Asked and Answered August 12, 2022 6:57 AM   Subscribe

I hate unsolved mysteries. I feel like the current UI/UX of ask.metafiler.com does not lead to closure.

Good chance that I don't understand how it works, or is supposed to work...

I would like some more clear way of
(a) marking an "Ask" as really, actually solved. Right now, I think if the author marks any answers as 'best' then the whole Ask gets marked as "solved".
(b) some way for reply-ers ('replicants'?) who really care about the ask, to go back later an prompt the author (Asker) to answer.
(c) maybe some way of the author to distinguish between "nice try" and "this is the actual answer!"
posted by soylent00FF00 to Feature Requests at 6:57 AM (39 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Every time I’ve posted an AskMe, I’ve eventually received an email asking me to mark it as solved or completed. This works better for questions with easily bounded answers, of course.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:01 AM on August 12, 2022 [3 favorites]


To your (b) I get the urge for closure but in my opinion ask.me doesn't exist for our gratification, it's for people to get answers to their questions. There should be NO sense of obligation for any follow-up from the asker ever. It should be perfectly acceptable for someone to ask a question and never open the site ever again. I would find the option for people to go back and bug the asker for a resolution extremely off-putting. I don't usually care about the minutiae of proposed site changes but I find myself having an unexpectedly strong reaction to this one.

I'm fine with people discussing your (a) and (c) points. I agree that having best answers automatically mark the question as resolved is a little klunky and the "mark resolved" UI is easy to miss the the same way people always complain about the flagging button etc.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:23 AM on August 12, 2022 [26 favorites]


I think all of these features essentially already exist:

(a) This is what best answer is for. They can also add a comment explaining what they did. They won't necessarily do either of these things.
(b) They can add a comment requesting a resolution. This happens somewhat regularly but not in most threads. Whether that's because mostly people don't care or because mostly they don't think it's polite, I don't know.
(c) Favourites vs. best answers.

The thing is, past the point of making the features available, you can't make people use them "properly" because their goals in using them and yours in seeing the results are not necessarily the same.

Decoupling "best answer" from solved might make sense, since the best answer might be one that gets you almost to a solution but still leaves a gap. Or maybe distinguishing "helpful" answers from "the answer that actually finally solved my problem".
posted by jacquilynne at 7:30 AM on August 12, 2022 [5 favorites]


In a similar vein, I'm not going to argue that this is likely to be worth the effort compared to other things that need attention, but I'd love a faster way to see a list of threads that I have commented on that have received subsequent comments from the asker.
posted by primethyme at 8:24 AM on August 12, 2022 [3 favorites]


primethyme — I agree with that, I think that would be a great feature to have on all of the subsites, personally. If there's a way to follow threads without remembering to go back and check on every one I'm interested in manually, I don't know what it is.
posted by wesleyac at 8:42 AM on August 12, 2022


I agree that primethyme's suggestion would make for a neat feature!

But wesleyac, you've seen how the site-wide Recent Activity works, right?

(That link will only work properly if you're logged in.)
posted by nobody at 9:18 AM on August 12, 2022


(b) really bothers me too. I answer a lot of asks. When I ask, it is for me, not for the answerer. When I answer, it is my thoughts. Do with it as you see fit. It is your now. Feel free to ignore, take it as written or modify it. If you don't like not getting closure, don't answer.

I also hesitate to use the Best Answer feature. It is so subjective. I guess if you are asking a factual question, what is 2+2? then the first person to answer 4 could get a Best Answer, but if you are asking what to do about your relationship with your hs bf who is now married with kids and contacted you to tell you he will be in town for a conference and do you want to get lunch, what really is the best answer? Some would say, "Hell no. Stay away." Some would say to feel him out to see if he really wants something else,. Some would say get laid. Wanting closure of a best answer is sort of voyeuristic. I think you give an answer in good faith and what the asker does with it is their decision.

It is not a competition to see who gets the best answer most often or who answers and gets "solved" most often or even at all. The only upvoting on the site is the best answer feature and I could live without that quite easily. I guess for the objective factual type of asks, pointing out the best answer could help someone in the future. For the subjective, often relationship ask, a response by the asker is to me, meaningless as a reader.

If I recall correctly, the original guidelines for an ask was that it had to be a solvable question. Then relationship filter drifted in and then it became, for some, a therapist substitute or a bff sub. I suppose there is benefit to providing that service, but best answer/solved/nice try is not really part of that. At that point it becomes a vote.

I believe that jessamyn was the "inventor" of the Ask subsite. It was her vision. Now that she is the MFWIC, I would love to hear her thoughts on this.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:41 AM on August 12, 2022 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's linked on the homepage anywhere, but if you enjoy closure check out the Final Answers feed of old questions that recently had a final update from the OP added by a mod.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:04 AM on August 12, 2022 [4 favorites]


Now that she is the MFWIC, I would love to hear her thoughts on this.

With the caveat that the Steering Committee will be the ones setting the policy on this one (with feedback and guidance from members and staff and me) I guess my thoughts are

a. A lot of AskMes aren't solvable per se but there's an open question about whether they should be able to be closed (by the Asker or the mod team) in a way that isn't currently possible. I do think the way the Best Answer UI works now, once there has been one Best Answer marked it can look like that question is settled when it's not, really.
b. There's a built in MeMail nudge after a month. I know it can be unsatisfying when people seem to take answers and leave but it should be okay to do this. I find other MeFites nudging an Asker for a reply to often seem a little aggressive. This may be a personal thing however.
c. I do feel like this is a faves vs best answer thing, but it's tricky because some types of questions lend themselves to best answers and some really don't.

The "resolved" and the "stumped" features of AskMe get too little attention and it would be worth digging in maybe via usage stats whether people are making use of these tools and if not finding ways to make them more obvious/simple/straightforward.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:05 AM on August 12, 2022 [5 favorites]


With regard to (a), there is a "mark as resolved" action which is distinct from marking best answers. However, while the semantics seem clear, I've never figured out how this is supposed to work in practice. As far as I can tell, it adds a "resolved" tag, but the site does nothing to make that tag or its absence particularly visible. The "Answered" tab on AskMeFi references existence of best answers, not the "resolved" tag. (On preview, jinx, jessamyn!)

As an asker, I am always hesitant to mark best answers for a few days lest people skip over my question because it has a little green checkmark.
posted by aws17576 at 10:08 AM on August 12, 2022 [6 favorites]

But wesleyac, you've seen how the site-wide Recent Activity works, right?
…uuuuhhhhh, wow. No, I had not. Thanks for letting me know. No idea how I missed it.
As an asker, I am always hesitant to mark best answers for a few days lest people skip over my question because it has a little green checkmark.
I feel the same. I think a good solution would be to make the green check mark come from the resolved/unresolved status, and keep "best answers" but not have them show on the main askme feed page. That way people are more likely to use the "mark as best answer" (which I think is good because it makes answering questions more satisfying, on average), and while giving people a way to show that the question has been answered, for questions that have a clear, factual answer.

Ideally there could be a little popup or something when you mark as best answer asking if you want to mark the question as resolved, and explaining the difference between those things, as well.
posted by wesleyac at 10:45 AM on August 12, 2022 [1 favorite]


Maybe keep the small green checkmark for posts with best answers and highlight resolved questions with a dark background or a [resolved] tag before/after the title?
posted by Rhaomi at 10:52 AM on August 12, 2022 [1 favorite]


Being able to mark a specific answer as "the solution," in addition to being able to mark the whole thread as solved, would be cool.

Being able to mark any comment best answer is necessarily a little weird due to its just being a general annotation tool, and I'm sure we've all seen its creative/angry uses. Favorites can be misused similarly but are less visible. Those kinds of footguns are inherent to the MetaFilter experience, in my opinion. :)

As for prompts to leave final answers, I don't know, what if you got emailed about a final update if you had a few favorites on your question? Favorites generally signal interest in the outcome of the thread.
posted by michaelh at 11:34 AM on August 12, 2022 [3 favorites]


I sometimes look at questions with best answers deliberately, when I am curious about what the Asker wanted, or when I really want to know the actual answer to a straightforward question outside my experience, so I use the green checkmarks sometimes to decide whether to look at the thread. Different reading styles abound!

I admit that sometimes I really want to get that green checkmark on my answer, since I was obviously correct, but I try to recognize that urge as the approval-seeking behaviour that it is, and move on.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:35 AM on August 12, 2022 [2 favorites]


I suspect that the "no chatfilter" culture discourages OPs from following through with outcomes. In my perfect AskMeFi world, feedback from the OP would be welcomed_ at the end of the thread_, but not responding at all would also be seen as falling within the window of acceptable MeFi manners. Sort of "encouraged, but not obligatory."
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 2:39 PM on August 12, 2022 [3 favorites]


I will definitely say that it's much more satisfying when I find out whether my answer was helpful or not. And in the case of technical mysteries or complex issues, it can be educational for both the asker and answerers to know what the solution ended up being. I agree that there should be zero pressure for askers to provide follow-up, but I wouldn't mind if the culture evolved toward it being more common.
posted by primethyme at 4:19 PM on August 12, 2022 [4 favorites]


I'm thinking about the times I've been an Asker and man, a lot of my issues did not really lend themselves to prompt and tidy resolutions. Sometimes my question turned out to secretly be something other than what I thought I was asking, sometimes I was looking for a product that the readers didn't know much about but they tried hard and none of the answers were really all that on point. Sometimes I asked a boring question nobody cared about very much so the yield was low. Sometimes whatever resolution happened, happened without regard to the input as life unfolded. One time I asked where I could donate a tent, I got some suggestions, and then before I got around to pursuing any of them it turned out I had a use for it after all. Real life doesn't always admit satisfying denouements. It's like how I could always tell as a kid when a TV movie was based on a true story -- the pacing would be off and the ending completely unsatisfying.

Anyway. I don't object to making the UI smoother, if it's something the site team wants to invest the time in, I just don't think it'll resolve your issue. (Ha! See what I accidentally did there?)
posted by eirias at 4:39 PM on August 12, 2022 [4 favorites]


I suspect that the "no chatfilter" culture discourages OPs from following through with outcomes.
This is not how I understand things to work. If you go to one of your closed questions, there is a link explicitly asking if you want to post a follow up:

"This thread is closed to new comments. Add a final update?"

I've done that myself to two different questions where I'd lost a recipe and then later found it. I also agree there should be no requirement or expectation to post such an update.
posted by soelo at 5:39 PM on August 12, 2022


This is not how I understand things to work. If you go to one of your closed questions, there is a link explicitly asking if you want to post a follow up: "This thread is closed to new comments. Add a final update?"
posted by soelo at 8:39 PM on August 12 [+] [!]


I've been using ask for years and had no idea that functionality existed. Almost all the responses to an ask roll in within matter of a few days, so thanking respondents or stating which solution is best would normally happen long before the thread is closed. Unless I'm missing something (which is possible) the only way you're going to see that prompt is if you revisit the thread after it is closed, right?
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 7:45 PM on August 12, 2022 [2 favorites]


As GenjiandProust noted above, I used to receive a MeMail a month after posting a question to Ask inviting/reminding me to check in and pick a best answer or provide a final update. But in checking my inbox, I realize that the last time I received one of those was 2019, and I've asked a few questions since then and don't seem to have gotten that follow-up message, even for ones not marked as resolved. Perhaps this functionality quietly stopped working and this is the first time someone's noticed?
posted by biogeo at 9:46 PM on August 12, 2022 [1 favorite]


Agreed. I have no idea how to add a final update as the Asker.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:52 AM on August 13, 2022


I got the “hey you may want to resolve this, it’s been a month!” email as recently as May 2022. That functionality seems to be up and running.
posted by Stacey at 7:05 AM on August 13, 2022 [4 favorites]


Strange! Perhaps there's some bit of logic explaining why some questions I've posted have triggered that follow-up message, and some haven't, but if so it escapes me.
posted by biogeo at 9:28 AM on August 13, 2022


tiny frying pan, if you go to a question you've asked, and scroll to the bottom, you'll see a link saying something like "This question is closed to answers. Add a final update?" I believe you just click that and then fill in a comment box as usual to give your final update on the question.
posted by biogeo at 9:32 AM on August 13, 2022 [1 favorite]


Thanks, biogeo. Mine doesn't display that though!
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:58 AM on August 13, 2022


I can mark "resolved" but the language you mentioned is no where on the page for any of my old questions. I'm using Firefox Night on a Samsung phone.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:01 AM on August 13, 2022


(Haven't checked my Firefox plain desktop yet, but don't remember ever seeing it)
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:04 AM on August 13, 2022


I'm sure frimble would like to know if that is not showing up for you. As an example to be clear, this is what it looks like to me. You'll need to be logged in for it to appear.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:12 AM on August 13, 2022


Unless I'm missing something (which is possible) the only way you're going to see that prompt is if you revisit the thread after it is closed, right?

Yes, because otherwise you can just add a comment as an update.
posted by soelo at 10:46 AM on August 13, 2022


Whoa, my mind is blown. I've never seen it on Android mobile, using either FireFox or Firefox Night. I just checked my old questions using my desktop computer, on Firefox, and don't see it on any of my past questions.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:59 AM on August 13, 2022


Actually, I found one!

Post It Question

That has it at the bottom - but newer questions I've asked don't have it. Does it take a very long time for AskMes to archive?
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:01 PM on August 13, 2022


The one I asked right after that doesn't have it - Chickpeas question
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:02 PM on August 13, 2022


Is perhaps the difference that in the Post It question, I marked some best answers? And in the Chickpeas question, I must have forgotten to mark any best answers? Maybe the "final update" requires you to have marked something a best answer first?
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:03 PM on August 13, 2022


I love the discussion. My 2 cents is that I would like to stay away from the idea that the community 'deserves' narrative resolution on AskMe (as in point b). It is helpful on factual questions to see what was the right answer (like what book is this) or what was a best answer for the asker.

But I really, really don't think that askers should have to consider whether they have provided closure to the readers of the site, or the answerers. I like the non-transactional sense of just trying to help each other out/trying to access each other's experience and expertise without there having to be a Final Chapter.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:10 PM on August 13, 2022 [3 favorites]


Thank you, jessamyn!
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:15 PM on August 13, 2022


The one I asked right after that doesn't have it - Chickpeas question

(sorry, deleted my earlier comment that was incomplete) Any thread that is still open will not have the "final update" as an option. I think AskMes close after a year? So the Chickpeas question is still open so there is no final update option.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:17 PM on August 13, 2022


Oh wow though - a whole year later? I didn't even know that either, to be honest. I assumed that they closed within a month like Metafilter posts do. Definitely never looked at a question a year later to notice the "final update." Now I'm wanting to add final updates! Do wonder how many people don't know this feature though - maybe it could go along the sidebar with the info on "Best Answers?"
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:31 PM on August 13, 2022


Rhaomi posted this link above : Final Answers

That is very cool; I had not known about that before!
posted by soelo at 5:05 PM on August 13, 2022


My breakfast AskMeFi was so successful I have 64 answers, with about 55-60 excellent and usable answers, while some are pretty racist....I have no idea what to do with all of this beyond writing a really long "thank you everyone, this is what I am doing comment, also like please never say that ever again because that's really orientalizing." I have not done anything to show the answerers I have read it, but I've read all the comments at least 3 times. It'll probably take me three hours to write an actual UI/UX suggestions thread just based off my experience alone with that question, so I'm gonna go to bed.
posted by yueliang at 11:12 PM on August 14, 2022


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