Notice I didn't say "melt." February 25, 2011 1:27 AM   Subscribe

So I think I understand why people do that annoying "special snowflake" thing in AskMe.

It's because they know that people are going to jump the gun.

I feel like this has been building for a while; I hadn't been able to put my finger on it until now. I feel like there's a growing tendency to assume the worst about the OP, make a snap judgment, or project one's own life story onto the post. This is of course magnified when the question glances upon some hot-button issue.

Basically, I think everybody -- including myself -- needs to slow down a bit and ask themselves whether they're really considering the question. Maybe then we'll see the "special snowflakes" disappear.
posted by Afroblanco to MetaFilter-Related at 1:27 AM (169 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I will simply never understand why this is or has ever been a problem. "details inside", "more inside", "personal details follow", "more information". It's all the same damn thing. What the heck is wrong with people?
posted by IvoShandor at 1:36 AM on February 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


I feel like there's a growing tendency to assume the worst about the OP, make a snap judgment, or project one's own life story onto the post.

Typical Afroblanco comment. You shouldn't have bothered posting it. In my experience this isn't a problem at all.

:-)
posted by Decani at 1:51 AM on February 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


I feel like there's a growing tendency to assume the worst about the OP, make a snap judgment, or project one's own life story onto the post. This is of course magnified when the question glances upon some hot-button issue.

And the way to counter that is to refer to yourself as a "special snowflake"?

Thats just like middle aged dudes who get personalized plates on their candy red ferrari that say "cool dude". As if that doesn't contribute to the automatic douchebag assumption, and actually distinguishes them from the other too-old-to-be-collar-popping crowd.

"Special snowflake" is just a confirmation about what one was about to assume anyways.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:04 AM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think most of the time it's just people putting a name to a post structure they've used all along. "Here's my general problem, which is a problem that many people have had. Here are the things that make it different enough that it's worth asking instead of just reading someone's previous askme."

Like: "I've left this chicken on the counter for a week, should I eat it? SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE DETAILS: I live in an entirely abiotic environment at 0.7 Kelvin and by 'chicken' I mean 'bucket of Helium-II'."
posted by hattifattener at 2:06 AM on February 25, 2011 [68 favorites]


So, who was it who once said something like, "if you call yourself a special snowflake, I won't consider answering your question"? I always admired that.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 2:40 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to take this serious for the time being. "Special snowflake" is either the scare-reflex of someone who just barely dares to own her/his question, or to communicate personal info. On a forum where everyone is continuously re-learning etiquette and common usage, this inspires people to imitate using the phrase, who really just want to say: "personal details inside" (and who might as well have let the readers find out by themselves).

Now we've got that out of the way, I feel like there's a growing tendency is a pretty special snowflaky approach to not actually having access to statistics and wanting to talk anyway. In a flake-free world, this approach normally doesn't lead anywhere. Skål.
posted by Namlit at 2:48 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can it just be that people like to add clever little flourishes to things? I remember the "There's [more inside]" epidemic and this doesn't seem that different to me.

That said, by all means let's try to be nicer to each other. A little benefit of the doubt never hurt anyone.
posted by joshuaconner at 3:15 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I look at them all lined up in a row like this, I start to really dislike these people.

(And those "clever" [more inside] jokes have been specifically prohibited in the FAQ for quite some time.)
posted by Gator at 3:29 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gator, that's what most confuses me about the trend: in a world where [more inside] modifiers are frowned upon, how does "special snowflake details inside" wind up on the top half of so many posts?
posted by moviehawk at 4:06 AM on February 25, 2011


I always read it as irony.
posted by mippy at 4:26 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


So I think I understand why people do that annoying "special snowflake" thing in AskMe.

Have you also discovered why people keep complaining about it?
posted by DU at 4:26 AM on February 25, 2011 [33 favorites]


I agree with your conclusion, Afroblanco - a depressingly high number of people don't bother to read the question in full before they bellow their opinions. Often that doesn't matter, but I've seen quite a few places where that irrelevant answer drags the entire post down the wrong route.

It's annoying in a normal once a week post - it's depressing and disheartening in an anon post where you can't even try and steer it back on track.

By announcing 'snowflake details inside' people are trying to say "Hi guys, this isn't as simple as it looks, can you read all of my ramblings before you answer?"

Yes, it's annoying, but it's people trying to counteract other people's annoying habits.

Or people are just whiny little bitches who think they're special...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 4:44 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the first times I encountered "special snowflake" was when for some reason I was reading a forum for university tutors. They used it as a shorthand reference to a particular type of student with an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a belief that his or her personal circumstances meant that the normal rules did not apply. The term is an obvious reference to the way that every snowflake is unique but none of them is really special, at least not enough to give them a credit just because their cat had trouble sleeping the night before the exam. This is why in AskMe I always read it as mild self-deprecation, a way of apologising in advance for spilling a lot of unnecessary personal angst onto the screen rather than begging the answerers to read the question before answering (which will never work).

Unless there really are people out there who think being a "special snowflake" is a good thing to be proud of. Are there?
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:09 AM on February 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


And the way to counter that is to refer to yourself as a "special snowflake"?

Absolutely. It's an ironic, self-deprecating acknowledgement that while you think your question is unique enough to warrant a question and some details, not everyone will agree. You cut them off at the pass by saying "Yes, I know it might seem simple, but really! Hold your judgment and just read these other bits!"

I'm sure it's also used by the less cunning as a way of trying to fit in, but overall I think Afroblanco's point is 100% valid.
posted by soma lkzx at 5:11 AM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't have a problem with the phrase "Special snowflake" or its use on the site and I can't imagine why anyone would give a damn enough to start a Metatalk threads about the usage.

Yes. Yes you should know my opinion on the subject.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:29 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Please take this to the octagon. Thank you.
posted by tomswift at 5:31 AM on February 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


It started out as irony, and now it's become a custom. I think Afroblanco's right - personally, I've been trying hard not to jump the gun on questions, and to consider whether or not my answer is actually helpful or just me venting about something I didn't like in the question. If it's the latter, I delete. On a "good day" I won't answer any questions at all.
posted by muddgirl at 5:42 AM on February 25, 2011


There's no big deal with this. It's a little cultural shorthand, an in-joke phrase that means "more inside." I don't see it as preventing anything - it's verbal embroidery. Part of the local parlance. Nothing more.
posted by Miko at 5:46 AM on February 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


Please hope me hive mind, for I am a special snowflake. Read my six paragraphs of (more inside) but if you don't have the patience for that, I will sum it up with a bold tl;dr. Thanks!
posted by fixedgear at 5:54 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I denounce certain things!
posted by Mister_A at 5:56 AM on February 25, 2011


Uncertain things are OK.
posted by Mister_A at 5:57 AM on February 25, 2011


UNTIL THEY ARE ASCERTAINED!
posted by Mister_A at 5:57 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


ASCERTAINED

God, that word is so irritating.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:59 AM on February 25, 2011


People do all sorts of self-deprecation in an attempt to disarm any potential harsh reactions. Humans for the most part want others to like them and take them seriously, even if they are annoying or weird. This is how people work; there really isn't any mystery to what's going on.
posted by aught at 6:00 AM on February 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


Agreeing with Miko. Not a big deal, and it's just part of the local parlance much like 'My Google-Fu has failed me!'

Now, you want to talk about an annoying an overused phrase...
posted by Rewind at 6:10 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never understood the "special snowflake" thing myself. No two snowflakes are alike, therefore ALL snowflakes are special. I would imagine that a "special" snowflake would be a snowflake that IS like another another snowflake, no?
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:14 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


They used it as a shorthand reference to a particular type of student with an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a belief that his or her personal circumstances meant that the normal rules did not apply.

Yeah, man, sorry about all that. I was young and, uh, foolish.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:16 AM on February 25, 2011


God, that word is so irritating.

Hilarity ensues.
posted by flabdablet at 6:25 AM on February 25, 2011


I used it because I'm new and I thought that was just part of the lingo. Then a few days later I saw something here on the gray about how annoying it is.

I feel shame.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:32 AM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


I agree with your conclusion, Afroblanco - a depressingly high number of people don't bother to read the question in full before they bellow their opinions.

See, the problem here is that with the rise in the use of "special snowflake," also comes the rise in word count per posting. So to say that people don't bother to read the question in full is somewhat misleading because most people don't have the energy/patience/attention span to read through the wall of text that greets them when they click through the post (I happily include myself as one of "those people).
posted by TheBones at 6:32 AM on February 25, 2011


So, what is it you're asking for here, exactly...?
posted by odinsdream at 6:32 AM on February 25, 2011


As long as we're having a plate of beans, can I get some bangers and scrambled eggs too?
posted by spicynuts at 6:34 AM on February 25, 2011


No two snowflakes are alike, therefore ALL snowflakes are special. I would imagine that a "special" snowflake would be a snowflake that IS like another another snowflake, no?

Drones! Drones! Pilotless drones!

Not all adjectives modify their subjects. Some merely highlight relevant features. "Wouldn't you like to sleep in this soft, comfy bed?" doesn't imply that some non-soft, non-comfy beds exist (although they do). It just serves to indicate characteristics that I think are cogent to our context.
posted by DU at 6:35 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even after several metatalk threads, it remains unclear to me exactly what the objection to "special snowflake" is.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:36 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


If the message is RTFQ, I'm in favor of that. If the idea is that more people RTFQ and fewer people talk about special snowflakes, I'm not optimistic. 'Optimistic' in this case means only 'optimistic that the desired outcome will occur'. I personally don't care whether special snowflake slang goes away or stays, don't base my decision to answer questions on it, and don't understand why it's a big deal.
posted by immlass at 6:38 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a good place to note that I wish Matt would print more of the Special Snowflake t-shirts. In women's small. Thank you for your time.
posted by desjardins at 6:39 AM on February 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I personally love the special snowflake convention. I read it like:

"Hi! I have a NETGEAR DT368GT router and am trying to open a particular port, but I do not have an administrator password for the router. I bought it from Best Buy and my then-boyfriend set it up for me, but he's only slightly more savvy with computers than me, so I'm thinking that the password could be [Please recognize my humanity as a unique invidual on this god-forsaken planet who needs a hug right now more so than the average bear and oh god I think I may have a panic attack if you gloss over the details because all of my hopes and dreams are distilled onto the crux of this stupid problem that I can't even believe I'm having and if you pick on me it will crush me completely details inside]"

And I think to myself...if I can't help you, I'd give you that hug, because then I'd get one too and I've got my own problems but am still waiting 3 days before I can post again.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:41 AM on February 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


Snowflaking is a talisman against the fear of posting lazy, lame and repetitive questions. I don't want to be snarked so I'll explain why my question is different from the 500 similar questions already asked on this subject. It doesn't, in itself, prevent a lame, lazy or repetitive question.

I don't really see that there's an issue with gun-jumping answers though. Are there really more of them these days? There's always going to be a certain level of noise, but you flag and move on. I personally see a consistently high level of experienced, sincere and thought-out advice on AskMe.

So on reflection, ban snowflaking: if your question is strong enough to stand, you shouldn't have to faux-apologise for it in advance.
posted by londonmark at 6:44 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Way too many MeTa posts boil down to "I'm annoyed by other people's behavior. Make them all stop doing that annoying thing they do."
posted by rocket88 at 6:45 AM on February 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


I agree with everybody.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:45 AM on February 25, 2011


i stopped by to let everyone know that you are all my special avalanche!
posted by the aloha at 6:46 AM on February 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Way too many MeTa posts boil down to "I'm annoyed by other people's behavior. Make them all stop doing that annoying thing they do."

You heard the man. Stop doing these annoying MeTa posts!
posted by DU at 6:50 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Ha, bangers. The nice dude at the bar here, I think he might be from Poland, pronounced it over-eagerly banjairs. I like those banjairs. He over-thunk banger pronunciation.)

Cat Pie Hurts, your explanation is in what A thousand Baited Hooks wrote. The special snowflake makes no sense because it makes no sense. Indeed all snowflakes are special and the ones who are even specialerer are being silly. It's ironic, see.
posted by Namlit at 6:52 AM on February 25, 2011


who needs a hug right now more so than the average bear

A bear would probably be irritated by a hug and if there's one thing the Boy Scouts drilled into me, it's don't irritate a bear.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:54 AM on February 25, 2011


No one's ever a Standard Snowflake.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:55 AM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Don't be silly. Bears have their own special hug and everything.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:56 AM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, who was it who once said something like, "if you call yourself a special snowflake, I won't consider answering your question"?

I posted that in my profile info. Cortex deemed this gesture meanspirited and "more or less bullshit" but you know, cheerfully withstanding people's irritating online habits is basically built into his job description, and I don't share any such compunction, especially within the realms of my own profile page.

I think that afroblanco's basically right about why people started doing this. People don't seem to trust the "more inside" to compel others to actually read the rest of the question, so they make a jargony remark to catch the eye and hint that they're a seasoned AskMe reader/answerer.

But still, it's cutesy and dumb and basically redundant most of the time, and then people copy it without really knowing why. It should be snipped just like the "more inside" jokes.
posted by hermitosis at 6:57 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't like the "special snowflake" thing, for a couple of reasons. One, I think it's lazy writing; it's better to say something in your own way than to appropriate a phrase that lots of people have already used. If you use the phrase "special snowflake," then you are, ironically, copying something that many other people have done before you.

Two, I happen to think that every human being is a special snowflake and I feel a little uncomfortable mocking the idea. Maybe I watched too much Mr. Rogers growing up, but I think everyone is special in their own way. Not that everyone is entitled to special treatment, but that just because an asker has the same issue that lots of other people have had before, that doesn't make that issue any less important to that person. Granted, the key to happy living is to realize that nothing is really all that important. But I'm one of those people who watches a five-second news story on TV about someone being shot and killed and then the anchor moves on to another story, but I'm still thinking, holy shit, someone just died, and even though I don't know that person, he or she had a spouse or parents or children or siblings, and the rock of someone's world just got destroyed.

In short, there's no need to self-deprecatingly refer to yourself as a special snowflake. There's no shame in thinking that your question is important. Because to you, it is.
posted by Tin Man at 7:06 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bears have their own special hug and everything.

Sure, sure, but you gotta practice your bear hug, to make sure it's done right. Otherwise, social disaster.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:14 AM on February 25, 2011


So, who was it who once said something like, "if you call yourself a special snowflake, I won't consider answering your question"?

I posted that in my profile info. Cortex deemed this gesture meanspirited and "more or less bullshit"


In that vein, I was considering adding "special snowflake" to all my AskMes, just to annoy the people who are needlessly annoyed by it.
posted by DU at 7:21 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, at this point "special snowflake" has kind of tipped over from doing what it was meant to do to doing the opposite of that. When I see the phrase, I am inclined to pay even less attention to whatever is near it, because it's just automated metafilter-talk background noise. But it's not terrible or offensive, just not effective, either. Talk how you feel like talking, I guess; no need to put on your special Typing on the Internets Now Hat.
posted by little cow make small moo at 7:24 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


My upthread jokes aside, I think Afroblanco's interpretation about why people use the special snowflake convention/in-joke/meme is one of many possible rationales. I mean, sure, some people are saying it because of a fear/distrust they have about their fellow readers answering before fully reading the question and are therefore preemptively addressing the possibility. But I think that some of the more community-inclusive rationales could be as follows:

• indexing their membership within the community by using a recognized convention (even if many members dislike it; with which the poster might be distancing themself from)
• trying to end a request for advice from strangers after confessing a personal problem publicly on a lighthearted and funny note
• showing that they are not so mired in their problem so as to be unable to be self-reflective (i.e. have their ego tied up in it...this requires an ironic/mock read of "special snowflake details inside")
• using the convention as a form of politeness strategy to let the reader know that they are aware that they are going to impose that reader with more information to read.

and on...

There is also a crucial difference here between the "special snowflake details inside" and the [more inside]. [m.i.] is conventionalized by the site itself, being built into the framework automatically. The poster has no choice whether to include that politeness strategy (the politeness strategy being in the form of a preface to the fact that there is more attention being requested of the reader)...it's imposed by the conversational design, from the top-down. But with "special snowflake..." the user gets to opt-into a politeness strategy without being redundant. For people who perhaps want to overtly dress their AskMe request in careful and respectful decorum, this is one of the best, most recognized and non-deleted ways to do so. The problem is that for many other users who evaluate "careful and respectful decorum" being in the form get-to-the-point, no frills succinctness, this reads as trifling wordiness. In many ways, this is like an Ask/Guess split.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:24 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going to assume the weather outside is really shitty for everyone today then?
posted by The Whelk at 7:31 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


LISTEN UP, MAGGOTS. YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL. YOU ARE NOT A BEAUTIFUL OR UNIQUE SNOWFLAKE. YOU'RE THE SAME DECAYING ORGANIC MATTER AS EVERYTHING ELSE.

Sometimes you wake up feeling a little Durden. You make a MeTa, you brush your teeth, and maybe you feel a little better. Just don't blow anything up on AskMe.
posted by carsonb at 7:34 AM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, who was it who once said something like, "if you call yourself a special snowflake, I won't consider answering your question"? I always admired that.

It's hermitosis, and while not answering questions is his prerogative, it does make me think less of him.
posted by zamboni at 7:36 AM on February 25, 2011


on rereading the thread - hi, hermitosis!
posted by zamboni at 7:37 AM on February 25, 2011


If you use the phrase "special snowflake," then you are, ironically, copying something that many other people have done before you.

Absolutely. You know what else annoys me? When big men are called "Tiny". They aren't Tiny at all! How come so many people can be wrong about the same thing in the same way?
posted by DNye at 7:44 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's hermitosis, and while not answering questions is his prerogative, it does make me think less more of him.
posted by fixedgear at 8:03 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, I was wondering something. If a naked man jumped out of an airplane without a parachute, and pooped on his way down, how much fiber would he have to eat to make his feces have the same specific gravity as him so it would reach an identical terminal velocity, thus hitting the ground at the same time as the man?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:03 AM on February 25, 2011


Why should we think less of someone because they don't want to comment on a question because they don't like how it's framed? That's silly. There's no obligation to answer.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:04 AM on February 25, 2011


Hi zamboni!
posted by hermitosis at 8:05 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


No two snowflakes are alike, therefore ALL snowflakes are special. I would imagine that a "special" snowflake would be a snowflake that IS like another another snowflake, no?

A special snowflake is one you're being asked to treat especially gently (not "hotly" or harshly) so that it won't "melt away" in shame or embarrassment or whatever.
posted by aught at 8:06 AM on February 25, 2011


The grar is strong in this thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:07 AM on February 25, 2011


So I think I understand why people do that annoying
I feel like this has been building for a while;
Maybe then we'll see the "special snowflakes" disappear.

Geeze, "special snowflake" is 17 characters. Is it really that annoying to have to read it on a minority of AskMe posts? How many words and how much time has been wasted complaining about it compared to the harm done to Metafilter by people using the unnecessary phrase?

And now, you're suggesting that maybe people use the phrase not because people are idiots and not to annoy, but because it helps fetch better, well-considered answers: so we make a 680 character MetaTalk post to ask MetaTalk readers to try to appease that in order to make the evil phrase go away…

I don't really know what my point is, but I think I have an easier solution: learn to let go.
posted by floam at 8:10 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


ASCERTAINED

God, that word is so irritating.


Related
posted by burnmp3s at 8:10 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


And I need to learn to let go and stop getting mad at people for making MetaTalk threads, just maybe.
posted by floam at 8:12 AM on February 25, 2011


Greasmonkey scripts or plugins like FoxReplace can ease the irritation of repeated memes.

For example, on my browser "special snowflake" is replaced with "cocaine addict." "In Soviet Russia" filters to "At my mom's house." Use filters to change little things that bother you to little things that bother you less. YMMV.
posted by Dr-Baa at 8:14 AM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


I like to break off the spokes with my Uniqueness Destroying Tweezers of Doom, so that every single snowflake looks exactly like the one that came before, no better, no less. Then I drop them into my scalding hot green tea, read the future, and weep for the decline of humanity.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:15 AM on February 25, 2011


in a world where [more inside] modifiers are frowned upon, how does "special snowflake details inside" wind up on the top half of so many posts?

Well, there's a formal difference between the two gimmicks. Only the "there's [more inside]" gimmick explicitly breaks the presentation of a post in most contexts: when you do that, you literally end up with a broken question in the thread view and in RSS.

If it had been annoyingly cutesy but not also the source of lots and lots of confused reports and flags from readers who thought someone's question was just flat-out busted (because, indeed, it was), it probably wouldn't have been enshrined in the FAQ, especially since we're generally loathe by long-running administrative convention to go editing people's question text without first contacting them and getting their explicit permission to do so.

That "special snowflake" reads as twee and gimmicky isn't really controversial, and in a magic wan moment I'd make it not be a convention and be slightly less annoyed for that. But there are a lot of little organic cultural conventions on mefi, everybody finds one or another of them annoying, and basically none of them are against the rules. This one in particular may fade out at some point or may turn out to be a mainstay of askme framing. C'est la vie. Who likes pancakes?
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:15 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


My grease monkey script turns comments I don't like into candy and hundred dollar bills.
posted by The Whelk at 8:16 AM on February 25, 2011


Teach me your greasing ways.
posted by Dr-Baa at 8:17 AM on February 25, 2011


Wan is an adjective.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:18 AM on February 25, 2011


The "d" in my wand is composed of tiny translucent ice crystals in a hexagonal matrix. You will need need to turn either up your gamma or down your thermostat to see it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:21 AM on February 25, 2011


The grar is strong in this thread.

Maybe we're just jumping the gun a little?

GRAR T-REX CAN'T CATCH SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE WITH PUNY ARRRRRMS

GRAAAARMS



well that was a stretch
posted by little cow make small moo at 8:22 AM on February 25, 2011


I don't know what the number of characters has to do with anything, floam -- but it took almost 700 characters for you to take your own advice!
posted by hermitosis at 8:23 AM on February 25, 2011


But there are a lot of little organic cultural conventions on mefi, everybody finds one or another of them annoying, and basically none of them are against the rules.

This.

Speaking with yet another convention that people get annoyed by and yet it isn't against the rules.

It helps to remember that one of the things that I find to be somewhat unique about our little band of nerds here is that the trade off to folks being detail-oriented and somewhat fastidious/perfectionist about things, is that people are also a little irritable and defensive. So this isn't like "GARARARA Sarah Palin!" it's more like "GARARARAR don't use @reply!" which is fine, at some level, online communities have their own culture and like all cultural situations, people orient themselves wherever they are most comfortable. For some people that means adhering to all explicit and implicit social norms. For others it's taking a somewhat oppositional irritable stance towards those same conventions. And there's an unsteady tension.

My personal irritable thing is people who don't capitalize and/or spellcheck. Usually I suspect they're posting from their phones or whatever. And we can ask people "Hey, if you can avoid it, please try to make your posts here somewhat legible to other people" but that's usually the extent of it. I'll fix some glaring errors if I see them just to quell others' nerd rage, but ultimately sometimes we'll show up and say "Yeah that can be a little irritating. Please do your best to not get cranky with the whole site because of it, because it will be a long cranky day/month/year/life" This is one of those times.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:23 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know what would be great? If the powers that be changed [more inside] to [special snowflake details] just to mess with the people who can't get over it.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:24 AM on February 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


The grar is strong in this thread.

Yeah, the tedious nitpicking or complaining of particular writing, habits or conventions is petty, small and seemingly starting to be dividing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:26 AM on February 25, 2011


> Yeah, the tedious nitpicking or complaining of particular writing, habits or conventions is petty, small and seemingly starting to be dividing.

Yep, and honestly, this question is just a variation on the OP's last gripey lamentation of a similar non-issue.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:30 AM on February 25, 2011


Pallet cleanser
posted by The Whelk at 8:31 AM on February 25, 2011


The only thing I worry about in relation to this peeve, sometimes in the quietest moments of night, is what happens to the people who have a legitimate snowflake-related query and they can't search to see if it's already been asked??
posted by Mizu at 8:31 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


The OP isn't the one making gripey lamentations about the use of "special snowflake".
posted by muddgirl at 8:31 AM on February 25, 2011


Pallet cleanser

No, this is a pallet cleanser.
posted by zamboni at 8:34 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


And this is a Shakespeare alignment chat.

Your argument is invalid.
posted by The Whelk at 8:36 AM on February 25, 2011


[insert comment fable here written from the point of view of a person who lives on a world that is a snowflake, about his role in their expedition to map their world and ascertain if it is, indeed, identical on each of its six arms]
posted by Eideteker at 8:36 AM on February 25, 2011


The use of special implies there are average, unexceptional snowflakes out there. Why do we turn a blind eye to their lives of quiet desperation?
posted by The Whelk at 8:38 AM on February 25, 2011


That's an interesting chart, Whelk!

↑ shakespeare alignment chat ↑
posted by zamboni at 8:42 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another day, another pea, another mattress.
posted by y2karl at 8:46 AM on February 25, 2011


The use of "special snowflake" explained.
posted by mlis at 8:55 AM on February 25, 2011


The grar is strong in this thread.

I know, right? It's almost as if they jumped the gun and didn't read the [more inside]

:)
posted by Afroblanco at 9:08 AM on February 25, 2011


> I know, right? It's almost as if they jumped the gun and didn't read the [more inside]

Well, you're just saying that people don't read the questions when they respond, but this won't help with that.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:10 AM on February 25, 2011


I'm going to assume the weather outside is really shitty for everyone today then?

Really, really, epically shitty. And I've got to take my car to be inspected. The GRAR is certainly strong with me, but I'm also too tired to think, so I'm just shaking my fist in the general direction of everything.
posted by sonika at 9:16 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's really nice here today - sunny with a high of 75!

Mostly I'm grar-y because it's Friday and no one wants to return my calls or emails.
posted by muddgirl at 9:21 AM on February 25, 2011


I am full of mild grar because my cat threw up on my couch and I have so much stuff to do I may not get to go to the Renaissance festival tomorrow. But the high will be 73 and it is sunny, so things will be better later.
posted by immlass at 9:23 AM on February 25, 2011


I wish I had gotten to this thread earlier so that I could loudly bitch about how much I fucking hate the cutesy bullshit that is previouslier. Ugh. It needs to stop.
posted by item at 9:25 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like rain and long walks on the beach, as long as there's a good internet connection.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:27 AM on February 25, 2011


Only 32 uses in FPPs? Wow. It seems so much more prevalent than that. I guess it's just that ugly of a word - that it sticks out like that.
posted by item at 9:27 AM on February 25, 2011


The best thing about special snowflakes is just like regular snowflakes they melt in the spring. About twenty-three more days.
posted by Sailormom at 9:28 AM on February 25, 2011


It's one of those cold clear days in Portland where you wonder if you even woke up in the right town. Wall to wall blue sky, temperature well into freezing, chunks of broken-up ice on the side of the road so uncommon to see that at first you think it must be broken bottles.

Fifteen blocks upwind and into the sun is enough to make you write weather noir once you get to the breakfast joint; the waitress is two straight weeks of a word-a-day calendar, 2011 In Salutations, with a "mister" here and a "fella" there and a "kitten" and a "buddy", all inside of the time it takes to get a cup of coffee.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:28 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wish I had gotten to this thread earlier so that I could loudly bitch about how much I fucking hate the cutesy bullshit that is previouslier.

So you're saying that superlatives are the worst?
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:29 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does this mean we can call you kitten, cortex?
posted by The Whelk at 9:30 AM on February 25, 2011


Said it before but I'll say it again:

It's a preemptive defense against the baffling attitude that every question about processor speed or batteries or rain gutters is different and worthy of serious attention but people's human relationships are somehow "all the same."
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:30 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's a dark and stormy day here, the kind of black flat slab of a sky that dares you to get out of bed and a constant post-nasal cloudkill that saps the life out of anyone inside it.
posted by The Whelk at 9:33 AM on February 25, 2011


So you're saying that superlatives are the worst?

(insert sad trombone sound)
posted by item at 9:35 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't care about special snowflakes. I am, however, irritated by "should I stay or should I go?" being used over and over and over and over...
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:37 AM on February 25, 2011


Superlatives are worse than Hitler.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:37 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


C'mon corpse in the library, let me know.
posted by The Whelk at 9:43 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Around here the sky is the color of a television set tuned to a dead channel.
posted by fixedgear at 9:44 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


On a scale of +10 (incredibly wonderful and clever and useful all at once) to 0 (don't care) to -10 (AAAARRGGH KILL IT WITH FIRE DIE DIE DIE), I consider "special snowflake" a -½.

Not answering a question that you would otherwise answer solely because it uses "special snowflake" is about a -2.

@username: -4

Not RTFQ and suggesting an answer the OP has tried and rejected, or otherwise explicitly states they do not want: -7
(Caveat: does not apply when people give a reason why the OP should reconsider a rejected solution, as such people clearly have RTFQ.)

Not RTFQ in a "recommend things" type question and suggesting something the OP already mentioned as an example of the type of thing they want: -2

Use of "they" to refer to a single generic person of unspecified gender: +3

On preview:

"previouslier": +1. Still makes me chuckle, or at least smile a little. (Yes, I am easily amused.)

"on preview": +4
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:44 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Around here the sky is the color of a television set tuned to a dead channel.

On most every TV sold in the last 10 years that would be a very pleasant shade of blue.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:45 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


have you seen my bike?
posted by clavdivs at 9:45 AM on February 25, 2011


Sometimes MetaTalk makes me wanna go preverbal. Who wants to groom me?
posted by The Whelk at 9:46 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's got a basket, a bell that rings, and lots of things to make it look good?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:47 AM on February 25, 2011


Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker

-Raine
posted by clavdivs at 9:47 AM on February 25, 2011


As far as personified precipitation goes, I am an atypical hailstone. Please bear this in mind when answering any of my AskMe questions in the future.
posted by tdismukes at 9:47 AM on February 25, 2011


I like previouslier and previousliest. Then again, I'm the sort of jerk who would, I suppose.
posted by sonika at 10:02 AM on February 25, 2011


Whenever I see "special snowflake" I have to turn on xsnow.


Mmmmm. Snow.
posted by everichon at 10:03 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


See, the problem here is that with the rise in the use of "special snowflake," also comes the rise in word count per posting.

I don't think these are even related. There were plenty of long, long posts before which used "details inside" instead, and there are still plenty that don't use "snowflake" phrasing. Some issues just require more detailed explanation, and some users are just more verbose or are feeling kind of intense about their problem. Personally, I really prefer the way AskMe tends to look these days, with one or two lines on the main page to introduce the question, and whatever other info is needed inside, over the way it looked five or six years ago, with many four- and five-line questions on the front page, using up valuable real estate, and more details in comments.
posted by Miko at 10:17 AM on February 25, 2011


burnmp3s, long have I sought the fabled Video of the 'Ascertain' Sketch. I am forever in your debt.
posted by Mister_A at 10:27 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


pg 3. halestone crushes snowflake, rain melt halestone.
posted by clavdivs at 10:29 AM on February 25, 2011


Also Shakespeare Alignment Chat would make a great fake band name.
posted by Mister_A at 10:30 AM on February 25, 2011


I've seen versions of this discussion crop up repeatedly for 30 years, always with the same two sorts of people on opposites sides of a cultural divide:

1. The Joiners: these folks place a premium on group membership, and specifically on signaling membership via verbal and written ritualistic gestures.

2. The Non-conformists: these folks get irked by anything that seems too clubbish -- especially when it's something that has sunk so deep into the culture that joiners (seem to) say it by habit (without thinking carefully about what they're saying.)

Usually, this division starts in childhood -- or early in the teen years. For me, it started in elementary school. Me and my friends were nerds (back when that meant getting wedgies, not getting hired by Microsoft). The popular kids -- almost all the kids -- shunned us, and so we had disdain for all their signs of club membership. In fact, we partly preserved our self-esteem by belittling all their catchphrases.

I remember, back when I was a kid, phrases like "give me a break" and "go for it" were the rage. And, to me, as soon as I heard anyone saying one of those phrases even once, it marked that person as "one of THEM" -- the "kind of person who says lame things."

Also, because there were more of them than us, they had a much bigger social group. I didn't have to do much to prove my nerd creds to my three friends. But to most of the kids I grew up with presumably felt a continual need to -- or enjoyed a continual pleasure of -- asserting and reasserting their group membership.

(Catch phrases tend to evolve -- or new ones get coined over time. No one on Mefi said "taters" in 2002. So if you really want to be "in," it's not enough to say the same catch phrases over and over. You also have to keep up with the trends. Me and my friends, in elementary-through-high school, had great disdain for this entire process.)

What's interesting to me is that my reaction to the phrases used by "the jocks and the cheerleaders" translated into a general, knee-jerk reaction against catchphrases in general -- even when they were the catchphrases of my own group. I remember wanting to hurl things against the wall whenever someone quoted that SNL skit and said "not!" I hated "show me the money," "talk to the hand," "my way or the highway," etc.

Rational or not, I still feel that way. As soon as "everyone says it," I'm done with it. In fact, I hate it. On Metafilter, I'm bothered by pancakes, over-thinking a plate of beans, ponies, special snowflakes, and even the obit dot. Stupid of me, I know, but there it is.

What I find funny is that, I imagine, the other sort of person feels glee when a new catchphrase pops up: "Yay! We all get to say a new thing! How fun!" Meanwhile, I'm fuming: "Oh, Jesus! Now they're all going to start saying THAT, too!"

(Of course, my nerdy friends and I spent hours quoting Monty Python and Hitchhikers Guide, but, to us, that didn't count. We were hypocritical in that way. And as-soon-as one of our little pets crossed into popular culture, we disowned it.)

I bring all this up because my "grownup" reason for hating cliches and catchphrases is because they're bad writing. They stifle one's ability to form an image due to being too-well worn. I agree with this. I care deeply about writing and words, even in casual internet posts, so of course I'm going to hate "special snowflake." It's hard for me to even picture a snowflake when I read that phrase.

(Also, some people have more of a general tolerance (or liking of) repetition than others. ANYTHING done or said over and over and over tends to drive me batshit.)

But if I'm honest, the core reason for my irritation goes back to that childhood stuff. And, anyway, the reasons go hand-in-hand. Me and my friends decided we cared deeply about words because the popular kids didn't. Or, to be more precise, they cared about words for different reasons* that we did. We used words as tools for clear expression and for evoking mental images; they used words as secret handshakes.

* Almost everyone loves the feeling of a word or phrase "clicking perfectly into place." For me, that happens when I coin a new phrase that is perfect for a given situation. I imagine that for others, in addition to that, it happens when they use a well-worn phrase in the right situation -- that thrill of performing the right ritual in the right way at the right time, like putting up a perfect Christmas Tree at Christmas.
posted by grumblebee at 11:02 AM on February 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I ascertain that you are cranky about the snowflake in-joke; thank you for so clearly delineating the reasons behind your ire.
posted by Mister_A at 11:18 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's probably true that 80% of people find some phrase or other irritating at some time or another. What that phrase is, and why it's deemed irritating, probably varies quite a bit from person to person.

But the creation of new catchphrases, injokes, and shorthand references, especially ones that become a hallmark of shared group identity, is going to occur in every human community. It occurs in couples, in families, in workplaces, in military settings, in clubs, in demographic groups, and in regions.

I'm certainly guilty of ranting against phrases that grate on me for one reason or other, but whether you call it occupational lore, coterie speech, group identity formation through vernacular expression, or whatever, the proliferation of a few injokes/catchphrases in a human community is essentially inevitable.
posted by Miko at 11:31 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh snap, you've been mikoed!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:36 AM on February 25, 2011


HAMBURGER
posted by Mister_A at 11:36 AM on February 25, 2011


I've seen versions of this discussion crop up repeatedly for 30 years, always with the same two sorts of people on opposites sides of a cultural divide:

I could tell this comment was written by grumblebee by the fourth paragraph.

(And that's not a bad thing!)
posted by Tin Man at 11:46 AM on February 25, 2011


Oh snap, you've been mikoed!

Oh no no. I liked grumblebee's comment and reflections. I just think hey, yes it does define groups and sometimes in a way that's in-group/out-group, but it's gonna happen.
posted by Miko at 12:01 PM on February 25, 2011


I have been promised snow, right here in San Francisco, and yet today is clear blue sky. I want my special, special snowflakes, damn it! This is my complaint.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:11 PM on February 25, 2011


Oh, it was just a joke, Miko, riffing off your comment about the creation of injokes, catchphrases etc.

No harm or slight intended to anyone, 'cept people who drink the last of the orange juice, but leave the container in the fridge.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:13 PM on February 25, 2011


I was actually kinda hoping we'd wind up talking more about jumping the gun on AskMe questions, but obviously I did not phrase this post correctly. The snowflake thing came to me in a moment of inspiration, but I probably shouldn't have lead with that. Oh well, maybe we can have that discussion some other time.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:17 PM on February 25, 2011


it was just a joke,

Oops. My obtuse is showing.
posted by Miko at 12:22 PM on February 25, 2011


Everyone saw "special snowflake" and assumed you were complaining about it, for some reason.
posted by muddgirl at 12:27 PM on February 25, 2011


I was actually kinda hoping we'd wind up talking more about jumping the gun on AskMe questions

I have not noticed the problem you're referring to.
posted by Tin Man at 12:29 PM on February 25, 2011


I bring all this up because my "grownup" reason for hating cliches and catchphrases is because they're bad writing. They stifle one's ability to form an image due to being too-well worn. I agree with this. I care deeply about writing and words, even in casual internet posts, so of course I'm going to hate "special snowflake." It's hard for me to even picture a snowflake when I read that phrase.

Well you're not really supposed to picture a literal snowflake, it's a figure of speech. I didn't actually picture Jesus or even think of it in a religious context when you wrote "Oh, Jesus!" in your comment, but that was an appropriate way to convey the idea you were trying to convey. The premise that some words and ideas are inherently inferior to others in all contexts is the same one used by people who argue against using profanity or some other form of prescriptivism such as never using forms of "to be."

Also, because there were more of them than us, they had a much bigger social group. I didn't have to do much to prove my nerd creds to my three friends. But to most of the kids I grew up with presumably felt a continual need to -- or enjoyed a continual pleasure of -- asserting and reasserting their group membership.

As you mentioned with the Monty Python and Hitchhiker's Guide quoting, everyone does this. You did reinforce your nerd cred all the time even if you were just being youself. Just like punks reinforced their punk cred or any other non-mainstream group did. And really at least in my experience the non-mainstream groups are even more vicious about establishing and policing the cultural signifiers of their group than anyone in the mainstream ever is. Not being mainstream is just as much of an assertion of group membership as anything else. How would your nerd friends have reacted if you suddenly became non-ironically into football or some other hideously mainstream activity?

You seem to be describing a process where non-acceptance from and rejection of the mainstream led to embracing outsider-ness, which led to the rejection of memes as cultural signifiers of the mainstream, and eventually into rejecting memes in general. Memes do have a tendency to become irritating if they are overused (although what constitutes overused is not totally clear), but I think they also have a cultural value and function. For example, a family that has an old story that they retell to each other over and over can have a way of reinforcing togetherness and embracing a sort of nostalgia for their shared experiences. To someone outside of the family or who otherwise doesn't get that effect it's just a tired old story, but there is an underlying point and function to it.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:43 PM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I suggest replacing special snowflake with "I’m an F-18."
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:54 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


> I was actually kinda hoping we'd wind up talking more about jumping the gun on AskMe questions, but obviously I did not phrase this post correctly.

Yeah, when people complain about getting spanked for making MeTa posts it's precisely because of this kind of obfuscatory cheekiness, not because people in MeTa are inherently assholes or anything. The feature requests and calls for discussion that are phrased simply and directly tend to not go off the rails.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:58 PM on February 25, 2011


In general on this website, if you don't like something someone has posted, you should move on. If it's a community norm violation, you should Flag It and Move On. Thanks to MyAsk, if there's a particular kind of question you don't like because it has too many Special Snowflakes, you can never ever have to see it ever again.

Sometimes people say "special snowflake" because they're making an in-joke reference. Sometimes they say it because they have genuinely important unique details. And sometimes, yeah, they're asking a question that's been asked before. Often, especially with relationship questions, people use AskMe because they're sad or lack confidence or for some reason need a group of people to say "It'll be okay", "You're an awesome person", "It's okay to DTMFA" or "You're not broken." Since the positive of that interaction is someone feeling better, and the negative is a couple people getting their internet grar up, I'm pretty okay with it, all things considered.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:59 PM on February 25, 2011


Afroblanco: stop with the weird MeMails.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:07 PM on February 25, 2011


No harm or slight intended to anyone, 'cept people who drink the last of the orange juice, but leave the container in the fridge.

YES THEY DESERVED TO DIE AND I HOPE THEY BURN IN HELL.

I mean, who DOES that?!
posted by sonika at 1:10 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean, who DOES that?!

People who talk to hipsters on the phone during movies.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:27 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't get why this is an issue. People come to AskMe to solve their problems. Their problems. Details that are pertinent to their particular case are absolutely necessary.

If you must, download one of those word-replacement Greasemonkey scripts and swap out "special snowflake" to something like "complications specific to my problem" or whatever. Or do it mentally.

Mostly, though, just get over it and quit whining.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:37 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sailormom: "The best thing about special snowflakes is just like regular snowflakes they melt in the spring. About twenty-three more days."

Twenty-three days... It's like you mock me. Or something.

In other news, is there a common way to let the community as a whole know if you're not going to be around for awhile? Just talk about it a lot? Post in your profile? Soemthing not as self-absorbent as a MeTa post would be great.

Also, Cortex, I love pancakes. But I'm on a salty kick at the moment. How about some savory crepes with ham and a white sauce?
posted by Night_owl at 2:43 PM on February 25, 2011


Well, bless your heart.
posted by deborah at 2:53 PM on February 25, 2011


MetaTalk: Shaking My Fist in the General Direction of Everything.
posted by Mister_A at 4:12 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


In other news, is there a common way to let the community as a whole know if you're not going to be around for awhile? Just talk about it a lot? Post in your profile?

A note toward the top of your profile page is the best bet. Folks who go looking will find it really easy, and as you note it's less of a drama thing by far than some of the other options.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:16 PM on February 25, 2011


The only thing more annoying than people prefacing all their Asks with "special snowflake details inside" is people making Meta threads about why people call themselves special snowflakes.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:11 PM on February 25, 2011


I would like to take this opportunity to once again register my vague dislike of this cutesy little phrase, though I'll note that I've been less annoyed since the beginning of this semester, when I started taking a biology class with a teacher who uses this phrase often in a mocking way.

Yesterday, we talked about how DNA results in the little differences that make each and every one of us a special little snowflake. Except twins. No special snowflakeyness for them.
posted by malapropist at 6:34 PM on February 25, 2011


Afroblanco: "So I think I understand why"

You have to focus on the "think" part and not so much on the "understand" and "why" and "I" parts. "So" is a good place to start, though.

on preview: oh there was more? Why ddn't you mention a special snowflake?

on further preview: oh
posted by not_on_display at 9:21 PM on February 25, 2011


As you mentioned with the Monty Python and Hitchhiker's Guide quoting, everyone does this.

I agree.

But my point was that there's a very real difference between people who enjoy catchphrases and people who don't, even if everyone uses them and can't help using them.

Actually, I expect there are three archetypal sort of people when it comes to this, with most real people existing on a continuum between these three types: (1) people who hate catchphrases; (2) people who don't have strong feelings about them either way; and (3) people who enjoy them.

As someone with an over-the-top attachment to sensual writing (writing that evokes images, sounds, tactile sensations, etc), I'm not a fan of any phrase that's too worn to evoke in this sense. And, as I said, I also have some childhood prejudices that make catchphrases turnoffs to me -- even if I use them myself.

So when you point out to me that I do it too, my reaction isn't "Oh, well... Since, I do it, it can't be so bad." My reaction is "Fuck! I need to stop doing that!"

I'm not trying to promote an aesthetic or push a philosophy or say that anyone is right or wrong. I'm just describing the feeling I get when I read a mefi post about "pancakes" or realize that I've just written "On the other hand," which I (unfortunately) tend to do a lot. Irrational (or blown out of proportion) as my response may be, I'd be lying if I denied it.

I don't think it's a terrible thing that I turned out this way. It tends to make me a better writer. The worst thing about it is that I'm unable to enjoy some group-bonding activities. It WOULD be terrible if I chastised other people for using catchphrases, but I realize I'm irrational on this subject, so I mostly keep my feelings to myself. I only vent them, sometimes, when I'm collaborating on a consciously artistic project. In such cases, I generally DO think original, sensual phrasing needs to win out over cliches.

And that last point brings up the endless debate, often unstated but simmering below the surface, of whether writing on a site like Metafilter is formal or informal. Is a Mefi post more akin to a published essay or an email to a friend? (For that matter, is an email to a friend more akin to a published essay or a casual conversation?)

Of course, there's no right answer. Metafilter is naturally going to contain all sorts of posts written in all sorts of ways. But the tension exists, at least a little, between the sticklers and the "it's just something I dashed off on a web forum" people.

The difference is key, because clear, evocative expression is the goal shared by most people writing for formal publication. And such writing (unless it's highly allegorical or "metaphorical") tends to prize literalness: "when I talk about cheese, I MEAN cheese, and I want you to picture cheese in your head." On the other hand (oops), a lot of informal writing is more about the metamessage than then message. It's about interpersonal relationships. For instance, "plate of beans"'s primary message might be "I'm enjoying being part of this group."

Of course, most (if not all) writing works on both these levels at once, but, often, a particular piece is more about communicating information than it is about socializing -- or vice versa.
posted by grumblebee at 9:08 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You silly twisted boy.
posted by flabdablet at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2011


I don't get it.
posted by grumblebee at 6:01 PM on February 26, 2011


Ohhh, you lucky lad... I've got a terrible case of it myself.
posted by flabdablet at 6:07 PM on February 26, 2011


No one gets the Spanish Inquisition!
posted by Sys Rq at 6:07 PM on February 26, 2011


Meaningful wholes. Don't keep breaking it down unless you're in a safe, padded room.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:33 PM on February 26, 2011


Man, people here get annoyed at the most inane things.
posted by !Jim at 11:38 PM on February 26, 2011


People here like talking about words. A lot.
posted by The Whelk at 7:39 AM on February 27, 2011


Word.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:44 AM on February 27, 2011


Oh, okay. It was a Monty Python reference. I haven't watched that show in about 20 years, so, alas, my nerd creds have expired.
posted by grumblebee at 10:26 AM on February 27, 2011


The one you didn't get was a Goon Show reference, actually.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:12 PM on February 27, 2011


Mathematics FTW.
posted by unliteral at 3:32 PM on February 27, 2011


Yesterday we even had snow flurries. Now that's jumping a bunch of guns at once.
posted by Namlit at 4:02 PM on February 27, 2011


"on preview": +4

This is only true if you actually preview and put that information in your original comment. If you post a new comment saying, "on preview," you didn't preview, you posted, and YOU LOSE.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:49 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


So much this. Say "On review:" if you must preface your followup comment with something.
posted by Night_owl at 9:18 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe that may have a reasonable sort of explanation, though: there is literal "on preview..." deployed in a comment-in-progress by a previewing commenter who has noticed new preempting content, and there is literal self-jabbing "on lack of preview..." deployed in a followup comment from a commenter who acknowledges they failed to notice said preemption.

But the latter is sort of wordy and so someone wanting to communicate the idea might choose to shorten it to the familiar "on preview..." form and rely on context to make it clear that, yes, certainly, it was not in fact a case of successful preview.

Which is not to say don't kvetch if you want to kvetch, but that sort of thing doesn't happen in a vacuum.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:53 AM on February 28, 2011


While we're discussing such things, can folks confirm for me that it's petty and unnecessary to reply to a post that only consists of
quote that person finds notable

This
with a request that they expand upon their lonely monosyllable? I could provide a list of possible motivations for them to choose from.
  • I found the quote appealing.
  • The quote angered me.
  • The quote was a pithy summary of the whole work.
  • I found this quote amusing.
  • I have nothing substantive to add to the discussion, but wish to participate regardless.
This would allow them to respond via their favoured method.
The quote was a pithy summary of the whole work.

This
posted by zamboni at 12:07 PM on February 28, 2011


It seems like people are coming from a different syntactical take on "on preview" than I am.

I don't think there's any usage problem whatever with "on preview,"where, as it usually does, it signifies only that "I wrote my comment, then clicked "preview," entering the "preview" mode. I wrote that part of the comment on preview, or at the time of preview, or upon previewing my own comment. As I did so, I noted that new information had appeared and decided to include a response to that in my comment, in part to explain why the sentences preceding "on preview" don't take into account the more recent information."

i wouldn't find "on review" an apt substitute. "Review" implies that the material has been read before, but is now being read or revisited a second time. At work, "I've read your report" means something different from "I've reviewed your report." I'd prefer to retain "on review" for instances in which I read something in someone's comment, and misunderstood or missed some aspect of it, and then read it again and found my response had changed: "On review, I see that you did include the legal concern in your argument; sorry I missed that before."

there is literal self-jabbing "on lack of preview..." deployed in a followup comment from a commenter who acknowledges they failed to notice said preemption. But the latter is sort of wordy and so someone wanting to communicate the idea might choose to shorten it to the familiar "on preview..." form and rely on context to make it clear that, yes, certainly, it was not in fact a case of successful preview.

That makes less sense to me. The "preview," to me, refers to the mode in which you're able to read and adjust your own comment before posting. I wouldn't assume that someone who did preview their own comment also read all the other recent comments that were posted since they began composing their comment. Sometimes I don't. It's not a lack of preview itself that always causes a hiccup in sensemaking, it's a lack of reading the other comments at the time of preview. You can, in fact, have a successful preview of your own comment in which you still fail to notice or read other comments.
posted by Miko at 12:31 PM on February 28, 2011




Hmm, Miko, I hadn't considered that linguistic distinction, since I don't really use those words differently. I can see that I need to give this further thought. I will have to review your comment later, when I have more time.
;)
posted by Night_owl at 9:27 PM on February 28, 2011


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