Let's assume everybody knows about Wikipedia July 17, 2011 4:47 AM   Subscribe

Perhaps we could share knowledge, and not just links to Wikipedia?

This isn't a callout of anybody in particular and the second and third comments in this thread are only used for illustrative purposes, so people know what I'm talking about.

There was once a time before Wikipedia and Google when knowledge was shared, rather than just directed to. A question such as "What is a cant language?" may on the surface be very mildly irritating to a certain subset of particular people - mainly those who are all like: dude, we're on the internet, just look it up - but I like to see them as an opportunity for knowledge-sharing. I'll bet hats to hotdogs that there are at least a few individuals on this site who are very well-versed in cant languages and, I'd say, just about everything and anything else. We see it every day, with sidebarred and popular comments and best answers in AskMe. Something vague or bluntly mysterious becomes sharp and cement with a detailed explanation and an interesting anecdote. I think it's great, and I love reading comments like that, even if it's not a subject I'm particularly interested in.

Surely I'm not the only one. Surely other Metafilterers enjoy comments where knowledge is shared plainly and in a gentle and generous manner. Wikipedia is quite clinical, after all, and can sometimes be sparse when it's not to do with Pokemon. And knowledge-sharing is good for community, esprit de corps, and even individual egos. People out there spending years with a subject, just busting for the opportunity to divulge what they have learned, to answer that one question in a blue moon, but oh no, there's already a link to a shitty Wikipedia article, there's no point in me typing anything now, that makes me feel ever so slightly disappointed.

I guess what I'm saying is, if somebody comments in a thread saying "What is X?", then maybe we should assume that they already have the ability to use the internet (they managed to PayPal their way on here, after all), and likely know about the Wikipedia and the Google, and what they are actually doing is trying to spark some interesting discussion and tacitly present the opportunity for another user to strut their stuff. That's not so bad, is it?
posted by tumid dahlia to Etiquette/Policy at 4:47 AM (123 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I agree. One of the many reasons I read this site is that quite often I learn something I didn't know before. There are a heck of a lot of people who've taught me things I hadn't known, and I enjoy reading their comments. On the other hand, I follow maybe 10% of the "Here's the wiki article" comments. I know some people are pressed for time, but if you're not, why not tell us about it in your own words?
posted by Ghidorah at 4:55 AM on July 17, 2011


if somebody comments in a thread saying "What is X?", then maybe we should assume that they already have the ability to use the internet (they managed to PayPal their way on here, after all), and likely know about the Wikipedia and the Google, and what they are actually doing is trying to spark some interesting discussion and tacitly present the opportunity for another user to strut their stuff. That's not so bad, is it?

I don't know. Strutting stuff is somehow more fun if one can rely on people covering some basics on their own steam.
That said, I'm a little concerned here that you misconstrue the posting of a Wikipedia link to help quickly cover the basics and move on as some sort of passive-aggressive who's-best-at-navigating-the-webbishness. It really doesn't need to be; in fact there's no way to guess the intent behind an otherwise well-placed Wikipedia link.
posted by Namlit at 5:17 AM on July 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


Do links to Wikipedia take up space that would otherwise be filled by people with a personal or professional knowledge of the subject? Or can both coexist peacefully?

To many people, including myself, the question "What is a cant language?" seems like it is asking for a definitional answer, not a wider and deeper contextual one. I'm not saying this is the One True Interpretation (because clearly it isn't). One of the important lessons to learn when seeking help from others is that proper question framing is key. Should you ask "What is a cant language?" when you really mean "Wow, based on some casual internet searching, cant languages are fascinating. Any linguists want to share their experiences with cant languages?"
posted by muddgirl at 5:21 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I could tell you everything I know, but this is the internet, and how are you going to know that I'm not just blowing smoke out of my ass? So I link to some authoritative site to cite a source that backs me up on it.

Truth be told, though, if favorites are any indicator, the times when someone does provide unique insider information, the community does appreciate it. The side blog on the front page is loaded with examples.
posted by crunchland at 5:22 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't have a strong opinion on the matter so allow me to play the devil's advocate here.

Maybe there's a good reason why, in the post you reference, both the comments linked to Wikipedia. Cant languages weren't the focus of the post, the police interrogation photos were, so having a long(er) discussion about it could derail the thread. And really, if someone dropped by and shared a great anecdote involving cant languages I don't think anyone would mind; IMHO Mefi loves this type of stuff.

On the other hand, you are basically suggest that Mefi as a community embraces a more sophisticated and welcoming attitude towards knowledge sharing in order to build a more personal and richer community experience. And that's very cool and maybe the kind of stuff we need if Mefi is going to be around for another twelve years.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:27 AM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wikipedia is quite clinical, after all

I've taken to relying more on TVTropes for concise explanations like this (in both comments and posts) for just this reason. It really is fantastic for summaries that cut to the heart of what something is, how it's important, and what people generally think about it in a breezy and amusing way. They've branched out enough lately to make it more practical, with articles on famous figures, nations, religions, time periods, websites, etc. It's also great for answering AskMe questions asking for examples of a given phenomenon in music, movies, TV, etc. -- as long as you can identify the trope they're after, there's guaranteed to be a lengthy list of uses in a variety of media.

Of course, there's the whole "help, I've fallen in a vicious timesink and I can't get up" aspect, but I figure it's better to inform people with something incisive and funny than sprawling and clinical. (And really, Wikipedia had a reputation for addictiveness too back when it first became popular.)
posted by Rhaomi at 5:33 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh no, that was me. :(

The way it the query was worded, as a footer after their thoughts on the meat and potatoes of the article, it didn't seem to me like the commenter was really looking for someone to step in and give everyone a lesson in linguistics, or to tell them more about Fenya or other cant languages with the first comment on the FPP. Cant languages didn't seem to be an important component to this compelling story. It kind of did seem to me like perhaps the person might have forgotten they could just stick that phrase into Wikipedia and get exactly the answer they need and a good primer.

"What is a cant language?"
"Here's what a cant language is:" Done.

I think a lot of people would write something a little different when they're interested in Fenya or really want to hear more about that sort of thing. And they'd probably spend a few seconds to look the term up first so they could better figure out what exactly they really want to ask about it.

(Yeah, I didn't need to stick the ", the free encyclopedia" part in there, I was being kinda cute. I probably do respond in a way like you describe to certain questions of that variety, but not all of them. The way I worded it could be read as kind of as a jab making like they'd never heard of Wikipedia before, that wasn't the nicest way to do it. Anyways, I should have at least previewed, she didn't need two Wikipedia links.)
posted by floam at 5:40 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I appreciate well-crafted posts, and a link to wikipedia is fine with me, esp. since MeFi will open it in a new tab, so I don't lose my place. I think comments that answer the question with a link to a wikipedia article are uncommonly polite, as opposed to a snarky recommendation that the commenter go look it up.
posted by theora55 at 6:15 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd rather link to a source than to write up the definition in my own words, just to be hit in the next comment with a dismissive [cite please]. I really hate that as an argument, and it's getting all too common.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:22 AM on July 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


If people are asking questions that can be easily answered by spending 30 seconds on Wikipedia, assuming that person both a) knows it exists and b) thought to check there is probably an error.

Saying that people who want to answer that question now have to read, understand, and properly synthesize the Wikipedia info into their own prose raises the barrier to entry and will therefore reduce the number of people asking questions.

The remaining answers might "feel" nicer, but that doesn't in any way help the person doesn't keep Wikipedia on the top of their consciousness and who now does not receive help because everyone assumed they had already looked at wikipedia.

When I see a link to wikipedia I always assume that the wikipedia page explains it better, more authoritatively, and/or more thoroughly than the person posting the link can. I do not, absent some other evidence, assume the person is snarking at me.

I also agree with the notion above that the links to wikipedia don't really compete for space with the independently produced answers, so short of some (apparently) very fragile egos, I'm not sure what is being hurt here.
posted by toomuchpete at 6:28 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'll bet hats to hotdogs that there are at least a few individuals on this site who are very well-versed in cant languages and, I'd say, just about everything and anything else.
It's entirely possible, though, that those people either aren't reading the thread or have better things to do on a Sunday morning than compose long, elaborate explanations of something basic enough that it can be explained by linking to wikipedia.
posted by craichead at 6:42 AM on July 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


Surely other Metafilterers enjoy comments where knowledge is shared plainly and in a gentle and generous manner. Wikipedia is quite clinical, after all, and can sometimes be sparse when it's not to do with Pokemon. And knowledge-sharing is good for community, esprit de corps, and even individual egos. People out there spending years with a subject, just busting for the opportunity to divulge what they have learned, to answer that one question in a blue moon, but oh no, there's already a link to a shitty Wikipedia article, there's no point in me typing anything now, that makes me feel ever so slightly disappointed.

Well, personally, I can't even count the number of times I've had an answer to something and used it here on MetaFilter, only to find people get all fighty or nit-picky about the answer I've given until I dig up an outside source and link to that. As soon as I post a comment which shows that I wasn't just speaking out of my ass with my original, answer-filled comment, all the bullshit trying to tear down what I had to share goes away.

So, given that particular dynamic here on MetaFilter, why should I even bother trying to share things I know, unless it's an illuminating anecdote? I'm going to have to find the outside source anyway, so I don't even bother trying to make up my own words and instead just do the research and use someone else's words.
posted by hippybear at 6:45 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, given that particular dynamic here on MetaFilter, why should I even bother trying to share things I know

Because the fighty nitpickers are being jerks and why would you let them control how you interact with the world?

I find that long Wikipedia articles aren't often good answers to short "What is this?" questions, but I'm often surprised how many people feel like a "What is X" comment makes any sense at all in a thread about X. If I were writing the etiquette guide to this place, I'd tell people that if they're interested in discussing something here, they may want to consider 30 seconds of Googling [something like cant language might be a little tough because of homonyms but I Googled it and the definition was basically readable through Google's result list] and go from there because showing up saying you don't know about something and expect other people to tell you what it is seems oddly baby bird-like or a subtle dig at the person who is writing about X.

That said, often a fellow MeFite can give you a better more relevant-to-you answer, so it may be worth mentioning it, but I find both the "What is X" and "here's the Wikipedia link to X" to be less-than-great at both expressing an information need and providing an answer.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:03 AM on July 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


I have had the same issue as devil's rancher and hippybear; on occasion there's been a question or a point that I know a TON about, that's too subtle or complex or obscure for wikipedia or similar, but with hands poised over the keyboard, I've thought, "Aw, fuck it, I'm just going to get a [citation needed] and I don't want to spend the next two hours digging obscure books out of my bookshelves and then having people complain that I should be citing to the internet anyway because it's not like they can check [obscure out of print book] easily themselves. I should go wash dishes."

I don't have a good solution. Another unpalatable answer is that I do provide a fully-cited research paper and the *mere existence of the cites* in a fast-moving, non-academic venue turns it into an authority, even if the cites are totally made up. I've seen that happen (not necessarily here) ... a more thorough version of what hippybear mentions happens once he provides cites.

There's not really a happy medium between "everyone making shit up" and "everything cited within an inch of its life" except a reputational economy ... and that has its own issues. Especially on highly emotional topics.

"why would you let them control how you interact with the world?"

I think the problem is that they very effectively manage to control the conversation in many situations, so if you want to engage in that particular discussion, one is kind-of stuck engaging on their rules, or doing a hit-and-run which makes the non-citing knowledgeable poster look like the jerk. Or is used as evidence of their wrongness because of their refusal to come back with cites, which over time undermines one's reputation.

Also it's just really demoralizing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:34 AM on July 17, 2011 [20 favorites]


sorry for the pronoun drift. i blame the sleepless n00b in the bassinet
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:39 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I had a dream this morning where jessamyn was abrupt with me in a thread for being too coy in presenting information, so I'm taking this discussion very seriously.
posted by Trurl at 7:45 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was like the perfect storm of this sort of thing for me. A term I didn't know, someone else asked and another someone else answered with a link to Wikipedia, which I didn't bother clicking because even if I didn't KNOW the term I could infer pretty well what it is, and I didn't want to go down that rabbit hole instead of thinking about the article/discussion I was actually reading.

It would have been easierr for me if someone had just answered, "Cant language is a nocturnal rodent", verifying what I already inferred, rather than forcing me to have that (automatic and not quite conscious, admittedly) internal evaluation of the term and dismissal of the link or the googles. But I can see how that sort of implicit definition happening with every not quite standard term would be a drag.

So, shoot, I don't know.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:04 AM on July 17, 2011


Sometimes it doesn't even occur to me that there's a Wikipedia article on a subject, so such links are not always unwelcome.

I have a family video of a Christmas gathering in the 1980's where my father is reading aloud from an Encyclopedia Britannica article on Hirodeki Tojo to prove a point to my grandfather. I think sometimes linking to Wikipedia is today's version of that sort of thing, and sometimes it is effective.
posted by jayder at 8:06 AM on July 17, 2011


I appreciate the spirit of the post, but I'm not sure that wikipedia is actually discouraging relevant discussion in any way. "What is cant" is a very first-level question, one that is most appropriately answered by wikipedia. If someone were to ask: "Does anyone here speak cant? How did you learn it?", those questions are more open ended and inviting. I don't think the question referenced in this post was all that open-ended.

For instance: whenever there is a post on something techy or sciencey, wikipedia is usually above my head. In those instances, I will ask straight out: "Can anyone who works with this stuff put X into layman's terms for me?" And a friendly poster will usually respond. The burden of fostering discussion is on the asker.
posted by Think_Long at 8:09 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll bet hats to hotdogs that there are at least a few individuals on this site who are very well-versed in cant languages and, I'd say, just about everything and anything else. We see it every day, with sidebarred and popular comments and best answers in AskMe. Something vague or bluntly mysterious becomes sharp and cement with a detailed explanation and an interesting anecdote. I think it's great, and I love reading comments like that, even if it's not a subject I'm particularly interested in.

It is great when that happens, and I love reading those too, but as a couple people have noted already, it doesn't make a lot of sense to blame the lack of this on people making sensible links to wikipedia pages.

For a personalized detailed explanation of some bit of esoterica to show up in a thread, what needs to happen is:

1. A person with that knowledge sees the thread. This is the big crapshoot; there may in fact be a couple experts on cant, or on 19th century automotive transmissions, or the professional billiards circuit, or, or, or who are members of mefi, but if they don't see the thread, they don't see the thread, because nobody can read everything. So it goes.

2. The person needs to have the time and the inclination to write up a lengthy knowledgebomb, or to be able to set aside time to get themselves involved in a didactic back-and-forth about their field of expertise. If that's not in the cards, no go.

Those are the two big roadblocks between "someone on this site has expert knowledge about subject x" and "said someone has made a comment or a string of comments about that expert knowledge".

It's possible that for some people, there's a third step:

3. No one can have linked to Wikipedia with the basics

...but I have a hard time believing that's the significant factor the vast majority of the time, especially since experts tend to like to talk about the interesting non-basics stuff, or to give their own summation of the basics, because you become an expert on something because you find it interesting. Not to say there's no such thing as explanation fatigue in general, but that's a personal fatigue thing, not a Welp, There's A Wikipedia Page, Eff It thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:24 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll bet hats to hotdogs

This thread is totally worth it for that phrase alone.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:43 AM on July 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


We need a cantmatt, 19thcenturyautomotivetranmissionsmatt, and theprofessionalbilliardscircuitmatt . . .
posted by barrett caulk at 8:45 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I link to wikipedia a lot. It's just handy for that sort of thing. Frankly, I'd prefer it over just about any explanation of anything by some solitary random person on the internet. They are almost always bullshit. The good ones are extremely rare, and that's what makes them so special.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:50 AM on July 17, 2011


"What is a cant language" could have been answered with a 30 second google search. You could have gone to wikipedia and found the answer in less time than it took you to type the sentence.

People often give overly involved answers here to questions that need them. This wasn't one of those times.
posted by empath at 9:01 AM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some wikipedia entries answer a question reasonably fine, and I don't mind links to them because that means another user has done the extra step of knowing where a piece of information might be in a particular entry.

I work in education, and I am in full Angrycat mode when a student cites Wikipedia, but then that's a different context.
posted by angrycat at 9:11 AM on July 17, 2011


I've appreciated well-placed wikipedia links. Sometimes I don't think to go read wikipedia when I'm reading metafilter. The post wasn't really about cant so a quick "here's where to find out" seems appropriate.
posted by salvia at 9:27 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


This feels like beanplating. Sometimes Wikipedia provides succinct basic summaries, sometimes it doesn't.
posted by holgate at 9:34 AM on July 17, 2011


I don't want to spend the next two hours digging obscure books out of my bookshelves and then having people complain that I should be citing to the internet anyway because it's not like they can check [obscure out of print book] easily themselves.

Yeah, this. It's definitely chilling on my desire to add knowledge that I can't source on the internet. I can't link to my bookshelf, and a lot of the arcane stuff I know comes from reading things on paper that aren't available on line, so I just don't.

I'd like to see a lot more of "Hey, that's not true, because of (fact x)" in response than the offhanded and patronizing "[citation needed]" that's really uh... fighty. It makes for much better conversation, which is what I'd like to see more of. I know where wikipedia is - the goggles ptretty much take me there with any search. MetaFilter should be something else, something more personal than the results of your google search.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:44 AM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is a normal conversational thing to say "oh, what's x?" and to get a one-sentence reply, giving enough general context that the asker can continue to follow the conversation. It's much more natural, to me, to treat a thread as sort of a conversation where you can ask that kind of quickie question and get a quickie answer that doesn't require you to jump over to another webpage and read a big writeup.

I also think when you post a link in a conversation, you should give a quickie summary of what it says, rather than just posting it blank. (Eg if you post a graph about the economy, tell us what point it makes, don't require that everyone jump over there if they want to know what the hell you're talking about.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:28 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Metafilterers?
posted by bowline at 10:29 AM on July 17, 2011


that doesn't require you to jump over to another webpage and read a big writeup

For one thing, the first sentence and first paragraph of any good Wikipedia article is a general contextual summary of the article. For cant language, for example, the first sentence of the wikipedia article is
Cant is the jargon, argot or cryptolect of a group, often implying its use to exclude or mislead people outside the group.[1]
Now, instead of linking to the article I could just copy and past the first sentence. That might have been enough for serazin, but maybe serazin was also interested in learning more about cant languages, in which case there's a pretty good write-up with lots of examples and related linguistic terms.

So why NOT link to the Wikipedia page? Is clicking over to a new tab or window such a burden that it requires someone to replicate work that's already been done to collect this knowledge.
posted by muddgirl at 10:41 AM on July 17, 2011


> I don't want to spend the next two hours digging obscure books out of my bookshelves and then having people complain that I should be citing to the internet anyway because it's not like they can check [obscure out of print book] easily themselves.

Yeah, this. It's definitely chilling on my desire to add knowledge that I can't source on the internet. I can't link to my bookshelf, and a lot of the arcane stuff I know comes from reading things on paper that aren't available on line, so I just don't.


Really? I've more than once cited material from my library that's not available on the internet, and it never occurred to me to worry that somebody might complain about it. If they did, I'd just think "What a moron." I would strongly urge anyone who has the reactions I've quoted to suppress them and cite away; for one thing, it will do something to counter the asinine idea that everything worth knowing is available online.
posted by languagehat at 10:43 AM on July 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Just be happy it wasn't a lmgtfy.com link.
posted by birdherder at 10:44 AM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Really? I've more than once cited material from my library that's not available on the internet, and it never occurred to me to worry that somebody might complain about it. If they did, I'd just think "What a moron.""

Aww, but it makes me want more books, jerk! I don't have room for more books!
posted by klangklangston at 10:48 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm completely okay with those links, particularly if they're used to define technical terms in an otherwise substantive answer.

I answer a lot of law-related questions. Law involves a lot of terms which normal people frequently 1) don't know, 2) think they know, but don't, or 3) don't realize that term in the legal context means something different than it does elsewhere. Rather than explain each and every time that happens, I just link to those terms and move on.

Acquiring knowledge takes time and effort. AskMe is a great way for people who know things to educate people who don't, but the fact remains that if the asker is going to really learn anything, they're going to have to do a little reading. A lot of the questions we get don't really admit a yes/no or definitive, one-line answer. As such, responding with a brief explanation with links to more material strikes me as an entirely acceptable way of doing business.
posted by valkyryn at 11:01 AM on July 17, 2011


If they did, I'd just think "What a moron." --- Except you're a bit of an edge-case, languagehat, especially when it comes to definitions and language in general. You've set yourself up as an authority on the subject. The rest of us common schmucks haven't invested enough time or energy to equal that.
posted by crunchland at 11:09 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


So why NOT link to the Wikipedia page?

Oh, I think it's fine and neighborly to link to Wikipedia pages. Boffo. Go for it. But it reads as curmudgeonly and anti-conversational to link to them without giving a one-sentence answer to the question.

( Now some topics aren't actually helped by a one-sentence explanation, say quantum mechanics. In those cases, it's fine to say eg "It's too complicated for a quickie explanation, but the wikipedia article is pretty good" or whatever.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:19 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's two things - a quickie explanation preserves the feeling that it's a conversation, and being curt about links to wikipedia brings with it the sort of grumpy accusation that the asker is lazy.

If someone is being a jerk about it -- eg making a big stink about "who is this celebrity I've never heard of, they must not be important -- then I think a curt wikipedia link is in order. But if someone's being polite and interested in the subject, why not be polite back? The bald wikipedia links just read as bristly to me, and it's a weird note to strike. "Here's the bus to wikipedia if you're so interested."

(Not that people are intending it to read that way. But that is sometimes how it comes across to me.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:28 AM on July 17, 2011


But it reads as curmudgeonly and anti-conversational to link to them without giving a one-sentence answer to the question.

In the example provided, cant languages weren't actually the topic under discussion, were they? I can imagine that it's a bit curmudgeonly to post a wikipedia link to quantum mechanics in a thread about physics, but what if someone asks what a black hole is in a hypothetical thread about Soundgarden?
posted by muddgirl at 11:32 AM on July 17, 2011


If they did, I'd just think "What a moron." I would strongly urge anyone who has the reactions I've quoted to suppress them and cite away; for one thing, it will do something to counter the asinine idea that everything worth knowing is available online.

Oh, I already think "what a moron," but I hate banging my head against the wall, so there are times when it's the easier path to just not bother.

I had someone hound me for 3 or 4 comments one time because the Wikipedia article I quoted didn't contain its own strong-enough cite, despite the fact that I then sourced it to the (oop) university press book that was authoritative. I know better these days than to go too far down the rabbit hole, but at the time, it was extremely frustrating.

I think my biggest gripe about people going [cite please] is just how dismissive, condescending and rude it is - I don't care to engage people who use that as a conversational tactic, especially when it's the entirety of their response, and when you don't reply, it makes you look like you don't have a response at all. The way to preempt that scenario is to just link to an acceptable cite, or to not engage at all. Depends on the mood, and how much time you have on hand to engage. It's not chilling from the fainting violet perspective, it's just not worth it, sometimes.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:48 AM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I've more than once cited material from my library that's not available on the internet, and it never occurred to me to worry that somebody might complain about it. ... I would strongly urge anyone who has the reactions I've quoted to suppress them and cite away"

As Devils Rancher said, it's more the two-hour time investment to engage with someone who's going to be a jerk, in a fight you can't win because you're not going to be a jerk, when it's a topic you could easily explain in 15 minutes off the top of your head but you're just going to get dismissed with a [cite please]. And then the thread will possibly derail into fight about citations/authority/etc. rather than a discussion of the topic anyway.

As cortex said: "2. The person needs to have the time and the inclination to write up a lengthy knowledgebomb, or to be able to set aside time to get themselves involved in a didactic back-and-forth about their field of expertise. If that's not in the cards, no go."

Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don't. I've been on the internet long enough to at least sometimes know when trying to will devolve into a clusterfracas. And I've been in enough clusterfracases (clusterfricassees?) that I don't feel the burning urge to subject myself to them on purpose without good reason.

IOW, something something pigs, mud, pigs like it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:02 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


cant languages weren't actually the topic under discussion

Right, so the quickie definition is all the asker needs. Again, I don't think it's bad to link to wikipedia but it's bad to do it like this:

Q: Out of curiosity, what's a cant language?
A: wikipedia on cant languages

Much better to do this:

Q: Out of curiosity, what's a cant language?
A: It's a coded language used by an in-group (eg Irish travellers) to allow communication that the mainstream culture can't understand - there's more in the wikipedia on cant languages.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:03 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


(I mean, I've definitely been guilty of saying "There's a nice long article on this at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy" rather than writing up a whole explanation of a complex topic. But if a question can be answered with a one-sentence definition, it's much nicer to do that and then give a link to more info, I think.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:08 PM on July 17, 2011


Really? I've more than once cited material from my library that's not available on the internet, and it never occurred to me to worry that somebody might complain about it.

In these situations, I link to the book on Amazon.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:17 PM on July 17, 2011


If I am not myself an expert on linguistics - if I had to look up the definition of cant languages, it is disingenuous for me to provide a different definition because it presumes a knowledge that I don't actually have. Furthermore, if I fuck something up in my summary, I open myself up to a huge derail because I don't actually know anything about cant languages.

So our choices seem to be:
(1) just link to an authoritative source and look like a jackass.
(2) link to and summarize the authoritative source, look like either a poser or an idiot, and start a massive derail
(3) don't post anything at all unless you are an expert at that question, which means either it won't get answered or someone will ask for a wikipedia cite, and start a massive derail.

Personally, I opt for (3), but I can perfectly understand why other people pick (1).
posted by muddgirl at 12:28 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know. This whole thing sounds to me like looking a gift horse in the mouth, or (to use another cliché) making the perfect the enemy of the good.

A link to wikipedia does not set back the knowledge in the thread. Maybe it gets us only partway to the perfect answer. I don't think we should criticize or discourage that answer just because it doesn't reach a higher level of perfection.

Person A: "What's X?"
Person B (thinking): Hmm I don't know quite how to... Let me see if... Ah yes, here it is--
Person B: "Link to relevant wikipedia article."
Person C: "You know, people know where Wikipedia is. Why didn't you just draw on your deep personal expertise to provide a more customized answer, or barring such expertise, STFU?"
Person D: "Well, it's ok to link there but if you do so without taking the time to summarize the contents or otherwise pad out the link, it will read as curmudgeonly, anti-conversational, and a grumpy accusation that the asker is lazy."

Is there really a reason not to just say, hey thanks, Person B! Sometimes there isn't a wikipedia article; sometimes a topic is a subset of another article. So, thank you, Person B, for finding a helpful informational resource. You saved some of us a few research steps.

If I ask a question and someone provides a one-line link to an article with those answers, I click [+] to favorite it or otherwise say thanks. I don't feel grouchy that they didn't go further. I'm going to be happy they pointed me in the right direction.

Yeah, I might feel stupid for asking a question that it turns out I could've googled in 10 seconds, and sure, if the other person politely padded out the link ("I had the same question until I found this wikipedia article on cant"), it would save me even that moment of embarrassment and projected judgment. But as long as people aren't linking to Let Me Google That For You, I'd try to believe that they provided the link in a helpful spirit.

So now, anyone curious about cant has a starting point. And if someone wants to take it the next mile as in LobsterMitten's example, or use this as a spur to type the first draft of their unpublished study on the topic, that's great too. The wikipedia-linker did not prevent this occurrence. S/he just offered the help s/he could given her current level of knowledge, time, and willingness.
posted by salvia at 12:34 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I mean, I've definitely been guilty done people the favor of saying "There's a nice long article on this at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy"

That's how I see it.
posted by salvia at 12:38 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


A while ago someone posted a question about Victorian attitudes toward syphilis. I have like umpty billion historical treatments and sources of the evolution of the understanding and regulation of STDs, which includes a lot of work from the Victorian period.

But I was not going to spend an hour (at minimum) doing a bibliography with glossing. In order to give an answer at all, I would have felt obligated to give a good answer, and that good answer would have been way too much work. This is not my job, and while it wouldn't have been too much trouble to drop a link to Frank Mort's Dangerous Sexualities in the thread, even dipping my toe in to that extent would have probably meant I'd've felt obligated to explain and contextualize.

It's hard for me to argue with the fact that it's nice to have people explain things that they understand as insiders, but it's not their jobs to do so, either. I can't fault people for doing Wikipedia links in those cases.

For me, the more I know about something the harder it is for me to write a lengthy explanation of it, because I worry about killing everyone dead with boredom from the length on one hand, and on oversimplifying on the other. I really admire people like Miko and languagehat, who can condense a large chunk of earned knowledge into a single brief comment.
posted by winna at 12:50 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I suppose my quibble is mainly about phrasing. I don't think people are obliged to write up big comments (although I enjoy it when people do!) and I don't think it's bad to link to further sources including wikipedia. I just feel like it comes off as dismissive, in some contexts, if it's just a bald wiki link. If it's an AskMe that is about a subject, it's fine to have a link by itself, IMO. But if it's sort of an aside within a conversation on the blue, then it can seem dismissive and -- again IMO -- calls for a tiny bit more nicety in phrasing.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:59 PM on July 17, 2011


And I don't think a "bald link" to wikipedia is rude, if a link answers the question.
posted by muddgirl at 1:02 PM on July 17, 2011


You know what we need more of? Re-invented wheels.
posted by DU at 1:17 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, I follow maybe 10% of the "Here's the wiki article" comments.

I agree, and I find the single-word Wikpedia answers (and also answers of "previously" that may or may not link to a relevant previous thread) pretty goddamn irritating.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:22 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've got a question- why is tumescence better than turgidity?
posted by dunkadunc at 1:25 PM on July 17, 2011


Less ambiguity about erectile reference.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:28 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Otherwise known as conversational turbidity.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:31 PM on July 17, 2011


Pet Peeve.
posted by absalom at 1:54 PM on July 17, 2011


I think MeFites fall into two groups, roughly speaking: one group sees threads primarily as a conversation among friends, the other sees threads primarily as a discussion on the Internet. The former toss out a quick question - just like you'd do if your friends were all hanging out together on your couch - without stopping to think that Google is at their fingertips. The latter, who never forget that Google is at their fingertips, get annoyed and blast off the first link they find as a reminder more than an answer.

When you're hanging around in your bunny slippers chatting with users you kinda-sorta know, it feels like a conversation and it's hard to remember that it's also an eternally-archived forum open to the whole world, which is a whole 'nother level of formality. Personally I see this place as more akin to publishing than chatting, which is partly why I don't comment very often, but it also inhibits me from firing off bristly reproaches - I don't want to create permanent evidence that I'm an irritable jerk.

A modest proposal: we should encourage more formal discourse by requiring MeFites to wear business casual attire when participating in threads. cortex, go put some pants on.
posted by Quietgal at 2:10 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: Permanent evidence that I'm an irritable jerk.

I know, I know... But I'm still within my lifetime allotment of three usages. I'm saving the third in my fallout shelter as part of my two-week supply of internet memes, next to the stockpile of jokes that grandpa likes to tell.
posted by salvia at 2:22 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hi guys. I've only just woken up and had a quick read through the first dozen or so answers. It appears that people are getting a little hung up on the extreme specifics of the very exact precise example that I used, rather than on the default attitude of "just look at Wikipedia" that I was trying to spark a little discussion about. I guess I should have been clearer.

What I'm trying to say is that the single-word Wikipedia entries aren't really required at all regardless of whether or not Professor McNeckbuttons is going to be along later in the thread to explain pill thermodynamics or not. Couched in a slightly more detailed comment they are useful as an advance response to the incessant [cite please] mentioned above, and context is always good, and like I say I'm not calling out anybody in particular and so nobody needs to defend themselves, it's just a general attitude thing and, in my opinion, it wouldn't hurt at all if people took a moment before they were "First!" to post the Wikipedia page (it's not just the thread I mentioned, it's just about every thread that has a question in it anywhere), because it just feels a little redundant and it also feels like it pre-emptively stifles interesting discussion. Whether it does or not I don't know, I'm just raising it as a "thing".
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:34 PM on July 17, 2011


I think MeFites fall into two groups...

Cite please?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:43 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bingy: term used in the butter trade to denote bad ropey butter.
posted by clavdivs at 2:53 PM on July 17, 2011


So, in my hypothetical example of a discussion about Soundgarden where someone asks what a black hole is, the only acceptable response is either (a) no response at all or (b) someone graciously taking the time to write out a personalized and individual answer to the question?

That seems needlessly stifling, for little benefit.

As an engineer, I appreciate the value of collected knowledge. Wikipedia is collected knowledge. What is the point of spending my time rewriting what has already been collected in a nice, neat, hyperlinked package?
posted by muddgirl at 3:00 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess my issue starts at the very beginning:
Perhaps we could share knowledge, and not just links to Wikipedia?
Linking to wikipedia IS sharing knowledge. Wikipedia is a repository for collected knowledge. For some questions, Wikipedia is not a good answer. For questions like, "What is a black hole?" Wikipedia seems pretty darn acceptable.
posted by muddgirl at 3:01 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


While I think that it's nice that MeFites can bring their personal expertise and writing skill to random subjects, sometimes to a startling degree of depth and eloquence (the sideblog is one of my favorite features of this site), that doesn't necessarily mean that it's always necessary; sometimes posting the Wikipedia link is the equivalent of saying that "the Wikipedia article is perfectly adequate to answer your question" or even "the Wikipedia article is actually really good on this particular subject"; it's not necessarily the equivalent of trotting out this fuckin' thing, which I've seen used to "answer" questions where a simple Google search wasn't that great at finding the information, because the answerer couldn't pass up the chance at some easy snark.

And insisting that it be framed in the above context is, well, rampant special snowflakism IMO; it's as it you said that you were hungry, and I told you that there was some canned soup in the cupboard, and you sniffed and said well, if it was going to be like that and I couldn't bother to at least whip up a simple frittata, you might as well just order pizza, you just thought that, since you know that some of us are halfway-decent cooks...
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:16 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think MeFites fall into two groups...

Cite please?


Quietgal. "Re: Let's assume everybody knows about Wikipedia." MetaTalk. MetaFilter, 17 July 2011 2:10 PM PDT. Web. 17 July 2011 3:33 PM PDT. http://metatalk.metafilter.com/20818/Lets-assume-everybody-knows-about-Wikipedia#907388.
posted by salvia at 3:33 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


No, I'm not actually insisting anything be done any particular way, I'm just raising the issue out of intersest and checking how people feel about the thing. And it appears people in general either aren't bothered or are actually defensive about it so hey, no biggie!

For reference I would have preferred to remain turgid but it seemed discourteous to hassle the mods for zero net gain.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:38 PM on July 17, 2011


It's hard not to get defensive when a false dichotomy is presented between:

(a) Taking time to rewrite information which has already been collected = "gentle and generous"

(b) Saving time by linking to this vast and awesome resource called the internet, which we are already connected to by virtue of the fact that we are commenting here = harsh and spendthrift

Should people be polite in their linking? Sure. One of the people in the thread linked to already apologized for letting their irritation show.
posted by muddgirl at 3:43 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why is the onus on the person answering the question to be careful about how they phrase their answer? It seems asking questions that are easily answered by yourself betrays a lack of consideration for others more than a brusque single link to wikipedia does. Just taking the original example, if you can type out the question "What is cant language?' in the comment field, then you can do the same in google.
And for reference I would have preferred to remain tumid.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 4:03 PM on July 17, 2011


Wikipedia.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:18 PM on July 17, 2011


Where's languagehat when you need him?
posted by infini at 4:19 PM on July 17, 2011


Wait I take all of that back. This thing was winding down -- chalk my trying to start it back up to a highly-charged emotional state brought on by the soccer.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 4:19 PM on July 17, 2011


Argh. I'm not performing a "false dichotomy" like some kind of deranged surgeon, I'm saying that I personally think it's brilliant when a Metafilterite with expertise in a given subject or field shares their knowledge with us, and I think it's less brilliant when a Wikipedia link is farted wetly into a thread as though Wikipedia, for heaven's sake, is the sum total of true fact. Sure it's incredibly amazing and that's why we all use it and, more importantly, why everybody knows about it. Forget the question that [Wikipedia link] is an answer to and pause to remember that this isn't a fight to be first to the end of the internet. Metafilter is a good online community, which is what attracted many of us to it in the first place, and yeah yeah, I know, it's All About The Links and the comments threads are just footnotes to the "daily dozen" SLYTs, but that doesn't prevent discussion from happening. It might just be that people come along to the discussion threads for a little camaraderie, for a little of the old back-and-forth, for a little "hey I know about this thing let me tell you about it", because even if Wikipedia (or whatever) did have the correct answer to everything ever, which it doesn't and never will, I personally feel that it's not amazing to leave it coiled and steaming at the intersection of every single discussion ever because that's not fostering community, that's pushing people away and keeping them locked in their special Alone Rooms. I mean, why talk about anything at all when everything has already been talked about?

Like I say, I don't have any real problem with Wikipedia or even with people linking to Wikipedia pages in threads and I'll fully admit that the exact thread I linked to is a shitty example. I just think there are better ways to answer questions, and wanted to maybe get people thinking about it. There's no need for anybody to start shaking their atrophied fists at the cruel and unforgiving universe, we're all on the same team.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:24 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


With your poetic language about "coiled and steaming" and "farted wetly" and such, no wonder you think the thread you linked is a shitty example.
posted by hippybear at 4:41 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think MeFites fall into two groups, roughly speaking: one group sees threads primarily as a conversation among friends, the other sees threads primarily as a discussion on the Internet.

When I chat with friends on the Internet, I get linked to Wikipedia all the time if I ask a silly question. I'm an Internet person, I know about Wikipedia, but there are certain categories of things that I sometimes simply forget I can check Wikipedia for, and I tend to have brain-farts in general.

tumid dahlia, you called me and my apparently quite foul-smelling present out, even if you took care not to make this about any individual comments. The mere fact that you and I are both breathing is now a false dichotomy. We are bitter rivals, and I will see that you are destroyed, or die trying. I will see to it!
posted by floam at 4:42 PM on July 17, 2011


Well now.

It seems we are not on the same diabolical team.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:46 PM on July 17, 2011


Wait, I mean it's a real and true dichotomy.
posted by floam at 4:48 PM on July 17, 2011


Oh god, I am using idclip to slip sideways into a different thread and forget about the horrors this one has unleashed.

Hey, ammo crate! Ka-ching!
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:51 PM on July 17, 2011


I'm saying that I personally think it's brilliant when a Metafilterite

For god's sake it's Mefite or mefite. Google it.
posted by rtha at 4:53 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Disclaimer: I so haven't read all the responses above.

Tumid Dahlia: I agree with you, but I guess it has to do with how the specific question is phrased. If it really is "what is X" and nothing else, I think it's fairly valid to link to wikipedia. Especially in the case of "I'm looking for so and so, and so forth, and I THINK it begins with D but I can't for the life of me figure out what the right search term is, halp!" it's really easy to link to Wiki with the correct keyword, and the usually lengthy Wiki article would provide a basic outline of information about that article (and sometimes Wiki articles can be really damn good). With a sparse request, we don't particularly know what aspect the OP doesn't get, or is interested in, and it's kind of a bummer to write a long spiel on the history of Zeus when all that OP wants is the name. We can discuss when we know what the OP wants to discuss, yeah?

If it was a more specific request, like "the third paragraph of the wiki article makes no sense to me," or "I disagree with such and such research I've found", or whatever, that gives a better place to start off the contextual discussions. (And Eyebrows McGee's point about citing everything to within an inch of its life would apply here, but at least we've gotten to this step then?")
posted by Hakaisha at 4:55 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been told several times not to assume that anyone knows about anything on the internet. Not everyone uses or knows about RSS feeds. Not everyone uses or knows about Greasemonkey or equivalent. Not everyone thinks to look at Wikipedia or Google to answer a question.

And, as I stated much much before, there is no (reasonable) limit to a Metafilter thread. Posting a Wikipedia link does not prevent beautifully crafted expert opinions.

And now I have repeated myself and will unsubscribe from this thread, seeing as how none of my serious points have been addressed and my somewhat-exasperated point was mocked.
posted by muddgirl at 5:07 PM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


a snark and citation filter.

A Poetic Committal Service.

"Here we commit this body to the ground
Dust returning to it's kindred dust,
But dust made sacred by the memories that cling
within our hearts."

- Pg 142. 2nd. Stanza from "Standard Manual for Burial Service". The Standard Publishing Foundation, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1953.
posted by clavdivs at 5:11 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


tumid dahlia, it feels a little disingenuous to say you have no problem with wikipedia and that we're all on the same team while referring to a link to wikipedia as being "coiled and steaming," and providing a link as farting it wetly into the thread. Can you clarify? Do you view it as disgusting, or fine?

My view seems different than yours. It sounds like you see wikipedia links as shutting down questions, putting a halt to discussion, sending us off to our own rooms, and preventing people from adding a more nuanced and customized answer based on personal knowledge. In short, you see them as negative and anti-community?

I see wikipedia links as falling along the continuum of helpfulness, perhaps closer to the low end of the spectrum, but perhaps useful as a stepping-stone to better conversation. In the example provided (I know you've said it's not the best example ever), one person provided a link, thereby bring the questioner onto the same page re: cant, then went on to discuss the main focus of the thread. That seems supportive of the conversation and community, no? Even if not THE most helpful thing to do, it is MORE helpful and community-minded than leaving serazin confused, in my view.

I also do not believe wikipedia links necessarily stop expert contributions. In fact, it seems like a "what is...?" question is best established quickly by a dictionary or encyclopedia, and then with that foundation, a more sophisticated discussion can make better use of expert analysis. Were I a cant expert, I'd rather not recite the definition of cant for the 999th time, but I would be interested in analyzing the significance of its use at that moment and why it so triggered the police.

True, testiness is rarely conducive to friendly conversation, but testiness and wikipedia links are independent variables that just happen to frequently co-occur.

You said you wanted to inspire thinking, and those are my thoughts.
posted by salvia at 5:28 PM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are (A) things I know about, and (B) things I am knowledgeable about. For things that fall into category A, a Wikipedia link is often the best I can do. It's certainly better than "google it yourself, idjit," and it's sometimes the case that a person who didn't even know that such a concept existed until that point, or who simply has poor google-fu, might find it useful to just get a direct link. These are the people that are targetted by Bing advertising.

I do to paraphrase some key definitional point as the text for the link, however.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 5:34 PM on July 17, 2011


I'm saying that I personally think it's brilliant when a Metafilterite

For god's sake it's Mefite or mefite. Google it.


MetaFiltrite is an element that usually takes the form of a blue/grey viscous liquid so turbid that the light of logic and sense can never pierce it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:57 PM on July 17, 2011


What's with all these words? Turgid? Tumid? Turbid?

Anyone got a wikipedia link?
posted by villanelles at dawn at 6:05 PM on July 17, 2011


salvia, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel like Wikipedia is overused to the point that it almost seems like the default answer to every honest (and, as we like to say, disingenuous) question that ever materialises in a non-AskMe thread. And what I'm saying further to that is that, yes, I feel like this does (potentially, I suppose) shut down further honest conversation, and perhaps deny opportunities. And as I say, Wikipedia is fine, but when it appears one or two comments away from every question, then yes, it does become wet and steaming. It's like they say coconut is nutritionally complete and you could live on it indefinitely (I don't know if that's true or not...guess I could look it up somewhere) but, well, would you want to? And so to me Wikipedia has become a crux much like a coconut, except a coconut is much more difficult to access, and Wikipedia doesn't go as well inside a brownie.

But I'm equivocating now. I guess this was kind of a dud line of discussion, it just seems a little too common for Wikipedia to be squirted explosively all over the "bowl" of a thread as soon as the proverbial "pants" of a question are dropped. It makes me wonder what people are eating with their brains.

muddgirl, I didn't and don't mean to be dismissive and I'm sorry that I appear to have caught you at a bad time. But the three examples of approaches to questions that you suggest are somewhat removed from what I am suggesting and so I can't quite parse them. I'm not being prescriptive and people are of course free to do whatever they want within the boundaries of geometry and theology, but it's like the guy who invented the cheese grater probably wouldn't have done it if the guy with the tiny knife and thick glasses was talking to him at a frottage one day and said "There has to be a better way to make shaved cheese coils than with a tiny knife!", you know? Just think of me as a guy with a tiny knife and who smells of cheese.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:22 PM on July 17, 2011


For god's sake it's Mefite or mefite. Google it.

Metafilter-ist.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:38 PM on July 17, 2011


salvia, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel like Wikipedia is overused to the point that it almost seems like the default answer to every honest (and, as we like to say, disingenuous) question that ever materialises in a non-AskMe thread.

Have you considered therapy?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:52 PM on July 17, 2011


Therapy.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 6:56 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going to go and eat the first thing I find.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:57 PM on July 17, 2011


Wikipedia has an article on hunting.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:06 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


There have been times I've dropped a "what is X?" into a MeFi thread, generally because I tried to look X up and failed at grasping concepts. Just like on AskMe, I don't really appreciate links to Wikipedia unless it's not obvious that the Wikipedia article really is on the topic of X. If I'm asking in a thread, I'm probably lost.
posted by zennie at 7:22 PM on July 17, 2011


I guess this was kind of a dud line of discussion, it just seems a little too common for Wikipedia to be squirted explosively all over the "bowl" of a thread as soon as the proverbial "pants" of a question are dropped. It makes me wonder what people are eating with their brains.

I see you still haven't gotten away from your fecal connection with Wikipedia. I think the Freudian talking cure is in order. You obviously have some toilet training issues.

But don't just tell us what you think. Tell us how it makes you feel!
posted by hippybear at 7:25 PM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


becomes sharp and cement…

You mean "sharp and concrete"?
posted by Nomyte at 7:37 PM on July 17, 2011


Yes.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:23 PM on July 17, 2011


Quick, Mr. Mooney!
posted by clavdivs at 8:30 PM on July 17, 2011


muddgirl, I didn't and don't mean to be dismissive and I'm sorry that I appear to have caught you at a bad time.

Huh?

This thread is really weird. All I can think of is Peter Serafinowicz as Robert Deniro.

"It's fine, no, really I don't mind at all. No, it's... it's fine, really. I just... it's fine. It's just..."
posted by setanor at 9:13 PM on July 17, 2011


Eh, quick link to Wikipedia is preferable to a reply of JFGI.
posted by desuetude at 9:19 PM on July 17, 2011


Ok setanor, next thread will be a specific callout of something even stupider and me refusing to back down until there have been at least three ragequits!
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:56 PM on July 17, 2011


Well, by my calendar we're overdue for another spoiler thread.
posted by cj_ at 9:58 PM on July 17, 2011


You just spoiled the spoiler thread.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:09 PM on July 17, 2011


How do people feel about answering AskMe pop culture questions with TV Tropes links?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:34 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Um, ok, so I understand now that it's the frequency of "eating" the wikipedia link that for you converts something as delicious and nutritious as coconut to explosive diarrhea. I still don't get how it shuts down further conversation except possibly via people feeling as disgusted as you, and now I, do.

But that's probably enough info for me, so I'll leave it to others to further probe this tight passage and see what more they can extract.
posted by salvia at 12:11 AM on July 18, 2011


I actually get a little freaked out when I hover over a linked term I don't know about and it's not to Wikipedia. It makes me reluctant to click it. I just want the short, easy answer. See, for example, the link on this post to Mujeres Libres.

/hover
/groan - I have to watch a movie?
/cmd-t, en, tab, mujeres libres, enter
/...'an anarchist women's organization in Spain that aimed to empower working class women'
/forget all about watching what is probably a fascinating flick

So yeah, Wikipedia and Google have made me lazy. So lazy. I can't wait for the next iteration of laziness, like something cam-driven that brings up a hover link when I look at a word and frown ever so slightly. SERVICE GUARANTEES CITIZENSHIP! WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:45 AM on July 18, 2011


apropos of nothing, here are some kittens on DJ decks.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:26 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel like Wikipedia is overused to the point that it almost seems like the default answer to every honest (and, as we like to say, disingenuous) question that ever materialises in a non-AskMe thread.

If the answer to the question is in the linked article, then while Wikipedia may be overused in general, the asker obviously hasn't been using it.

Put me in the camp that's mildly annoyed by people who use AskMe as a substitute for poor search skills.
posted by valkyryn at 3:29 AM on July 18, 2011


What if the problem isn't "poor search skills" but instead something else?

Ask has a reputation of being fast, accurate and efficient. Far more than Yahoo! Answers or perhaps even Quora. It can be particularly invaluable if someone is having difficulty figuring out which information they can trust from the sea of mediocre references online.

It's also more personal than a plain google search. It's possible to have conversations here in threads. Ask follow-up questions. Etc. You never know... someone might pass on a lesson gleaned from hard-earned experience.
posted by zarq at 4:42 AM on July 18, 2011


METAFILTARIANS
posted by jammy at 5:13 AM on July 18, 2011


What if the problem isn't "poor search skills" but instead something else?

If using Google won't answer the question, hey, that's fine. But in that case, a single link to a Wikipedia article 1) would not be a great answer, but 2) probably wouldn't come up as an answer.

All I'm trying to say is that there is definitely a subset of questions for which a simple link to Wikipedia--or some other source--is entirely appropriate.
posted by valkyryn at 5:15 AM on July 18, 2011


It's true that some people's online search skills could be improved.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:27 AM on July 18, 2011


Why on earth would I type out a 101 on a subject I know intimately when there is a perfectly good orientation writeup already available? It's likely that if I offer the Wikipedia article, or another basic source, I'm also going to move on and add content to the discussion, but I agree with those that say Level I questions deserve, first and foremost, Level I answers, at least as a baseline. And there are better things the truly informed have to do with their time than lay down basic information that exists in perfectly adequate form elsewhere. What's interesting to the truly informed is to move from the basic discussion to the more nuanced points as quickly as possible. There's no quicker way than to use existing sources to get people up to speed, and jump off from there.
posted by Miko at 5:54 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I saw the original question and I know a little bit about canting in general and English Thieves' Cant in particular*. At the time, I thought about supplying a response, and supplying it, moreover, in cant**. But I didn't, and the mental calculus involved boiled down to the following variables:
  1. Has someone already answered? (They had, with the aforementioned WP link.)
  2. Is the urge to explain a manifestation of Male Answer Syndrome? (Probably almost always.)
  3. Am I grumpy with MetaFilter today? (If I am, I don't want to risk dumping the grumpiness in the thread.)
  4. Does anyone read down here? (Bulk of the conversation is usually over in the first 12 hours.)
Generalize from that as needed.

* uh, I used to play D&D years and years ago. At one stage I was going to play a thief and decided that I'd try to speak in cant whenever speaking in character. So I did some research into canting (Thieves' Cant was a real thing! Who knew?), acquired a couple of canting dictionaries, read some scholarly material on the lives of the criminal underclass in 17th century England, you get the idea. None of which made me an expert, but did enable me to cant with such conviction that my fellow nerds would look at each other baffled whenever I spoke during the game, before saying something like "I think he said we should knife the guy and blame it on the priest". This might seem a lot of effort to go to given that I died in the second session and I then rolled up a dwarf, but I found the subject fascinating.
** let's be clear, nobody really knows how thieves' cant was spoken. Canting dictionaries aren't quite reliable sources. Plays are better.

posted by Ritchie at 6:40 AM on July 18, 2011


muddgirl: If I am not myself an expert on linguistics - if I had to look up the definition of cant languages, it is disingenuous for me to provide a different definition because it presumes a knowledge that I don't actually have. Furthermore, if I fuck something up in my summary, I open myself up to a huge derail because I don't actually know anything about cant languages.

I'd preface my findings with "From what I've just read" or "It looks like".


Quietgal: A modest proposal: we should encourage more formal discourse by requiring MeFites to wear business casual attire when participating in threads. cortex, go put some pants on.

Pants are for squares! I wish I were not so square right now.


hippybear: I see you still haven't gotten away from your fecal connection with Wikipedia. I think the Freudian talking cure is in order. You obviously have some toilet training issues.
The anal stage coincides with the start of the child’s ability to control his anal sphincter, and therefore his ability to give or withhold gifts at will.
Poop is not a gift, silly (gross) babies.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:27 AM on July 18, 2011


"MetaFilter would be better if everyone just behaved more like *I* want them to."

-Summary of the last month of callouts.
posted by absalom at 9:28 AM on July 18, 2011


How do people feel about answering AskMe pop culture questions with TV Tropes links?

I have a hard time finding anything on TV Tropes without getting sucked in to a vortex of fascinating and unrelated topics, so direct links are always appreciated.
posted by Lorin at 9:46 AM on July 18, 2011


Likewise, I sometimes find the cutesy trope names on TV Tropes impenetrable, which makes searching for them when I don't know what the Trope-folk call them next to impossible. In other words, if I ever ask an AskMe pop culture question looking for examples, not only would I not be offended with a TV Tropes link as a response, it is probably what I am looking for.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:52 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Poop is not a gift, silly (gross) babies.

If you're standing in the bathroom waiting for some baby poop action, it is most definitely a gift. Thank you, baby, let's go and finish our lunch now.
posted by Wolof at 6:11 PM on July 18, 2011


Besides what is mentioned above (not the baby poop) there arises the situation that I may have dumped my knowledge and citations as an editor of Wikipedia. So it would be redundant for me to rewrite the material that I have already contributed. Also, I may want to shortcut it and do the wiki cite and supplement during the discussion.

To be honest, Wikipedia is not as fun when, in the early days, you could have an entry on the ancient Aztec God, Chu Hua Hua Con (ancient Nuhuatl for, "that which yips, yaps and renders"), give serious devotion to the the entry and have it stand for a long time. It has become somewhat dull when speculation of this ancient Yucatan pack animal can not be elaborated upon as the cause for the demise of the Maya. Ah well, Wikipedia is stodgy but a jump off point none the less.
posted by jadepearl at 9:06 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I read a comment with a wikipedia link that is something along the lines of "it's all written up there" - but nothing more - what I usually do is then click the MeFi user name. And then, if there's something in there that indicates that that person knows something about the topic, yes definitely I'll read that link. I probably would anyway, but then I'd also wonder if the person sending me there knew enough to judge it as a valid source of factual info. There can be multiple citations at the bottom of the article, but I tend to trust our in house folk to tell me things like "well, that last bit is a tad suspect, but the jist of the rest is sound." But then I'm also the kind of person who will check the page's last edit to see if I'm reading what was recommended in the first place or if something was changed in the past hour since the link was posted. (Why yes, I've seen some bad info on wikipedia, how can you tell?)

Of course it comes down to how much you want to fact check and how important the subject is to you.
posted by batgrlHG at 3:40 AM on July 19, 2011


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: "How do people feel about answering AskMe pop culture questions with TV Tropes links?"

Like I said upthread, it's insanely useful for answering questions looking for examples of a specific phenomenon in media. That's pretty much what it *is* -- a trope followed by a list of uses, organized by media type. If you can find the relevant trope (which is admittedly tricky), it's pretty much an automatic Best Answer. For example:

Examples of arguments in songs? = Counterpoint Duet/Call and Response Song

Lesser villains that usurp their incompetent superiors? = The Starscream

Songs with one line of lyrics? = Single-Stanza Songs

etc.

It's also good for readable summaries to complex topics like obscure movies and arcane backstory universes, so it often works as a supplementary link in FPPs, moreso than a regular Wikipedia article.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:16 AM on July 19, 2011


Man, I was watching an episode of Deep Space Nine last night and it opened with some Bajoran flugleoboe player cramping Quark's business by being too entrancingly amazing in his flugleoboe rendition of what was clearly the Deep Space Nine theme song, and I thought to myself, man, I wonder if TVTropes has an article on diegetic theme songs?

I just typed "diegetic theme song" into google and, bam, top hit: Source Music. Not as specifically niche as my dream article, but a bunch of citations of the right sort of thing in the list.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:36 AM on July 19, 2011


MetaFilter: standing in the bathroom waiting for some baby poop action
posted by hippybear at 2:31 PM on July 21, 2011


MetaFilter: baby poop action
posted by Sys Rq at 2:40 PM on July 21, 2011


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