What's my problem? September 17, 2012 6:48 PM   Subscribe

I would like to understand what got a post of mine deleted today. I contacted the mods and got some feedback and then was directed here. So here I am. Community feedback requested.

I am hesitant to repost the deleted post here for fear of breaking some rule. I would, otherwise, be happy to share it in order to get specific feedback as to why it got flagged and deleted.

One of the things I have been told I am doing wrong is somehow talking excessively about myself rather than answering the question on AskMe and I have also been told I am in the wrong to reply when a bunch of people call me out by name publically. So at the moment I am feeling like even trying to understand the problem is probably going to be a violation of whatever etiquette rule or policy I am already apparently breaking. (Because asking "what am I doing wrong?" makes this about me and that's apparently part of the problem.)

In the same thread today as my deleted post, there are other anecdotes with little or no specific advice. They have not been deleted. I have been told giving specific advice is the answer to the problem but I did that in the deleted post today and in some other deleted posts as well. My internet background is rooted in "cite your sources or speak from firsthand personal experience". I understand that to be a good standard. I am baffled as to why it seems to be failing me here.

I had a point today in the post that got deleted. I think it is a good point. I don't think anyone else made the same point or I would be happy to let it go. The poster posted anonymously and did not provide an email address, so I cannot email or memail them. As I understand it, if I can fix whatever I did wrong, it is okay to try again to make my point. But I don't understand what I did wrong.

So please tell me what I am doing wrong here. Or, more generally, what makes some anecdotes "good answers" and other anecdotes "just you blathering on pointlessly about yourself" in the eyes of the community? Because making sure it includes "specific advice" does not appear to fix whatever the issue is.

Thanks in advance.
posted by Michele in California to Etiquette/Policy at 6:48 PM (111 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

A "post" usually refers to the original link or question rather than individual comments in response. I think you are actually talking about a deleted comment, but this was confusing initially.

I am hesitant to repost the deleted post here for fear of breaking some rule.

The rule is that if you want to talk about something that was deleted here, letting us know what was in it is a good idea. Otherwise, how is anyone supposed to say anything relevant?
posted by grouse at 6:52 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, if you don't have the text of the deleted comment, drop the mods a line via the contact form and they will probably let us know what it was.
posted by grouse at 6:54 PM on September 17, 2012


Is it just me, or are there a lot of anonymous AskMe posts today?
posted by box at 6:54 PM on September 17, 2012


Just to clarify, I think you are referring to a comment and not a front page post?
posted by lalex at 6:57 PM on September 17, 2012


(Because asking "what am I doing wrong?" makes this about me and that's apparently part of the problem.)

To be clear, it's okay to ask that here, which is why Jessamyn said it'd be alright to go to Metatalk after you guys had talked about it over email a bit. Asking what you're doing wrong in the middle of an askme thread would be a problem, for sure.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:58 PM on September 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Because making sure it includes "specific advice" does not appear to fix whatever the issue is.

And to try and reiterate what Jess has said (and I think other mods in previous conversations as well), I think the biggest fix to the issue of you doing these anecdote-heavy, "here is my story and also something about how it sort of relates to your question" stuff is if you restructured your whole approach to putting together answers to focus on the specific advice alone.

That is, it feels like a lot of your answers take the form "Here's a story about me, here's another little detail about me, and here is some advice" where it feels like the story stuff often has not much that all in fact to do with the question and the advice is there to justify the story-telling. And I think if you took a look at the advice part of your comments in isolation and asked yourself "is this advice that stands on its own without a story attached", that'd be a good litmus test. If the answer is yes, great: make a comment providing that advice and maybe just skip or seriously minimize the anecdote. If no, then it's probably not a good idea to add it to an askme in the first place.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:04 PM on September 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


I bet I know the comment of which you speak. If it's the one I'm thinking of, it was a question asking for information about the risks that come from older maternal age (ie having kids in your later 30s). Your answer was a longish story about how you and some family members have a disease that is not related to maternal age. It seemed entirely unrelated to the question.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:07 PM on September 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah I'll be happy to include the comment here if you want or we can just talk in generalities. My feedback which i gave you over email is a lot like cortex's here: advice needs to be more clearly linked to the question being asked and many of your comments seem to be more about telling a story about yourself than helping the asker and sometimes the link seems really tenuous, as it did today.

And yes box, Mondays are always a busy day in the anonyme world.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:12 PM on September 17, 2012


One of the things I have been told I am doing wrong is somehow talking excessively about myself rather than answering the question on AskMe

For what it's worth, yes, I've noticed this in some of your answers. And yet it is of course the case that people sometimes refer to their personal experience in AskMe answers. I think you have to ask yourself, with each answer: is the entirety of this answer helping the OP?

In the same thread today as my deleted post, there are other anecdotes with little or no specific advice. They have not been deleted.

If this characterization is correct, they should have been. Did you flag them?
posted by escabeche at 7:16 PM on September 17, 2012


I think the other anecdotes mentioned are more of the form "I had kids in my late 30s and it turned out ok" or that sort of thing - which aren't necessarily that helpful, but at least it is clear what the connection is supposed to be from the anecdote to the question of maternal age at childbirth.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:20 PM on September 17, 2012


Is it just me, or are there a lot of anonymous AskMe posts today?

10 is on the high end, yes.
posted by Meta Filter at 7:46 PM on September 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know what post or comment this is referring to, so I can't give specific feedback on this issue.

But, in terms of anecdotes, your writing/answering style seems to be to tell an anecdote rather than just give advice. This is different from how most people answer questions on Ask; I'm not saying that it's bad, just that it's distinctive. And, I think the distinctiveness makes people more likely to flag it if it veers off topic.

For example, in this thread, you wrote:

I suddenly began having migraines. I was able to determine it was from birth control pills. I went off The Pill and they went away, never to return. A combination of lucky coincidences helped clue me fairly quickly that was the issue otherwise I might have been extremely dismissive of the idea since I had been on The Pill for many years with no apparent problem.

You didn't mention birth control. Just tossing that out there, in case it is relevant. From what I gather, various hormonal issues can play a role with migraines.


I think that's a useful comment. However, I would have written something more along the lines of,

Are you on birth control? One birth control pill I tried triggered migraines for me. Just tossing that out there, in case it is relevant. From what I gather, various hormonal issues can play a role with migraines.

Do you see how both comments use personal experience to answer the question, but yours tells a story and my rewritten version is a quick answer?

I'm not telling you to stop writing anecdotes; I don't personally have any stake in whether you do or not. I'm just trying to illustrate how your answers are different from the majority of answers, you can do whatever you'd like with that information.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:02 PM on September 17, 2012 [23 favorites]


I type out and then delete a lot of "answers" in askme because I get halfway through them and realize I just have a story I want to tell, but I'm not really answering the question.

For non-anon askmes, I sometimes memail the OP, in case it ends up being helpful somehow, but it doesn't need to add noise to the thread.
posted by rtha at 8:07 PM on September 17, 2012 [37 favorites]


Many sites are much more "lets talk about and share our lives" than this one. That’s not a bad thing, just different audiences. AskMe is even more strict about this, it aims to answer questions with very little chat. Metafilter is a community so it might be a little confusing in that regard, but maybe you just haven’t got the feel of it yet.

I type out and then delete a lot of "answers" in askme because I get halfway through them and realize I just have a story I want to tell, but I'm not really answering the question.

I often go back and delete more than half my comment, or skip the whole thing. And still I ramble...
posted by bongo_x at 8:12 PM on September 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Your Ask.Me answers page is sort of instructive on this point, because it provides a snippet of the first paragraph of your answers. Go through that page and look at how many of those snippets are all about you and not at all about the original poster. You tend to lead with yourself -- with your migraines, your sons, your life in Germany and Georgia, etc, etc.

But even though most people are answering Ask.Me questions based on their personal experiences, Ask.Me is not about the answerers, it's about the askers. Your focus should be on the original poster and what you think the solution to their problem is. If it comes from personal experience, a couple of lines at the end explaining that is fine.

Maybe try writing your answers without mentioning yourself at all in the first paragraph, and see if that changes your focus?
posted by jacquilynne at 8:19 PM on September 17, 2012 [21 favorites]


If there's a part of your answer that does not directly address something the asker needs to know, edit it out. AskMetafilter is not a conversational space; it is a community-generated public service.

Sometimes personal information from an answerer can help the asker decide how much weight to give a particular answer. As a professional Xer, I hope that askers give my opinion on X a little more weight. But too much personal information (or narrative) distracts the asker from getting the useful information from your answer. So here's an exercise to try: rephrase your answers so that the conclusion comes first. The evidence, reasoning, and anecdotes come after that. If those addenda suddenly seem like they're not really necessary for correctly interpreting your answer, get rid of them.
posted by Jpfed at 8:20 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


And please, please do not make claymore mines in pottery class.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:23 PM on September 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


KokuRyu, one of the answers I wrote out and deleted was to that ask! Really, I just wanted to talk about how a forgotten chemical munitions dump from WWI was discovered in a fancy neighborhood in DC.
posted by rtha at 8:26 PM on September 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I read a crapton of AskMe posts. Your comments do stand out, usually not in a positive way, and I have flagged some of them. As others have said, it's often unclear how your stories (and in particular all the details you include) relate to the question. So while it may be relevant that your had a family member who X and they did Y, you also tend to tell about how they A, B, and C, and those facts have nothing to do with the question although they do have to do with your relative. Omit A, B, and C completely. Does that make sense?
posted by donnagirl at 8:30 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Michele, I tend to give too much info (oversharer ahoy!) in some of my answers. However, I have gotten into the habit of going over them, before posting, and strip out everything that has nothing to do with the actual question. Sometimes, like rtha said, I find I just want to tell my story that has very little, or even nothing, to do with the question (even though something in the question triggered my wanting to answer it). I delete those all together.

In short: edit edit edit!
posted by deborah at 8:31 PM on September 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


In the fertility thread, I kinda sorta had a relevant answer, as my wife and I have experienced not one but two "geriatric" pregrancies (in that my wife was older than 35 when she had our kids). However, other posters showed up with actual statistics! So I felt dumb about commenting.

It's all about adding value to the question, rather than just chiming in with something that really does not improve the knowledge base.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:31 PM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, you have a very distinct personal style; I can usually spot your comments within the first sentence or two. Some of that is typographic, some of it is what people above have noted about the focus and emphasis in your comments.

And please, please do not make claymore mines in pottery class.

Those were big time wussy answers. I bet the campus police will totally see the humor in finding realistic claymores under the bushes all over campus.
posted by Forktine at 8:33 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the re-write example above by insectosaurus is helpful - if you're up for it, maybe you could paste your deleted comment here and a few people could take a shot editing it? We can help show you how to preserve the advice and hopefully not get deleted.

Also 2nd-ing jacquilynne - maybe try writing the WHOLE answer without mentioning yourself, just putting '(based on personal experience)" at the end - as a thought exercise more than anything else.

Michele, please don't let this discourage you!
posted by amaire at 8:35 PM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I just noticed what you said about your Internet background. AskMe is much much less chatty than many other forums or boards, even those where questions are posed, so your learned standards might not apply. Maybe read more and answer less in AskMe, even when you have answers, until you have a better sense of how it is unique.
posted by donnagirl at 8:36 PM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, on the rare occasions when I am self-aware enough to think about this, a really useful self-check is to look at the answer I have typed up and ask myself if it could possibly be clicked "best answer." In other words, does what I have typed not only provide whatever factual or contextual information that was asked, but is also presented in a way that the person can actually hear?

That's actually a pretty high bar, especially when one is providing "tough love" or otherwise not simply handing the asker what they seem to want to hear. It's not enough to just be right -- you need to be able to communicate it effectively (something that is much harder than simply being factually right).

Again, I'm not saying that I personally tend to do a perfect job at this -- but it is the reason I so often type out an answer and then close the window rather than hit "post."
posted by Forktine at 8:48 PM on September 17, 2012


My guess, though I can't speak for the mods, is that if it was the fertility question comment that was deleted, it was because it wasn't clear to them how the story you related was connected to the question asked.

I know that I read that comment several times and came to the conclusion that you had started to say something that would be connected to the question asked and then got off on a tangent about your health issues and your son's health issues that (as far as I could tell from your comment) didn't actually have anything whatever to do with maternal or paternal age at conception---and then you didn't actually get to the bit that was related to the OP's actual question.

I do this myself all the time, and the mods quite rightly have to clean up after my tangent-hoppings when I get so far off the rails that the actual relevant point I was going to make ends up on the "cutting room floor," while what actually gets onto the Blue/Green/Gray is some long story about how my father-in-law trained for the Olympic gymnastics team but there was this guy who was anti-Semitic who refused to pass him through from the quarter-finals to the semi-finals, and in any case it was only during the quarter-finals when his father realized he had stopped wearing tzitzit, and so he called a rabbi and it was all like The Jazz Singer except with gymnastics and then....Which is an interesting story, maybe, except that the question was about Sikh athletes in the UK wearing turbans to play soccer, so really the story of my father-in-law's family isn't all that germane.

What I try to do, and often fail, is to start with the answer to the question and only then go to my potentially relevant personal anecdote. Might be worth a try, if that works with your own thought and writing process.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:02 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, it was a comment, not "post". Thanks for the feedback already given. I really just hope to figure out how to make this particular point in this particular thread. I am fine with the occasional deletion and sometimes agree after the fact. I don't expect to be cured of all my personal quirks, though perhaps getting this one right will help me post better generally as well.

I did google and try to find sources. My google fu flopped today. These are not "guesses" (a description used by a mod). These are things I know to be true and I think is a fairly unique take on what info the asker should read up on so as to not unnecessarily freak out. I just couldn't find sources to cite online and don't happen to be remembering names of specific books, articles or studies. So I referenced my first hand experience with birth defects, etc.

Please edit away and we will try to see where I went wrong. I suspect my actual point was somehow lost. (I was one of those kids in geometry that got in trouble for truncating proofs to too few steps. Then when I try to include "everything", accusations of "rambling", "off topic", "tangential" "talking down to people" etc. get far worse. Trying to find some kind of happy medium keeps me on my own short bus. And not just on Metafilter. I have long been Special like that.)

The deleted comment in question (yes, from the older pregnancy thread):



I have tried to do a little googling and can't seem to readily find the kind of info I want. So I am going to speak off the cuff here.

I have a genetic disorder. So does my 25 year old son. I was diagnosed just before I turned 36. He was diagnosed at age 14. It is a newish diagnosis. Just as Asperger's is now recognized as a milder form of Autism, our condition is recognized as a milder form of a very deadly condition. (FWIW, I was 22 when he was born and had no reason to worry about birth defects.)

When I was finally diagnosed, doctors made a fairly lame attempt to encourage me to not freak out. I was, in fact, already not freaked out. My response was "Are you kidding? This is Good News. I have had health problems my whole life. That part isn't News. But now we know why. Now we can do something more effective about it."

The ability to label, classify, etc. can really scare people, often in a way that misses the big picture. One of the realities of my genetic disorder is that having enough money makes for better health outcomes. People like me die from living in crappy apartments with mold issues. I would also suggest having enough education plays a role. I am acquainted online with two individuals who have the same disorder I have (one of them a really severe form of it) who are in their seventies. I believe they both have PHD's.

I am not dismissing the risk of health issues inherent in a "geriatric pregnancy". But I am saying that health outcomes are not simply random number generator events. Diet, exercise, parental care, income, education and other things all play a role. I would guess that a child with a moderate birth defect and two well educated, caring parents with adequate income probably will have overall better quality of life than a "perfectly healthy" baby born to an unwed teen high school dropout on welfare.

So, in addition to looking for bleak and discouraging statistics concerning advanced age and birth defects, I would encourage you to also look for statistics on child welfare outcomes by income, education levels of the parents, and two parent vs. one parent households. Generally speaking, children fare better in two parent middle class homes than in other situations. (This cuts both ways: One study indicated there was as much drug abuse and child neglect in upper class neighorhoods as in the ghetto. Middle class families have generally made a long list of choices to put family first, which includes making sure there is adequate income but also includes not valuing career or money over family.)

Sorry for the lack of citations. That's my understanding from about three decades of reading books and articles on such topics.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 9:05 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I thought you might be getting at in that fertility question was something along the lines of "Genetics and heritability are so complicated, and still so poorly understood even after decades of intense research, that it's important to make your peace with the idea that even the best estimates of statistical risk are going to miss a lot of the complexity" and then offering your and your son's experience as an illustration. Which is certainly a significant personal testimony.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:05 PM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Our comments crossed in the ether, but glad to see I followed your reasoning there.

So, yeah, I think that comment would probably have worked better if you had started with the answer to the question and then given your own and your son's experiences as an illustration.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:08 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm going to take a shot at rewriting your comment:

I had a son when I was 22, and he has a genetic disorder (which I also have). So, although "geriatric" pregnancies are higher risk - and I am not dismissing the risk of health issues inherent in a "geriatric pregnancy" - it's important to remember that there are a lot of factors at play. I am saying that health outcomes are not simply random number generator events. Diet, exercise, parental care, income, education and other things all play a role. I would guess that a child with a moderate birth defect and two well educated, caring parents with adequate income probably will have overall better quality of life than a "perfectly healthy" baby born to an unwed teen high school dropout on welfare.

So - to answer your question, I wouldn't worry too much at this point. There are just so many factors at play in a pregnancy, and age is only one of them.


posted by insectosaurus at 9:15 PM on September 17, 2012 [21 favorites]


I would edit it like this:
Health outcomes are not simply random number generator events. Diet, exercise, parental care, income, education and other things all play a role. I would guess that a child with a moderate birth defect and two well educated, caring parents with adequate income probably will have overall better quality of life than a "perfectly healthy" baby born to an unwed teen high school dropout on welfare.

So, in addition to looking for bleak and discouraging statistics concerning advanced age and birth defects, I would encourage you to also look for statistics on child welfare outcomes by income, education levels of the parents, and two parent vs. one parent households. Generally speaking, children fare better in two parent middle class homes than in other situations. (This cuts both ways: One study indicated there was as much drug abuse and child neglect in upper class neighorhoods as in the ghetto. Middle class families have generally made a long list of choices to put family first, which includes making sure there is adequate income but also includes not valuing career or money over family.)
It just gets to the point, removing your life story and the rambling description of how you came to write the answer in this particular way.
posted by grouse at 9:19 PM on September 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I agree with insectosaurus' rewrite. I might tuck that lead sentence about your son after "factors at play" so the first thing is advice, followed by a little anecdata.
posted by donnagirl at 9:22 PM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree with those rewrites. When originally reading your comment in the thread, I apparently stopped reading after the first three paragraphs because I couldn't see where you were going. But your fourth and fifth paragraphs are actually pretty clear about what you see as the connection.

These re-writes succeed because they move your "thesis" (the main point that directly addresses the question) to the first paragraph of your answer.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:35 PM on September 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


If you were having a long, personal conversation with a close friend, it might make complete sense to say everything you said in your comment.

But AskMetafilter is not a long, personal conversation with a close friend. AskMetafilter is a source of written information and advice meant to help individuals solve their specific problems.

So, since you were writing on AskMetafilter, I would edit your comment down to this:
The ability to label, classify, etc. can really scare people, often in a way that misses the big picture. To be sure, there are health risks inherent in a "geriatric pregnancy". But health outcomes are not simply random number generator events. Diet, exercise, parental care, income, education and other things all play a role. A child with a moderate birth defect and two well educated, caring parents with adequate income probably will probably have overall better quality of life than a "perfectly healthy" baby born to an unwed teen high school dropout on welfare. So, when looking at statistics on child welfare outcomes, consider not just maternal age but also income, education levels of the parents, and two parent vs. one parent households.
Notice that none of those sentences is in the first person. There is no mention of you, your sons, your doctor, etc. There is usually no need to write in the first person when answering an AskMetafilter question.
posted by John Cohen at 9:47 PM on September 17, 2012


I actually wrote a longer comment earlier and deleted it in response to this post. i thought it might be too personal and kind of offensive. Then coming back to this later and reading your response above, I thought "hey, maybe Michele in California should take the same approach". Just imagine that whole comment was deleted (which it was, actually) and then try to paraphrase it again, just getting down the main point.

Hasn't that ever happened to you in the past, where you write a giant email to a friend and it goes missing? Then you have to send a second one but you don't have the same energy or amount of time and you end up saying "so, what I wanted to say was that Jamie won the soccer tournament and I ran out of paper towels" instead of the 5 paragraph longer version that you had originally?

Self-edit. Stick to the point. Answer the question first, as Jfed mentioned, then IF IT MATCHES, add you own experience BRIEFLY. ie "I also had a geriatric pregancy at 36 and it turned out fine!". or actually upon re-reading "I didn't have a geriatric pregnancy at all but I know that health outcomes and financial statuses are correlated so maybe take that into consideration too".
posted by bquarters at 9:47 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


These are not "guesses" (a description used by a mod). These are things I know to be true

Again, I think this is a place where structure is betraying you. You started your post with a bunch of anecdotal stuff about yourself and your son, then you went on to what people on a message board share about their experience of having the same disorder you have been diagnosed with.

Then you go to some specific sociocultural findings, which you don't cite sources for, and only then do you really get to the answer to the question. I have no doubt that there are quite a few studies that have found that parental education, income, and involvement are more important than young parental age in predicting good health outcomes for infants--I'm pretty sure I remember reading some of those studies myself. But you moved from personal experience to the broader picture in a way that wasn't particularly easy (for me, at least, and perhaps for the mods as well) to follow.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:51 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


While rigorous editing might help similar answers avoid deletion in the future, it might be fair to say that your posting history is probably working against you here. I think a lot of people perceive this answer as typical of the answers you provide: long on personal and short on information.

So it's against that background that your answer is considered, I think. Posters who have not made dozens of similar answers in recent months may not have had their answer deleted. But not all, or even the majority, of your answers are like this. So maybe an easy way to keep this in check is to ask yourself whether the answer is more than, say, 1 paragraph, or more than 8 sentences, or more than 150 words or something. If it is, see if it can be shortened.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:02 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, not really my point at all. Let me take another stab at this and then I think I will sleep:


The ability to label, classify, etc. can really scare people, often in a way that misses the big picture. The information age has really exploded our ability to do that. For example, I was diagnosed late in life with a genetic disorder (aka "birth defect"). My oldest son, born in my early twenties, has the same thing. He was also diagnosed relatively late in life. This is a newish diagnosis. In other words, it kind of didn't exist when my mom was having me, or even when I was having kids. Having a diagnosis has been really helpful. But not having one meant I never worried about such things when I was making reproductive decisions. Ignorance was bliss in that regard.

Living with a genetic disorder and getting healthier in recent years has highlighted for me the other side of the equation, one which I think you are kind of overlooking here. There is a strong correlation between adequate income and good health outcomes, even for people with very serious birth defects. There is an even stronger correlation between education level and health outcomes. For example, higher education more strongly correlates to lower rates of smoking than does higher income.

I am not dismissing the risk of health issues inherent in a "geriatric pregnancy". But I am saying that health outcomes are not simply random number generator events. Diet, exercise, parental care, income, education and other things all play a role. I would guess that a child with a moderate birth defect and two well educated, caring parents with adequate income probably will have overall better quality of life than a "perfectly healthy" baby born to an unwed teen high school dropout on welfare.

So, in addition to looking for bleak and discouraging statistics concerning advanced age and birth defects, I would encourage you to also look for statistics on child welfare outcomes by income, education levels of the parents, and two parent vs. one parent households. Generally speaking, children fare better in two parent middle class homes than in other situations. (This cuts both ways: One study indicated there was as much drug abuse and child neglect in upper class neighorhoods as in the ghetto. Middle class families have generally made a long list of choices to put family first, which includes making sure there is adequate income but also includes not valuing career or money over family.)

In short, I would suggest that you take a look at the big picture of your lives as a whole. I would suggest you make sure you adequately weight the education that both prospective parents are currently getting and the income level that is likely to lead to. I suggest you make your peace with not having much control over the genetic lottery, which none of us have at any age, but take comfort in knowing that whatever genes or fate decree for a future child of yours, you and your spouse will be better prepared than most to give a child excellent care and more optimal health outcomes than those predicted by statistics for the general population.

You can't turn back the clock. But children born to younger parents aren't necessarily healthier since those parents tend to also be less educated and poorer. Yes, arm yourself with information about geriatric pregnancies. But, no, don't freak out about it.
posted by Michele in California at 10:04 PM on September 17, 2012


There is usually no need to write in the first person when answering an AskMetafilter question.

I may be different par for the course, but whenever I ask an AskMe, I almost always prefer answers that include some backstory than ones that do not. It helps me know where someone is coming from - whether they have some empathy with the situation or not.

Last year, I posted an anonymous AskMe that got a lot of "tough love." It was really hard for me to hear a lot of the advice, because it seemed like people just doing reactionary "click, type angrily, and move on." But a few of the posters including tough love included their personal perspective, which I found enormously helpful, and it wound up really, really helping me. In fact, those are the answers I would have marked "Best answer" if I had the ability to. Even though I had no intention or ability to chat with those people - those answers were amazing.

There are some AskMes that don't need personalization, but I think the ones that have a lot of emotion behind them can actually benefit from personal answers. Especially things that have some element of "Has anyone ever been through this? I am really scared and freaking out" seem to almost beg that as a component of the answer.

Tightening the relevancy up is a real need, but I'd hate to see the personal edge of AskMes go away entirely.
posted by corb at 10:06 PM on September 17, 2012 [19 favorites]


I have noticed that most of your answers that begin with a story about how you and your son have CF (or any of the many related health issues) tend to veer pretty rapidly off-topic and go quickly into personal diary territory.

Obviously it is something important to you and something that you need to talk about (to process it, to feel more connected and understood, whatever). But I think because it is SO important to you, and so overwhelmingly large a part of your life, you use any even loosely-related topic to enable you to get some of that talking out into the world. I understand. I do. As a SAHM, when I see other adults, I feel like I may explode with ALL THE WORDS I want to say at once to other grown-ups. But when I start to do that, I stop being a good listener or a good conversationalist, because I'm much more focused on the river of words pouring out of me than in actually interacting. It seems to me like you do the same thing: Once your thought processes go to your health and your CF, you don't pay attention to other people in the conversation; you just want to keep talking about your health.

I would suggest that in any answer where you find yourself talking about your health, if the question isn't specifically about CF, it's worth at least asking yourself, "Wait, is all of this personal anecdote necessary to my answer, or am I suffering terminal logorrhea again because I really need to talk to people about my health?"

And my second suggestion is, you probably need a more conversational forum (in person or online) where you can discuss your health issues at length and without the constraints of AskMe questions, so you can talk out all the talking you've got about it, as much as you need to, so that it isn't pushing quite so hard to get itself out at any opportunity.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:08 PM on September 17, 2012 [22 favorites]


It occurs to me that you go through a narrative process to get to your point. It may help you to go through that process in the composition box and then edit out the process, leaving the conclusion you're aiming for to stand. Your example answer stands with only the last two paragraphs of the original post:

I am not dismissing the risk of health issues inherent in a "geriatric pregnancy". But I am saying that health outcomes are not simply random number generator events. Diet, exercise, parental care, income, education and other things all play a role. I would guess that a child with a moderate birth defect and two well educated, caring parents with adequate income probably will have overall better quality of life than a "perfectly healthy" baby born to an unwed teen high school dropout on welfare.

So, in addition to looking for bleak and discouraging statistics concerning advanced age and birth defects, I would encourage you to also look for statistics on child welfare outcomes by income, education levels of the parents, and two parent vs. one parent households. Generally speaking, children fare better in two parent middle class homes than in other situations.


I mean really, isn't that what you want to say? The personal story behind that point of view doesn't actually bring anything to your answer. The only addition that would bring more to this particular table is some cites.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:11 PM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm in the middle ground here. I agree some of your answers can veer too much off the AskMe track. But I'm with corb in that I don't want all the backstory or personalization gone from yours or from others' answers. I think a little of it helps set up or qualify answers.

I also tend to find that multi-paragraph comments (and posts, actually) regardless of personalization require such commitment from the reader that they need to hit a way higher bar than two-paragraph and below comments.

I think your new edit is much clearer.
posted by vegartanipla at 10:57 PM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'd hate to see the personal edge of AskMes go away entirely.

Me, too, for sure. One of the things I love about askme is the glimpses it gives me into the experiences and perspectives of so many people. But yeah, if the usefulness of an answer gets lost in paragraphs of text that people stop reading before they get to the useful (for them) part, then that's no good either.
posted by rtha at 11:04 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Simplify, simplify, simplify. Every one of the paragraphs you wrote in your latest response can be trimmed down to a single succinct sentence. I stopped reading mid-way through because when looking for advice, I don't seek a deeply personal historical account from someone whose point I can't understand right away -- I seek direct, clear answers because those are ultimately the most helpful.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:17 AM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Answers and summaries should go at the beginning of a comment, not the end.

Oftentimes, members will write lengthy comments, providing evidence, anecdote and a lead-up to their eventual point. The information presented, while appropriate for a discursive, conversational style, is not well-suited for text based communication. Instead of a two-way conversation, with attendant facial cues, vocal inflection and body posture to provide feedback, text is a very limited medium.

It is important to remember that AskMe is about 'answering the question.' If your story meanders (as stories do), it can be very hard for people who don't know you to tell if you are actually 'answering the question' or not. Without feedback from the audience, you don't know if they are following your story or not. Thus, I suggest moving the most direct part of the story (the answer) to the front.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:33 AM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Let me take another stab at this and then I think I will sleep:

Note how everyone else who has re-written your answer made it way way shorter. Whereas you have made it even longer. That's not how editing for brevity is supposed to work (and that's really what you need to be doing).

long on personal and short on information.

I agree with MoonOrb that this is a good summary of how you comment. Ask.me answers really need to be the other way around. And, in my opinion at least, often the advice tacked on at the end isn't even very good, making the whole thing really feel like just an excuse for you to talk about yourself.

I have also been told I am in the wrong to reply when a bunch of people call me out by name publically.

I can see how that would be frustrating and people shouldn't be calling you out in the middle of an ask.me post. Definitely going back and forth with other posters isn't allowed over there. Someone rebutting your comment, once, respectfully and with counter-advice or information, however, is allowed as long as it is answering the question. For example, if I saw you giving medical advice I knew was really wrong and had a reference to show that I'd totally post it (note: this is purely hypothetical), but it wouldn't be about you personally but about getting the correct information out there. Then it's up to the poster to decide who's advice to follow. If you had a good reference to back up your side then I guess you could chime in with that too, but only once (and I'd leave it alone) otherwise we'd start taking over the thread (and presumably you'd have used that the first time anyway).

But if it's just people calling you out personally then that's not cool. If that kind of thing does seem to be happening you should probably contact the mods or bring it over here. Calling out other users by name is totally allowed in metatalk, although it can get messy for all involved!
posted by shelleycat at 12:35 AM on September 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Actually I like your long, discursive answer. It's richer in its informational content. It also brings levels of social and interpersonal meaning that are appropriate in this context.

I wouldn't want you to answer a Can-I-Eat-This or a Should-I-Go-To-The-ER-Now-I-Have-Chest-Pains question like that, but for Human Relations questions I'd prefer it to the terse and impersonal rewrites. It's not like those four paragraphs are going to overload Matt's servers.
posted by dontjumplarry at 1:27 AM on September 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


(And by social and interpersonal meaning, what I mean is that Human Relations answers in Ask Me do not purely provide ideational content. They often serve a dual purpose of reassuring, consoling, providing solidarity, instilling confidence, etc).
posted by dontjumplarry at 1:31 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This comment was one that stood out to me of yours. The thread was a strange one anyway - the question, for me, was clearly not just about someone dropping 'I'm cute!!!' into conversations - but your comment went pretty personal. I'm not saying that abuse should stay secret and shameful at all, but that it was a bit of a left-field comment given the rest of the discussion.
posted by mippy at 1:37 AM on September 18, 2012


Tightening the relevancy up is a real need, but I'd hate to see the personal edge of AskMes go away entirely.

Yes, which is why I said: "There is usually no need to write in the first person when answering an AskMetafilter question."
posted by John Cohen at 5:37 AM on September 18, 2012


I might edit your edit down and add in a paragraph (the second here) of my own, summarizing what I see as the point of your story


Yes, arm yourself with information about geriatric pregnancies. But, no, don't freak out about it. None of us at any age have control over the genetic lottery.

But diagnosis of a genetic disorder is not the end of the world; knowing what to deal with is very helpful as there are many resources available to help us out from doctors and medicines to in-person and on-line support groups.

Also take comfort in knowing that whatever genes or fate decree for a future child of yours due to your the education you are getting and the income you expect to receive you and your spouse will be better prepared than most to give a child excellent care and more optimal health outcomes than those predicted by statistics for the general population.



All of this (that you wrote) is from the last two paragraphs of your edit. You started that second to last paragraph with "In short" which to me is an indication that you knew you were getting to the best part, the summary.


And adding a "feel free to memail me for further details" would be entirely reasonable, too.
posted by mountmccabe at 6:08 AM on September 18, 2012


long on personal and short on information.


Sometimes short on personal and specific on information is deleted, too. Sure, fine. One yodel post too many. But seriously, someone bitches about hideakey and the alternative* is deleted?



*Maybe if I had posted a link to Amazon my "I do this" comment wouldn't have been deleted? Ask my sister, she knows full well how I screwed it up in HS and college and just started wearing the damned spare key.
posted by tilde at 6:11 AM on September 18, 2012


Reponding to someone's complaint about something in an aside from the question is getting into friend-of-a-friend distance as far as answering the question goes. A side discussion about not-the-question stands a good chance of getting trimmed, yeah.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:31 AM on September 18, 2012


I actually agree with dontjumplarry that that answer might not have been the most concise, but it answered the question just fine. I'm a bit surprised by all of the people chiming in to edit the comment, or to comment on Michele's posting style, which, while distinctive and perhaps not direct usually is clearly given in the spirit of being helpful (and, were I the OP, I would have found it helpful to have someone say "maternal age/genetic risk isn't everything; people have genetic defects and get on fine so why are you worried about it?")

I agree with those rewrites. When originally reading your comment in the thread, I apparently stopped reading after the first three paragraphs because I couldn't see where you were going.

Honestly, I think that's on you and not on Michele. There are plenty of posters here with long posting styles--jbenben and rory marinich are two. While I understand the impulse to prune out personal information for FACTS, the truth is, personal anecdote can be helpful when we're talking about something like sharing experiences about maternal age at birth. I would hate to see metafilter's attitude toward personal anecdote become any more codified. As an asker, I've found personal anecdote helpful to me in the past.

I'm glad and I hope Michele found this MeTa helpful, but I think it was a bad deletion.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:48 AM on September 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I have also been told I am in the wrong to reply when a bunch of people call me out by name publically.

If someone calls me out by name in AskMe, I flag it and will sometimes email the moderators. AskMe, unlike Metafilter, is not for discussions.
posted by muddgirl at 7:32 AM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is usually no need to write in the first person when answering an AskMetafilter question..

There are entire classes of questions for which the above is not true, and I'd argue it's only sometimes true for all the other classes.
posted by mediareport at 7:52 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are posters on the green who have some long and or overly-anecdotal, posting styles just like OP -- are we supposed to be flagging those too? I guess the OPs answers didn't stand out to me as much as they apparently did to other people.

I do think that there is a subjectively "better" way to ask and answer questions but this thread made me feel a bit uncomfortable.
posted by sm1tten at 8:00 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


(somewhat out of the original context, but I liked the phrase)
One yodel post too many

That, and: some people also seem to misunderstand on the most general level how texts are produced and how they can be refined, often thinking that 'best finished text' is the result of one single effort. In that world, 'revising text' means to just delete what one wrote and to 'try better' in another whole first draft. Eventually, it's any one of a row of first-draft-tries that ends up in the answer box when one presses "post comment".

Text is like clay. Sure, you can just ball it all up again and again, but you can also endlessly improve the basic shape of what you're making, hone its surface, add and subtract content and decorations, put it aside and look at it at a later stage for further refinement, etc., before finally eternalizing it.
posted by Namlit at 8:00 AM on September 18, 2012


Your new comment is great, really helpful and thoughtful. Thanks for spending the time to work on it, Michele.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:01 AM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I liked both your revised answer here and the new one in the askme thread. Nice work.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:02 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a utility called Summarize built into OS X that I use sometimes when I notice I'm wittering on. I think Word has a similar feature.

Here's what it made of your revised answer, with the summary size set to one sentence:
I suggest you make your peace with not having much control over the genetic lottery, which none of us have at any age, but take comfort in knowing that whatever genes or fate decree for a future child of yours, you and your spouse will be better prepared than most to give a child excellent care and more optimal health outcomes than those predicted by statistics for the general population.
Which is precisely what you were trying to say, as far as I can tell.

Obviously I'm not suggesting you have your computer precis all your comments, but it might help to see a radically cut-down version when you suspect you might be drifting off the point, and can serve as a jumping off point for a different, more focussed take on your original comment.
posted by jack_mo at 8:07 AM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


As indicated above, I rewrote. http://ask.metafilter.com/224723/Risks-of-Forming-Babby#3250948

Thank you for all the feedback. I might come back to this thread later to address some of the general suggestions aimed at me. However, I have had about four hours of sleep and I am also "at work" at the moment -- not a paid job, not quite relevant to the discussion -- suffice it to say I am not in a good head space for having this discussion right this minute.

Later.
posted by Michele in California at 8:08 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are posters on the green who have some long and or overly-anecdotal, posting styles just like OP -- are we supposed to be flagging those too? I guess the OPs answers didn't stand out to me as much as they apparently did to other people.

Well, I think long and overly-anecdotal answers that are directly relevant are more helpfyl than long and over-anecdotal answers that aren't relevant at all. For example, in a thread asking about risks of pregnancy for older women, a long and overly-anecdotal comment about an older couple having a baby seems more like an approrpriate answer than a long and over-anecdotal comment about, say, being a carrier for BRCA1 and deciding whether or not to have kids. The latter might be even more relevant than the former, but the relevancy isn't immediately clear.

I like Michele in California's rewrite because she starts with her answer, and ends with her supporting evidence, rather than the reverse.
posted by muddgirl at 8:28 AM on September 18, 2012


Michele, one thing that has helped me to have positive interactions with strangers is to remember that 90% of them totally don't give a crap about me unless there is some benefit to them. So if I share personal information about myself, it's not like some deep bonding experience, it's just me boring them (with the amount of their boredom in direct proportion to the length of the story I tell). So unless somebody asks me about my personal life, I tend not to talk about it unless it very directly relates to the issue at hand.

...You DO see how this directly relates to the issue at hand, right?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:10 AM on September 18, 2012


I like Michele in California's rewrite because she starts with her answer, and ends with her supporting evidence, rather than the reverse.

I still think it's weird to dictate other posters posting styles to that degree. Michele's original answer addressed the question and was within the guidelines. Maybe this is about a broader pattern of behavior, but I find peoples' continued insistence on whittling down a comment that, coming from any other poster, would have probably been fine, to be kind of . . . crappy. Likewise pronouncements about the usefulness of anecdote or first person in ask metafilter generally, which would render many many perfectly good comments null and void here.

I do think that there is a subjectively "better" way to ask and answer questions but this thread made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

Agreed. It feels paternalistic.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:12 AM on September 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


Your Ask.Me answers page is sort of instructive on this point, because it provides a snippet of the first paragraph of your answers. Go through that page and look at how many of those snippets are all about you and not at all about the original poster. You tend to lead with yourself -- with your migraines, your sons, your life in Germany and Georgia, etc, etc.

Ever since the recent unpleasantness with one of our former longtime community members, I have always been on guard for people who are a little bit too "sharey" about details of their personal lives, because now I suspect they are trying to construct an online persona by filling in a lot of personal details over time that the rest of the community starts to participate in.

So that style makes it more about the commenter rather than the asker, which also distracts from the question as well as seems very suspicious.
posted by deanc at 10:13 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still think it's weird to dictate other posters posting styles to that degree.

She came here asking for "community feedback." This feedback is being provided. No one is "dictating" her posting style.

There are other posters who post in unusual ways that I'm not fond of, but they haven't asked for feedback so I haven't provided it.
posted by grouse at 10:18 AM on September 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I still think it's weird to dictate other posters posting styles to that degree.

I wasn't dictating anything. I'm not a moderator. I was expressing the ways that I, someone who both asks and answers questions in AskMe, perceives answers.
posted by muddgirl at 10:21 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ever since the recent unpleasantness with one of our former longtime community members, I have always been on guard for people who are a little bit too "sharey" about details of their personal lives, because now I suspect they are trying to construct an online persona by filling in a lot of personal details over time that the rest of the community starts to participate in.

So that style makes it more about the commenter rather than the asker, which also distracts from the question as well as seems very suspicious.


Hi, I invited Michele to Metafilter and that is not the situation here.
posted by michaelh at 10:32 AM on September 18, 2012


I think anecdotes are fine as long as it's clear why they are relevant.

The first three paragraphs of MiC's original answer did not seem relevant (they talk about: having a child at a young age, and about having a genetic disorder that is not related to maternal age, and about how poverty makes life harder for people with that genetic disorder, and about how educated people she knows online also have genetic disorders). They seemed like general thoughts about her own situation as it vaguely connected to the question. That is not a useful kind of anecdote for AskMe.

As it turns out, in the final paragraphs, the point becomes clear, which is great. I agree that strictly speaking this means the answer could remain.

But I also think the feedback here is good - try to state your point up front, because the relevance of your anecdotes may not be clear to readers.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:34 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am still not in a good headspace for addressing most of this. I just want to pop in real briefly to back grouse. I am a big girl. I asked for feedback. People have been generally kind and respectful about it.

At some point, I will try to speak for myself to some of the points made here. However, it is likely to be at least two or three hours more before I am in a position to do so effectively. Long experience tells me putting out the fire with gasoline does not get me what I want. When I can exchange my emotional gas can for a bottle of water, I'll be back. (Which is to say after a shower and change of clothes -- it's a health related thing. I don't do well when exposed to chemicals and germs and crowds.)

Thanks for playing.
posted by Michele in California at 10:34 AM on September 18, 2012


And incidentally, I find her point - there are lots of factors in play, and if you are well-educated and have a good income, you'll be giving your kids a benefit that offsets older maternal age, so don't freak out by focusing too much on the one factor that's against you - is an excellent one and very useful.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:36 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


And wow, having read your re-write in the thread, MiC, that is a terrific answer.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:43 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying you're not a big girl, Michele, or that you can't handle criticism. But I think your instinct alluded to in your original MeTa--that the answer you gave is essentially the same as many, many answers which fall within the posting guidelines and don't get deleted from other users--is correct. I also disagree with the general thrust here that certain composition styles be favored or are "better" because people couldn't be bothered to read to the end of your comment to see how it was relevant. I think it's great that you're trying to improve stylistically, but I also don't think it should have been necessary in the case of this comment and I find something just . . . wonky here with comments like wolfdreams01, both in tenor and content. Generally speaking, "90% of them totally don't give a crap about [personal experiences]" is not something I've found true here on metafilter. It definitely isn't true for me when I've been an asker and a reader.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:45 AM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


(Which is to say after a shower and change of clothes -- it's a health related thing. I don't do well when exposed to chemicals and germs and crowds.)

I honestly can't tell if this is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek or not, since I feel like it's exactly the sort of thing people take issue with in your participation here.
posted by phunniemee at 10:45 AM on September 18, 2012 [29 favorites]


Hi, I invited Michele to Metafilter and that is not the situation here.

I wasn't saying that I thought that was the situation-- just that such a writing style, especially over time, starts to raise red flags.

I also think that most answers of any style are always tolerated and rarely flagged as long as they're vaguely on topic. What can happen is that someone develops a persistent style that in a few isolated comments might be tolerated but as an overall "persona" gets the reaction of, "If every single thread is going to contain an answer from you in this style, you're going to have to get your act together."
posted by deanc at 10:58 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


"If every single thread is going to contain an answer from you in this style, you're going to have to get your act together."

That's sort of how we felt. We know that MiC is a good faith participant here and was looking for ways to understand why some of her comments seemed to be rubbing people the wrong way. I could only speak for my own (and possibly the other mods') feelings, and didn't really know exactly what issues other people had. Which made MeTa the perfect place to have this conversation and I appreciate that almost everyone took this question in the spirit it was intended.

While there's no right way to ask or answer a question, there are definitely wrong ways to get your point across as an asker or an answerer and understanding people's viewpoints and what does and doesn't work for them is part of being effective. On most of the site we ask people to give others the benefit of the doubt if they're having trouble parsing a single comment or exchange. In AskMe we are a little more rigid, not only to comments need to be answering the question, they need to be obviously answering the question and not trolling, fight starting, flaming the asker or other commenters, lulzing about or any number of other "please don't do this" things.

The burden actually is on the commenter to make it clear that they're not doing these things, not the entire population to always give a charitable reading. We have a few commeters whose style overpowers their content (I don't see MiC as one of them but maybe others do) and it's a low level problem. Not a huge one but a small one. Since we feel that the manner in which people convey information in this text-based environment is almost entirely under their control, having a discussion about this sort of thing seems appropriate.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:21 AM on September 18, 2012


> I find peoples' continued insistence on whittling down a comment that, coming from any other poster, would have probably been fine, to be kind of . . . crappy.

This is not true. I would have flagged that answer no matter who posted it; it was a crappy answer. And your own insistence on defending Michele against a discussion that she asked for feels paternalistic.
posted by languagehat at 12:03 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Maybe read more and answer less in AskMe, even when you have answers, until you have a better sense of how it is unique.

Is this really helping AskMe be a more helpful place -- encouraging people to sit on their answers until their posting style satisfies all the forever-irritables in MeTa?* Hey, MiC, if you have an answer to a question I ask, please, out with it.

* I am a forever-irritable.
posted by palliser at 12:17 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


In general, I think encouraging people to sit on their answers no matter what does make AskMe a more helpful place. The only time I would disagree with this statement would be time-sensitive questions, which is a very small percentage of them.

By "sit on their answers" I mean both refraining from answering a question, and revising an answer in the comment box until it is as good as possible.
posted by muddgirl at 12:23 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this really helping AskMe be a more helpful place

Not on balance if everyone did it, no. But MiC seems genuinely confused about why her answers are sometimes received differently than other answers she sees as similar. My feeling is there's actually a difference, because I see one. Others may feel differently. Nevertheless, she self-reports being deleted a lot and wanting to fix that. As a fairly prolific answerer, reading more and answering less was just a suggestion for how to arrive at greater understanding. And being today-irritable, I'll note that she asked for feedback. I wouldn't have made the suggestion otherwise.
posted by donnagirl at 12:25 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, I really am today-irritable. Sorry that sounds so crabby.
posted by donnagirl at 12:36 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am sorry to say it, Michele, but your most recent comment makes me feel like you reference your health conditions as both a crutch and as a way to passive aggressively invite guilt and concern in the people who read what you say. That is what makes me most uncomfortable with some of your responses -- we don't need to know that about you. You could just say, "I am not in a space to respond appropriately but appreciate everyone's input." We do not need to know minute details about why.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:57 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


And being today-irritable, I'll note that she asked for feedback. I wouldn't have made the suggestion otherwise.

What makes me feel like there's something off about this MeTa is that she continued to get editing advice and critique of her comment even after she made a much-improved comment synthesizing the advice she got. I really suspect that a lot of this has more to do with, say, These Birds of a Feather's latest comment--the belief that she's trying to "passive aggressively invite guilt and concern." And, I dunno, that seems very bad faith on the part of the community when even the mods say they believe Michele herself is a good faith participant.

Generally, though, I think the community here is really much more okay with personal anecdote and first-person answers than anything in this MeTa would have you believe.

And your own insistence on defending Michele against a discussion that she asked for feels paternalistic.

No skin off my teeth if you think that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:07 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


My personal understanding is that AskMe is much more utility-focused than the blue and the gray, which frankly dictates a different style for people who aren't utility focused. The stated goal of AskMe is to provide helpful answers, and while anecdotes often might be helpful, they can also be distracting or even completely unnecessary.

This isn't about dictating style, but it is about people becoming more conscious of how we present ourselves in a skillful manner. That can be a difficult skill to master, especially for people who don't consume thesauri for breakfast, but ultimately it's valuable to be able to percieve a location accurately and then present yourself accurately for the location.

I think one thing people often don't understand on MetaFilter is that each of the different pages has a different culture. The Blue is all about sharing and being engaged with something, which encourages personal anecdotes and strong emotions; the most popular anecdotes often end up on the sidebar for everyone to enjoy. The Green is all about fixing problems, and so puts an emphasis on brevity, clarity, and parsimony with personal anecdotes - the anecdotes exist in service to the answer, not vice versa. The Gray is all about correction and clarification, which is why people tend to be snarkier and nastier; it calls into question peoples' basic assumptions, and that rarely goes over well.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:12 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think Michele does this on purpose. I do, however, believe that there is a causal link between the length of some of her responses and a possibly subconscious desire to have her own predicament come to the forefront over others'. This aside...

(Which is to say after a shower and change of clothes -- it's a health related thing. I don't do well when exposed to chemicals and germs and crowds.)

Is categorically not a necessary thing to include. It benefits no one except Michele.

That is the crux of the matter -- responses to AskMe posts are not an opportunity for a Mefite to turn the spotlight from the asker to themselves. The focus of many of Michele's comments is decidedly on Michele and Michele's circumstances, not the original asker as it probably should be.

This is not an issue of style; this is an issue of functionality. Her approach to AskMe answers is not always aligned with AskMe's function, though it is clear she is making a good faith effort. I respect her for that.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 2:00 PM on September 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


The pattern of problems I am having on MetaFilter is not new for me. It is about a decade old. I am pretty tired of it and contrary to popular opinion, it doesn't occur because I "want to cause trouble" of one sort or another. I also wouldn't say it is accurate to claim I am confused as to why people receive me differently from others. It would be more accurate to say that publically expressing my best understanding as to why only deepens the problem. For now, my best understanding is as good as that piece of it gets. Taking feedback on the why part and trying to act on it has historically made things worse.

I have spent more than a decade developing an assortment of lesser evil solutions to the situation. A lot of those solutions have been A-B tested. Some of them are also informed by "best practices" of various forums I have participated in and sometimes by other things, like my knowledge of the law and professional training. My tendency to pull out first person health anecdotes is the least evil answer I have for some things. That is not to defend it. It is only intended to explain it. Talking about my own health is both more socially acceptable and legally defensible than other options. Talking about other people and their health gets far worse reactions from people and is potentially a violation of US federal privacy laws.

I already do a lot of the things suggested, such as edit, edit, edit, email, memail, just don't post it, etc. Those actions are largely invisible to the community, so I know why they were suggested, but I think I am pretty good about those things. This discussion has been helpful in trying to work out the "how to do it better" part. I appreciate everyone's participation.

At this point, I really need to go run an errand and I don't see anything constructive coming from trying to address some of the less pleasant comments about me personally.

Cheers.
posted by Michele in California at 2:06 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If a problem has persisted for a decade, it does not confuse one, and taking feedback only makes things worse, then I am forced to wonder why this MetaTalk was made. It seems contra-indicated to a decade of practice and understanding.

In addition, to give a personal anecdote, reading things like "Taking feedback on the why part and trying to act on it has historically made things worse" makes me feel distinctly like I've wasted my time, as well as leaving the vague taste of "passive aggressive" in my mouth.

If feedback doesn't help, don't fsking solicit feedback.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:20 AM on September 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Michele in California: "The pattern of problems I am having on MetaFilter is not new for me... I am... I also... I have spent... forums I have participated in... like my knowledge... My tendency... my own health... I already do... I think I am pretty good about... I really need to go run an errand..."

You honestly don't see a pattern here? Christ, you even feel that telling us you have to go run an errand is something we need to know.

I have no ill will toward you, but, IMHO, you've got to realize that your specific circumstances are not always as important to your audiences as they obviously are to you.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 3:17 AM on September 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't see anybody in this thread claiming that you are trying to "cause trouble," and yet that sounds like something you are reacting to in your latest comment. With respect, I wonder if you are carrying something over from other sites?

As I understand it, you started this thread to ask how your posting style may be causing problems for you on particular section of one particular site, and people have answered by pointing out practices that may be causing some deletions on that site. This doesn't have anything to do with how you post elsewhere, or what approaches work on other sites. I'm sure you realize that most of us have also been on plenty of sites over the past 10+ years, so we do understand that some of the things that don't work here are fine on other sites. If you want to avoid comment deletions in AskMe, your goal should be to devise solutions that work for AskMe.

Even if you have been accused of trying to cause trouble elsewhere, that's really not what's going on here. Here, since you asked, (some) people are telling you that (some of) your answers focus on you to the extent that the point you're making can get lost. People are suggesting approaches you could take to address this issue - again, since you asked. It's great that you found this discussion helpful, but I do hope your takeaway is more than "people on Metafilter think I'm here to cause trouble," as that would probably be missing the point. I hope you don't lose sight of the actual suggestions people are making; for instance, your latest post seems to set up a false dichotomy between talking about your health problems or other people's health problems - when one of the things being said here is that sometimes it would be best to do neither.

I hope that you do take the advice here as being given in the spirit of trying to help. If people really thought you were just trying to cause trouble, I doubt you would have gotten the input you have gotten here.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:31 AM on September 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Just one (hopefully last) clarification:

I asked for feedback here to determine how to do something more effectively, not to ask why things were happening. Those are different questions. I got good feedback on how to improve my posts and on how other people perceive them. I appreciate it. That part is very valuable. I really don't appreciate or think it is appropriate that more recent comments have veered into a more personal space that sounds very accusatory and suggests motive or personal defect on my part.

Thank you.
posted by Michele in California at 7:53 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I admire you for asking this question in the first place. However, I would encourage you to consider that the WHY behind the issue is crucial to becoming a more effective do-er of something (the HOW). We're not accusing you of trying to cause trouble. We are pointing out that there appears to be a consistent trend among your comments that showcases a type of behavior you do not appear to be aware of -- and if you are aware of it, you are dismissing it as something you've known about and cannot, or will not, fix. If you weren't aware of it, now you are, and fixing it is up to you. If you are aware of it but feel it is not something you can or should fix, then you're not understanding the majority of the responses you've received thus far from this inquiry and accusing us of malfeasance is not fair to those of us who have taken sincere time and effort to try and break down exactly what we feel will make your valuable input that much more accessible.

FWIW, your advice in the art question about healing was spot-on and wonderfully to-the-point.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:30 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hi These Birds of a Feather:

I spend a lot of time wrestling with the why. I just don't find it helpful to open that part up in public. Let's call that an issue of oversharing that simply does not work. More private conversations of that piece of it are sometimes helpful. (Ironic that after all the accusations of oversharing this choice to exercise discretion is getting such negative reviews.)

At the risk of getting some really bad reactions, let's just say it is kind of like I have three tits and, try though I might, I simply can't wear normal bras, and going around braless causes a shitstorm of controversy. Inability to readily resolve an issue is not evidence of lack of trying, acting in bad faith or similar.

It appears to me that the productive discussion of how to post better has run its course and the focus has changed to something that is likely to cause problems, not solve them. So my hope is to find a way to end the discussion and not go there.

Thank you.
posted by Michele in California at 8:47 AM on September 19, 2012


> I really don't appreciate or think it is appropriate that more recent comments have veered into a more personal space that sounds very accusatory and suggests motive or personal defect on my part.

For what little it's worth (I'm mostly a lurker), I tend to agree with you here. The notion upthread that your sharing personal details will make readers suspicious of your motives or if you're trying to put one over on the community is, to be blunt, bizarre to me (yes, despite the whole holdkris99 fiasco...partly because that really has nothing to do with anyone but holdkris99 and partly because it just seems like a bizarre way to live). It may be irritating to some, but it hardly is a sign of malice or deceit or whatever on your part. A bunch of people have noted you took the feedback you got and rolled out an improved comment that indicates you really took what people said to heart. So, cool. Piling on after the fact to just sort of vent about things people find annoying about your posting history is kind of gross, but also not that surprising given we're in MeTaland, alas.
posted by ifjuly at 8:48 AM on September 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Look at it this way, there's about 100 comments here, each of which took maybe 20 minutes to make, and the whole thread takes another twenty minutes to read, which perhaps 500 people did, and considered whether they had anything helpful to say. Adding that up, that's 200 hours of people's time that's been spent trying to help you understand how to fit in.

That's an awful lot of other people's attention you're using, say maybe $10,000 worth of therapy. Each time you write a comment about yourself which isn't really relevant, you've disappointed the 100 or so readers who did want to know how people feel with the problem in the AskMe and taken 5 minutes of their time to do so.

And it is a pretty high cognitive load it puts on people, to imagine this character who you're reading about who has all these issues you describe, and match them to the problem at hand, and then realise, oh hey, it's Michele in California's comment, I already know her life story, let's see what she's got to say about the point.

I have to say, when you do manage to get to the point where you can extract the relevant part of an anecdote and apply your experience succinctly to the problem at hand, then you'll have abnormally large amounts of insight which will counterbalance the hugely unusual and difficult life you've had.

So remember, AskMe is for the abstract essence of a problem, your blog is for the anecdotes, and Twitter is for the "just going to have a shower before doing my errands".

But despite the frustration which you've sensed the community experiences with you, there's a huge amount of sympathy for you both in the content of the posts here, and the mere fact that so much has been written.

You do, I feel, have to meet that challenge and restrain yourself slightly, remember how valuable the time of everyone reading your comments is, and just make sure you're using AskMe as a place to make you feel useful by helping other people, not as a place to talk about yourself.
posted by ambrosen at 3:05 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And with that, let me thank everyone for the $10,000 in therapy and gift of their time, insight and expertise. I would gush more about how very much this has meant to me except my experience has been that kind of expressiveness on my part is a cornerstone of the problem (think "trainwrecks break out"). I have been incredibly excited to participate in this discussion. I think it would be difficult to exaggerate just how much I appreciate it.

Happy posting.
posted by Michele in California at 4:57 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read this yesterday and have popped back today to comment. I'm a newbie here, and it's people being so open and personal and posting about their life experience that drew me into Metafilter in the first place. I usually notice and enjoy Michele in California's posts for that very reason.

It's easy enough to skip reading answers that for one reason or another strike one as....wrong-headed in some way. Such is the variety of viewpoints here that some people's opinions just are going to jar with other posters. What jars with me at the moment is the reproving tone in many of the answers above - frankly, it looks like a pile-on to me. Tall poppy syndrome.

I'm often asked to proof-read and edit texts for friends. To me this is a matter of discussing and suggesting and teasing out the meaning if unclear. I would never dream of wading in with a total re-write. Do you know, even if the original work was a child's.
posted by glasseyes at 7:24 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eh, a couple of other people memailed me to kiss my owies. For the record, I am not feeling beat up and I don't see a pile on. I am feeling more like "happy unbirthday to me - All Week!"

I am also feeling like it is time to get out the broom and sweep up the glitter, confetti and empty beer bottles and call it a night.

Thanks for playing.
posted by Michele in California at 10:29 AM on September 20, 2012


I cannot tell if you're being sincere or sarcastic, but if it's the latter, you should really ask the mods to close up this thread because it's kind of galling to see snide remarks to everyone that is politely and earnestly weighing in on your question.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 2:46 PM on September 20, 2012


Although it might be well-meaning, there's a lot of stuff going on in these most recent 20 or so comments that isn't really helpful or useful for the site at large and a lot of it reads as condescension and/or nitpicking. Maybe it's time for everyone to move on.

Good luck with everything, Michele.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:14 PM on September 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I recently deleted a long answer I was going to make. The OP had asked something like "how can get over feelings of X that are happening Y years after situation Z," and I thought, "hm, I also remember feeling [Big Thing] Y years after a situation similar to Z... maybe the timing is sort of important here because blahblahblah."

So I wrote a whole bunch of stuff about my old situation and the timing and what it meant for me, and how it turned out... and then I was, like, "huh. Well that just sounds like a big ol' story about me, for no discernible reason." So then I prepended the long comment with something like "Perhaps the timing here is an important factor, blahblah." And then I thought, "well, I should be able to explain blahblah well enough that I don't really need to tack on five more paragraphs about my own experience." So I delete all that stuff, and try to make blahblah much more cogent. I read it again, and it's sort of still not saying much: "Okay? So the timing is a sort of important factor.... and???" It was actually kinda better with the long anecdote because it gave an example of the timing, and what happened as a result. But it was still a long personal story that didn't seem to necessarily address the OP's problem except by saying, "perhaps is totally natural to feel like X after Y years, because it can be a critical point on the overall timeline and a signal of change." But the OP asked how to get over feeling X, and I wasn't really answering that.

I decided to sleep on it. The next day I looked at my answer, and my deleted sections in a open text file, and just felt pretty much exhausted by the whole thing. I closed the tab with the question, and deleted the text file.

So, that's my way too long ME ME story to say that sometimes answering questions is just hard. Very few of us are good at it all the time. Most of us will hit a few out of the park with a great answer, perfectly formed, sometimes. Most of us will occasionally find ourselves rambling on about something without quite being able to tie it up tidily to the poster's stated problem. Most of us will sometimes misunderstand what the problem is, or be too emotionally reactive to offer an objective solution. And everybody has their own answering foibles. You're doing great if you're answering in good faith, you're genuinely trying to help the poster, and you do your best to recognize and avoid habits that seem to be problematic (ie: man, I'm sure grouchy/unclear/confused if I answer when I'm tired/hungry/uncaffeinated or, wow, I seem to get angry over every question about [Thing]).

People can always contact us to ask why something was deleted if that seems to be a problem, and if you think someone consistently gives good, elegant, on-target answers you can try to analyze how they do that and apply those observations. All of Mefi is a learning chain that way, and we all have something to learn.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:41 AM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Anecdotal advice should not be dismissed for failing to use the inverted pyramid style. AskMe should be a resource for writers, readers, askers, and answerers with differing communication styles. The overall thrust of this thread would seem to indicate a much narrower reading of what is allowed or valuable than I would prefer. Since derails and off-topic exchanges are watched closely, I see no drawback to allowing more discursive and contextually rich answers. At most, it's a few extra paragraphs that certain kinds of readers will skip over.

Crucially, certain other kinds of readers will feel empathy and gain valuable understanding from those answers.

MiC's repost is a better response in almost every way, in my subjective opinion. I hope that she is able to synthesize the comments here into permanent, productive improvements to her posting style. However, I strongly disagree with what I feel is the most prominent perspective on display, including the perspectives shared by the mods.
posted by jsturgill at 8:54 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


jsturgill: I wouldn't read too much into the points made here in terms of general expectation. The dominant perspective given here is very probably not really a general perspective. It is about how to help one specific person find a better balance. Naturally, that inevitably means the remarks here will sound biased against X because they are an attemot to counterbalance X, not because most people think X is inherently a bad thing for anyone and everyone all the time.

Bill Gates has said that your unhappiest customers are your greatest source of learning. Of course, it is nice to hear that some people like my posts and see nothing wrong with them. But insofar as they get flagged and deleted at times in spite of good faith effort, clearly there is a bit of a problem (though not huge and not with all my posts). Hearing respectful feedback from people who aren't fans of that style is incredibly useful and something very rare. Usually, people who aren't fans won't give useful feedback about how to improve, though they might give you an earful about how very unhappy they are (and it often includes a diatribe about your moral defects, yadda, rather than being about your communication style). People who are more like me are less likely to be able to help me refine my approach.

It is really hard to offer public critique. It involves sticking your neck out. If the person you tried to help doesn't promptly vilify you for answering their direct question, someone else probably will. I am not kidding about being tickled pink by how well this discussion has gone.

I don't mind if this turns into a more general discussion of good posting practices. I just would prefer that the discussion upthread about why my style rubs some people the wrong way not get misinterpretted as suggesting that the dominant view on MetaFilter is that anecdotes are A Bad Thing. I really have no reason to believe that to be true.
posted by Michele in California at 10:02 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not kidding about being tickled pink by how well this discussion has gone.

I am really glad, and you should know that stuff like "thanks for playing" conveys pretty much the opposite.
posted by liketitanic at 10:13 AM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, that's genuinely news to me. It was sincere. I generally do not employ sarcasm in online forums. I don't think it works well generally and it seems to work even less well for me as an individual.
posted by Michele in California at 10:18 AM on September 21, 2012


For what it's worth, I agree with liketitanic that the specific phrase "Thanks for playing" usually has a sarcastic and dismissive connotation. (Like a game show host telling a player their answer is incorrect - "No, I'm sorry, it's not Bismark. Thanks for playing.")

I could tell that was not how you intended it in context, but I agree that that phrase is one to avoid if you really mean "Thanks for the discussion" or similar.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:16 PM on September 23, 2012


I am not a big tv watcher. After my ex moved out I had two periods (including now) where I didn't own a tv at all. Perhaps that's the cultural disconnect. Thank you for expounding.
posted by Michele in California at 9:11 PM on September 23, 2012


I didn't participate in this thread when it was posted because I wasn't familiar with your username. And honestly, I didn't store your username away for future reference, either. But tonight I saw a comment posted in this AskMe that reminded me of this thread, and when I checked, sure enough it was posted by the same person (you). It was weird and rambly and seemed to only tangentially address the question in its first paragraph before veering off into unrelated oversharing. It has since been deleted.

No offense intended, seriously. As far as I'm concerned, to the extent there is an issue here, it's between you and the moderators. But because you did post this thread soliciting feedback, I thought it would be appropriate and maybe helpful to let you know: That comment definitely seemed flagworthy on its own merits, and having spotted it "in the wild" (so to speak) this MetaTalk thread now makes more sense to me.
posted by cribcage at 7:36 PM on October 3, 2012


Thanks. I am aware it got immediately deleted. Perhaps you can try to explain why it struck you as flagworthy? (I am debating whether or not to try again.)
posted by Michele in California at 8:07 PM on October 3, 2012


Like I said, I did see some relation to the OP's question in your first paragraph. But from there, the comment seemed to veer away from the topic by one anecdotal sentence after another, like a chain.

Maybe another way to describe it is runaway tangents. It's not that they aren't related to one another, somehow. They are. They just aren't all related to the topic. And when their numbers build, and you end up with four different tangents and three aren't really responsive to the OP's question, then the comment looks like...well, I really don't want to speculate about your motivations because I firmly believe that you wouldn't have posted this MetaTalk if you didn't have the best intentions. I respect that a lot. It just ends up looking like a comment that doesn't belong in the thread, is all.

I hope that's helpful as a clarification. Apologies if not. For what it's worth, as far as debating whether to jump back into that thread...? That thread is a good example of one where I feel like I probably do have something useful to say to the OP, but I don't think my comment would be more insightful or more articulate than what others have already posted. So I'm choosing not to post in it. I make that decision in a lot of AskMe threads.

Just my two-cent perspective. Good luck.
posted by cribcage at 8:48 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you for replying.
posted by Michele in California at 9:46 PM on October 3, 2012


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