Best practice for Best Answers March 12, 2019 8:37 AM   Subscribe

After posting an ask.metafilter question, I like to Best Answer replies, except in some cases when I find all possible approaches awkward. What's best practice in Best Answering?

I know it's ok to mark some, all, or none as Best Answers. When there's a clear right answer, and one or a few people help provide it, that's easy. If everyone who chimed in was helpful, that would be easy, too. But a lot of times, neither of those apply, and I end up feeling like I'd be slighting someone.

The scenario I find most awkward is "Everyone but you is best." There are a bunch of answers, and all but a very small minority are very helpful. The others are well-intentioned, and somewhat relevant, but just don't really help. I feel like marking everyone Best except one or two answers is like saying "your answer sucks" to the one or two I leave out. But I don't like marking them all, because that lumps the real Best Answers in with courtesy ones, making them all meaningless.

Do others find this awkward, too? What's the solution?
posted by daisyace to Etiquette/Policy at 8:37 AM (28 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Mark the answers that helped you solve your problem. Don't worry about the rest. No need to overthink it. If there is one answer in the post that wasn't helpful, don't mark it.

Think of them not as a reward for the person answering the question, but as a gift to future generations. If someone googles or searches AskMe for a similar problem, they can scan the post for best answers to quickly solve the problem themselves.

Like favorites, best answers cannot be exchanged for prizes. Don't worry about not giving them out.
posted by bondcliff at 8:44 AM on March 12, 2019 [15 favorites]

Personally I don't even check back on a lot of AskMes I answer and would never even know if this happened.

I juuuuust had this happen - it turned out that the one answer wasn't relevant while the rest had tips I could use (I don't have wrist pain). It was a little awkward for me, sure, but I'm betting the non-bested commenter didn't even blink. (Initially I had this paragraph first, and then realized the second paragraph was the more relevant one and went flip.)
posted by wellred at 8:47 AM on March 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

I always keep track of Asks for which I've suggested answers (they're in Recent Activity and all), but I don't mind if my answer wasn't best or acknowledged at all. I do love resolution, though! If you can post a follow-up, those are practically always welcome and useful.

Anyway, if you want to distinguish between "these are the most useful answers," "good try but not what I needed," and "courtesy" then I'd suggest using best, a favorite, and nothing for those categories.
posted by asperity at 9:00 AM on March 12, 2019 [7 favorites]

I definitely appreciate seeing one to 10% of answers without Best Answer tags marked even if one of them is mine. Perhaps most useful when someone has a question similar to something I’m wondering about or have Googled. It helps me refine my own answering (god I used to be so bad), lets me know that I (or someone else) has missed something in the question without devoting space to chat/ threadsitting, or just provides factual feedback that no, in this particular case, that’s not especially useful.

When it’s an answer I agree with (or stand behind) that gets non-BAed, I just ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and think, Well, that’s not what OP needed to hear right now. I don’t feel slighted for myself or others.
posted by supercres at 9:59 AM on March 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Personally, I have no idea if/when my answers are marked "best," since that information doesn't show up in my Recent Activity and I don't tend to revisit the original thread. And that's great, actually, since I feel like the "best answer" feature really is/ought to be for the benefit of the OP and any future people who stumble on the post.
posted by duffell at 10:01 AM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I feel like being the only non-best-answer in a thread is exactly the sort of gentle nudge that is appropriate sometimes. wellred's Ask above is a perfect example: four people provided useful responses, one person misread the question and provided an answer to a problem that the asker did not have. That seems like a situation where an easy way to communicate "Hey, you missed the mark, maybe you should have read this question a little more carefully rather than jumping to the conclusion that the asker has the same problem you had" is appropriate. It's a useful way to signal (both to the specific answerer and to others) what is useful and what is not.
posted by firechicago at 10:17 AM on March 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

I find it completely pointless when more than a small handful of answers are marked Best in a thread I'm reading in hopes it will help me. If it isn't a question with a clear answer of something you did as a result of the thread -- "this is the thing I bought" or "this is the specific method I used which solved my problem" -- then it isn't necessary to mark Best Answers at all.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:22 AM on March 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

What asperity said.
posted by terrapin at 10:33 AM on March 12, 2019

I am a MeFi dinosaur who remembers back when there was a different way of looking at all your answers so that you would see a green check mark by the best ones. I keep a link to it on my profile page (don't know if it works in modern theme, may break at any time). I agonize over this, a little because I feel weird telling someone their answer wasn't best. I was always a terrible pleaser in my life (with bad parents who demanded this) and so part of my adult life is learning to unlear this. So I stick to

- people who gave me material information that helped me solve my problem
- people who helped me think about my problem in another way that helped me solve my problem

Often what happens is someone answers with a few words but someone else comments later fleshing out that answer or giving links. I usually will Best Answer the second person even though it's sort of an iterative process. Anyhow, it's always sort of complicated but hopefully no one gives you a hard time about it. I think "everyone but you is best" sends a clear message, and one that is okay to send. I get that some people are answering on their phone, can't make links, etc, but it's also okay for there to be downsides for that sort of convenience (and if you need help making links, just ask anyone, we will help). Gotta BA my latest question where I asked "Hey help me understand this thing I heard" where the best answer was "You didn't hear that right!"
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:41 AM on March 12, 2019

All four themes show which of your answers have been marked as best if you look at your Activity page for Ask MetaFilter.
posted by dfan at 11:58 AM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sorry, just meant I am a big fan of the compact, older version.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:01 PM on March 12, 2019

Personally, I have no idea if/when my answers are marked "best," since that information doesn't show up in my Recent Activity

If you add yourself as a contact the sidebar will show when you've been marked as a best answer.

And you'll also have at least one friend.
posted by bondcliff at 12:03 PM on March 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

One further thought on the "everyone but you is best" situation:

In my personal pantheon of social anxieties "You're going to act like an idiot and get called out for it and everyone will know" is much lower than "You're always acting like an idiot but everyone's too polite to say anything, but they all know." So if we were to somehow establish a site norm that "everyone but you is best" is unacceptably rude, that would make participating a more anxiety-producing activity for me, rather than less. I can view the prospect of being told that my answer is the worst with some degree of equanimity, much better than the lingering question in the back of my mind whether each ask with no best answers is that way because I personally Screwed It Up because I'm Such An Idiot, who always Ruins It For Everyone.

I have no idea where most people fall on that particular spectrum, but I'm sure I'm not the only person who would rather accept the risk of negative feedback in exchange for the comfort that a lack of negative feedback at least indicates that I'm not completely screwing everything up.
posted by firechicago at 12:09 PM on March 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

My philosophy almost exactly tracks yours: I feel as though marking one best answer is a bit dismissive of everyone who took the time to answer, and I really hate seeing the Asks where literally every answer is marked best except one or two. I mean, that's just harsh.

My own practice is to very rarely mark best answers but to make sure to thank everyone for their answers in thread. I have marked best answers where, say, someone makes restaurant recommendations and I went to a couple that turned out to be great; in that case, the best answer is mostly for my own convenience so that I can remember the name of the restaurant in case I want to go back. I've also asked one question where I marked all the answers as best, but in that case, "all the answers" = two.
posted by holborne at 12:29 PM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I honestly feel like not marking the one (or more) shitty response as not “Best Answer” to be about the only small joy I have (other than flagging and moving on) when someone just commented for the sake of commenting. There’s a lot of folks I see who answer basically every question regardless of expertise and they deserve to feel bad!

Also, when it’s happened to me where most answers where marked best and mine is conspicuously not, it’s a nice check on whether I wanted to be helpful or just be right, or just wanted to say something.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 12:56 PM on March 12, 2019 [9 favorites]

I guess I'm more on the generous interpretation of best. I consider AskMe a collaborative effort and I tend to mark all the answers that were helpful as best. I'm not dissing or commenting on the worthiness of a user's input by not marking their answer best; it just means I didn't find the answer helpful.

And then sometimes I don't mark anything best just because.
posted by Mitheral at 1:42 PM on March 12, 2019

It is awkward. I generally favorite all the answers (except the occasional one or two that completely miss the mark in some way.) And then I will pick a few to mark as Best Answer, ones where the information or advice or perspective really enlightened me in a practical way.

Oh, and by not favoriting those that "miss the mark completely" I'm not trying to punish that person or send a message to them. It's just that other people pay attention to what the OP favorites or "bests", and I don't want to give the impression that there was something helpful about an answer that really wasn't in the ballpark at all, and potentially have other people factor that into their answers.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:27 PM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh, I love the everyone-but-you-is-best option and I am not above wielding it like a fucking axe to make a point.
posted by phunniemee at 2:45 PM on March 12, 2019 [20 favorites]

I gave what was clearly the objectively best and most informed answer on a question that fell precisely in the center of my Venn diagrams of interests, passions, and Ivy-League education and everybody else's answer was marked best but not mine and it scorched my buns for about three minutes and then I got over it.

posted by BrashTech at 4:43 PM on March 12, 2019 [8 favorites]

I only put a best answer when it's a type of question that has a bunch of suggestions and only some of them worked.
posted by bleep at 5:50 PM on March 12, 2019

I had no idea I could be my own contact and now I feel like I understand why I’m so out of touch with myself.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:09 PM on March 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

I don't see how I can make myself one of my contacts. When I go to my own profile page I don't see the link to make myself a contact the way I do if I go to someone else's profile page.
posted by Redstart at 9:53 PM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I admit to getting a little twinge when it happens to me, but it's not that big a deal. Least rude way of getting the message across, I reckon.
posted by h00py at 5:00 AM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Redstart, go to someone else's profile and click to add them as a contact, then change the user number in the URL to your own. (There may be a built in way to do this but you can force it through the URL.)
posted by phunniemee at 5:00 AM on March 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Ok, thanks, this helps — best answers for everybody! (Well, except one or two of you. You know who you are.)
posted by daisyace at 9:54 AM on March 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I think when contacts first became a thing you could add yourself. I guess at some point they fixed that but it sounds like phunniemee has a good workaround. Nobody tell the mods or they might fix it.
posted by bondcliff at 10:21 AM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Having been the focus of three or four* outraged (and, I’d argue, ageist) sentences from an OP about why my answer, which got 19 favorites, was Horrible and Shitty, I’d be grateful for the gentle nudge of being the only person who doesn’t get a best answer.

*not checking because it still upsets me

(I confess to being the kind of person who sometimes gives best answers to everyone who really tried.)
posted by FencingGal at 3:50 AM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

One more thing. I didn’t think about favoriting as an option when you’re the OP, so I’ll start doing that for the good tries. So this thread was good for me.
posted by FencingGal at 5:32 AM on March 15, 2019

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