Does responding to a comment automatically make something "chat"? July 5, 2012 8:10 PM   Subscribe

Does responding to a comment automatically make something "chat"?

I still don't fully understand comment deletion policy, and in this case they were comments I made on a thread I started:

http://ask.metafilter.com/219355/Is-it-bigoted-to-conflate-Jews-and-Israelis

I don't see this topic as necessarily having to be controversial --it's just an etiquette question (which I see many of).

So, why is it "not OK" to respond to a question or comment someone makes? I realize, random chatting is not ok, but is any neutral give and take discouraged?

The example I particularly don't understand is a commenter made the argument that since Israel is working to stay Jewish, the comment I was wondering about (conflating Jews and actions of Israel) was fair. I asked a follow-up saying, yes that's an explicit policy of Israel, but how does that make Israeli the voice of all non-Israeli Jews (and gave the example of Pakistan just to show many countries explicitly maintain a religious identity without being "the voice" of all people of that religion.)

All of that seems essentially on-topic and strictly factual; i.e., not controversial, unless any mention of Israel, Jews, Pakistan, Muslims is somehow inherently incendiary. If that's the case, that's pretty sad.
posted by Jon44 to Etiquette/Policy at 8:10 PM (63 comments total)

Basically, you should only post in an AskMe if it's helping the person who's asking the question get a good answer. Anything else (chatter between answerers, etc) is noise and not generally helpful.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:13 PM on July 5, 2012


P.s., and jessamyn made the comment that it's a bad question because it's almost impossible to answer without discussing Israel (which I assume is verboten). I disagree. Someone could easily say:

"conflating US members of a religious group with a country that has lots of member of that group just seems sloppy to me, not bigoted"

That's an example of a fine opinion that needn't get into any politics whatsover.

Where's the problem?
posted by Jon44 at 8:14 PM on July 5, 2012


If that's the case, that's pretty sad.

One thing you could always do is wait to see if that's the case, then comment about how "sad" it is. Bytes are cheap nowadays!
posted by ftm at 8:15 PM on July 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


it's just an etiquette question (which I see many of)
Really? Just etiquette?

What to do after farting in front of your mother-in-law is an etiquette question. This is not.
posted by barely legal at 8:21 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


the question probably should have been deleted. you're asking for opinions, not asking for help or advice about a specific problem. frankly, you wouldn't have needed to start this meta if you had spent maybe half an hour looking at other questions on askme - the problems with your question, and the reason why it was drawing delete-worthy answers, would have jumped out at you.
posted by facetious at 8:25 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Your question was basically chatfilter in the first place: It was "Here's this controversial thing, what do you guys think about it?".

What did you think was going to happen? I might as well post something about how I'm going to get my declawed cat circumcised.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:26 PM on July 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


I might as well post something about how I'm going to get my declawed cat circumcised.

Before you wedge it in, or after you get it out of the scanner?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:28 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yes, I could see how I wasn't asking for specific advice--more along the lines of "am I missing something in this situation." I had looked at other questions before posting, and saw things like a person asking for feedback on a dating profile. Really doesn't seem that different to me, but I acknowledge there is a difference...
posted by Jon44 at 8:33 PM on July 5, 2012


I am so confused. Your original question still stands. So where is the problem?

Individual comments?

Post your question, walk away. Come back in an hour. Maybe two.

By then your answers might be helpful. Prior to this time count it as crazy talk.

Thats what I do, regardless of the background color of my post.

I am so happy these days.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:35 PM on July 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


I sent you a courtesy email when I deleted a comment from you in your own thread explaining that I'd deleted your comment. That email read, in full
If your AskMe thread is going to remain an answer to your question, as you seemed to indicate you wanted it to be, your follow-up isn't going to help it stay narrowly tailored. I removed your follow-up, please don't make your thread into a discussion about Israel. It's already generating a lot of noise and requiring us to keep an eye on it. Thanks.
Your question, as I saw it was "What is your take on what this woman said, is it bigoted?" and then you specifically said "please no discussion on Israeli vs. Palestinians--too heated for so many people."

So, your follow-up comment which wasn't responding to requests for clarification but was discussing the purpose of Israel and your own political leanings (I can reproduce it here if you want, otherwise I won't) was deleted as a non-answer. AskMe questions, particularly on hot button topics, need to stay fairly narrowly focused even though there's a larger topic that many people would prefer to be discussing. We are more lenient with the original asker's comments--they're fine if they're providing clarification or updates, much less fine if they're just opening up a side conversation or arguing with commenters--but weren't in this case and that's why I sent you a note.

If you wanted to just talk about Israel and political stuff there generally and how people feel about Jews elsewhere and their relationship to Israel, that would be a totally different question and might or might not be deleted as chatfilter, depending on how you phrased it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:37 PM on July 5, 2012


To clarify...lots of individual comments were deleted (mine included, which I thought were straightforward replies to arguments others were making.)
posted by Jon44 at 8:37 PM on July 5, 2012


@jessamyn I think you misinterpreted my follow-up comment. As I said above, I was responding to a specific comment and asking them to clarify their thinking. I can't see how you thought it revealed anything about my political leanings...
posted by Jon44 at 8:40 PM on July 5, 2012


I agree with duncadunc that this was chatfilter, and I'm surprised the mods let it stand. Sounds like your deleted comments were pushing it even further in that direction.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:42 PM on July 5, 2012


Jon44: "To clarify...lots of individual comments were deleted (mine included, which I thought were straightforward replies to arguments others were making.)"

Having read the thread, you've gotten some excellent replies. Personally, I liked Mchelly's answer.

But that wasn't just an etiquette question. There are right wingers who conflate any criticism of Israel with antisemitism. There are left-wingers who believe that Israel is an intolerant, oppressive fundamentalist, Jewish theocracy. And there are many variations and opinions in between, quite a few of which lend themselves to argument. It's not much of a surprise that a conversation on the topic quickly became difficult.
posted by zarq at 8:45 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't see how you thought it revealed anything about my political leanings...

You specifically said, in the comment I removed:

"I consider myself a "classical" liberal, but increasingly find myself disgusted by what's becoming of the liberal/progressive "movement." (Besides the anti-semitism, there are incidents like a Human Rights Watch worker trying to speak out against Iran's execution of homosexuals and being denounced as an islamaphobe and colonialist.)"

I'm not sure what part of that isn't a statement of your political beliefs? Which, again, was taking the thread far afield from "Can you give me some insight into this thing my friend's wife said?" which is what I understood your question to be. If you felt like your question was more the above the fold question about the potentially bigotry of conflating Jews and Israelis generally, then yeah that would be overbroad chatfilter and not really an okay question for AskMe.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:46 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


@zarq

OK, OK, I see the errors of my way. I'd like to think in an ideal world it could just be an etiquette question.... (perhaps if I had said "country x" which has many people of "religion x" )
posted by Jon44 at 8:48 PM on July 5, 2012


@jessamyn: Oh, I was thinking you were referring to another comment. Yes, that one is definitely chat and I had forgotten about it (but to be fair, was by way of agreeing with another person's comments, and doesn't have anything to do with Israel, as you said.)
posted by Jon44 at 8:50 PM on July 5, 2012


I don't think that question should have stayed in the first place, and yeah wow way to stir the pot with a follow-up like that. You caution israel/palestine is a heated topic, but then casually generalize anti-semitism into "the liberal/progressive 'movement'", and mention Iran and islamophobia out of nowhere?

Honestly it looks rather like elaborate trolling, from a distance.
posted by pahalial at 8:50 PM on July 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is getting very out-of-context and distorted. Jessamyn emailed me about a completely different topic that was apolitical. The (unfairly) mentioned comment wasn't discussed at all, and was in reply to a comment that still stands:

The other problem I've seen is that anti-Semitism is one of those hatreds that is often soft-pedaled or laughed off as not that bad - the recent news item about "Elmo" sprewing anti-Jewish hatred was largely spun as a cute harmless crazy guy, which was in itself disturbing. Add that to many liberals' embracing of the Palestinian cause - liberals who are not themselves anti-Semitic, but will generally overlook statements that clearly are so in the interest of promoting their cause for its own sake -- and you get this soft area where good-hearted or ignorant people simply don't see anything wrong with 'casual' anti-Semitism because they don't actually believe the real thing exists anymore.

I.e., my comment seems in-tune with the comment it was responding to you (and started as a simple "thanks for your comment..."
posted by Jon44 at 8:56 PM on July 5, 2012


doesn't have anything to do with Israel, as you said.

We generally don't reproduce comments here unless people say it's okay. You seem to not be saying that it's okay and yet somehow mis-remembering your comment. Your first one that was deleted was this, and I also included it verbatim in the third MeMail that i sent you.
@Mchelly: I have to agree with a lot of what you say, though it's something that's just a feeling and not something that can be really proved. I consider myself a "classical" liberal, but increasingly find myself disgusted by what's becoming of the liberal/progressive "movement." (Besides the anti-semitism, there are incidents like a Human Rights Watch worker trying to speak out against Iran's execution of homosexuals and being denounced as an islamaphobe and colonialist.)

@d.z.wang Clearly Israel wants to remain demographically Jewish--that's a completely explicit purpose of the state (just like Pakistan wants to remain Muslim, along with many other countries in the Mid-East). I don't follow your argument how that works to conflate all non-Israeli Jews with things that go on in Israel (except on the most superficial level).
Second one (deleted comment user's username elided)
@username You're off-topic, but I'd like to respond rather press the exclamation mark. Your post displays some of the characteristics of friend's wife's comments I found offensive. In that case, topic of discussion was Holocaust memorial--if she's vehemently against Israel, she has that right, but it has nothing to do with the topic at hand (so, at the very least, it's rude).

In the case of your post, the topic at hand is conflation of all Jew's and action of Israel. Who's dismissing any of your strongly held beliefs?
Third one (deleted comment user's username elided)
@username How is your argument different than saying all U.S. Muslims should be conflated with Al Qaeda since Al Qaeda speaks about representing all of Islam?
All of those comments were after I had asked people to please try to keep the thread on track. So I'm not totally sure where the confusion lies and I apologize if I was part of it. Let me know what else you have questions about.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:01 PM on July 5, 2012


A derail isn't necessarily in one original comment, but in the response people feel compelled to give.

Deleting those comments is deliberate pruning, to prevent the conversation from getting off-track.

This MeTa reads like an excellent way to continue the conversation about what you introduced in your now-deleted comments. Well done.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:01 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


" (mine included, which I thought were straightforward replies to arguments others were making.)"

There's your problem. AskMe isn't for back-and-forth argument or discussion and you seem to want to have an exchange and put forth your own thoughts, not get a question answered.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:04 PM on July 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


To clarify, I want exactly sure why you asked the question since your responses (which I saw before they were deleted) seemed to indicate you already had an answer in mind and were going to argue with people who disagreed. (On a topic that ran downhill into extravagantly over-the-top metaphors and comparisons surprisingly fast.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:06 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Follow-ups are generally to add more clarification to the question you're asking, not to ask clarification of the beliefs of other posters or generate more commentary by stating your own. For example, I gave an admittedly political-leaning (and thus deleted) reply wherein I tried to give some perspective on how the wife's position may not have been an expression of anti-semitism. In response you offered a criticism of my explanation and an argument about why I (and the wife) were in the wrong. That isn't asking a question, that's inviting debate. The same goes for your other follow-ups.
posted by schroedinger at 9:07 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jon44, you've been thinking about this one for a while, haven't you?

Nice to see you took people's advice (re: frame as problem to be solved).
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:10 PM on July 5, 2012


OK, I see the point (again). I was also upfront that I found this situation offensive and in essence was looking for alternative ways of looking at it. Inviting debate seems like a good way to do that, but I see it's not part of the idea of posts, so won't do it anymore.

(And for the record, seeking clarification or challenging isn't disagreeing. It's "I clearly have my bias in how I see this situation, and don't fully understand your argument," which is pretty explicitly what I said.)
posted by Jon44 at 9:11 PM on July 5, 2012


Basically, you should only post in an AskMe if it's helping the person who's asking the question get a good answer. Anything else (chatter between answerers, etc) is noise and not generally helpful.

Yeah, at least once in an AskMe thread, someone has posted something which I was surprised and pleased to learn about and said something like, "oh, that's awesome" in the thread and that was subsequently deleted.

AskMe is pretty strict about what they allow to survive in the comments.
posted by hippybear at 10:29 PM on July 5, 2012


It's a really, really borderline question for us, but we try to be expansive in deciding on answerable questions, and fairly strict in terms of keeping answers in line with answering the question instead of debating or having a chat.

The purpose for Ask Metafilter is not for the OP to explore their thoughts and ideas about a subject, but to get answers. If your purpose was to find out if a particular statement seems bigoted or not to people here, then you can read the answers and find out what most people think. If your purpose was just about anything else, then Ask Metafilter is not the right place.

All you can do on Ask Metafilter is get answers. You can't explore a topic, challenge answers, argue, discuss, or debate. In fact, as the OP, pretty much the only commenting you should ever be doing in your own thread is clarifying your original question if needed (for example, if someone asks "how well do you know this person?" or something), possibly clearing up a misunderstanding, or updating the situation (I tried X solution and it worked/didn't work).
posted by taz (staff) at 10:43 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't see how you thought it revealed anything about my political leanings...

Man. It seems like EVERY single time someone says "My deleted comment never said anything about XYZ and I don't see how you could possibly interpret it that way" ... when the deleted comment ends up being shown here it's something like "XYZ, XYX, xyz, XYZXYZXYZ IN YOUR FACE!!!!!!!"

I don't think I have ever seen a single example where someone characterized their deleted comment in a way that was on the mark when the comment was reproduced.
posted by cairdeas at 10:55 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, when people admit their comments were awful and were rightfully deleted, they usually describe them pretty accurately.
posted by elizardbits at 11:17 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


My deleted comment was an attempt to find out what labels exist for Jewish people who favor and support the Israeli government's actions against Palestinians. I don't necessarily disagree with the deletion, as it's a fraught subject and so forth, but I am very curious about that and feel that a similar tangent in another thread on courtesy/politeness/language would be considered on-topic.

Labels in political discussions are very important and convey a lot of information about trends, populations, and sub-groups. These broad categories break down terribly when discussing any particular person's views, and there are caveats, but having a left and a right, pro-choice and anti-abortion labels, a religious and secular category, a Green party and libertarians and anarchists and whatever, are all really useful things when it comes to constructing a mental map of political perspectives and interests.

What shorthands exist for people who think Israel's actions are Fine, Just Fine? What shorthands exist for Jewish people who think that? Or Jewish people who feel otherwise? Non-Jewish people? And so on. Are the only non-problematic, untainted with antisemitism options "pro-Israeli" and "pro-Palestinian"?

I'd appreciate insight and perspective on this, if anyone has some here.
posted by jsturgill at 1:11 AM on July 6, 2012


jsturgill we delete "piggyback" questions in Ask Metafilter because, at best, they split the responses between the original question posted and the related question asked by someone else, and at worst they can totally hijack a thread. We figure if you have a question, you can go ahead and make your own Ask Metafilter post.

Also, I'm afraid Metatalk isn't the place to ask your question either. This thread is for discussion about what sort of comments/responses are okay in Ask Metafilter.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:55 AM on July 6, 2012


I'm going to get my declawed cat circumcised.

What a coincidence. I think we can make a deal.
posted by spitbull at 3:42 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


What to do after farting in front of your mother-in-law is an etiquette question.

Looking forward to that one. I have several answers; some may even be helpful.
posted by Segundus at 4:31 AM on July 6, 2012


Of the comments quoted by jessamyn, I thought deletion of the second and third one were reasonable (especially since they were replying to other comments that had been deleted). The problem with the first comment is that the first part of it (the reply to Mchelly) was very much deletable as chatfilter, but I thought that the second part (the reply to d.z. wang) was a reasonable request for clarification of someone else's point. But since the mods never edit comments, their choice was to either delete the whole thing or leave the whole thing. If you had only posted the second part of that comment, then I think that it should have been allowed to stay (though I don't know if the mods would agree).
posted by klausness at 4:49 AM on July 6, 2012


AskMe is great for facts and for suggested courses of action. It is not great about opinions in and of themselves.

What is the fact that your question is trying to find? What is the course of action that best suits the situation outlined by your question? If your question will not elicit an answer to one of those above questions, it's probably not a good question. If your responses to people in thread are not focused on giving them the information they need to answer your question, they are probably not good responses.

So, for example, "Is [inflammatory opinion] bigotry?" is an opinion question. "[People I interact with] say [inflammatory opinion]. That makes me feel [emotion]. How should I react to them?" is a question about courses of action.
posted by Jpfed at 5:05 AM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm glad this got opened, because I did see a lot of deletions in that thread and am curious.

I know Israel is one of the things that it's said we "Don't Do Well," but is discussion of Israel and Palestine actually generally verboten? I thought the OP's question was completely legitimate - trying to sort out how you can distinguish legitimate criticism from bigotry. It's a really hard question, and it does actually require some discussion of the context in which the person may have been talking, which seems to be what's deleted.

I don't think I have ever seen a single example where someone characterized their deleted comment in a way that was on the mark when the comment was reproduced.

Well, yeah, but there's an implicit imbalance there. It's not like people get emailed with their comment when it gets deleted.
posted by corb at 5:56 AM on July 6, 2012


It's not verboten, and the question was not deleted – but you still can't comment in ways that are against the guidelines for Ask Metafilter. Basically: you have to answer the question; don't use the topic as an excuse for chat, debate, jokes, or rants; don't argue with other commenters or the OP; don't browbeat the OP.

So, when you ask "is discussion of Israel and Palestime actually generally verboten," the answer is "no" for Metafilter ("the blue"), though posts that address this topic are expected to be substantive, well-sourced, and not "outragefilter" sorts of posts, and "yes" for Ask Metafilter, which is quite specifically not a discussion space at all – for any topic – but a place to ask and answer questions.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:20 AM on July 6, 2012


Also, Jon44, while in no way against the rules, house style largely frowns upon using "@username" to respond to people here. Just say their name and/or quote their comment.

It's a tiny, tiny thing but it rubs a lot of people the wrong way.
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:39 AM on July 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


And you definitely want to rub people the right way.

'Cause the static electricity is fantastic!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:50 AM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I consider myself a "classical" liberal ..."

I'm more of a "neo-romantic" liberal, myself.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:05 AM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


The example I particularly don't understand is a commenter made the argument that since Israel is working to stay Jewish, the comment I was wondering about (conflating Jews and actions of Israel) was fair. I asked a follow-up saying, yes that's an explicit policy of Israel, but how does that make Israeli the voice of all non-Israeli Jews (and gave the example of Pakistan just to show many countries explicitly maintain a religious identity without being "the voice" of all people of that religion.)

If that's an accurate description of the comment in question, then, yeah that's on topic and a bad deletion. But the comments I saw that were deleted were not like that.
posted by spaltavian at 7:36 AM on July 6, 2012


Jon44: "@jessamyn I think you misinterpreted my follow-up comment. As I said above, I was responding to a specific comment and asking them to clarify their thinking. I can't see how you thought it revealed anything about my political leanings..."

Clarifying answerers' thinking is absolutely not the role of comments in AskMe.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:25 AM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


octobersurprise: ""I consider myself a "classical" liberal ..."

I'm more of a "neo-romantic" liberal, myself
"

I'm a "cubist" liberal.
posted by Grither at 8:31 AM on July 6, 2012


Wait, I think I did that wrong.
posted by Grither at 8:31 AM on July 6, 2012


CUT!

Jesus Grither, what is going on with you? That's the 11th take for that comment, did you have a rough night?

Let's try it again, from the top, right after Deathalicious saunters out, stage right.

Places everyone!

And...ACTION!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:48 AM on July 6, 2012


I'm a pop-liberal. But I'm disco-conservative.

aaaaand SCENE
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:57 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


All you can do on Ask Metafilter is get answers. You can't explore a topic, challenge answers, argue, discuss, or debate.

I do think this is too narrow a brief, particularly the "challenge answers" part. There are genuine difference of views on some topics, and truncating debate to simple unitary statements does disservice to both the people who try to answer and those that pose the questions.

There has, in general, been a narrowing of what's permissible in AskMe over the years. In general, these limitation are necessary and useful for producing the best collective answers we can. There has been a trend, however, to a "one comment and you're out" policy that I fundamentally disagree with. Sometimes questions do need exploration and discussion to get to a 'best answer'. Options sometimes need to be enumerated and evaluated. Often one answerer may not have all the pieces, but collaboratively we might.

Statements of position are not enough: discussion and synthesis are often necessary to improve the quality of the answers.
posted by bonehead at 9:00 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


jsturgill: "What shorthands exist for people who think Israel's actions are Fine, Just Fine?

They are currently, generally referred to as "Pro-Israel." This is a phrase whose meaning has changed every few years, so don't blink or it might change again.

Or Jewish people who feel otherwise? Non-Jewish people? And so on. Are the only non-problematic, untainted with antisemitism options "pro-Israeli" and "pro-Palestinian"?"

Thoughtful discussion and criticism is better than labeling people, because people rarely fit into neat ideological labels. When I want to talk about my political opinions on the topic, I am specific about them -- better to flesh out people's (usually) complex views in a discussion rather than oversimplifying them.
posted by zarq at 9:06 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


There has been a trend, however, to a "one comment and you're out" policy that I fundamentally disagree with.

We do not have and we do not enforce any such policy. What we do is try to keep topics that are likely to stray or turn into trainwrecks from straying or turning into trainwrecks. We have a lot of newer users who see AskMe as more of a space for generally talking about topics, so when they respond to all the comments and/or expand or change the question dramatically we try to nudge them back on topic.

For a topic like this one that is sort of primed for people to become quickly argumentative and angry about [see also: most parenting threads, many pet threads, many "I snooped and found out something I didn't want to know" threads, there are others] we try to keep a close eye on them but also let the flags guide us to what is problematic. I may have been a bit too complacent in that thread early on but some comments that seemed not-so-terrible became jumping off points for people to start getting into name calling and arguing which are non-answers and not okay.

I can see there needing to be a decent amount of back and forth when there is new information or when someone is trying to untangle a weighty or complex problem, but the narrow question here "Do you think my friend's wife was bigoted" is a lot more of a poll the audience question than a "Let's get to the root of the matter" question. In philosophical questions with no real "right" answer people can certainly chime in, but having the thread turn into this big back and forth, in a topic that generates a lot of bad feeling and ill will [and flags, and emails and MeTa threads] is really not what AskMe is for and not what it's set up for.

So there's some adjusting as newer users get used to the fact that AskMe isn't like other group blogs they participate in and we have discussions in MeTa to try to clarify things, but just to be clear, we have no "one comment and out" expectation, but we do expect the OP not to threadsit, not to get into arguments with commenters, and not to expand the question into something that becomes more chatty than AskMe is set up for. The average AskMe thread gathers almost no flags [or has like one flag-getting comment that we deal with]. This one got about the same number of flags as all the other AskMe questions/comments for the day combined. That is something we have to figure out how to manage and we prefer to keep and eye on things rather than pre-emptively deleting, but cases like this do make a decent argument for pre-emptive deletion which is a direction we generally prefer not to go.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:20 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thoughtful discussion and criticism is better than labeling people, because people rarely fit into neat ideological labels.

But zarq, if I can't simplistically label my ideological opponents, how can I know to dismiss their views?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:37 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sometimes questions do need exploration and discussion to get to a 'best answer'. Options sometimes need to be enumerated and evaluated. Often one answerer may not have all the pieces, but collaboratively we might.

Which is fine when otherwise managed within the askme guidelines. Like Jess said, this is not actually something we have an adverse policy on. The issue is not clarification and collaboration in trying to get a question answered, and that's something I feel like we see constantly as a pretty successful part of folks' use of the green.

But it's very easy for individuals with essentially good intentions to do things like mistake their desire to discuss a topic or be heard or countermand an answer they dislike as actually productively answering the question, and that's not so okay and where problems tend to start. When an askme thread starts to turn into a side argument between answerers, or between asker and answerer, or "answer the question" gets displaced by "argue your opinion", the intended focus and utility of the site suffers and people get chatty and/or heated and start using it as a proxy discussion space. That's not so great.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:46 AM on July 6, 2012


Thanks for the clarifications. My concern came from that exact opinion expressed recently attracting significant popular agreement---though I can't for the life of me find the comment again. Taz's comment above: "You can't explore a topic, challenge answers, argue, discuss, or debate." appeared to me, to come close to endorsing that view.

I get the problems with this particular question, and understand the need for moderation here. I just don't want issues like this to poison the well. Sometimes if all you see are problems, everything becomes a problem.
posted by bonehead at 9:53 AM on July 6, 2012


Taz's comment above: "You can't explore a topic, challenge answers, argue, discuss, or debate." appeared to me, to come close to endorsing that view.

I hear you. I think that was more taz trying to clarify the Jon44's apparent take on what he should be doing in his askme thread than an attempt at a general statement of policy is all.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:58 AM on July 6, 2012


What to do after farting in front of your mother-in-law is an etiquette question.

And the answer is "blame an Israeli."
posted by mullacc at 10:06 AM on July 6, 2012


Taz's comment above: "You can't explore a topic, challenge answers, argue, discuss, or debate." appeared to me, to come close to endorsing that view.

Yeah, that was pretty much shorthand. "You can't explore a topic" means if the question is "I have a problem with the way my boss treats me, what can I do to solve this?" the thread cannot become a general amble through best management practices, general work environments, corporate atmosphere, protestant work ethic and capitalism.

"You can't challenge answers" means if you ask how to solve this problem with your boss, and people say things you don't like, don't jump in to refute/argue every suggestion that doesn't please you. If it seems that people are incorrectly assuming things because of something you said or something you neglected to say, you can update with the pertinent information, but you can't argue with answerers because you were hoping that people would automatically be "on your side," or you were hoping for a very specific sort of answer.

If SomeUser says they think that the boss is actually treating you okay given the circumstances of a situation, you can ignore that if it's unhelpful, update with essential info if it's pertinent, or ask for clarification if the comment is vague: "When you said you think my boss treated me okay, did you mean her actions in regards to everything I listed is okay, or just that one situation you mentioned?" is fine.

But you can't say, "Well, I guess you are not really interested in the problems of a lowly worker like me, apparently you feel like I should just be grovelling to have a job!" etc.

Likewise, commenters should not be challenging/arguing/debating other commenters. They can offer their own differing advice/suggestion, but not, "SomeUser, you are totally wrong, and this is the worst advice ever!" But they can say, "In my experience, it's usually a very bad idea to do [SomeUser's suggestion], which is likely to cause problems with blahblah. Instead, I would suggest that you blahblahblah."

The first is arguing with SomeUser; the second is offering more information and a suggestion to the OP.

And discussion is also not the goal. If someone answers "I have a boss just like that, and it's horrible!" that doesn't help to answer the question. And if someone else answers, "Why don't you just quit, then, if it's so bad?" it doesn't help to answer the question. Someone else chiming in with, "Well, I am a boss, and you guys just sound like a bunch of coddled whiners!" with someone else answering "Oh, yeah, well bosses like you are why businesses fail!" and someone else talking about how their own management style works really, really well ... doesn't help.

Discussion in aid of reaching an answer or solution is perfectly fine, but it needs to be targeted. Someone saying, "Oh, now that SomeUser mentions the problem with communication styles, it just made me remember when I had a boss who hated email and preferred to just get a quick 5-minute update in person every day. When I started doing that it seems like he was more keyed in to our progress and what we needed to go forward, which seems like what you want. Maybe you could try blahblahblah." is fine. Other answers that build on that are fine.

I hope this makes it clearer. Basically it's just that the OP needs to ask the question they want an answer to as opposed to, say, just ranting about their boss, or hoping for sympathy and validation (not guaranteed!), or wanting to discuss the evils of the corporate system, for example, and the commenters need to be answering the question or helping to answer the question rather than chatting or arguing about the topic.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:19 AM on July 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Likewise, commenters should not be challenging/arguing/debating other commenters. They can offer their own differing advice/suggestion, but not, "SomeUser, you are totally wrong, and this is the worst advice ever!"

This is the part is what I have most issue with. This does happen on Ask daily, perhaps not in language as polarized, but perhaps not far off either. Sometimes other comments are just plain wrong, in an objective, provable way, i.e., by reference or link. In those cases, I think, debate or challenge should absolutely be allowed.

Argumentation that is subjective, but still amenable to evidence is much more tricky, I agree, but could still be allowed some space. Some back-and-forth discussion of various management styles by anecdote would be useful in your example, for instance. Both of these cases, I think, enhance the end results of AskMe.

Conflicting opinions should be expressible, perhaps even cast in contrast by other commentators, at least to enumerate them. I can understand that there needs to be limits their expression, as in the present case.

I'm asking that debates in Ask not be closed simply because they happen, even if they happen vigorously. A bit of conflict isn't bad for ask.
posted by bonehead at 12:20 PM on July 6, 2012


I'm asking that debates in Ask not be closed simply because they happen, even if they happen vigorously.

Debates don't work within the guidelines. Disagreements, however, can, if they're handled with the focus being on answering the original question. Taz outlines a good format for that above.

Basically, you can say someone is wrong, but then you need to provide your own answer to the question. And if someone disagrees with your answer, you can elaborate or provide references, again being focused on answering the question. And at that point, both parties pretty much need to move on and not try to get the last word.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:32 PM on July 6, 2012


This is the part is what I have most issue with. This does happen on Ask daily, perhaps not in language as polarized, but perhaps not far off either.

When it does happen in as polarized language or nearly so, it tends to be problematic, is the thing. The distinction between "I disagree with [answer x] based on this experience/knowledge/citation" and "[user x] is nuts, ignore their crazy answer" is kind of an important one, and one of the trickier bits of moderating askme is trying to keep people from blurring that distinction in what might otherwise be helpful contributions to the thread.

When it's done well and is actually helping the question get answered, it's generally fine. There is no blanket ban on back-and-forth or whatever. People just do a sort of lousy or fighty or chatty job of it sometimes, and that is something we try to contain and minimize because it's not what that part of the site is for. Conflict isn't inherently bad but it's certainly not inherently good either.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:36 PM on July 6, 2012


""I consider myself a "classical" liberal ..."

I'm more of a "neo-romantic" liberal, myself"

I'm a "cubist" liberal.


I'm sort of Canadian liberal which in the US is apparently Communist.
posted by Mitheral at 12:49 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


A lot of Canadian conservatives would be looked at as socialists in the U.S. for favouring a state-provided health care system.
posted by Dasein at 1:19 PM on July 6, 2012


In fairness, the Canadian conservatives would probably be pretty much ignored in the US. That's our general response to Canadians who aren't Mike Myers.
posted by maryr at 2:01 PM on July 6, 2012


It's actually now our policy for Mike Myers too.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:45 PM on July 6, 2012


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