decided we need more evidence, so we are wondering what options are available to us."

One of the options to get more "evidence" is to talk directly to their child. Every comment in that thread is a direct response to this part of the question.
posted by one_bean at 10:01 PM on February 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Since you're asking for opinions, I think she should have deleted one more reply to that thread. It doesn't answer the question, and usually meta-commentary like that is excised.

I think we both kind of squinted at that one. The occasional gentle attempt at mid-course correction in askme gets by, that one is really scraping at best and picked up a couple flags but I guess neither of us really quite felt like pulling the trigger on it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:04 PM on February 14, 2011


Specifically, I'm interested in your opinion about how we can answer questions like this faithfully.

My opinion is that parents asking questions about their children should be prepared for (what they may take as) parenting advice[*]. I also think people should read questions more carefully, read previous answers before posting their own contribution, and in general be reasonable, thoughtful, articulate, and have good hygiene.

[*]This is a special example of the general notion that people shouldn't ask questions if they're not receptive to answers.

I'm tempted to write more, but part of good hygiene is getting enough sleep, so that's all for now..
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 10:17 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll just take this barely-related opportunity to say that, in general, people who feel the need to ignore AskMe guidelines about answering questions chafe like corduroy.

To refresh:

• There aren't actually points for "FIRST!" If you have an absolute compulsion to be the first answer in every single AskMe, you need a new job or a new hobby (one that doesn't involve the internet). Maybe try volunteering.

• "I don't really know anything about [question subject], but [half-assed answer that was the first link on a cursory Google search and is incorrect to boot]" makes me hate you.

Is that harsh? I don't care. It's like you're all diseased with Male Answer Syndrome. (sorry, males-who-don't-act-like-that. I'll happily use another non-gender-biased term for that phenomenon if we have one because Lord knows the ladies around here do it too.)

Sometimes, an AskMe poses a question for which there are objective, clear, right answers. When you post blather that is nowhere in the same zip code as clear and correct, just to see your name on the screen, you're devaluing the site, in my opinion.

• "I didn't read the other 42 answers before mine because I don't really have time, but [answer that has been offered in some similar format ~41 times prior]" makes me hate you only slightly less than "I don't know, but here's my half-assed guess".

• Obviously the mods are the arbiter on this one, but my feeling on snark-to-answer ratio is that your answer better be 51% useful. Otherwise, I hope you get deleted. I poise my fingers to type a snarky or jokey response to an AskMe almost daily... and then I re-read the site request of "Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. Wisecracks don't help people find answers. Thanks." And I back away, because that's using AskMe in good faith.

Here's the thing: I am really miffed about that Q site that I won't name. MIFFED. In a way I was not miffed about Yahoo! Answers (for obvious reasons). I want AskMetaFilter to remain the internet's premier destination for crowd-sourced expertise.

And when people use AskMe to grind their own axes, or to wax self-important, or to get their rocks off in some way, it dilutes the overall caliber of the answers here.

No one's perfect and mistakes will happen, and I've certainly been guilty of some of these sins myself.

But, in general, I've reached a point where every single time I go to answer in AskMe, I pause and ask, "Self, is this truly helpful? Has it been said already? Is posting an answer here going to meet my need... or the OP's?" And the result of that pause to self-examine means that I only actually submit answers about 20% of the time that I start one. But I think it's improved the overall quality of my answer oeuvre.

</rant>
posted by pineapple at 10:18 PM on February 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


pineapple, did you try rebooting?
posted by potch at 10:56 PM on February 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Here's my read:

"When I have kids, here's how I'll handle it:"

I actually have kids. It's nothing like you expect. Very strange and creepy and dangerous things can happen to your kid. Front page news can happen to your kid. Federal hate crimes can happen to your kid, and it sucks for them and for you.

Help a guy out or shut the fuck up. If you don't know what you're talking about, go back to shutting the fuck up. You're probably the smartest person you know, and your judgment is amazing. Nevertheless, if you don't know what you're talking about, STFU.
posted by stubby phillips at 10:57 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I didn't answer because I didn't know how old the kid was, and what their previous boundaries and discussions have been like — it's one thing to snoop when he's seven, another when he's twelve, y'know?

On the other hand, I do think that every kid should have a phase where he assumes that there's a keylogger on every computer he touches until he can prove otherwise. Teaches good data safety skillz.
posted by klangklangston at 11:23 PM on February 14, 2011


I have a child. My totally radical approach was to trust him implicitly, teach him right from wrong, explain the dangers of the world and how to mitigate them, and not wring my hands over what he might be up to at all times. No front page news yet!

The notion that covertly surveilling someone won't foment distrust in your relationship when it clearly comes from a position of complete mistrust it is pretty astonishing. It'd be funny if it weren't so sad.
posted by cj_ at 11:42 PM on February 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


Very strange and creepy and dangerous things can happen to your kid. Front page news can happen to your kid. Federal hate crimes can happen to your kid, and it sucks for them and for you.

Yes, of course -- but this was true 100 years ago (well, except for the part that there was no such thing as a federal hate crime 100 years ago) and will be true 100 years from now, because it is impossible to create a wholly safe society in which bad things never happen.

That said, however, violent crime has actually been dropping for decades, including violent crimes against children. It's only the perception of danger that's increased dramatically over the past decade or two. Statistically speaking, you and I were probably at greater risk when we were 10 than your kids are, which means our parents -- in the absence of an internet for use in spying on us -- presumably should have been justified in bugging our rooms or phones in order to record our private conversations to make sure we were safe. But that would have been outrageous, right?
posted by scody at 12:52 AM on February 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


msali: "Our son loves and trusts us, and we have always had as open and as honest of a relationship as possible... He knew that the keylogger wasn't there to snoop, it was there for his safety."

This has no bearing on you or your relationship with your son, but if my parents had told me they installed a keylogger on my computer I would have smiled and said no problem, confident that I'd have it disabled within 2 minutes.

But you know, times have changed since I was a teenager. I hear the kids these days don't email anymore, which is just as well, since you can be a lot more expressive with webcams anyway. No keying needed.

why am I suddenly thinking of piracy and DRM and tech solutions to human problems...
posted by danny the boy at 1:13 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh, I never knew nutmeg was psychoactive.

Oh eff, that takes me back. I was 16, my parents were out of town and we had just discovered Erowid. We weren't cool enough to know anyone who sold pot, so we searched for things we could get high on around the house. We stumbled upon nutmeg. I figured we'd get the giggles and watch South Park.

My buddy and I ate a bunch each and waited an hour. We didn't really feel anything other than nauseous, so he went home, and in no time, the effects kicked in for me. I was very inexperienced with drugs at this point, so I figured "hey, I'll go for a run and sweat this out." I ran 6 miles out of town to a soccer field where I envisioned myself falling off a cliff. I laid in the center of the field, believing that I was probably either paralyzed or dead, unsure whether to move or wait, for a very long time.

I ended up falling asleep, woke up covered in dew at 5am and walking the six miles home. I figured out that the "cliff" I fell off of was a wooden train track used to mark the parking lot. I fell about a foot, and that's why I woke up outside. THANKS AGAIN, INTERNET.
posted by dflemingecon at 3:36 AM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


snork paprika

8 slices bacon, diced
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Hungarian sweet paprika
2-3 lbs. snork (pieces)
2 c. snork broth, divided
2/3 c. milk
1 1/2 c. sour cream

In skillet cook bacon until almost crisp; add onion and cook until transparent. Remove from skillet with slotted spoon and set aside.

Combine flour, salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika. Coat snork with mixture by shaking 2 to 3 pieces at a time in plastic bag. Reheat bacon fat in skillet and brown snork, skin sides first.

Remove snork and place in casserole dish. Add 1 cup of snork broth, cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until snork is tender when pierced with fork.

In saucepan, combine remaining 1 cup snork broth, milk and 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika and heat thoroughly. Remove from heat; with fork vigorously stir in sour cream in very small amounts. Add reserved bacon and onion. Remove casserole from oven and pour mixture over snork making sure each piece is covered. Turn oven temperature down to 300 degrees. Cover casserole and return to oven for approximately 30 minutes, spooning sauce over snork twice during this final cooking time.

To serve, place snork on platter. Pour sauce from casserole over snork.
posted by SpiffyRob at 4:34 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Help a guy out or shut the fuck up. If you don't know what you're talking about, go back to shutting the fuck up.

I think most people in that thread really do know what they're talking about. Namely, because they've been the kid in this particular situation. They've had the untrusting parent, the snooping parent, the "WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU'RE GOING TO BE KIDNAPPED!" conversation when they were just playing Scrabble with random strangers, and they know how much damage it can do to the parent-child relationship. I remember being a teenager with the internet, I remember the angry and frustrated conversations I had to have with my mom about it. Given how new the internet is, this is something the OP (and you?) may not know at all. If you're old enough to have not had the internet when you were a kid, you may just not understand what it's like to be the one who is keylogged, as opposed to the keylogger. It's not the same as having a spouse or employer snoop into your computer history; it's not the same as having your trust breached as an adult.

That said, I shutted the fuck up and stayed out of that thread, because the kid's age seriously is a major issue. A 14 year-old in this situation is extremely different from, say, a 10 year-old. I have no idea if my experiences as an angsty, teenaged internet-user are at all relevant to this person's plan to snoop on his kid.
posted by meese at 5:29 AM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is disingenuous to think this was simply a matter of finding the right software. If it were, they would not have written this:

This is my fault for not watching more closely, so this is a good wake up call. My wife and I have decided we need more evidence, so we are wondering what options are available to us.

They came to Metafilter for advice. They framed the question as a problem with their son, not as a buying decision. The answers they received were overwhelmingly made in good faith in an effort to help them address their problem.

Maybe the question was badly worded. Or maybe you've just over-reacted.
posted by londonmark at 5:56 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's like you're all diseased with Male Answer Syndrome. (sorry, males-who-don't-act-like-that. I'll happily use another non-gender-biased term for that phenomenon if we have one because Lord knows the ladies around here do it too.)

Is there something wrong with just "Answer Syndrome"?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:22 AM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Tonigh, a special the whole family should watch together...

MY CHILD WAS AN INTERNET SPAMMER!
posted by fuq at 6:32 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did we ever get an age on the "young son"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:45 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


yea, but there's the difference msali, you told your kid you were doing it ahead of time, and explained why - that's not snooping behind their back, so it's not comparable.

Since we're telling how we've done things apparently, let me tell you how we handled it with my brother, which I think worked extremely well and ethically.

At one age, he couldn't go on the computer at all without someone in the room, but after that it was explained to him that every key was being recorded, and screenshots were taken frequently of his screen, and would be looked at. He knew this up front, it was explained that it was for his protection, and he also knew that I would be looking at it and not his parents*. And this is what we did.

As he got older, it was explained to him that the screenshots would be a bit less common. And they were.

Then, it was explained to him that while I may no longer be looking at everything, I would spot-check and flip through it now and then. And that's what we did.

Then we told him I wouldn't look at it unless I had a reason to, even if a small reason. Later, that became a strong reason. And he was kept informed, and we kept to that.

And finally we just uninstalled it entirely, and told him that too.

He knew he was being watched, knew it wasn't that he was untrusted, but knew his boundaries were being protected. I think only twice did I ever actually have to say something to him, and even then, one was because I was concerned he got bad information and felt it needed correcting, and the other was a simple "you know we can see that right," with a bemused smile. I wish I could remember exact ages, but I can't, but I can say that, if anything, he was being spied on less than he thought, as we may have transitioned to 'spot-check' a bit before we bothered to mention it.

This process, coupled with that he saw we DIDN'T over re-act to the occasional exploratory searches that any growing kid does (see above re: bad information), showed him he was respected and trusted, that he could have problems without over-reaction, and that he was still being protected and looked out for.

It's probably too late for the OP, (who never did say how old the kid was, far as I know,) but I would recommend this method whole-heartedly.



(*I should digress here that the situation and age difference between us made this make sense. The parents yielded this to me as I was comp-savvy and they were not [and telling him every step was a condition I laid down which they agreed to] and they also understood that I was old enough to know when something was big enough to call them, and that for small things it would be less embarrassing for him if I 'caught' him at things than if they did.)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:51 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, you know what? The parent said they were tech savvy, so they've probably heard of google. The reason they posted the question was because they wanted the discussion out there, consciously or subconsciously.

People add details to questions for a reason.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:55 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


One more time, from the astrology thread, the "crickets" test:

Normally, answers that deny a premise of the question absolutely are answers, and often valuable ones. For example, if I asked "I've decided to feed my precious pet crickets diazinon, since I understand that's good for them. How much should I give them each day?"

Of course, the only correct answer is, "diazinon is an insecticide and it will kill your pet crickets."

posted by The Bellman at 7:04 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was also disturbed by the way that thread went. The bulk of the question was about what keylogging software would work and how. Very few of the answers spoke to the question asked. I am in complete agreement that the OP did not ask for parenting advice, though I am not surprised that some was given.

As a side note, I grew up (mostly) pre-internet, but I would have been thrilled if my parents had installed keyloggers on my computers, whether I was supposed to know about it or not. Parents spying on kids a little bit or even occasionally spanking (!) their kids can be a sign of love and respect as much as getting out of the way and letting them make their own mistakes.

I do have three kids and I treat them with respect, don't lie to them, and do occasionally get involved at a level which it appears many of you would consider abusive. We do just fine. There are different parenting styles and that did not seem to be the question as asked.

I don't disagree with letting the comments stand. I'd just hope that we can all try to answer the question without trying to parent somebody else's kids.

And on preview: The reason they posted the question was because they wanted the discussion out there, consciously or subconsciously. Really? I think we shouldn't have to read into questions that appear this straightforward.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 7:05 AM on February 15, 2011


or even occasionally spanking (!) their kids can be a sign of love and respect

and do occasionally get involved at a level which it appears many of you would consider abusive.

We're in agreement so far, yes.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:08 AM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


We're in agreement so far, yes.

I did not say that spanking was loving or respecting a child. You may be taking me out of context. I was saying that there are many ways to raise a child that you or I may or may not agree with, but until it reaches a level of real abuse it's not something we need to read into.

I don't agree or disagree with spanking, keylogging, etc. I'm just saying we should answer the question as asked.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 7:13 AM on February 15, 2011


I didn't respond to that thread because I didn't think my comments would be on topic enough.

But as wiser people than I have stated time and again, if you go snooping, expect to find something. Expect it to be different than you thought. And expect to either be upset by what you found or to have others become upset with you.

I have a good friend who in the earlier days of the internet found a forum for people who didn't feel quite right. This friend joined this forum. It became a huge source of support as she figured out that she was really a he. There was no one in her little town who could even begin to help her understand this. But this internet forum for gay, trans, and questioning teenagers --- run by gay and trans adults who had btdt --- provided a safe space of support and understanding. Sadly, I think that forum has either disbanded or been lost to the Wayback Machine. I can't even remember the name of the forum as my friend told me about this years and years after it happened, and I only knew this friend as a man.

Needless to say, the parents flipped their shit when they found out what their "daughter" was doing online. And his home life from there was terrible until he went to college. Things have somewhat repaired in the ensuing years. Time has brought a certain amount of acceptance.

But it goes to show that sometimes you find out a lot more than you bargained for. And maybe the nature of the relationship with someone --- online or otherwise --- is much different than you would have thought.

Point being, don't go looking around behind someone's back unless you're prepared to find out about and deal with ALL possible outcomes.
posted by zizzle at 7:28 AM on February 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is there something wrong with just "Answer Syndrome"?

I dont know; does "Answer Syndrome" accurately convey the same phenomenon to a Mefite in passing -- as the phrase "Male Answer Syndrome", which has been around for 20 years and specifically describes people pretending to provide factual information on a topic they have no clue about whatsoever, because it provides an ego stroke?

Happy to use an alternative if it works the same way as the other.
posted by pineapple at 7:44 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dont know; does "Answer Syndrome" accurately convey the same phenomenon to a Mefite in passing -- as the phrase "Male Answer Syndrome", which has been around for 20 years and specifically describes people pretending to provide factual information on a topic they have no clue about whatsoever, because it provides an ego stroke?

Change starts with the individual. Either you want to convey a way of communicating a negative attribute in a non gendered way or you don't. Otherwise, we'd still be regularly using the term "bitch" with no regard for what it's conveying. If we can attempt to not use other words on the site, we can certainly expand to this particular phrase.

The use of the term "male answer syndrome" is not helpful. I wish people would stop using it. I wish people wouldn't just shrug and say "eh, what other phrase can be used?" I wish this would not turn into a big, long winded confrontation, but here we are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:03 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't post in that thread because I don't know anything about Mac keyloggers and feel sorry for the kid getting spied on, but my parents installed monitoring software on my computer back when I was in junior high. I used a keylogger to capture the password they used and would log in to turn it off whenever I didn't want something recorded. Eventually I just turned it off completely because they never checked the logs anyway. I think it was better for all of us that they could pretend that I wasn't doing anything objectionable.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:05 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


> I think most people in that thread really do know what they're talking about. Namely, because they've been the kid in this particular situation.

But they have not been the parent in this particular situation. If and when they have kids of their own, they will discover that, gee, many issues look very, very different from the other side. They may even realize that some of the things they resented when they were kids were in fact sensible and for their own good. Kids are not the best judge of what's good for kids, and our childhood memories are not the best source of parenting advice.
posted by languagehat at 8:21 AM on February 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


How about "Must Answer Syndrome"? It preserves the acronym and is sort of a more accurate description of the phenomenon.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:23 AM on February 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


That's a good suggestion beerfilter, thanks!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:24 AM on February 15, 2011


I feel like Compulsive Bullshitting Syndrome has a nice heft to it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:29 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Weird, I never knew there was such a thing as Male Answer Syndrome. Someone should have sent me a memo.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:33 AM on February 15, 2011


I feel like Compulsive Bullshitting Syndrome has a nice heft to it.

Doesn't really soar, you know? Maybe G flat, with an E in the bass?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:38 AM on February 15, 2011


>> Change starts with the individual. Either you want to convey a way of communicating a negative attribute in a non gendered way or you don't.

Soooo, you're going to take up arms here, with me, on this. Slow work day? This is a brilliant example of not really grokking how to pick one's battles. Especially since I can see that the whole "what term should we use instead" discussion doesn't exactly have your knickers in a real twist.

>> If we can attempt to not use other words on the site, we can certainly expand to this particular phrase.

Sure. Because my usage above—complete with built-in apology and request for alternative—is the same as "bitch" and "cunt". I totally see that.

>> I wish people wouldn't just shrug and say "eh, what other phrase can be used?"

I'm sorry you elected to infer a bunch of shruggy heel-digging from my comment of "not sure that the phrase 'Answer Syndrome' solves this problem, does it? What else we got?"

>> I wish this would not turn into a big, long winded confrontation, but here we are.

Change starts with the individual, BB. This is neither long-winded nor a confrontation, by MeTa standards—but certainly if you're feeling long-winded and fighty, I suggest you start another MeTa. Or visit Fark. Because this "confrontation" was kind of ginned up out of nowhere, about nothing, by you.

Pro tip: You can't really play tug-of-war if no one is holding the rope on the other side.
posted by pineapple at 8:44 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Guys guys guys! Guess what: Kids lie and deceive their parents! Even "good" kids! I know, right?

Not all teenagers are stand-up bastions of virtue. Teenage me told many a fib about how much not drinking I would be doing at not-parties in not-fields and on frozen not-lakes and suchlike.

Grown-up me has learned to identify suspicious patterns of behavior in his teenaged stepkids. I discovered that my step-daughter was sneaking out of the house in the wee hours last summer, and going over to some (adult) guy's house. That's all the detail I'll give, but suffice it to say that not trusting every explanation she offered was the right call and likely spared her and our whole family considerable grief.

Short answer: As parents, it is our job to find out what our kids are up to, ESPECIALLY when they are trying to conceal that activity.
posted by Mister_A at 8:46 AM on February 15, 2011


And another point that really bears mention, and that may not be popular 'round these parts: If you think your kids are up to something, they are. It is your job as a parent to find out what they are up to.
posted by Mister_A at 8:49 AM on February 15, 2011


But they have not been the parent in this particular situation. If and when they have kids of their own, they will discover that, gee, many issues look very, very different from the other side.

Yeah, I agree with this. Often times, providing a perspective other than that of the OP is the best answerers can do.

Suppose a teenager asks about how to hide from his mother that he's going to meet up with this totally hot chick he met online, because GEEZ his mother is ALWAYS ON HIS BACK and it's OBVIOUS that he's thought out every angle of this meeting. It would be appropriate for those who have children to chime in and say, "Look: I know it's frustrating that your mom is so worried about this. However, you really have to pay attention to what is motivating her, and why she is worried. Your plan here may be fundamentally flawed."

Here, we have the alternative side. Someone is coming it asking how to snoop on their kid, and it seems equally appropriate for people to say, "Look: I know how worried you are about your kid. However, you really should consider what your kid is thinking and how he will perceive this. Your plan here may be fundamentally flawed."

I didn't know everything, when I was that angry and frustrated teenager who just wanted my mom to butt out; all teenagers are idiots (but we somehow manage to grow out of it). And I'm not suggesting that parents just totally butt out of their kids' internet lives and let them do whatever---that is seriously dangerous and unwise. All issues about parenting are complicated and complex, and I'd never want to present myself as having a better idea of how to raise any particular child than that child's own parents... If someone says, "Here is the obvious and single appropriately way to monitor your child's activities online," what they're doing is expressing hubris. All the same, I have a very clear idea of what would have happened if my own mother had installed keylogging software on my computer in order to snoop without my knowledge, and I think information of that sort is extremely relevant to the OP's situation.

I'm not at all saying, "Those without children can totally tell people with children what they should do, just because they themselves were once children." What I am saying, however, is this: those whose childhoods involved struggles with their parents over internet activity can appropriately comment upon the general success or failure of childrearing techniques related to the internet. The insight of such commenters is not infallible, just as no one's insight is infallible, but it is insight nonetheless.
posted by meese at 8:51 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pineapple, you can do what you like, of course. Either you can stick with using Male Answer Syndrome or try something else. Your choice, but I'll don't think it's a good or fair term and will continue to point that it. You can like that or not.

If you want to get snarky and dismissive about things, feel free, but I don't see it being really productive.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:51 AM on February 15, 2011


"Must Answer Syndrome" feels right on the nose and I'll use that myself in the future - I occasionally suffer from it, too.
posted by epersonae at 9:16 AM on February 15, 2011


There's definitely a bit of a double-standard. If someone had used any sort of "female [something-something] syndrome," I'm sure we'd be made aware of that mis-step. However, considering the centuries of double-standards that worked the other way that have come before, we probably just need to suck it up, Brandon. Pineapple probably could have written "know-it-all" and we wouldn't have blinked. Consider the number of women know-it-all's you've met in your life. I'm sure the number of men that you've met like that greatly outnumber the women.
posted by crunchland at 9:16 AM on February 15, 2011


Must Answer Syndrome. That's awesome. Thanks beerfilter. :D
posted by bardophile at 9:30 AM on February 15, 2011


we probably just need to suck it up..

There's nothing to "suck up". A gender based insult was used. It's fine to call that it and ask that it not be used.

Consider the number of women know-it-all's you've met in your life. I'm sure the number of men that you've met like that greatly outnumber the women.

It really depends on the subject and the individual. Sure, men in general think they know more about X, but women often do the same about other topics. So it goes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:31 AM on February 15, 2011


Um, my friend tried this once and I can tell you unequivocally DO NOT TRY TO GET HIGH ON NUTMEG. Really dude, there are better ways.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:35 AM on February 15, 2011


However, considering the centuries of double-standards that worked the other way that have come before, we probably just need to suck it up, Brandon.

Yeah, this is bullshit, crunchland. The policy of not using gender-biased phrases at MetaFilter is because it hurts people. It should not be about keeping score. Your back-handed version of "the wimmenz be attacking us so much for all our wrong words that we have to just eat this one, brother" is way more annoying than BB's positioning me as some sort of poster child for male oppression around here. It's like a wrong-headed affirmative action for the ladies.

"Must Answer Syndrome" works great, beerfilter. Thanks for providing an alternative that skips the gender bias, actually describes the phenomenon, and has a bonus feature of fitting the acronym.
posted by pineapple at 9:45 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's fine to call that it and ask that it not be used.

Sure it is, and I'm glad you did. I really hope "Must Answer Syndrome" gains some traction around here as an alternative

In this particular instance, though, I don't think it's fair to ignore that pineapple noted the problematic nature of the phrase from the very beginning. She just didn't have a viable alternative for expressing her thoughts. Now maybe we do.
posted by Dano St at 9:51 AM on February 15, 2011


BB's positioning me as some sort of poster child for male oppression around here.

That was totally and completely not my intent or meaning.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:52 AM on February 15, 2011


Having been Brandon Blatcher's spouse once in the distant past, I can tell you, if he is going to position you, you'd know it.

*smiles sweetly at Brandon* Isn't that right, hon?
posted by adipocere at 10:03 AM on February 15, 2011


Male answer syndrome is a glib term for a behavior that is gendered, and is most obvious in questions where women have asked about something that only women can know for sure, e.g. pregnancy questions, and dudes come in and are like, "Well, it's never happened to me, but here's my minimally helpful anecdote about my cousin's kid."

That men tend to dominate the conversation here is true, and getting het up about it is demanding exact equality instead of justice. Clear the sand out of your taint.
posted by klangklangston at 10:12 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clear the sand out of your taint.

Knock this shit off.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:26 AM on February 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


De-gendering "male answer syndrome" removes just about all of its explanatory usefulness, since it is in fact a description of a highly gender-specific behavior. It's not just another word for the generic form of being a know-it-all. Complaining about "gendered language" when the language describes a gendered reality is exactly like pretending that "misandry" bears some kind of symmetrical relationship to misogyny: wilfully blind to the social reality. We can't achieve gender-symmetry on the level of words without first achieving it in social reality.
posted by RogerB at 10:26 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


How exactly is this a departure from the norm?
posted by elder18 at 10:27 AM on February 15, 2011


Everyone's got taints!
posted by klangklangston at 10:30 AM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


How about "Must Answer Syndrome"? It preserves the acronym and is sort of a more accurate description of the phenomenon.

Damn, Beerfilter, that's what I was gonna post (-- and I would have, too, except I wanted to be sure and read all responses before posting any response.)

Whenever I see "Male Answer Syndrome", I have a reaction very similar to when I see "bitch" -- it's an unnecessary introduction of a sexist element to whatever point they're trying to make (and I confess, I deprecate their post accordingly).

Just think, if shifting the meaning of MAS for Male Answer Syndrome to Must Answer Syndrome catches on, then this could be a touchstone thread, like the "what'cha reading" thread, which people continue to point back to as a touchstone of improvement of Metafilter. With enough enthusiasm, it could be the Alice's Restar Metafilter's anti-MaleAnswerSyndrome Movement. And all you gotta do to join in is to point out, when some gleef invokes "Male Answer Syndrome", that there's no need to introduce a sexist element to what is more properly and accurately referred to as Must Answer Syndrome, MAS. (But please avoid pile-ons)

It gets better: With MAS no longer being a sexist-charged epithet, we can look toward treatment and management. I don't want to go so far as to call it a cure, but MAS can be morphed to MAC(orrectly)S, where the answerer feels tremendous pressure to fact-check their claims before posting; or MAU(sefully)S where the answerer feels pressure to phrase their answer in a way the asker will be receptive to.
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 10:31 AM on February 15, 2011


Complaining about "gendered language" when the language describes a gendered reality is exactly like pretending that "misandry" bears some kind of symmetrical relationship to misogyny:

Is that in all cases, or only when the gender on the shit end "gendered language" is men ?

This comparison. It sucks.

I'm not interested in running the outrage olympics. I'm not going to construct a tear jerker post or woe and strife. I should not have to convince you of the earnestness of what I will express here.

I'm just going to say very simply, as a person : "male answer syndrome" is offensive, to me, and I find it dismissive and hurtful. I think you should not use it anymore.

It is not illuminating, funny, insightful or useful. Please find a different way to express your gruntleness at some people's compulsion to be helpful.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:11 AM on February 15, 2011


Isn't it actually 'tain'ts?
posted by Mister_A at 11:12 AM on February 15, 2011


Isn't it actually 'tain'ts?

No, 'tain't.
posted by scalefree at 11:17 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, ladies can totally be on the wrong side of Must Answer Syndrome. As a pregnant lady, every. single. woman. on the planet has an opinion and an "answer" about pregnancy and sometimes this has been really helpful and sometimes it's been really annoying and sometimes... I catch myself about to do that thing where no one's really asking me a question and no one really cares about my asspinion and I'm about to spout off with it anyway...

So, yeah, totally not limited to males. The topics where it comes up tend to vary wildly by gender, but then again, so do the topics of conversation in general.
posted by sonika at 11:27 AM on February 15, 2011


Do you get the people with the old wives' tales about how you're "carrying high" so it must be a girl, and stuff like that? It's kind of funny at first, but it seems really tedious after a while; don't know how my wife put up with it. As you said, that seems to come from women exclusively.

Yes, I realize I am a man talking about pregnancy issues.
posted by Mister_A at 11:32 AM on February 15, 2011


Do you get the people with the old wives' tales about how you're "carrying high" so it must be a girl, and stuff like that? It's kind of funny at first, but it seems really tedious after a while; don't know how my wife put up with it. As you said, that seems to come from women exclusively.

Nah, though I am both carrying high AND having a boy. I've been pretty lucky in that most of the comments I've received have been pretty benign and well-meaning, but really, it's EVERYWHERE. Women see a pregnant woman, open their mouths, and something dumb pops out. I so try not to do this myself, but I'm sure I have.
posted by sonika at 11:36 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


And you know, some of that stuff, I came to realize, was really good-natured, "babies are awesome" feeling gushing out. People get excited, what can you do...
posted by Mister_A at 11:38 AM on February 15, 2011


"old wives' tales." --- pfft. Will we never get away from these gender-biased phrases?
posted by crunchland at 11:39 AM on February 15, 2011


What took you so long? ;)
posted by Mister_A at 11:41 AM on February 15, 2011


"male answer syndrome" is offensive, to me, and I find it dismissive and hurtful. I think you should not use it anymore.

That's too bad, because I find it a usefully pointed description of a real thing that exists in the world, and therefore do not intend to stop using it. It's not some kind of slur; it's a description of behavior which is in anyone's power to modify simply by behaving more considerately and self-consciously and less, shall we say, Dunning-Krugerishly. (There's a former frequent AskMe user whose name we could easily use to tag this behavior, too, but I know that bringing up absent parties is frowned upon.) I have no interest in adjusting my discourse and vocabulary for the extravagantly hurt feelings of the Men's Rights crowd (of which, to be clear, I have no idea whether you're a part). In any case, if you think it describes a "compulsion to be helpful," you might want to readjust your opinion of what it means.

So, yeah, totally not limited to males

Again, you're describing being a know-it-all, but about a single topic of direct personal experience, which is not what "male answer syndrome" is. "Male answer syndrome" is the compulsion to behave as though one were, and even believe oneself to be, an authority about topics that one has never before encountered or considered seriously.
posted by RogerB at 11:43 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


And maybe I should say, preemptively, that I'm aware it's a little bit meta-funny how authoritatively I'm insisting on this definition. But I still think it's an important distinction.
posted by RogerB at 11:47 AM on February 15, 2011


That's too bad, because I find it a usefully pointed description of a real thing that exists in the world, and therefore do not intend to stop using it.

Well, that's too bad, because it evokes unnecessary hostility in/on/to the audience you're trying to address. And at least in this thread, "usefully pointed description" is a derail (more on that, at the end). I doubt I'm the only one deprecating your comments here because you seem to be dragging baggage from other threads and situations into this thread.

It's not some kind of slur

It's apparently taken as a slur by the people it refers to. Claiming that it's not a slur when the people to whom it refers take it as a slur is at the very least dense. This same claim has repeatedly been made with other words which may-or-may-not, depending on context, be slurs -- the n* word is one, as are several of the c* words. If you insist that you must use this offensive (to many) term because it's oh-so-preciously and precisely accurate, be prepared to defend at length how, because of context, it isn't offensive. I suspect it would make for better writing and less work to use a less inflammatory term, and then use additional words to hone in to to precision you seek.

"Male answer syndrome" is the compulsion to behave as though one were, and even believe oneself to be, an authority about topics that one has never before encountered or considered seriously.

This Meta started as a response to people giving parental advice. Are you seriously claiming that men cannot be parents? Are you seriously claiming that all non-parents are male? Because under either interpretation -- and I'm trying to be as diplomatic as possible, while still being direct -- you're wrong.
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 12:29 PM on February 15, 2011


Everyone's got taints!

I didn't know you'd read my children's book, klang.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:30 PM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's INSANE, this guy's taint! (NSFW)
posted by scody at 3:48 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now, I don't really have any experience with Must Answer Syndrome, but I did organize a health and fitness fair last weekend and I blah blah blah blah blah blah so those claws are going to have to go.
posted by fuq at 4:13 PM on February 15, 2011


that's what I was gonna post (-- and I would have, too, except I wanted to be sure and read all responses before posting any response.)

See, that's how to be, TAL.
posted by pineapple at 6:51 PM on February 15, 2011


Clear the sand out of your taint.

Knock this shit off.


Sure, that's another way to say it.
posted by rokusan at 10:34 AM on February 16, 2011


« Older The forum at the end of the universe   |   Fantasy Baseball 2010... With A Twist! Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments