Proposal: Ask Mefi "Doesn't Answer Question" Flag November 26, 2022 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Proposal: "Doesn't answer question" flag for Ask Metafilter. For those who don't fully read the question or for noise.
posted by MollyRealized to MetaFilter-Related at 11:30 AM (153 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- loup



Unless the flags are some how weighted in the backend -- ie, "offensive/sexism/racism" will be seen sooner than "breaks guidelines" -- then I think we only need one flag: "Flag with note"
posted by terrapin at 11:42 AM on November 26, 2022 [4 favorites]


Noise/derail/other is for this, I thought?
posted by notquitemaryann at 12:04 PM on November 26, 2022 [35 favorites]


I can't wait for a tag overhaul. Unless something is obviously offensive, I always use the note function and then I wonder if I'm annoying the mods with my hot take.
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:36 PM on November 26, 2022 [4 favorites]


I think the current options cover this. No need for an addition to the list.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:36 PM on November 26, 2022 [10 favorites]


I use "Flag with note" for this.
posted by bleep at 2:41 PM on November 26, 2022 [1 favorite]


It's become common enough I think it deserves its own flag, TBH. But maybe everyone else will disagree.

We could use the existing "flag with note" to test this. If everyone who sees this makes a point of flagging such an answer with a note when they see one, and the mods then see an uptick, then that's some data that there has indeed been an uptick. But if there's no real change, then maybe the "flag with note" tag is enough.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:59 PM on November 26, 2022 [2 favorites]


I guess add me to the list of people who disagree that this is an issue. My perception is that 1.) I don't really see too many terrible answers 2.) most AskMes don't have such a large number of responses that skimming over few the bad/non responsive ones ruins the experience 3.) sometimes answers which are a bit tangential to the question can still be useful for people other than the O.P. who are reading the thread. 4.) I don't think this is problem that's getting worse and needs to be nipped in the bud.
MeFi is still on a budget with limited mod and development resources, I really don't think this should be a priority. But it's entirely possible that I'm in the minority and unresponsive answers are driving tons of people up the wall.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 3:32 PM on November 26, 2022 [26 favorites]


Flagging just sends a note to the mods, right? What do you want to happen then? Is the actual proposal to delete those answers?
posted by zompist at 3:39 PM on November 26, 2022 [10 favorites]


This is a weird topic to have a “debate” about — it’s ultimately up to staff and SC to add and having people pipe in with “well I don’t see a problem” is dismissive. Seems like a good thing to add to the requests list.

The only real issue I see is that it’s Ask-specific and I don’t know if the code can even handle that, but I’d certainly use it. It’d be a good data tool, even as an experiment, to see if perceptions are matching up with reality. This is an evergreen complaint about Ask.

I do think noise/derail captures enough in context for mods to act — I’ve used this before in questions of mine and the mods have generally deleted the non-answer, which I’ve been very appreciative of. But if SC wants some more granular analytics, why not?
posted by curious nu at 5:23 PM on November 26, 2022 [1 favorite]


I don't think this is wholesale a good idea. Some Asks are more finite, some are more discussy. For instance, Asks tagged "human-relations" can be prone to very long discussions that (per previous MeTas about Ask) can involve many responses that their contributors feel are valid responses... and which others feel are noise.
posted by cupcakeninja at 5:35 PM on November 26, 2022 [8 favorites]


Also...I've seen many answers that clearly involved the answerer missing some point in what might is often a long or detailed question. I think newer members might find it unnecessarily discouraging to get their knuckles rapped for a good-faith mistake.
posted by praemunire at 8:02 PM on November 26, 2022 [20 favorites]


Could we just have downvotes instead?
posted by buntastic at 8:04 PM on November 26, 2022 [1 favorite]


The offending users won’t see -any- flags or flag categories. If we need to give the power to deemphasize answers, it would probably need to be like the Best Answer shading (and similarly OP-controlled). But that seems more hostile than just flagging (and moving on) silently.
posted by janell at 8:21 PM on November 26, 2022 [1 favorite]


I've seen many answers that clearly involved the answerer missing some point in what might is often a long or detailed question. I think newer members might find it unnecessarily discouraging to get their knuckles rapped for a good-faith mistake.

Yeah, I think the goal should be "human" and not "perfect" (and that the moderation should be "helping people develop their thinking" and not "policing and punishing"). I get what you're saying about AskMe being a valuable part of the site, but making it a requirement to answer perfectly or get deleted will backfire, I suspect.
posted by lapis at 8:22 PM on November 26, 2022 [11 favorites]


I think we need to stop seeing a single comment deletion as a punishment.
posted by soelo at 9:27 PM on November 26, 2022 [23 favorites]


Yeah, this is a really good idea.

"Flag with note" is indeed a viable workaround for "Doesn't Answer Question" but it has relatively high friction because the user has to type out the note.

"Doesn't answer question" is specific, lower friction for user, and serves the key differentiator that Ask brings to the Internet: high quality signal vs noise ratio in answers.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:16 AM on November 27, 2022 [6 favorites]


Askme comments that don't answer the question are, by definition, noise. So there is already a flag for them.
posted by snofoam at 4:45 AM on November 27, 2022 [12 favorites]


I usually flag with “it breaks the guidelines” because AskMe guidelines are to consider the full question and respond to the OP in good faith.
posted by Mizu at 6:42 AM on November 27, 2022 [14 favorites]


Could we just have downvotes instead?

How about we don't.
posted by cooker girl at 7:00 AM on November 27, 2022 [31 favorites]


I also want to throw in that I've had answers that I thought were flippant or irrelevant or misunderstood the question at first until I took a couple of hours/days & came back to the thread. At that point I usually find that there's something helpful in all the answers even if it doesn't seem that way at first. There's a benefit to being able to query the hive mind and we should all have an awareness that the answers might not always be to our liking but they were provided in good faith & deserve consideration.
posted by bleep at 7:39 AM on November 27, 2022 [23 favorites]


It might be that at the moment, I'm in a really bad mood, and I'll acknowledge that. But it's extraordinarily angering to have someone substitute a strawmanned extreme version of my argument/proposal/position and have them try to make their point with that.

And I feel like you just did the same to me, because I'm not saying what you're saying I'm saying.

Obvious non-answer noise should go. Answers that miss some details are not, in my opinion, noise. They also, I would argue, have a role in community building. If people feel like there's a high chance of their answer getting deleted if they don't answer in exactly the right way, even if they're answering in good faith, they'll probably be less likely to answer.

Saying that AskMe is losing utility is begging the question. Is it, really? I haven't felt that way -- it seems similarly as useful to me as it's ever been, which has always been variable. My perception certainly doesn't mean that I am right, but an assertion to the contrary isn't automatically right, either.

If the site or any answer thread is useful beyond the question-asker then that seems like it would be an argument for keeping a slightly wider set of answers, since future readers will likely have slightly different parameters. If we want to build community and get more people involved, more deletions for good-faith well-intentioned non-oppressive answers seems contrary to that.

I think good leadership (in general, I mean, not just of this site) does need to look at big-picture implications and goals and values, and evaluate requests through them. I thought there was a push for larger membership and less-rigid ways of interacting with each other. I think this proposal works against that.

I could be incorrect in my understanding of that push, or of the goals, or of my assumption about how this proposal would turn out in the context of either. But I will likely continue to push back against perfectionism because it tends to be a cultural characteristic that inhibits actual improvement and growth, in favor of looking good and hiding conflict, and I don't think it's healthy.
posted by lapis at 7:41 AM on November 27, 2022 [19 favorites]


I wonder if I'm annoying the mods with my hot take.

Generally no. Flag with Note is super helpful for moderators unless it's hollering at them or otherwise making some sort of demand (i.e. BAN THIS PERSON) which is their call to make. I think more people should use Flag with Note for edge case scenarios.

I'm about 99% sure that mods would be usually acting on something getting flagged a lot rather than a single flag.

Mods see every flag and read all flags with notes.

My take is that Noise/derail covers this decently (along with the mods' human eyeballs who can figure out why something has been flagged) but it's always worth additional discussing.

I'm personally very strongly against downvoting. If the SC decided that it was a thing MeFi needed, I'd be listening but my kneejerk response is that it's just a tool that is needed for higher volume or more automated moderation on sites where mods can't keep up with the flagging.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:00 AM on November 27, 2022 [25 favorites]


Previously.

I appreciate this continues to bother you, MollyRealized. Can you expand on what the new flag would bring that noise/derail/other doesn’t already cover?
posted by zamboni at 9:22 AM on November 27, 2022 [9 favorites]


How about just "Wrong"? That's why we need downvotes, to signal that (to some) a given answer is just wrong, in the green. Would it then be deleted? Maybe it should remain, marked as "dubious" or "debatable" or something.

It seems in the last year or so, though, that people's attention spans have shortened, details are overlooked when responding, and thus answer quality diminishes.

I've been here 16 years, attracted by the quality of the prose and the grammar in Ask, and I disagree. Although in my early days, it seems that a lot more discussion of and pushback against people's answers was tolerated, and I really miss that.
posted by Rash at 9:51 AM on November 27, 2022 [4 favorites]


I think there's also a discussion to be had about limited development resources. We're told that our one half-time coder has been working on flagging UX for .. I don't know how long, but long enough that I'm beginning to wonder what is so horribly mangled in the site code to make this a multi-quarter odyssey and/or what other tasks they're actually putting effort towards. People had to make a lot of noise to get the banner CSS edited to increase it in size for fundraising, and it sounds like it's now very difficult to iterate on that to improve the accessibility situation when viewing the site magnified. This suggests that there are some profoundly suboptimal things in the mefi codebase, and/or we need more/different engineering staff to reach the existing goals for incremental improvements.

Given that's where we are, and the fundraising situation is not awesome, it might be worth living with "breaks the guidelines" as a proxy for "annoyingly wrong, or ignored significant context" for now, while the rest of the software situation gets sorted out.

So, I'd second zamboni's question as to what we hope to accomplish with a more granular flag for this specific purpose, and why using an existing flag won't allow the same outcome.
posted by Alterscape at 9:56 AM on November 27, 2022 [12 favorites]


I get that people love telling other people they are wrong on the internet but I think we get enough of that here without making that problem larger in AskMe.

Down votes are so depressing and it would ruin my day to get any on my comments. Skip. Or flag. And move on! It works!
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:03 AM on November 27, 2022 [21 favorites]


This is a good idea. It would be nice if flags acted as up- or downvotes and answers could be hidden if they collected a certain amount of “doesn’t answer the question” flags.

Such a flag would work best on questions that have clear-cut right or wrong answers. The first answer on my recent question repeated a solution I already said I’d done and would be a good candidate for flagging. But I can see this getting messy on human relations questions.
posted by Diskeater at 10:39 AM on November 27, 2022


But flags already exist, and auto-deleting or hiding things seems well beyond the scope of this proposal.
posted by sagc at 10:47 AM on November 27, 2022 [3 favorites]


This suggests that there are some profoundly suboptimal things in the mefi codebase, and/or we need more/different engineering staff to reach the existing goals for incremental improvements.

Fundraising (and building in some tools for that as well as other SC tasks and sorting out some MeFi Mail issues) got in the way of launching flagging UX, but I agree generally that this is a thing that needs to be more clear in a community-run MeFi. And yes the codebase is messy. There's now a code subgroup of the Steering Committee who have access to the back end code and have been able to make patches and do some updating but we've never had the staffing for an overhaul.

One of the jobs that is really difficult here is that of the "clipboard holder" type of person who coordinates with everyone and says "That thing you said you were working on, what's the status of that?" or "The userbase said they're really looking for this sort of thing. How do we make decisions about that?" and just circles back, circles back, circles back, capturing all this stuff. I do some of it, loup does some of it, the SC does some of it, but there isn't yet clear demarcation of roles for that sort of site communication and a "buck stops here" person who can do what I call "bird dogging" of all the various projects. It's a thing that SC is definitely aware of and would like to improve.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:52 AM on November 27, 2022 [7 favorites]


In Diskeater’s example, it’s also the only answer marked as a favorite. So while it didn’t answer the initial question, it may be useful to someone else searching similar keywords.

We seem to often want more specificity and choices available from the list of flagging reasons, but I suspect the flag itself, or the number of flags, on a given comment or post is far more important from a mod perspective than the tagged reason given (which is likely evident for most flagged content upon reading anyway). I understand the discomfort of feeling that none of the flagging reasons are a good fit sometimes, but now there is a “flag with note” option as well as a “noise/derail/other” option to scratch that itch.

Alterscape makes a good point regarding dev resources in re: the flagging UI specifically. I also think it’s not optimal & possibly confusing to newer users to have flag reasons that are only relevant to one subsite.

Again, I get the frustration of replies that don’t answer the question. It can be super annoying! But I don’t think the situation is worsening (though it certainly feels like it sometimes), and making a small and possibly costly change to the flagging interface feels like just giving askers a way to feel like they’re able to bang slightly harder on the “wrong” button while not really doing much of anything extra to ameliorate or fix the actual cause of the frustration.
posted by obloquy at 11:00 AM on November 27, 2022 [4 favorites]


Fair enough, Jessamyn, and that completely makes sense. I would note that the "flagging UX is in-progress" has been a reoccurring update as long as I can remember in Loup's status updates. I'm not sure it's accurate to say that the fundraising/mefi mail issues in the last two months are the only reason it's not progressing. I completely believe that "work on flagging UX" is the top-of-line issue that keeps getting reported, while in actuality, Frimble is working on "other duties as needed" that don't get reported out (or whatever the exact situation is -- point is, it's a disconnect between what's being reported and what's actually happening day-to-day to keep the ol' wagon creaking along.

My point stands, though -- maybe there's a nontechnical/social solution to this problem, given that technical solutions seem challenging right now.

I think another thing to consider is: what should happen to answers that are flagged as 'didn't read the question' however we do that, whether it's with new or existing flags? On reddit or other sites with downvoting, downvoted responses show up later for users using the default view. Answers the community upvotes bubble up. Here, the only thing that can really happen to flagged posts/comments is deletions. The mods have historically not been open to editing comments they find problematic, so, really, the only tool we have available is "memory-hole the comment." While that might make sense on questions like Diskeater's, I have concerns about how that might work on human relations questions, or other questions where there might be controversy with two or more disagreeing factions both flagging each other's answers.
posted by Alterscape at 11:07 AM on November 27, 2022


" I always use the note function and then I wonder if I'm annoying the mods with my hot take."

It's actually EXTREMELY helpful, especially for me, since I'm not keeping up on the site during the week. Sometimes when there's a hot topic from Wednesday and there's 200 comments and a fight on Saturday morning, I have literally noooooooo idea what I'm looking at. Someone providing a note like "X and Y are getting into it and it seems to be devolving into name calling" or "This link goes to a right-wing website" or "X is ALWAYS hobbyhorsing about A in threads about B" saves me half an hour of trying to sort through three days of fights and figure out what's happening by giving me some context. Then I can skim back 20 comments instead of having to start from the top of the thread.

The classic example I always give from before we had flag notes is that I was on one day and this random comment in a thread about hockey kept getting flagged as offensive and I was just 100% completely stumped as to why, until someone used the contact form and said, "This super-normal sounding name is not actually the player's name; it's how people insinuate he's gay by calling him the wrong name and it's now associated with anti-LGBTQ hockey fans." It became IMMEDIATELY clear what the otherwise-puzzling dynamic in the thread was, and it was honestly something that I don't know if I could have figured out on my own (I didn't even know what in the comment to google!), because my awareness of hockey is basically, "They play for the Stanley Cup." Once I knew that's what the comment was, I was able to relatively quickly verify that people only said it to be assholes and delete the comment. It was super-obviously offensive and fight-starting to people participating in the thread, but I just completely lacked the context to figure out the dogwhistle without help.

So please please please provide us context like that! The things I don't know are extensive and it's always helpful to have more context.

Occasionally someone flag notes just to vent their hot take and frustration, and in those situations I'm often like, "HARD AGREE, but thank you for not picking the fight in the thread, I will just sit here feeling good that someone else is silently annoyed by this."
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:49 AM on November 27, 2022 [31 favorites]


We might want to have a separate MeTa about who and what an AskMe is for. Yes, we’re trying to arrive at the best answer for the original Asker, but we typically don’t delete the thread once the question has a best answer- it has value to other people. Answers that almost answer the question may be perfect for future searchers who have almost the same question.
posted by zamboni at 11:50 AM on November 27, 2022 [23 favorites]

Tiny frying pan: Down votes are so depressing and it would ruin my day to get any on my comments. Skip. Or flag. And move on! It works!

Obloquy: I suspect the flag itself, or the number of flags, on a given comment or post is far more important from a mod perspective than the tagged reason given

Jessamyn: I’m personally very strongly against downvoting. If the SC decided that it was a thing MeFi needed, I'd be listening but my kneejerk response is that it's just a tool that is needed for higher volume or more automated moderation on sites where mods can't keep up with the flagging.
Downvoting has a more nuanced impact than people are suggesting. To use Reddit as the most obvious example: You don’t know who is upvoting OR downvoting you, and your overall response score is balanced between anonymous up and down votes. So if 10 people like my comment and five don’t, the number I see is 5.

This has a number of positive effects:
  1. Anonymity: There is less likelihood of hurt feelings because you don’t know who is voting you up or down.
  2. Pile Ons: It reduces bullying because if someone says something mean and gets a lot of immediate upvotes for it, others using downvotes can reduce the score. (But again you don’t know who thinks what.)
  3. Reducing Moderation by Temporary Popularity: It reduces the temptation to moderate by popularity because the first score is not necessarily the final score. That gives mods more time to see if a comment is really problematic or if only a small percentage of the user base in the thread thinks so. It also gives the mods more time to consider flags and explain the deletions they do make.
Long story short: Up/Down vote systems do the grunt work for the mods, and give the mods more time to consider the nuances.
posted by Violet Blue at 11:51 AM on November 27, 2022 [4 favorites]


I’d rather make askers edit their questions so fewer people misunderstand what they’ve already tried.
posted by michaelh at 11:53 AM on November 27, 2022


I don't see a benefit, here, for this site, for downvotes.
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:12 PM on November 27, 2022 [9 favorites]


I’d rather make askers edit their questions so fewer people misunderstand what they’ve already tried.

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem itself, funnily enough.

There is absolutely no way to phrase a question which will not get someone saying, "This isn't what you're asking, but..." It's maybe worst with requests for product recommendations ("Please tell me about a thing you, yourself, personally, have used, from a brick and mortar store in Chicago?" "Here's something I found on Amazon after 30 seconds, you're welcome!"), but it's definitely everywhere. It's specifically the kind of thing that MollyRealized was trying to deal with, knowing that there's no amount of "defensive" posting that can really get around this.

It's clear the people who are answering believe they are being helpful and empathetic but are doing the exact opposite. And it doesn't matter if you spent 5 minutes on the question or 5 hours, the same careless answers keep showing up. There are lots of questions I never even bother posting because I feel like Ask culture is just going to drown it in garbage and I don't want to spend those hours trying to ask for help when that's the response it'll get.

The best we can hope for is more granular notes, so maybe if someone runs a report and sees, hmm, this particular member is getting flagged for "ignored question details" or something ten times in the last month, mods could send them a note and tell them to knock it off.
posted by curious nu at 12:27 PM on November 27, 2022 [5 favorites]


Also, hah, "Ask culture" which often is people guessing at what the poster "really" meant.
posted by curious nu at 12:32 PM on November 27, 2022 [2 favorites]


I was half joking, so I’m only half misunderstanding. :)

Good writing matters! You can absolutely make your question and personal situation more clear and get better answers that way. But I wouldn’t actually want a writing standard as a policy; that’d be ridiculous.

For people who feel so defeated by ask that they think it doesn’t matter what they write anymore, I don’t think we can do anything. If we implemented wrong/repetitive answer flags, they’d just feel even worse when some flagged answers stayed up or people argued here about the threshold for deletion.
posted by michaelh at 12:38 PM on November 27, 2022


What action do we want the mods to take when an AskMe answer picks up flags indicating that the user hasn't read/understood the question?
posted by Alterscape at 12:43 PM on November 27, 2022


I'm not sure it's accurate to say that the fundraising/mefi mail issues in the last two months are the only reason it's not progressing.

Correct. It's not. I, too, dislike the idea of things being "in process" for what seems like 50x as long as it takes to do the thing. I'm merely pointing out that our site issue is twofold 1. dev time and resources generally 2. communication to users about what the site is doing with that dev time in a way that has consistency over time. We need to work on both of those but in some ways they are separate issues.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:46 PM on November 27, 2022 [1 favorite]


Punishing people (or calling out, or messaging) for inattentiveness is not cool.

Some of us have ADHD. That sh-t can get us spiraling. CPTSD because of inattentiveness-punishment is incredibly common, since on average we grow up getting an estimated 20000 more negative messages than neurotypical kids by the age of 10.
And this never stops. Some people can’t move past visible inattentiveness, often emotionally confusing it with disintrest or rejection. Which in this case would be a bit ironic - if someone wants to help you but they’re too low on seratonin to stay on track.

So I’m gonna say no to this, and any visible calling out of inattentiveness. Not because it’s taboo, but because it’s just done to death, psychologically proven to be ineffective, and… mean.

No disrespect to the OP, no assumption on your motives, this is all just accumulated life experience.
posted by svenni at 12:46 PM on November 27, 2022 [5 favorites]


Lapis, I never was saying to do anything that leads to automatic deleting, so yes, that was a hyperexaggerated straw man.

I never thought you were, nor was it even on my radar such that I meant to imply it. If I did, I apologize, but it's something that's being read into my comment, not something I intended or hyperexaggerated for effect.

I think the mods deleting more good-faith non-oppressive answers is a bad thing, and creating an expectation that the mods should delete more of those comments is moving the site in ways that prioritize perfectionism over community and policing over community-building, which is why I don't support this proposal. I'm really not trying to exaggerate anything: I don't think we should add another deletion reason to the flagging mechanism.
posted by lapis at 12:51 PM on November 27, 2022 [3 favorites]


It's clear the people who are answering believe they are being helpful and empathetic but are doing the exact opposite.

Only being unhelpful if you're expecting/demanding only precise answers.

Answers that almost answer the question may be perfect for future searchers who have almost the same question

Exactly. IMO this makes almost-answers valuable. Answers people post aren't just for the Asker, now; but for anyone reading this public forum, even in the future.
posted by Rash at 1:16 PM on November 27, 2022 [15 favorites]


There are lots of different AskMe questions. Some have clear and obvious solutions, but often they’re filled with nuance and subjectiveness. Flags on answers must be assessed by the mods, and not all of them will (or should) be acted on. As Eyebrows mentions upthread, context helps in knowing why something is being flagged, and whether that flag is accurate.

An AskMe answer must be either obviously wrong or non-obviously wrong. Obviously wrong answers are noise/derail/other, and are straightforward for mods to assess. If an answer is non-obviously wrong, it’ll have degrees of wrongness. Adding a doesn’t answer the question flag to a non-obviously wrong answer means you’re giving the mods the same comprehension and/or domain knowledge test that one person (the answerer) has already failed. It would be better to explain why it’s wrong, which we can already do with notes.
posted by zamboni at 1:16 PM on November 27, 2022 [7 favorites]


I say a very hard NO! to downvotes, although I can understand the logical benefits and that they work well elsewhere.

I do like the idea of a 'doesn't answer the question' flag, if only because it creates data that can be used by the people behind the screen to identify trends etc. However, I think what's really needed is site-specific flagging overall and that's dependent on some re-engineering of the codebase itself. So, unless it can be added with 5 minutes of work, I say put it on the codebase wishlist.
posted by dg at 2:54 PM on November 27, 2022


Or to put it another way, in order for the doesn’t answer question flag to be a useful signal to the mods that isn’t covered by noise/derail/other and flag with note…, Mefites need to be able to consistently identify when an answer is non-obviously wrong. If we were capable of doing so, the answers wouldn’t be posted in the first place, and there would be nothing to flag.
posted by zamboni at 3:02 PM on November 27, 2022 [2 favorites]


I’d rather make askers edit their questions so fewer people misunderstand what they’ve already tried.

I’ve asked several questions about things similar to x and gotten x as a response, along the lines of “I like Led Zeppelin, what other bands should I listen to?” “Zeppelin’s ‘Houses of the Holy’ is a record that you would probably like”. I don’t see how it’s possible to be any clearer.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:29 PM on November 27, 2022 [8 favorites]


Didn't we already have a big ol' recent discussion about Ask Me answers and what constitutes a "right" answer and debating people's intent around answering questions "correctly"? Ah, here it is.

My pony ask? "Closed as duplicate" for meta.
posted by cgg at 6:53 PM on November 27, 2022 [4 favorites]


I suppose this is wrapping up, but I agree that while this happens, it's generally not a problem. When I've gotten answers that clearly missed part of my Ask's parameters, it is mildly annoying, but by no means detracts from all of the excellent answers.

Sometimes I've seen this present a problem (a common one being a post that assumes genders when the OP was gender-neutral), either the Asker or another user is usually quick to jump in and affirm whatever detail in the OP got missed. This seems to work well - it generally prevents future mistakes - and it gives the responder a chance to revise their answer.

And yes, please, no downvoting.
posted by coffeecat at 7:05 PM on November 27, 2022 [4 favorites]


Given the extremely limited mod hours in the financial crisis, I'd suggest that only truly offensive replies should get flagged (and as noted above, there's already existing flags for that). I tend to get answers that are what I've already covered or have said I'm not interested in and in general, I just let it go. As also noted above, one of the things Ask brings to the internet is a way for people with similar questions to find answers and even if someone's answer doesn't quite cover what I was asking, it might help someone else.

And honestly, if the site got draconian about the issue, people would just stop answering and the value of the site would be destroyed.
posted by Candleman at 8:49 PM on November 27, 2022 [4 favorites]


A tough problem with few good solutions. Personally, I'd love some way to clean out answers which outright ignore my question. And then the answers that follow, which outright ignore the comments I left asking to please read the question. Downvotes would require people on the site admitting that favorites are often upvotes or a form of scorekeeping, so that's probably out, unless it was reserved just for AskMe. Maybe some way for those who ask questions to have the ability to delete answers would help with cleaning things up.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:57 PM on November 27, 2022 [1 favorite]


Downvotes for some, miniature American flags for others!
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:54 PM on November 27, 2022 [4 favorites]


They sucked his brains out!: Personally, I'd love some way to clean out answers which outright ignore my question.

I can see the appeal, but I can also see how people would inevitably use it to remove all answers that aren't what they want to hear, even if they are fully correct.
Some questions are basically How can I get result A (which can only be obtained by action B) without taking action B?
Those questions will always get answers that are Sorry, but B is needed to get to A, because of C.

And that is the system working as it should. Even if some of those askers will feel that their statement (I don't like or want B) was ignored.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:05 AM on November 28, 2022 [11 favorites]


I say a very hard NO! to downvotes, although I can understand the logical benefits and that they work well elsewhere.

For what it's worth, Reddit has lots of issues with downvotes. Some people get massive amounts of downvotes on their posts or comments for completely spurious reasons (such as them being female, or contradicting a popular user's comment, or even owning a piece of gear that is unpopular.) I'll often find the best answer to a question buried at the bottom of a thread because it was downvoted dozens of times by trolls.

People also use downvotes there to mean "I'm not interested in this topic" so some of the most common types of questions get downvoted just because they're common and users are bored of them. God help us if people start downvoting questions about "How to deal with depression" because they're not entertaining enough.

It's not a perfect system even there. Reddit is (depending on the sub) way less moderated than MeFi and it allows that to work, but it doesn't always work.
posted by mmoncur at 3:05 AM on November 28, 2022 [7 favorites]


MollyRealized suggested that this is a problem that has gotten worse recently. ("It seems in the last year or so, though, that people's attention spans have shortened, details are overlooked when responding, and thus answer quality diminishes.")

So I took a few minutes to look in the MetaTalk archives. A few times this or a closely related issue has been previously discussed:

"Ask Metafilter Answer-ers and Reading the Question", September 12, 2022

"AskMess", October 27, 2019

"Should we change our norms around what makes a good answer in AskMe?", February 13, 2017

"If it's not answering the question, can it be deleted?", November 2, 2014

"I'm not asking if you think I am skewed, but you will tell me anyway", September 24, 2013

"Can we just answer the question?", January 20, 2013

"I don't have kids, but I DO have your answer...", December 31, 2011

"Did you actually read the question?", October 21, 2011

"Notice I didn't say 'melt.'", February 25, 2011

"Encouraging answers rather than comments in AskMe", December 13, 2010

"Read, then answer. Easy? Easy.", November 12, 2010

"Advice for AskMe Annoyance", July 12, 2010

"Read before answering, please!", September 27, 2008

"Do I need to repeat myself?", September 15, 2008

I stopped going back here, so there are probably more that I missed. I don't know whether the issue has gotten worse in recent years, but it's certainly bothered MeFites for at least 14 years. And if askers are experiencing more annoyance stemming from this answerer behavior than they experienced in previous years, the problem might have several causes, e.g.,:

more answerers skimming questions when answering (because they're reading on mobile while multitasking, because of shorter attention spans, because of illness, etc.)

less moderator attention available to proactively discourage this behavior

askers are asking questions that are harder to understand or more specific than before, and answerers have not updated their expectations

askers are more annoyable due to world-wide stressors
posted by brainwane at 5:01 AM on November 28, 2022 [15 favorites]


Add me to the people who feel like this is already covered in the existing flag options, either noise or flag with note, or just the user scrolling on past the answers that aren't useful (or occasionally jumping in with a course correcting follow-up if bad answers are taking over the thread for some reason).

I use flag with note on occasion for this purpose, and always appreciate being able to explain why I think it's flag-worthy.
posted by penguin pie at 5:15 AM on November 28, 2022 [3 favorites]


Brainwane, that's helpful. Thank you!

I also think the annoyance may be due to everyone, not just askers, being more annoyed than usual in general with everything. I feel like acknowledging that might be a good reminder to extend each other some grace, rather than calling for increased crackdowns.
posted by lapis at 7:05 AM on November 28, 2022 [5 favorites]


The bad vibes that extra flagging/a downvote system would produce way outweighs the utility here. Some people may give answers that are kind of dopey, but 1. skipping them takes two seconds and 2. your idea of a dopey answer might be someone else's idea of a great answer.

I'm especially leery of downvoting--it kind of works on Reddit because Reddit is huge and creates an atmosphere of anonymity. But even there people get very upset by downvoting, and receiving one often turns a conversation into a derail about "who downvoted me!" Using that system in a smaller community--on replies that often contain references to a writer's personal experiences--is absolutely going to be a site killer.

Put another way, if Reddit's Heisenberg69 can't take their opinion on Star Wars: The Clone Wars being downvoted, how is Metafilter's LittleSock going to take receiving a downvote on their personal story of mental illness treatment?
posted by kingdead at 7:20 AM on November 28, 2022 [10 favorites]


I've just changed my attitude about unhelpful answers. I asked myself why I cared so much. It's one thing if they change the whole tide of the conversation but that rarely happens. People with good answers are still going to post their good answers and if I have to read 20 useless comments to get 5 useful ones, well, it's annoying but I still got my information. Might be different if you read slower, though.

Plus, a lot of the inattentive answers still have good information even if it doesn't fit my exact situation. And I admit I was a bit tickled when my Ask about "What should I watch after Granada Holmes, Poirot, and Quantum Leap?" got several "Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett!" responses (reader, this is Granada Holmes).

Overall the impact on me (except rare instances such as misgendering or microaggressions) is minimal and I decided to just let go of the need for control of how the question goes. I get wanting to defend against bad/wrong answers, particularly in relationship questions, but for me personally I realized I was way too invested in People On The Internet Understanding Me! Which was a me problem. It may not be like that for other people, I'm sure there are things I'm not thinking of, but thought I'd share my perspective.

If something particularly bothers me, I screenshot and riff a little with my close friends in my private Discord server, and then I move on. (I've found annoying things on the internet are a lot more tolerable when you have a private group chat to grouse about them in. Saved me getting into a lot of internet fights.)
posted by brook horse at 8:06 AM on November 28, 2022 [17 favorites]


my Ask about "What should I watch after Granada Holmes, Poirot, and Quantum Leap?"

*dons deerstalker*

We must consider the possibility that you were the innocent victim in The Case of the Missing Title. You absolutely specified that Granada Holmes was not cricket in the AskMe, but only in the titular title. If it were viewed by one of the unreconstructed old guard who has titles turned off, they could blithely proffer the 1984 series in good faith, sadly unaware they were straying outside the bounds of the question. Whether that particular feature has outlived its useful life is yet another question for future consideration.

*hails hansom cab, clatters off into the foggy streets of London*
posted by zamboni at 8:39 AM on November 28, 2022 [15 favorites]


From two people:

I also want to throw in that I've had answers that I thought were flippant or irrelevant or misunderstood the question at first until I took a couple of hours/days & came back to the thread.

...

We might want to have a separate MeTa about who and what an AskMe is for. Yes, we’re trying to arrive at the best answer for the original Asker, but we typically don’t delete the thread once the question has a "best" answer- it has value to other people. Answers that almost answer the question may be perfect for future searchers who have almost the same question.

On the first, there have absolutely been times the best answers given were not the ones I wanted, but were the ones I needed. If I had this "doesn't answer question" flag, I would have certainly marked things that actually did enter my question in haste.

On the second, I have definitely "answered" questions starting with "I know this is not what you are thinking of, but...." where sometimes "answering" a different question is either answering the right question for the asker (because they didn't have the words to ask the question the may have been trying to), or the problem is close enough to issues others would be searching for, it made sense to include as a response.

So, yeah. My thought is "flag with note" or "derail"
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 9:42 AM on November 28, 2022 [2 favorites]


As a person who does a lot of troubleshooting for their job, and thus sometimes suggests the most obvious answers (eg: "Have you plugged it in?"), sometimes I get a little animosity from askers - when I've done the exact same thing myself. The repeated refrain that AskMe is a high quality site, dangit! and demanding that people do an excellent job of reading, analyzing, and answering the question can be toxic - see Stack Overflow for an example.
posted by meowzilla at 10:12 AM on November 28, 2022 [3 favorites]


I don't personally get what a flag option like "doesn't answer the question" adds beyond the already-existing option to flag with note, or as noise. But if there are people who feel that helps them communicate to the mods more effectively I don't really see the harm in adding it. Just remember that flagging is just a tool for communicating with the mods; deleting or taking some other action is up to their discretion.

As a moderation policy, I think deletion for being non-responsive should be reserved for particularly egregious cases. I'd usually rather see a mod note highlighting what needs to be re-railed for future answers, if other answerers haven't already responded to address the problem.
posted by biogeo at 11:38 AM on November 28, 2022 [2 favorites]


I'd be very sad to see downvotes. Sometimes they're helpful and sometimes they're used to bully. We don't need that here when we have solid moderation.

But also I want to say that, while I don't always practice it, the important internet-life lesson of "flag and move on" is something I am absolutely grateful to Metafilter for teaching me, along with "mostly ignore the answers that aren't helpful."
posted by bluedaisy at 11:53 AM on November 28, 2022 [3 favorites]


MollyRealized, I think that if you'd lead this thread with your most recent comment, emphasizing it as data collection, you would have gotten very different responses.

Also, people are always going to use MeTa threads to air their semi-related grievances; not sure you can stop the scope creep of these threads.

And you're not exactly being charitable to other posters here. There are a lot of people who have explained pretty reasonable concerns, both in terms of necessity and the ability to implement the change itself.

Personally, I think it makes sense to wonder if this level of granularity would be useful, given the low number of active users on the site, and the high-touch nature of moderating.

Finally, I think part of this comes down to a question of who does this work - flag with note is what I use for "this person is doing the thing where they ignore the question again", but that puts the work back on the community rather than on the tools the mods use.
posted by sagc at 1:43 PM on November 28, 2022 [9 favorites]


Downvotes for some, miniature American flags for others!
I sorta-kinda like the idea of favourites being represented by a miniature flag of the country in the favouriter's profile, as long as it's not paired with downvotes. Anyone without a country gets Antarctica.
(yes, I know that was a joke)
posted by dg at 1:58 PM on November 28, 2022


Back to the original topic - I'd be fine with the additional flag option. I don't think we are at the point where we have so many flagging options that it becomes a detriment. I'm not sure the suggestion even needs all that much community input, but that is the way of Metafilter.
posted by meowzilla at 2:17 PM on November 28, 2022


Personally, rather than thinking it was always a part of Metafilter, I would instead think this is a problem that's been with the site a long time.

My feeling is that this is a problem with humans. Mefi is lousy with them, but we need to muddle through somehow.

My intent was that mods would have the data, just like other flags. If a particular user kept getting flagged as not answering the question, it could be noted. If a particular asker kept getting flags within their questions, it could be noted. Otherwise, the only thing anyone would've seen is an additional choice within the flagging UI.

I'm afraid I'm still not clear on what signal the doesn't answer the question flag sends, and whether it's more useful than noise/derail/other, and whether it's something that the mods can act on in any useful way.

The wrongness of a given answer is often subjective, which means:
- wrong answers are often usefully wrong
- right answers (for certain values of right) will be flagged as wrong

With those confounding factors, I'm not convinced you'll get any useful signal out of that particular flag beyond what we already get from n/d/o and Flag with Note. The flag system is already kind of a baroque setup. Adding another category should be given careful consideration.
posted by zamboni at 2:20 PM on November 28, 2022 [8 favorites]


there's a very real chance that an "Eternal September" situation will "overwhelm" existing Metafilter culture

I appreciate the concern, but I strongly suspect the vast majority of any new people that join the site will be self selecting in a very narrow fashion, much more akin to the few college freshmen who would get into Usenet in the late 80s/early 90s when they got to school than the firehose that occurred when AOL added newsgroup access.

There's plenty of other sites that cater to what we don't want here that so I don't think we'll get flooded with low quality answers. But having your comments deleted when you're just meeting a site is a good way to drive potential new users away - I've pointed out the decline of Everything2 as likely being caused by taking a perverse pride in overly enforcing their style by deleting many new user's posts.

I actually think that the addition of mod flags should be abundant. It would be hard to group together notes through some sort of semantic analysis. It's easier when notes fall into common categories, and more granular analysis is a good thing, IMO.

The problem is that I think it would substantially increase the number of flags that Ask would generate which would burden an already overwhelmed mod workload.
posted by Candleman at 2:39 PM on November 28, 2022 [5 favorites]


Also the fact that users don't see what flags were used on their own posts is not relevant to any point I was making (I don't think it was for others, either, but I won't speak for them). Users can see the list of flag choices and they are going to (rightly) understand those as rules for answering -- no noise, no derails, no sexism/racism/etc, etc. If they see "doesn't answer question," that may dissuade them from providing an answer that they worry is not the perfect answer.

There are so many unwritten (or not easily findable) rules for this site that signals like that are likely to have an impact on user behavior, and not always just in the intended ways.
posted by lapis at 3:13 PM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]


Are flags actually sortable by mods in a way that would make this kind of data analysis easy? If mods can, with a single command, generate the number of flags in a certain category over a certain period of time, I guess more granular flags might be useful. Or the number of "non answer" flagged comments per user.

But I don't get the impression the flagging system is necessarily designed for data gathering? So, without further explanation of the idea, it didn't occur to me that the point of a new flag would be data analysis.
posted by the primroses were over at 4:18 PM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]


Are flags actually sortable by mods in a way that would make this kind of data analysis easy?

They definitely are not. They potentially could be, but they are not.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:20 PM on November 28, 2022 [4 favorites]


I don’t think this was MollyRealized’s proposal, but it is interesting to consider the implicit part of this request - namely to use flags (indirectly) for user feedback. In olden times here, that idea would surely be rejected for promoting angst (in the way that notifying users about comment deletions would amplify fightiness). But could it be helpful? To have a dashboard type deal in our profile - perhaps only visible to the user themself -and the mods- with a flag indicator of which types of flags they’d provoked in recent history? Once above a certain threshold? I am imagining something that does not require mod discretion or attention or labor, and something you would have to seek out rather than, say, goading a user into feeling piled-on directly inside a thread, or notifying them that they said something “unacceptable.” I wonder if that could be a tool to help us with our diversity and inclusion efforts?
posted by janell at 6:40 PM on November 28, 2022


We already fail at interpreting each other’s sentiments when we have the entirety of the English language at our disposal. Attempting to correct our behavior in response to a dashboard of impersonal semaphore sitting in judgment is unlikely to improve matters. Also, you’re going to give me a complex.
posted by zamboni at 7:33 PM on November 28, 2022 [14 favorites]


Ha!
posted by janell at 7:56 PM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]


I appreciate the OP’s suggestion. It drives me crazy when people answer the question they wish had been asked instead of the actual question. In egregious cases, I flag as derail/noise or with a note. The idea that flags could be used to collect data is smart if, in this case, impractical. Thanks for the idea, now understandably withdrawn, MollyRealized. I wish some of the pushback had been more artful and felt less like a pile on.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:38 PM on November 28, 2022 [2 favorites]


85 comments on this, with fewer still people commenting...it's really not much pushback at all. MetaTalks aren't a referendum and especially now, with a whole Steering Committee listening. This still has value.
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:39 AM on November 29, 2022 [2 favorites]


The myriad of branching ideas that got discussed in here were not and never my suggestion. I was not in favor of downvotes, display of this flag to either the flagged user or public display, "to answer perfectly or get deleted", or other exaggerated strawmans of my original suggestion.

I hope the irony here is at least a little bit amusing to you, MollyRealized.
posted by gauche at 8:55 AM on November 29, 2022 [3 favorites]


It drives me crazy when people answer the question they wish had been asked instead of the actual question.

Well, sure; me too. Even though it's a well-known rhetorical device you can find in almost any politician's toolkit. But I don't think that's quite the complaint here; it's more about people not getting the (kind of) answers they expect or desire, when they post questions in the green. We see something like that happening right now where I'm kinda baffled by the thread-sitting pushback from the OP.
posted by Rash at 2:54 PM on November 29, 2022 [10 favorites]


For those of you who don’t think bad answers are a problem, there’s currently a pretty contentious Ask touching on mental health that has required mod intervention because of numerous answers (nearly including one from me until I saw jessamyn’s mod note on preview) that have outright ignored the parameters of the question. The OP has posted multiple clarifying comments prior to jessamyn’s involvement and people are still ignoring the actual question.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:56 PM on November 29, 2022


I used “flag with notes” to get some attention on that thread, got it, and some (but not as many as I flagged / would have removed if it were up to me) got removed, with a mod note. Seems like the system working reasonably well to me. A specific flag wouldn’t have enhanced my experience of doing the flagging, but also wouldn’t have done any harm, if it were in fact useful to enable some sort of data analysis on the mod side.
posted by Stacey at 3:02 PM on November 29, 2022 [4 favorites]


Just a heads up on that thread, it happened during one of our mod coverage gaps which made it slightly bumpier than it had to be. We have a staff alert thing on the group Slack and I happened to notice it and stepped in. An actual mod will take a look when they're back on shift.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:04 PM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]


I'd say that thread has required mod intervention in part because the person who posted the question kept responding to and arguing with responses. I don't think you get to respond five, six, seven times (I think a few were removed) in your own thread in under an hour and say you aren't threadsitting. I'm not convinced that "bad answers" were truly the problem there. It wasn't a great question and seemed more about expressing anxiety and venting. Though I will also say I did answer in good faith, even if the poster didn't take it as such.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:28 PM on November 29, 2022 [10 favorites]


And I see Rash has just made a similar point.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:29 PM on November 29, 2022


I didn't get a chance to respond before it was deleted but to me, that question was clearly about how to cope with watching people engage in unnecessarily risky behavior that endangers others as well as themselves. Driving isn't a good comparison because driving is necessary for many people; drunk driving, however, is pretty clearly an unnecessary risk that endangers yourself and others.*

If the asker views COVID like drunk driving, then the answers were very inappropriate for the question. The problem is many of the people responding don't view COVID that way, or didn't understand that the asker was specifically anxious about those aspects. Whether the "blame" falls on the asker or the answerers or whether the asker should have stepped back and let the thread go as it would seems moot; it's a basic problem of miscommunication that humans have been dealing with for millennia. I would love to see MeFi come up with a solution for it but I admit I'm skeptical if there is one. Not saying that to shut down any brainstorming, though, just how I view the issue. And maybe my interpretation of their question is totally wrong! Who knows. Communication is hard.

*We can argue all day about whether driving is necessary, how much of a risk it is, etc.; same for COVID. But from a sociocultural context this is how these things are treated/viewed and seems to be the context the asker was coming from (given the comment about driving not being contagious).
posted by brook horse at 4:22 PM on November 29, 2022 [2 favorites]


The OP's account was disabled following that question's deletion -- if you are reading this, OP, I remember your kindness to me when I was struggling with isolation during the first year of covid and it meant a lot to me. Thank you. I hope you're okay.
posted by mochapickle at 4:28 PM on November 29, 2022 [12 favorites]


It wasn't a great question

I agree, and I even favorited a few of your answers to that end. But a user buttoned because of a poorly handled mental health issue. That’s both a bad look for the site as we try to attract users and a direct confirmation of what the OP here is saying - that bad answers are a problem for user experience and retention. Given jessamyn’s note in this thread, I’m not sure what could have been done differently from a structural perspective (aside from increased funding to ensure 24/7 mod coverage), but it’s obviously a problem now, and I for one feel bad that I might have contributed to it.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:59 PM on November 29, 2022 [3 favorites]


A user leaving after they don't like how a thread goes isn't necessarily an indication of a problem with the site, though, is it? I'm thinking about this, and yeah, I may have contributed. I'm not sure that more or different moderation is necessarily the answer, but I'm open to hearing a different take.

I just scrolled back through this thread because I was looking for a comment that had some great insight into how answers that don't seem helpful at first can actually be helpful when you come back to them later. Imagine my surprise when I found it. And I think it's worth clicking through to read that whole comment in light of the contentious thread and the poster who left.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:09 PM on November 29, 2022 [10 favorites]


When I ask a question on Ask Metafilter and people don’t pay attention to the question and post answers ignoring the question, it really bothers me.

If you can’t be bothered or can’t focus enough to read the question, just don’t answer it. There’s an actual person asking the question who genuinely wants to know the answer. Ignoring what this person is asking is rude.

Misreading or not understanding the question happens. Unanswerable questions happen. But you can’t lose sight of the person asking the question and saying that answers that ignore the question asked are ok is basically devaluing the person, the question and the functionality of the site.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:31 PM on November 29, 2022 [9 favorites]


Here's something I wrote during a previous go-round on more or less this very subject:
I have my suspicions that social AskMes will always be a difficult case. Any interpersonal or psychological AskMe where the asker has sufficient perspective on the situation to write a perfect question that won't be misunderstood or misinterpreted, is probably capable of solving their own problem and doesn't need advice from a bunch of weirdoes on the Internet. Answerers who have sufficient insight to understand that, hey, maybe they should butt out on this one, are the ones who are capable of writing a better empathetic answer that would be helpful. Which means that there's no good way around social/psych AskMes being a hot mess of people writing imperfect questions that will generally receive imperfect answers.
posted by zamboni at 5:55 PM on November 29, 2022 [5 favorites]


People can (and I do) think that inappropriate answers are a problem and still not agree that adding a flagging reason will fix that problem, or can (and I do) still think the unintended side effects of that proposed solution aren't worth it.

The problem in the cited thread is not that users wanted to flag answers but didn't because they couldn't figure out what reason to use. The problem is that there wasn't a mod on duty to see the flags, or to steer the conversation. Moderators steering the conversation was what was needed (and missing in that moment), not another flagging reason.
posted by lapis at 5:57 PM on November 29, 2022 [13 favorites]


That deleted thread was highly interesting and very much worth reading and thinking about, but the punishment the OP was taking as it evolved was really making me wince and I had to stop reading.

I think they were right to ask that it be deleted and I’m very sorry to hear they left. They are a brave person who took a risk for the common good and got hammered for it. I hope they return as soon as possible.
posted by jamjam at 8:42 PM on November 29, 2022 [8 favorites]


Going to cap this one off with possibly the greatest derail of all, but that thread (along with a few others I've seen) makes me think that differences in perceptions of COVID risk are a much bigger threat to the peace and harmony of the AskMeFi community than the quality of the answers in general.
posted by kingdead at 9:53 PM on November 29, 2022 [14 favorites]


there’s currently a pretty contentious Ask touching on mental health that has required mod intervention

There was also one today that was way less contentious but involved a user very much wanting to own a dog and feeling attacked as supporting kill shelters (which they very much didn't) and someone posted at least twice that the average person shouldn't own a dog and that all shelters should be "high-kill shelters."

Decidedly not what the asker was asking about nor helpful for what they were looking for. The initial response was deleted but the still offensive second version was allowed to stay up despite being flagged. To lapis's point, the lack of a specific tag in this case wasn't the problem, it was either the lack of mod hours to deal with it or poor moderation.
posted by Candleman at 10:37 PM on November 29, 2022 [3 favorites]


But I don't think that's quite the complaint here; it's more about people not getting the (kind of) answers they expect or desire, when they post questions in the green

MollyRealized brought up, very precisely, the issue of not fully reading question. That has been repeatedly reframed in people's comments as askers not getting the answers they expect, but the complaint is clearly about not reading the question.
posted by Ballad of Peckham Rye at 12:13 AM on November 30, 2022 [1 favorite]


It's clear at the moment that the community's firmly against this idea, God knows why

I've thought the same thing whenever the topic's come up before, with similar frustration, and I think there's a few things going on:

1. A desire to be charitable about a common human error that most of us fall prey to from time to time. This can be a pragmatic desire when moderation resource is stretched

2. Recognising benefits in knowingly rejecting or challenging the premises of a question, especially certain types of emotional question (my issue with this is that the benefit depends on fully reading the detail EVEN MORE during disagreement)

3. Some people implicitly treat Ask as serving a purpose *for the answerers* rather than the asker or a hypothetical future reader. If the answerer's experience is prioritised then it can suffice for them to say their piece, even if it has little to do with the question in front of them, is a strange projection or is addressed at an annoying friend/acquaintance in their own head. No one is ever going to say explicitly that they value that more than helping the questioner, but it is a lens through which certain kinds of pushback make sense.
posted by Ballad of Peckham Rye at 12:44 AM on November 30, 2022 [2 favorites]


To me the deleted question was being as clear as possible: "I am experiencing this emotional thing, please only answer if you are experiencing this thing" and many of the answers were not only clearly not"I don't experience this emotional thing" (which to me should mean, don't answer the question?) but also "these reasons are why what you are wrong" or "this is my current stance on this topic" which is completely different.
There's a whole genre of questions I wouldn't want to ask here because of that. It seems like there's no way to ask "it may not be rational but I feel this way, help" questions without getting "your feelings are wrong and this is why" answers, even when"am I right" is clearly not the question.
Anyway, made me realize the importance of both flagging and moderation.
posted by karasu at 4:54 AM on November 30, 2022 [13 favorites]


The 10,000 foot view of this is the real questions are "How should AskMes should be modded?" "What are reasonable expectations as an asker for how tightly on topic the responses I receive should be?" "As an answerer, how tightly should I stick to the parameters of the question?" "As a reader, how far off topic or unresponsive should an answer be before I flag it for the mods?" These are all extremely grey areas.
It's a balance between messy/loose human interaction (people spouting whatever random free associated nonsense they want as answers) and tightly controlled answers where there are a lot of heavy-handed deletions, interesting and informative tangents are flagged and pulled, answers which question the OP's premise are deleted etc. I'm of the opinion that the balance is pretty good as it stands right now. There definitely are some off topic answers, they're generally not harmful (although some may find them irritating) and the really egregious stuff gets taken care of.
I think that the "why are people so opposed to adding an extra flag so we can just collect data on this?" is a bit of a smokescreen, especially in the context of this being the OPs 2nd MeTa on this topic. Collecting data is step one and then Doing Something About It is step two. It's the implied Doing Something About It phase that's the more alarming proposition. (No doubt, I'll be accused of strawmanning here.)
What we're doing here is not that different than asking a group of people IRL about something. The quality of the answers are going to vary depending on who is around and if you're not prepared to deal with that, you should only ask questions in private to subject experts, people you trust to respect your emotional boundaries, etc.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 5:22 AM on November 30, 2022 [10 favorites]


The deleted question was a reasonable problem to have -- but it wasn't a good question for AskMe. It wasn't really an answerable question in the sense that it seemed to be asking for a way to be less upset about something while also proactively refusing any answers that suggested alternative lenses. Given that there's not mod resourcing to support reworking such a question up front, I think we should consider enforcing the old "specific answerable question" framework. "Help," while a reasonable thing to need, isn't a specific and answerable question. I went back to the question a couple of times to try to figure exactly what the request was, and it was more a cri de couer than a fulfillable request for assistance from strangers online.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:36 AM on November 30, 2022 [26 favorites]


It seems like there's no way to ask "it may not be rational but I feel this way, help" questions without getting "your feelings are wrong and this is why" answers

Quoted for truth. I am so sad that bleep has left. I hope it is temporary.

A user leaving after they don't like how a thread goes isn't necessarily an indication of a problem with the site, though, is it?

This user has replied to AskMe questions more than 3,000 times and, to me, seemed like a good MF citizen. The user was specific about the kind of responses they were looking for. Being kind of fighty by responding so often was not helpful but sometimes we get frustrated; sometimes we behave (or respond) in less than helpful ways. The OP was hardly the only one to respond in unhelpful ways.

It is a challenge to respond gracefully to trying situations. I have publicly fucked up, on the regular, in this community. Usually, if sometimes belatedly, I have understood (sometimes with the help of fellow MeFites, sometimes courtesy of mods) my screw up and been able to apologize if not always repair the damage.

From my perspective, which is necessarily limited and flawed, this thread has been unduly harsh on MollyRealized and the recent, deleted AskMe question had many responses that were unduly harsh on bleep. Plenty of folks probably disagree with me, which is fine. I do hope that MollyRealized will continue being a valuable member of the community and that bleep will return and continue being a valuable member of the community.

I still remember when someone with brain damage was encouraged to leave because they required massive mod resources as an individual, in part by answering AskMe questions in ways that annoyed fellow responders (and possibly askers as well). They did it wrong, and now they are long gone even though they had contributed to this community in many other important ways.

So I am anything but open minded on this topic. Sometimes askers get the empathetic and warm responses they need; sometimes, not so much. I think we often handle mental illness (and other difficult topics) badly. I won't pretend to be better at this than anyone else here. It's just a shame that in this regard, we don't seem to be that much better than the world at large (and I hope that is an exaggeration). Apparently, I have feels! :-)
posted by Bella Donna at 6:38 AM on November 30, 2022 [17 favorites]


Both the deleted COVID thread and the rescue dog thread referenced above were not really questions. There was some token effort to turn them both into a question, but at the core the ask was "all the people around me are wrong about this thing and it makes me so mad, please validate how mad I feel."

It's not really a great place to start a 'question' from. I think some of the blame can be laid at the feet of the answerers (I disagreed with the premise of the COVID question, but I respected the request that I not answer), but I think that style of question is a big part of the issue.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:11 AM on November 30, 2022 [20 favorites]


geegollygosh, I had an entirely different reading of the question! But your comment does help me put all of this into perspective, so I'm really thankful for your comment.

If you're someone for whom covid isn't really at the forefront of your mind anymore, bleep's question might seem insubstantial to you. But if you're in the small handful of us here who are still living in isolation because either they, or someone they are directly providing care for, have serious health issues that could make covid a disaster for us, and bleep's situation was very much in that category, life is REALLY DIFFERENT for us. The topic is much more fraught, much more granular, because we're still in the middle of it and it affects a lot of the decisions we make on the daily, and in the long term as well. I can say from experience that three years of isolation does an absolute number on you mentally and physically, and it completely transforms how you interact with the world.

bleep, from her perspective and my own, did her due diligence by prefacing the question by saying, look, I know this won't apply to many of you, it's kind of a niche thing, so please don't answer if this isn't you. And the answerers, from their perspective, interpreted it as a general question, thought it applied to them, and answered as such. It's hard to blame either perspective, because I do think most people answered with a feeling of good faith not realizing that maybe they should have sat this question out.

And I wish I could have answered before the question closed -- I was working on an answer when it did, and then I went to memail bleep and saw the account was closed. But if I had answered, I would say that it's really hard to let it go, and it's something I struggle with, and what bleep is feeling feels normal to me, as someone who is still living in isolation myself and will likely never see the end of it.
posted by mochapickle at 7:32 AM on November 30, 2022 [11 favorites]


But if I had answered, I would say that it's really hard to let it go, and it's something I struggle with, and what bleep is feeling feels normal to me

But if the only way you can usefully engage with someone's question is by agreeing with them and validating their feelings, it's not a question. It's a community-building, therapeutic exercise. Which is important in many situations, including this one! But I don't think askme is the best forum for it.

The question and the poster's responses had very strong implications that other people were fundamentally wrong, misinformed, etc in the ways they were reacting to covid. I read the question and instantly had a fighty reaction to it because the poster was talking about me! About my decisions! The poster was suggesting that the only reason I would make those decisions was if I wasn't informed or smart enough to make the right decisions.

But it was also clear how much pain there was present in the question, and I knew I wasn't the target audience, so I didn't engage. On another topic, or if I were in a bad mood, I might not have had the self-control to cruise on by. I don't think that depending on people to do that leads to a good outcome for anyone.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:09 AM on November 30, 2022 [17 favorites]


ask was "all the people around me are wrong about this thing and it makes me so mad, please validate how mad I feel."

Completely agree with this. The way that question was phrased, the only possible answers were "yes, me too! :)"

I can say from experience that three years of isolation does an absolute number on you mentally and physically, and it completely transforms how you interact with the world.

I agree with this completely, and a lot of us did the math and said that getting possibly seriously sick was not worth the tradeoff vs the currently occurring daily mental breakdown. I did the math and get the seriousness of COVID -, I'd rather be sick than isolated. If you don't like that answer, that's fine. But that's one I've made.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:10 AM on November 30, 2022 [2 favorites]


If we cut some slack for people giving off topic answers I think we should offer equivalent latitude when it comes to imperfectly expressed (or "bad" or "unanswerable") questions. Especially if they're coming from people under pressure, and replying is entirely voluntary.
posted by Ballad of Peckham Rye at 8:14 AM on November 30, 2022 [15 favorites]


more a cri de couer than a fulfillable request for assistance from strangers online

Interesting point. I asked an anonymous question a few months ago when my boss died suddenly and I wanted some tools and perspective to help get through the short term. There were some responses that tried to tell me the main parameter of my job wasn't a parameter (flagged for deletion). There were also many helpful responses. But I realized soon after the initial shock that if I had waited a few days there may not have been a need to ask that question at all. So another facet of "How do we handle answers that don't answer the question?" is "How do we approach questions asked when the member is in a state of panic or emergency?" Or maybe that's for another thread.

(As for the member who buttoned, I'm sorry to see this but also not surprised. I noticed their rising level of frustration all over the site, taking different opinions personally, describing member discussions as hate watching in FanFare, etc. I marked it down as "person who has difficult stuff going on," but also avoided threads where they were active. I hope they take good care of themselves and come back feeling better.)
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 8:27 AM on November 30, 2022 [6 favorites]


I agree with this completely, and a lot of us did the math and said that getting possibly seriously sick was not worth the tradeoff vs the currently occurring daily mental breakdown. I did the math and get the seriousness of COVID -, I'd rather be sick than isolated. If you don't like that answer, that's fine. But that's one I've made.

For the record, I do think that answer is perfectly fine. This has been rough on everyone for sure, and in ways we're still discovering.
posted by mochapickle at 8:35 AM on November 30, 2022 [1 favorite]


Completely agree with this. The way that question was phrased, the only possible answers were "yes, me too! :)"

Nah, there's plenty of ways to answer "how do I cope with people around me doing something I see as very dangerous to themselves and others?" that aren't just "yes, me too." I was thinking about how I cope with family members who take very impairing prescriptions and then drive around town with others in the car (for non-essential reasons). That's something that makes me anxious and frustrated and upset. There are lots of ways to cope with that that are not "well I'm wrong and controlling for being upset that they are doing that." The question was answerable if you can put yourself in the same context as the OP (which you aren't required to agree with to answer!), but many answers did not and perhaps could not do that.
posted by brook horse at 8:36 AM on November 30, 2022 [11 favorites]


I think it's ok to ask questions that are really more about sharing an emotionally distressing situation or looking for validation. I've certainly done it myself.

The caveat is that you then have to take the answers as they come and accept that outsiders to your situation may have a different view of it than you do. They may also offer advice that you don't want to take.
posted by kingdead at 10:16 AM on November 30, 2022 [4 favorites]


I think it's ok to ask questions that are really more about sharing an emotionally distressing situation or looking for validation. I've certainly done it myself.

This happens a lot, but is one of the prototypical examples of "chatfilter" in the FAQ and it says don't do that. I think it's part of the reason that one went wrong. Some people assume it is a good AskMe question, if imprecisely phrased, instead of a chatfilter question.

I didn't post on that that one, but only because I didn't get a chance to. For everyone saying it was clear, I thought--even through the first two clarifications--that I, too, was going through the same "experience" of often being the only masked person at a work meeting and had tips on how to deal with it.

I always feel bad when someone gets stressed out by their Ask, and double bad when someone buttons over it. I'm glad I didn't get a chance to post.

But overall, I think a lot of chatfilter adjacent stuff in both questions and answers is accepted--indeed, welcomed--these days. I've seen answers that I thought, when I read them, were non-responsive, non-specific venting on the topic at hand get marked as "best answer."

It's not a problem per se. That's what some people want. But it's tough to have a cultural norm to only answer the question actually asked if things are running this way.
posted by mark k at 11:17 AM on November 30, 2022 [2 favorites]


It's interesting that folks are citing the dog shelter question as one with responses that don't answer the question, because the poster chimed back in to say the answers helped her understand the contradictions in her way of thinking. She did frame it literally in an AITA way, though, so that's pretty different than the Covid anxiety question.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:28 AM on November 30, 2022 [1 favorite]


I thought the chatfilter restrictions had been substantially (though not entirely) loosened over the last few years. Is that the case?
posted by lapis at 12:35 PM on November 30, 2022


Using the recent COVID question as a stand-in for a general trend seems extreme; when someone posts in high emotional distress about a charged topic the bar for "answering right" is MUCH higher than average.

In this case the OP even acknowledged in the question itself, that it would be fine if no one ever answered, so they had at least some sense that this was not maybe a truly answerable question. In the more hands-on mod environment we've had here at times, that would have been a "let's rework this" situation, no question. It's really unfortunate that it spooled out the way it did and I hope the poster has strong IRL support, but there was no platonic ideal response that would have made that thread go WELL.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:00 PM on November 30, 2022 [9 favorites]


(That said, whether or not it's a good idea to post a question on a public forum with a big sign that basically says KEEP OUT, THIS MEANS YOU -- if a question has that warning, people might well want to consider actually keeping out.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:27 PM on November 30, 2022 [12 favorites]


when someone posts in high emotional distress about a charged topic the bar for "answering right" is MUCH higher than average.

To perhaps bring this thread full circle (maybe that's the wrong metaphor), I wonder if it might be useful for there to be a new flag for "FYI mods - this post/thread has high emotional content!" so that even before anything happens, the mods can know about threads that have a high likelihood of going south, even if people aren't flagging it yet. I wonder too if in these situations, it might be helpful for mods to preemptively get involved "Hey, just a reminder Mefites, COVID threads have gotten heated in the past so please take extra care if you decide to respond" or whatever. I have seen similar practices done in some Reddit subs.
posted by coffeecat at 6:08 PM on November 30, 2022 [2 favorites]


Sounds like a job for "flag with note."
posted by Alterscape at 6:55 PM on November 30, 2022 [3 favorites]


Adding an admin flag is not making the user feel bad if a user never sees it....it was meant for what I presumed already existed (but evidently doesn't), purposes of data collection and analyses and trends, in an effort to hopefully be able to get people to either think more about what question they're wanting answered (if an analysis were to indicate that someone's Ask posts are getting a lot of these flags) or to nudge someone to be more careful when reading the question (if an analysis were to indicate that someone's Ask responses are getting a lot of these flags).

So, then, yes, you are suggesting that there be some form of negative consequences for being flagged for this (otherwise there would hardly be a point in collecting the data), just as there are for the other "red flags." I stand by my position that this would be unnecessarily discouraging to new people and (certain kinds of) socially awkward people. A new person finding their comment deleted silently or getting even a kindly-worded note from the mods about it may indeed feel bad about it.
posted by praemunire at 8:57 AM on December 1, 2022 [2 favorites]


irony

This post is prompted by, and an example of, failure to communicate. I don't think Mefites are going out of their way to miscomprehend AskMes, and there are going to be differing approaches as to how we should address that.

Until we are enmeshed in the Utopian Mindmeld, where all are one, we need to choose our words as best we can, knowing that it will be imperfect, and do our best at generously interpreting what other folks are saying in response. Often, we fail. There may be some straw men in this thread, but no wicker men - they're constructed unintentionally through misinterpretation, not artifices intended to burn the intruder alive.

Given MollyRealized is stepping away from the thread, and it feels to me like a lot of talking past each other is going on, I'm going to stop responding as well. Molly, I hope things get better soon.
posted by zamboni at 9:37 AM on December 1, 2022 [2 favorites]


Sounds like a job for "flag with note."

I am obviously but only one data point here, but I began to read Metafilter about 5 years ago I think? Whatever I have figured out about how this site works, it's mores, lingo, etc., has mostly been from gradual osmosis. I imagine I can't be alone in this. So how the site is designed does have an impact on how people interpret it/interact with it, and it would never occur to me that if I saw a post that seemed very likely to get contentious to flag with a note. Whereas if there was an "SOS - Contentious Thread" flag, it would be an obvious option to me.
posted by coffeecat at 9:54 AM on December 1, 2022 [2 favorites]


I suggested this because if such analyses was available, it'd be useful to them to know a questioner was constantly getting bad answers (maybe they need to work on their questioning) or an answerer was constantly giving bad answers.

I think where people are getting stuck at cross purposes with this is that maybe you mean to collect the data for...funsies? Pure knowledge? The flag is invisible to the user but it's still visible to SOMEone, and therefore it is existing for a purpose. It's unclear from these posts what the ultimate purpose would be and that's what folks are resisting.

Data gets collected to be analyzed and acted upon, so what would this data mean in practice? Mods have a list of Bad Askers and Bad Answerers and they... what, jump on anything new from them, send them a PM telling them to watch it, just generally tap the sign? To what end, three strikes? Ongoing management of a user?

Just as AskMe isn't a psychotherapy practice, it's also not a job. Being monitored on performance and presumably then "coached" (or warned?) to improve on the metrics is something for which people get paid money. A system like that implicitly makes the mods our bosses, which is also really weird.

I mean look I have a terrible and frustrating job wherein people just really fall short of my (admittedly high) expectations constantly, and after 12ish hours a day of that crap I definitely find myself impatient and angry about other organizations in a similar way. But just like I'm not the boss of the grocery store, I'm not the employee of AskMe either.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:00 AM on December 1, 2022 [8 favorites]


I don't think it's appropriate to query MollyRealized anymore for more details, since they have (1) withdrawn the request that was the originating event for this thread, and (2) already made clear they're stepping away from the thread.

PROPOSED: Mods close this thread early.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 10:26 AM on December 1, 2022 [4 favorites]


(TO be clear that was not a demand for details but rather meant to illustrate the kinds of questions the proposal might have raised with folks, and suggest one reason why it might have provoked a negative reaction from users apart from just a hatred of change?)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:37 AM on December 1, 2022 [6 favorites]


I'm learning from this discussion, even as it has veered away from the original post, and would prefer it stay open. I do think the approach is different for this kind of issue in MetaTalk than Ask, no?
posted by bluedaisy at 12:36 PM on December 1, 2022 [1 favorite]


The thread can be closed without deleting the comments that have been posted. What I mean is that I think that since the original request has been withdrawn and further discussion seems to be trending towards other ideas for tag modifications (and questions about tag usage) that it might be more helpful to make a separate MeTa question about it, rather than stick it on the end of this thread that has already gone off topic.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 12:54 PM on December 1, 2022 [1 favorite]


MollyRealized, that last comment of yours was really thoughtful. It helped me understand both your proposal and its withdrawal, and it helped me understand other things too. It was a well-crafted comment and it's worth being proud of.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:26 AM on December 2, 2022 [4 favorites]


>> A vegan equivalent for slow cooked meat Feijoada?

> Non-vegetarian:
> - Anchovies (sautee first)
> - fish sauce
> - Worcestshire sauce
> …
> Another trick that makes a HUGE difference is to use chicken broth to simmer the beans.

https://ask.metafilter.com/368800/A-vegan-equivalent-for-slow-cooked-meat-Feijoada#5250310
posted by thoroughburro at 5:41 AM on December 2, 2022 [8 favorites]


Wow.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:06 AM on December 2, 2022


Late to this thread buuuuut: in the same way that a poster can "mark as best answer," what about "mark as misses the point" or "mark as missing the point" or whatever?

The comment would remain on the page, but perhaps visually deemphasized.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:13 AM on December 2, 2022 [3 favorites]


This worked well though as is - the non vegan derail was flagged and removed by the moderators. Ta-da!
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:20 AM on December 2, 2022 [2 favorites]


I don't want to put words in the OP's mouth by any means, so take this as a concurring opinion rather than trying to explain what the OP may have been thinking, but the appeal of what they're suggesting to me is the ability to spot trends that may be negatively affecting site culture, especially as we're trying to recruit new members. The vegan feijoada asker has been here less than a week; that was the first question they'd ever asked. They asked another question 40 minutes later, but haven't had any site activity since the anchovies-and-fish-sauce comment. Maybe that's because they're sleeping or are at work or whatever, or maybe that's because they saw that one of the first answers to their first question completely failed to read the question and decided they weren't likely to get helpful answers here. Even if the former is true, the latter is at least a plausible scenario that other users might encounter. Maybe it would be helpful to have a mod tool that alerts when something is flagged on a post by a new* user. (*First x posts, x days since account creation, however you want to define it.)

Another plausible scenario is that the person who posted the anchovies-and-chicken-broth comment has posted other non-vegan recipes in response to vegan Asks before. If you can identify patterns like this, you could create alerts for things like "comment from [kevinbelt] on post with tag [newengland]", and when I make another comment about how much I hate New England, a mod could reach out to remind me that not everyone cares that I hate New England, and that constantly posting that I do is probably irritating other members. Maybe even prevent my comment, if they've already warned me a few times. Maybe it's an 80-20 situation where a lot of the problems we're encountering are being caused by a small number of users, and mod outreach to the problem users would be a more effective means of solving the problem than a MetaTalk thread.

I know not everybody wants mod tools like this. I'm not sure I do. But we've shown a willingness to build other such tools in the past, e.g. the racial slur detector, which I thought was a really good idea. That's obviously different, in several ways, but it seems like it's a discussion we should probably continue having, considering that we can no longer afford qualitative human moderation around the clock. This is the same reason bigger sites like Reddit have turned to mod tools: they don't have the resources to support the necessary level of human moderation. In Reddit's case, it's because they'd need tens of thousands of human moderators. We don't need nearly as many, but we also don't have nearly as resources. Same problem, just a different scale. Maybe this should be a new Metatalk post, about what kind of mod tools we're willing to accept and what would be reasonable to implement, rather than an extended derail of a post about a specific mod tool suggestion.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:26 AM on December 2, 2022 [2 favorites]


The comment would remain on the page, but perhaps visually deemphasized

I read a comment section that does this. It uses upvoting/downvoting, which we've pretty definitively established we don't want here, but after x downvotes (I think it's five, but it's opaque so I don't know for sure), the font color changes to like #cccccc on a #ffffff background, and then after y more downvotes, the comment gets deleted (which again, we've pretty definitely established we don't want). Seems conceptually easy to adapt that to x flags to a font-color change here.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:29 AM on December 2, 2022


Just popping to say that overzealous deleting of AskMe answers was a historical practice that we may not necessarily want to return to. It did help create a site culture that ensured AskMe had a focused purpose. But can also be quite alienating if not done carefully. (Source: I just had a totally reasonable and detailed AskMe answer deleted for no apparent reason other than someone being annoyed by it.)
posted by haptic_avenger at 11:23 AM on December 2, 2022


Oh haha, I see I am being called out here. Awesome. The OP *did not say* they couldn't eat any meat ingredients whatsoever. They said it was for health reasons. My answer was totally reasonable (and gave multiple options). This kind of piling on is NOT what you want to attract new users. Come on, people.

(And BTW I believe the OP is in New Zealand, which is why they haven't posted.) The idea that I chased someone off the site because I suggested they might use a bit of fish sauce is just... well ...
posted by haptic_avenger at 11:25 AM on December 2, 2022


The question title said vegan.

The rest of the question included this:

Recently I've been trying to find vegan recipes that can replicate the delicious meals I ate there (although my body can't handle eating meat products anymore).

I appreciate it sucks getting stuff deleted, but you comment didn't answer the question.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:36 AM on December 2, 2022 [13 favorites]


(And the one that remains at least partially answers the question, so it seems like a good outcome here - I'm yay moderation on this)
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:38 AM on December 2, 2022 [1 favorite]


Okay, so someone asked for help in getting her depressed cat outside, and I answered, "Please take your cat to the vet, and here are some other ideas." Once I did that, lots of people started saying, "Take your cat to the vet."

I'm stumbling over this idea of being hyper literal in answering the asker's question. One of the first things we learn as librarians who answer questions is that the first question the person asks isn't always exactly what they want to know. There's even a whole thing called a "reference interview," the goal of which is to figure out what exactly the person needs, which is often several steps away from what they asked.

Ask Metafilter isn't a library or a reference desk, and we aren't here as trained professionals, and even excellent librarians in actual reference situations often misunderstand the question and provide wrong or irrelevant information. But, there are a lot of librarians here (we love answering questions!), and we question-askers are imperfect people, too, and sometimes getting a bunch of wrong answers is part of helping us figure out what we really meant to ask and what we want to know. And sometimes it's just really annoying, I get that too.

Yes, sometimes people miss details and give advice that's misguided (like, there are often a lot of excellent answers that include, in a long response, "Go to therapy," when the question includes something about how they are already in therapy). But, you know, just roll your eyes and move on? Flag it as noise or derail.

But sometimes there are answers within the wrong answers that are right on. I think we need space for that too.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:16 PM on December 2, 2022 [12 favorites]


And the one that remains at least partially answers the question, so it seems like a good outcome here

The one reposted is basically the same. My original answer included both veg and non-veg options. The reposted one just made it more clear why the non-veg options might be responsive.

One of the first things we learn as librarians who answer questions is that the first question the person asks isn't always exactly what they want to know. There's even a whole thing called a "reference interview," the goal of which is to figure out what exactly the person needs, which is often several steps away from what they asked.

Exactly! A hyper-literal approach would not further the purposes of AskMe. I've been around a while so the deletion didn't phase me (that much) but certainly would turn off a more recent member.

Anyway, as I recall, the original AskMe moderation worked fairly well and focused on:

- Chat filter
- Argumentation (with the OP or other posters)
- Threadsitting
- Completely off-topic comments
posted by haptic_avenger at 12:46 PM on December 2, 2022


The question is asking for vegan recipes. Does it matter why they’re asking for vegan recipes? A response that includes non-vegan options does not answer the question and is just as helpful as “why bother cooking? Order a pizza.”
posted by Diskeater at 1:12 PM on December 2, 2022 [10 favorites]


Basically the same except omits meaty bits so...not the same.

You suggested chicken broth!

I mean...the original was not answering the question, absolutely not. I would concentrate on that it's not a big deal that the original was deleted, it sinply didn't fit the parameters.
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:18 PM on December 2, 2022 [3 favorites]


(And I still hate that the new one includes anchovies and chicken broth, to be honest. The thing is, it's half correct, and that's how AskMe works...includes useful info, then great! Includes mostly off topic info...not great.)
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:27 PM on December 2, 2022


You suggested chicken broth!

This is literal beanplating! I answered exactly like I would answer anyone IRL who had not made clear what exactly their dietary restrictions are. As bluedaisy pointed out, sometimes asking additional questions to understand the intent is necessary and helpful. OP absolutely did not make clear what the scope of their dietary restrictions are. Someone who can't eat actual chicken for health reasons (heart, digestion, etc) may very well be able to have chicken broth.

Unless you think there's something offensive about raising this as a possibility, deleting my answer was just overzealous nonsense, almost calculated to alienate potential users.
posted by haptic_avenger at 1:29 PM on December 2, 2022


They made it clear. You didn't read clearly. That was the (minor) problem.
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:36 PM on December 2, 2022 [5 favorites]


If I said I was vegan, and you suggested chicken broth, you would be ignoring the actual question in real life, too.
posted by sagc at 1:44 PM on December 2, 2022 [9 favorites]


Worth pointing out that the (correct) discouragement of thread-sitting means it is hard to ask the kind of clarifying questions that I think many of us might ask, were we posed the exact same questions in real life and trying to give the best answer. So sometimes you get answers that are trying to work around various reasons that a person might say "I can't do [x]," which might mean they could actually do [x] under [y] conditions. E.g., there's a difference between saying "fish sauce might help" when the question is about being vegan for ethical/religious reasons and when the question is about being vegan because over time one's found that one feels better when one doesn't eat chunks of animal flesh, but it's not practical to ask the reason of the OP. This can definitely feel like annoying second-guessing, but, as someone else just pointed out, many people have trouble formulating the exact question they need to ask to get the information they're actually looking for.
posted by praemunire at 1:45 PM on December 2, 2022 [2 favorites]


Often true, prawmunire, but...that's not the situation here, since the OP stated "vegan" as well as "can't handle eating meat products anymore."

I get it! I did this too once, blew past a parameter and suggested something that the poster didn't want. It was deleted. Whoops! We're human, it happens. It shouldn't feel like a diss, it really isn't.
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:49 PM on December 2, 2022 [8 favorites]


As we’re both here, I really, really should have flagged it (did) and moved on (didn’t, got catty in thread instead). I’m sorry about that; I don’t regret the flag, but my irritation certainly junked up the thread more than the original answer. (It was deleted along with original answer, thankfully.)
posted by thoroughburro at 1:56 PM on December 2, 2022 [4 favorites]


To be clear, I’m apologizing to haptic_avenger for being unnecessarily antagonistic and making what could have been a quiet, corrective deletion into something worse and less helpful. I’m sorry.
posted by thoroughburro at 2:00 PM on December 2, 2022 [2 favorites]


Often true, prawmunire, but...that's not the situation here, since the OP stated "vegan" as well as "can't handle eating meat products anymore."

Yeah, I'm not trying to take a position on the specific individual situation (I don't think it requires that much adjudication!) as much as using some of the facts as a way to illustrate one of the possible causes of "bad" answers. Sorry if that was not clear.
posted by praemunire at 2:34 PM on December 2, 2022


Okay, so I think the vegan recipe thread illustrates that the system is working mostly okay, and the issue for some of us is that someone on the internet is wrong, etc.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:34 PM on December 2, 2022 [1 favorite]


Mod note: Going to hop in to just say that now would be a great time to cool it with the vegan recipe derail, please. Not deleting anything but this thread is getting a little out of hand. Please reconsider how/whether your comments contribute to this thread.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 4:04 PM on December 2, 2022 [4 favorites]


On the subject of “mods see every flag”: what’s an order-of-magnitude guess for the number of “every flag”? Given the size of the staff, and the amazing and thoughtful community-building work you guys do, I’m pretty sure it’s more than one flag per hour and fewer than one thousand flags per hour.

Just for scale, I help moderate a community where we’ve cleared [tabs over to check] about 200 flags over the last month; our team is six volunteers. I think my community has a smaller group of regulars but a larger transient population than Metafilter. I also think you guys work harder than we volunteers do.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2022 [1 favorite]


It's really all over the map depending on what's going on. Based on last time I was really modding I'd say it's a rare hour during US-awake-time that doesn't show any flags at all, but it's also a rare hour that would show, let's say, more than a few dozen. It's hard to say since part of the mod workflow involves clearing out flags as they come in, so there's not as much of a sense of accumulated/total flags unless you go digging in the admin tools. Definitely I don't think I've ever seen a thousand flags in an hour, though it's possible that's happened during disasters/emergencies in the megathread days. Usually once a thread has started attracting a bunch of flags, mods are often keeping an eye on it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:19 AM on December 5, 2022 [2 favorites]


« Older Metatalktail Hour: It's what's inside that counts   |   🔊 📚 🔊 MetaFilter Events: Week 2 🔊 📚 🔊 Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments