Helping Newbies July 26, 2002 9:29 AM   Subscribe

As we have seen the buzz, new members will be coming in the future. Sprinkled in a few MeTa threads have been ideas, such as a FAQs and mentoring, to help new members learn the ropes and Mefi history. I have an idea to primarily help new members, but it could eventually benefit everyone.
[idea inside]

posted by sailormouth to Feature Requests at 9:29 AM (39 comments total)

Please shot holes in this idea, but if you can, offer some improvements too. Now based on its usefulness, and how much work it might require Matt to due, how about a place for question submission by new members?
Rough idea: On the same page as a, Matt approved, FAQs is a question submission box. When a member is logged in the box is above the FAQs with an explanation/guideline blurb about its purpose/function/use. The question submission process could be loosely based on how Google Answers works.
Finer points: If this makes sense, the box is restricted to new members based on their userID. Matt could decide members with a number above xxxxx have been around for a relatively short amount of time, and therefore may need extra assistance with the ropes. Members below the chosen number have been around long enough that they should have a handle on things, and if they have a question they can probably find it on their own in the FAQs or bring it to MeTa. As time passes Matt can increase the number to induce self-reliance.
Similar to Google Answers there could be a group of members, decided upon by Matt, who field the questions. Matt could ask for volunteers and contact members who he feels are knowledgeable about Mefi guidelines and history, and who would be good representatives of Mefi. That is the mentor angle, experienced members helping the new members. For volunteer members Matt could make up some test questions to check knowledge and ability to locate answers/examples.
The questions would be posted to a place that only the Answer Givers would have access to. They decide how to divide the workload, and assist one another if needed. As with Google Answers any unclear answers could be resubmitted to be answered by another Answer Giver.
Answers would not be yes/no nor overly long. Answers would be brief and succinct answers, and whenever possible they would be supported by linked examples in MeFi and/or MeTa Archives. A simple static FAQs could possibly morph into a searchable/browsable categorized FAQs/learn by example section, accessible by anyone. Any repeat questions asked by another member would be pointed to the original answer.
Unlike Google Answers no other comments would be allowed for the answers to questions. Plus no names would be associated with the questions or answers. Matt wants to work e-mail verification into new memberships, so utilize that for e-mail notification when there is an answer to their question and link to the answer.
MeTa is great for collaborative answer searching, but it seems answers are not definitive until Matt answers or someone links to the answer, mentioned at some prior time.
Matt's answers are golden. The Answer Giver answers would carry Matt's approval. Answer Givers would only be accountable to Matt. The e-mail notification would come from the Answer Giver entity. On the backend Matt could keep track of who had answered which questions. Anonymity of the Answer Giver entity would shield those members from possibly being viewed as Matt's favorites or buddy crew.
If this idea is feasible and executed well, it would supply useful, helpful, and "correct" answers without weighing down Matt with more work. I know Matt said “I've considered this several times, but know very few people that could 1) do the job well, and more importantly 2) care enough to spend time on it.” , in regard to members assisting him with Mefi work. But with sign ups having been stalled for a while and new sign ups being metered perhaps this all could be done beta to see how much backend setup, coordination, and resources might be used.
Is this idea just pandering to new members and making more work than is necessary, or is culling through, locating, and pointing to the answers that are mostly already out there in the 3 years of archives beneficial enough, in the long run, to the Mefi Community to justify such a section and system?

posted by sailormouth at 9:30 AM on July 26, 2002

Why do I see visions of Yoda and Samuel L. Jackson discussing the Jedi training curriculum.

Sailor, I'm not sure that all this is in any way necessary. I thought it was clear from the last few threads that for the time being, new members were going to have either communicated with Matt beforehand, or found their way in through some sort of backdoor (the very act of which requires lurking long enough to know there is a backdoor, and then find it.)

I doubt that trolls or goof ofs or any unsavory character will make up more than a tiny fraction of new memberships.. How about self-policing, like we are supposed to be doing?
posted by PrinceValium at 9:36 AM on July 26, 2002

I vote instead for continuing the tried-and-ture technique of ruthlessly group-slapping anyone who does something stupid, whether they are a freshly-minted rookie, a grizzled veteran, or a low-number lurker. Its worked so far.
posted by yhbc at 9:40 AM on July 26, 2002

Hi sailormouth.

Thanks a lot for the well-reasoned and -articulated idea! I think if Matt is interested in creating an FAQ page (which he's shown some resistance to), a community-maintained question/answer section would be a really great addition. At the same time, though, we do have MetaTalk, which is a fine place for questions, and there is that whole self-policing thing (more aggressively put forward by my predecessors). On the whole, then, I guess an idea such as yours isn't entirely necessary... but if Matt wants to try to reduce headaches, improve the quality of posts, and reduce the query emails he receives, it would probably help.

PrinceValium: Matt's said that he will, in the near future, re-enable signups. We'll be getting 20 new users, or so, each day. That's what sailormouth is referring to.
posted by Marquis at 9:45 AM on July 26, 2002

This definitely is not an idea without merit, though. Could we just have volunteers, and a list somewhere of who they are, who people could e-mail to ask little questions like this? That way if someone's been out of town, they're new, or if you just have a brain fart and can't remember something, you don't have to start a new thread and violate this:

It is set to five, to hopefully limit the number of new posts to MetaTalk, to slow down the posting. I want people to think twice before they push another thread off the page.

A lot less work for matt, and a lot less-formalized structure, but not any less effective, i think.

posted by Ufez Jones at 9:53 AM on July 26, 2002

All members with a user number higher than (insert one's own user number here) have always struck me as kinda lame

posted by matteo at 9:57 AM on July 26, 2002

Everyone's worrying way too much about this. I haven't seen any evidence that new members are this big of a problem. Not that I've been around long myself, or anything...

Anyway, anyone who desperately wants in has probably been lurking long enough to know what goes and what doesn't around here.
posted by interrobang at 9:58 AM on July 26, 2002

Addendum: We could have people grouped into different categories for the e-mail help list to, like Tech, Policy, Rules and Regs, etc.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:58 AM on July 26, 2002

Seriously Sailor, it's a good idea and I thank you for your commitment. But it is a little complicated way to gain better usability
posted by matteo at 9:59 AM on July 26, 2002

Dynamic FAQs of the guidelines.
I’ll admit it sounds complicated and it could be overkill and unnecessary. But if part of the idea is useful or sparks an idea in someone else for a refined simpler idea (that does not require such elaborate description), that is why I put it out there. My feelings are not going to be hurt.
Self-policing is good, and is part of what makes Mefi.

posted by sailormouth at 10:26 AM on July 26, 2002

Ok. Here's an extremely watered-down version which is still useful:

Matt maintains a set of volunteers. Any user, but newbies are especially encouraged, can email a copy of their front-page-post to one of these people for review and/or helpful comments.

The 'editors' will not edit for content unless it is highly controversial. They will make suggestions on size, appropriateness and most importantly whether its a double post. Newbies live in fear of their first post being a double or else egregious in some way that has escaped their notice. These 'editors' are merely offering their services.

Again, it is merely a service in the form of an email exchange. No record is kept of the transaction. Think this link is too good to have never been posted but cnt find it in the archives? What to do? Mail it to an editor.

Howz that?
posted by vacapinta at 11:46 AM on July 26, 2002

See, I could have used one there. cnt -> can't
posted by vacapinta at 11:47 AM on July 26, 2002

I would support this if we can also critique new members' usernames.
posted by rushmc at 11:51 AM on July 26, 2002

Wouldn't those who pay enough attention to take advantage of this mentoring service already know enough to understand the rules of posting?
posted by PrinceValium at 12:00 PM on July 26, 2002

What rules?

vacapinta's idea is great because it gives newbies guided access to a) someone with an awareness of MeFi's ideological/self-regulatory nuances, b) someone with experience reading and searching the site, who would be more likely to recognize dps.
posted by Marquis at 12:04 PM on July 26, 2002

Let's not turn this place into plastic, folks.

I vote for the continued group-slappings. Setting up an editor - submittor system would probably take a lot of time for someone to maintain. And we all know who would be maintaining it.

Metafilter isn't broken.
posted by rocketman at 12:04 PM on July 26, 2002

rushmc:I would support this if we can also critique new members' usernames.

My name in real life is Ivan Lee Pinkstainlessta. I used your username as my model.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:06 PM on July 26, 2002

"All members with a user number higher than (insert one's own user number here) have always struck me as kinda lame"

I'll give it a whirl.

All members with a higher user number than 11817 have always struck me as kinda lame.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:08 PM on July 26, 2002

posted by timeistight at 12:09 PM on July 26, 2002

Er... that was directed at Pink's comment. Crash snuck in between the "t" and the "*".
posted by timeistight at 12:11 PM on July 26, 2002

I have a habit of doing that.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:23 PM on July 26, 2002

Rocketman: vacapinta's system would not be complicated at all. All Matt would have to do is put up a list of email addresses (the volunteers), only accessible to logged in users. From there, people could do as they pleased.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:31 PM on July 26, 2002

Here's one: allow new members to sign up, but don't allow any front page posts for X days. Gives 'em time to know what the site is all about.

I don't even like my idea. Metafilter is turning into Metawork. I appreciate all Matt's efforts to keep it simple. And there seem to be enough MetaCops on duty to slap sense into the offenders. As is is fine with me.
posted by Tacodog at 12:59 PM on July 26, 2002

Tacodog, that's already the way it works. New members must wait a week before posting.
posted by timeistight at 1:05 PM on July 26, 2002

Real good then. Carry on.
posted by Tacodog at 1:10 PM on July 26, 2002

My name in real life is Ivan Lee Pinkstainlessta. I used your username as my model.

::: stamps PinkStainlessTail's username **APPROVED** :::
posted by rushmc at 1:36 PM on July 26, 2002

i really like this idea, myself. at least the list of friendly people to email bit, as it's less work. i know i would have liked this when i first arrived here -- it's hard to know who would be annoyed by a mefi question, who would like it, and who would even be a good person to ask, even when you've been lurking a long while. i refrained from asking questions because i didn't want to bother anyone.

i think this is a great idea. it would also help to boost the community feel of the site, i think.
posted by pikachulolita at 2:10 PM on July 26, 2002

Well, speaking for this new user only (thanks Matt!), I am perfectly capable of playing nice without such artificial measures. I think probably a lot of us who waited a long time to get in are hip to the self-policing idea (or we wouldn't want to get in so badly). The fact that MetaFilter is generally a civilized place where people don't do really dumb things most of the time is one of the reasons I'm glad to be here.

That said, if anyone wants to volunteer to be my mentor, go ahead and shoot me an email. Otherwise, I'm sure I'll hear about it if I start messing up.
posted by whir at 3:31 PM on July 26, 2002

Well, for starters, whir, your post is far too rational and well-stated. Try to make it a bit more vague, in order to leave more room for misunderstanding and misattribution.... Also, you will want to include at least one ad hominem in an effort to make yourself look credible and to establish a "not-to-be-messed-with" reputation. Throw in an obscure reference, a sourceless statistic, and a bad pun, and you'll do just fine.

(Welcome aboard!)
posted by rushmc at 3:46 PM on July 26, 2002

I wish for MetaFilter to remain unmediated.
Anyone can have a direct conversation with me, after all.
posted by Voice of God at 3:51 PM on July 26, 2002

mathowie, could you not do that please? thanks.
posted by timeistight at 3:57 PM on July 26, 2002

Y'know, this is just the sort of thing I'd expect from you, rushmc. 23% of your posts are garbage like this. Maybe you should just go "rush"ing back to those bare ruin'd choirs you came from.

(Thanks! uh, was that bad enough?)
posted by whir at 3:58 PM on July 26, 2002

Just do what you did to me, flame them in MetaTalk, and let them rescue themselves, out of it. I'm sure if they can do that, they will be welcomed, or maybe not. Either way, one type of bridge is sure to be left. Linked to others, or burned.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:33 PM on July 26, 2002

I meant to add, for new users. This was helpful when I need help when others were pointing fingers at me. This place works both ways, MetaTalk is great reference guide to Meta.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:40 PM on July 26, 2002

MetaFilter Post Validator. [View Source] This is just a proof-of-concept, so the ruleset is incomplete and buggy. Even so, a similar utility may prove useful for anyone new to MetaFilter or posting therein.

Other things it should do:
* Verify that the posted url(s) exist
* Verify that the posted url(s) aren't double posts
* Verify the use of complete tags, quotation marks, etc.
* Provide knowledgebase-style links to MeFi/MeTa threads where these "guidelines" were previously discussed
* Not look like crap, etc.
posted by Danelope at 4:49 PM on July 26, 2002

"if anyone wants to volunteer to be my mentor, go ahead and shoot me an email"

Sorry, I only mentor female nymphomiacs within a 250-mile driving distance of my home.

And Evanizer and WolfDaddy, but we don't talk about that.

But welcome to Mefi just the same.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:50 PM on July 26, 2002

I posted the following in the mefi validator,
Salon is pretty cool, ain't it?
And got a "Congratulations," message.

I'm kind of slow, but is this a joke?
posted by precocious at 7:36 PM on July 26, 2002

(Thanks! uh, was that bad enough?)

You show promise, kid!
posted by rushmc at 7:49 PM on July 26, 2002

Just do what you did to me, flame them in MetaTalk, and let them rescue themselves, out of it. I'm sure if they can do that, they will be welcomed, or maybe not. Either way, one type of bridge is sure to be left. Linked to others, or burned.

Best. Thomcatspike. Post. Ever.
posted by rushmc at 7:50 PM on July 26, 2002

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