We have been good so far December 18, 2003 6:09 AM   Subscribe

I nominate this thread as the point in AskMe's development cycle where we start giving in to to one-liners, boy-zone silliness, and the usual MetaFilter noise. We've been very good in Ask MetaFilter so far. - On topic. Helpful rather than chatty. Signal rather than noise. Do we want to allow this sort of thing? If so, how can we put limits on it? The question asked sort of invites grade school antics. Do we blame the poster, or the users who gave in to temptation?

If AskMe goes the way of MetaFilter, there isn't much point in having two sites.
posted by y6y6y6 to Etiquette/Policy at 6:09 AM (52 comments total)

I have to agree, even though I posted my funny (or icky, depending on your tolerance) story, because I thought the same thing first time I saw it this afternoon (before the Christmas party this evening).

I hang my head in mortification. Fart humour is to me as pollen is to the honeybee. Oh, the shame.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:17 AM on December 18, 2003

The unspoken question, though, to be a little more serious, is : does opening the door to a little bit of humour and chattiness mean that the whole thing automatically goes kablooie?

I reckon, as you apparently do, y6, that it just might. But not irredeemably, perhaps. I'm still waiting, too, as are we all, to see what codebase changes Matt is planning to introduce for AskMe, and what the consequences of those might be.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:20 AM on December 18, 2003

(the answer is, wait with the farting as long as it takes until you are ready to say 'I love you')

I must agree with that nomination, but I don't think only the poster is to blame. Scanning the threads interesting (read hard) questions get very few replies and chatty silly questions get 18-30 odd replies, it seems.
posted by dabitch at 6:24 AM on December 18, 2003

Imo, it was a good and interesting question and most posters replied in all honesty. Some humour was not only inevitable but desirable, else it become too farty-earnest. The variety of responses made for a good thread, mostly about levels of intimacy. All in all, a good slice (oops, sorry) of life.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:26 AM on December 18, 2003

FWIW, the question was deadly serious. I haven't been in a relationship in quite awhile and want to know what other's opinions of the proper etiquette was.

Here's what it says on the AskMefi page: Ask MetaFilter is a discussion area for sharing knowledge among members of MetaFilter.

Here's what it says on the "Post to ask" page: Want to ask a question to the general MetaFilter population? Go ahead and ask away. Make sure it's not MetaFilter, MetaTalk, or Ask MetaFilter related, as those posts would best be posted in MetaTalk than here.
Note: until some guidelines are cooked up, try to keep the questions from being too specific or too stupid. Don't be an ass, ask your question if you feel it is important.

So in other words, you don't "blame the poster" because the poster did nothing wrong.
posted by vito90 at 6:38 AM on December 18, 2003

"does opening the door to a little bit of humour and chattiness mean that the whole thing automatically goes kablooie?"

I think we know ourselves (this community) well enough to answer that question in the affirmative.

Maybe not right away. But the problem with this sort of thing is that it's impulsive. It isn't something you think about much before posting. A really cool twist on the "overlords" joke pops into your head and you post it. Sure it's a drop in the bucket, but we have a lot of people here. If .05% of them jump in with funny one liners it adds up fast. As we've seen in the blue right?

The question invites it. But it still could have been answered seriously. And in fact it was. Before the peeing started.

One of the main reasons I bring this up is that I've had to hold myself back several times in Ask MetaFilter. And when I've resisted the urge to jump on some pompous jackass, the thread, and hence the site, has always been better for it. Not as much fun for me, since I delight in trolling many of the morons who hang out here. But in the end I'm glad I (and others) have been able to put what's good for Ask MetaFilter ahead of my own titilation.

"Some humour was not only inevitable but desirable, else it become too farty-earnest."

One liners are inevitable and desirable.......... Can we please shoot this sentiment in the head? Can we agree that there's more than enough room for it on MetaTalk and MetaFilter? Or Fark? There is a place for this. Can we pretty please with sugar on top agree that Ask MetaFilter isn't it?
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:40 AM on December 18, 2003

Like y6y6y6, I worry about these questions. While I certainly don't want to limit the questions to just cameras and tivos, questions about farting, imaginary friends, and how we eat our sandwiches significantly lower the signal to noise ratio.

If this is what we want to use AskMe for, aren't we turning it into a glorified #mefi?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:43 AM on December 18, 2003

"So in other words, you don't "blame the poster" because the poster did nothing wrong."

I don't mean to accuse you. I really don't. But I think the question needs to be aired - Should we avoid questions that will prove too tempting for our inner noise makers? Or do we hold those giving answers responsible?

For myself, I think the question was fine. It elicited some great answers. Just something to think about right? No, you didn't do anything wrong, and I'm sorry if I gave that impression. I suppose I did. But if we need to self police, or set rules, or *something*, we need to hash it out.

Are we cool? I'm not trying to point fingers, just get the issue into discussion while the iron is hot as it were.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:48 AM on December 18, 2003

I don't remember MeFi having any posts about farting lately, nor do I envision it as some negative standard to go the way of... That said, farting is not singularly the domain of boys and in these modern times girls and in fact women can actually enjoy a good fart joke without having their delicate sensibilities ruined. (I was watching TV the other day and the word 'fart' was actually bleeped out -- is there some anti-fart movement beginning?)

Some people who visit MeFi and AskMe actually enjoy a little bit of irreverence as it adds to the overall experience of the community and gives them something to chuckle about. So, yes, lets suck all the fun out of AskMe too, and actually make people hesitant if not afraid to post there like everywhere else.

Most of my favorite posts have been low-brow slice-of-life posts with comments to match. We all come to this juncture for different reasons and we all have a responsibility to that diversity. So, the tyranny of the majority may someday be goofy fart jokes and then you can rally the troupes; but for now, just let it develop and avoid such unilateral preemption.
posted by Ms.JaneDoe at 7:14 AM on December 18, 2003

i agree with jane.
preachyness can be noise too.
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:16 AM on December 18, 2003

y6y6y6 - no sweat, kid! We're good!
posted by vito90 at 7:21 AM on December 18, 2003

I thought the AskMe thread was touching, but this MeTalk post stinks.
posted by mischief at 7:27 AM on December 18, 2003

The problem with hashing out prospective rules for AskMe that are designed to increase the amount of signal is that we all assume that our own definition of "signal" is the best--"signal" consists of "those subjects which we personally want to see on AskMe."

I came away from the thread in question believing that there are, in fact, no bad questions in Ask MetaFilter--the poster actually sought information that he couldn't readily obtain by Googling, and he got it; moreover, the thread's readers got an informal survey of intimate habits they wouldn't have gotten otherwise. And part of the pleasure of AskMe consists of reading responses to questions we'd never think to ask ourselves. (Actually, a truly bad AskMe question would be something like "Why do all of you hate our President so much?" or "Tell, me, MeFites: when did you stop beating your wives?")

As long as a question isn't simply rhetorical, or designed solely to provoke a flamewar, or answerable by someone who has a limited facility with Google, it has the potential to be a good one. But a question in and of itself doesn't dictate the level of discourse of its answers--it's up to the posters in the thread that follows to do that. No amount of AskMe legislation will change that.
posted by Prospero at 7:50 AM on December 18, 2003

What's more interesting is that AskMe has almost driven the nail into the coffin for MeFi Blue. A good number of posts used to be thinly veiled Questions for just conversation. But looking at MeFi since AskMe began, its completely deteriorated into a different animal. I'd call the "Newsfilter" endless debate again, but I think everybody's dismissed the "filter" part over there.

The serious problem with AskMe right now are questions that could be solved in 10 minutes with google.
posted by Stan Chin at 8:05 AM on December 18, 2003

mischief, I'm glad that, despite our other differences-of-opinion, we can at least agree on something ;). In the spirit of AskMe, it was a good post.

Prospero & Stan- Great point about Google. I nominate that for the posting rules.
posted by mkultra at 8:46 AM on December 18, 2003

I don't know-seems to me that AskMe is set up so people can share answers with personal examples. Googling can indeed bring up a lot, but you sometimes have to wade thru utter crap to get to it. I like the fact that someone can present a practical problem-whether it be making limp bacon or dealing with a troublesome neighbor to some obscure computer something I don't have a chance of understanding.

Fart threads do engender some levity, but much more so than say, a question about Linux or a question on book recommendations. What I am trying to say is the tone can and will reflect the original question, and I see nothing wrong with that.

I wonder how long it will take for someone to ask about constipation remedies. But when it happens I bet the questioner will be serious.
posted by konolia at 8:47 AM on December 18, 2003

in nuce, the problem is: where does AskMefi end and ChatFilter begins?

(better yet, where does AskMefi end and Usenet begins?)
posted by matteo at 9:28 AM on December 18, 2003

Is blue suffering? Of course, blue is/was so beaten down already... read a months worth of MeTa posts and you'll want to poke your eyes out of their sockets; you'll even debate whether or not it's worth it to post a comment nonetheless a post. I don't think MeTa has been working towards some higher standard, rather, it's been creating a venue for fear and intimidation which encourage sameness. If posts like this keep showing up the volume and diversity of AskMe posts will suffer just as on the blue. What MeFi has devolved into is a progression sped up by AskMe, not just the direct result of AskMe.

I seriously think that whatever AskMe is developing into isn't happening because it's not regulated enough. It's because that's what people want. And if you haven't noticed, these aren't people off the street posting to and building AskMe, they're members. Part of our community.

on Preview: what konolia said about Google
posted by Ms.JaneDoe at 9:42 AM on December 18, 2003

I wonder how long it will take for someone to ask about constipation remedies. But when it happens I bet the questioner will be serious.

It's a serious issue.

Regarding y6's suggestion though, I thought that the thread was an interesting one, not perhaps for the answers specifically but for the attitudes on display, which are a function of the answers given. I'd say that AskMefi has the potential not just to be an asset in itself but to help to increase the community feeling in the Mefi membership. I think this kind of 'jokey but real' thread helps to humanise some of the other members. Eg I'm used to seeing konolia as a compassionate conservative type, I would never have had her down as a giggly bed-time farter. I think this is a good thing.

Also, as explained by Miguel so nicely in this thread, everything is funny.
posted by biffa at 10:12 AM on December 18, 2003

"It's because that's what people want."

Fuck what people want.

Go watch network TV if you measure value by whether it's what people want. Go eat a Big Mac. Go listen to Clearchannel. Go play here.

Matt already had an experiment to see what would happen to this sort of forum if he just let it guide itself. Are you listening? We've done "anything goes" forum already. Can we please try something else? What is the point of making another MetaFilter? We already have that. Why do you want to create the same thing all over again?

Fuck what people want. I want quality. and so do you. And you don't get that by relying on 5000 people to self police themselves when they have never agreed on one single thing ever.

We have the chance to make something. Or we can cling to the illusion that giving the people what they want will lead to an end result that is something people will want. It doesn't. It leads to crap.

All I'm saying is that we all have something wonderful to contribute to AskMe. We all have great questions, and we all have great answers. But we also all have great fart jokes, great one liners, and great snarky trolls. Can we keep the fart jokes, one liners, and snarky trolls somewhere else? Is it really that hard?
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:12 AM on December 18, 2003

I did add "don't be an ass" to try and curtail the dumbest questions. I didn't read the fart question as serious the first time around, and was tempted to delete it, but did not.

I don't think it's the death of ask metafilter, but I can tell that people really, really want to make cracks about something and will take any opening they can to do it. Hopefully more questions like it aren't asked in the future.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:20 AM on December 18, 2003

And for the record, as I already said, I don't have a problem with serious questions about farting. If people start posting serious inquiries about constipation, masturbation, breasts, anal itch, etc, I don't see how that wouldn't be healthy and productive.

But inside the thread I thought it was suppose to be about answers. If all you have to contribute is a joke, then why comment? Take it to MetaChuckle or something.

And if you want to humanize things then do so with a helpful and heartfelt answer rather than an off-topic sentence about your fart antics. The poster started a thread about relationship dynamics, and several people decided it was a discussion of fart antics.

There are plenty of places on the Internet where people can discuss fart antics. But very few where people can ask questions about farting and expect a serious and productive response.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:29 AM on December 18, 2003

y6, you might consider toning it down a little. Your good points are often made difficult to take because you feel compelled to start off with stuff like "Fuck what people want. Go watch network TV if you [blah blah blah]..." Your entire rant could have been condensed into "Shouldn't we prefer quality over fart jokes?"

As for the substance of your complaint, when I first saw the thread I agreed with you, but as I read the comments I realized it was actually educational (as well as funny): it never would have occurred to me that there were couples who enjoyed farting in bed with each other. (It reminds me of the time I showed up on campus for my freshman year of college -- this was 1968, mind you -- and heard coeds walking by swearing like sailors. I had literally never heard women curse before, having grown up abroad in a conservative embassy-related climate, so it expanded my horizons, as does this.) I certainly wouldn't want to see a lot of this sort of thing, but I think the thread in question, taken on its own, is OK. Frankly, I was more annoyed by the "What is the meaning of life?" thread; I'm much more tolerant of fart jokes than metaphysical bloviation. But that's just me.

On preview: I see you did tone it down in your latest comment, which is good. But I guess we disagree about the commentary; I see the glass as half full (there were any number of useful, honest responses), you as half empty (too many jokes).
posted by languagehat at 10:32 AM on December 18, 2003

Maybe I'm hitting reload too often, but I've seen Matt delete a few really chatty threads on AskMeFi, and I'm glad he's in there moderating.

In this case, I thought the question was better than the responses. I like the "I do this, am I weird or do other MeFites feel the same way" threads, but I think we need to be careful about avoiding the snarky jokefest threads and the "what's your favorite music" threads.
posted by fuzz at 10:43 AM on December 18, 2003

"y6, you might consider toning it down a little."

I swear to God I try. I deleted about 10 other comments before that one got the better of me. I tried extra hard to make a persuasive case to compensate. I agree I should tone it down. But, in all seriousness, I don't seem to be able to do that.

[/off topic]
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:50 AM on December 18, 2003

Much ado about nothing.

At least the responses to the question were relative. I really don't see the harm; it's not like The Imminent Death of MetaFilter hasn't been talked about before, and it's not like the thread is really all that chatty either. It's ok to unclench once in a while.
posted by adampsyche at 11:11 AM on December 18, 2003

I don't think I ever mentioned a rules-free open-the-flood-gates unregulated free-for-all, I mentioned posts like this one, I mentioned MeTa. I'm not saying there should be no rules, I'm saying that MetaTalk posts, like this one and many that have been made recently, are silencing many MeFi members who might otherwise say something -- and I use a less MetaTalked AskMe as evidence. Maybe I'm just speaking for myself here, though.

The way I see it, the snarky trolls aren't the ones being silenced by MeTa, they're the ones who like mathowie says will abuse something if given the chance and any rules/guidelines will be ignored by those people -- just like any rules/guidelines will be ignored by those having an off day or are compelled by something they really think is funny and want to share.

What I'm trying to get at is that an overzealous hunt for snarky trolls on MeTa has more causalities than may be immediately apparent. General complaints about joking won't solve the larger problems of specific inappropriate user behavior -- those must be solved by specific action, not some vague MeTa post which might inhibit some member with a genuine comment down the line. I don't think it's just new users that this site needs, I think it also needs its current members to feel like they have something to contribute, instead of just lurking and feeling like they aren't qualified.

But yeah, fuck me, I'll go back to being silent.
posted by Ms.JaneDoe at 11:32 AM on December 18, 2003

Well, I haven't laughed so much in weeks as I did in the AskMetaFart thread. And I was a little stunned by some of the strong anti-fart opinions in that thread.

All told, it probably would have made a better Blue thread.

I don't think it's at all the death of Ask. I found it a welcome break from the serious threads. Wouldn't want to see it happen a lot, but once in a while is okay in my books.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:12 PM on December 18, 2003

I think what would really help is some categorization. With threads rolling by so quickly since AskMe opened, it's hard to catch the threads that would be really helpful without reviewing the archives. The various chatty/personal threads make it scroll by that much faster. Other than that, I have no problems with these threads. I understand AskMe is new and features are in the works, so I'm certainly willing to wait and see what develops.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:41 PM on December 18, 2003

How hard would it be to aggregate all three sections of the site into one -- say at all.metafilter.com -- with their respective colors indicating where the post resides? That way we could see everything that's happening on the site at once, without having to jump for section to section.

It would brighten up the look of the site, too -- horizontal stripes of blue and green, interspersed with the occasional band of grey...
posted by me3dia at 1:02 PM on December 18, 2003

But yeah, fuck me, I'll go back to being silent.

Nice way to silence dissent y6y6y6, maybe there's a job for you in the Bush admin?
posted by Mick at 1:32 PM on December 18, 2003

Can we keep the fart jokes, one liners, and snarky trolls somewhere else? Is it really that hard?
Sounds like someone could use that constipation AskMe right now.
Or, is the problem catharsis? ;-P
posted by mischief at 2:25 PM on December 18, 2003

oh right , you're the guy thats collecting for matts present , now you think you're god because of it.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:27 PM on December 18, 2003

y63, I share your concern for the way that AskMeFi could go and have myself deleted lots of smartarse comments before clicking "post". It seems that AskMeFi has the potential to be a fantastic resource as well as an excellent community forum and there are plenty of members who are concerned that we will screw it up by falling into bad habits. Being a "glass is half-full" person though, I am hopeful that the community as a whole will keep themselves in check enough not to spoil our new toy. A witty comment here and there will not be a problem, but once it starts it will be hard to stop - if it is OK for one to make a humorous remark just to be funny, it has to be OK for all. Maybe we have to agree as a community that we are not capable of keeping silliness to a minimum and the only way is to not make any silly comments at all. You can still be humorous in your answers (or questions), but the humour should be part of the answer, not the purpose of the comment.
posted by dg at 3:08 PM on December 18, 2003

I hadn't looked at the Ask Fart thread until y6 posted the MeTa criticism. Now that I have, I'm actually encouraged by the fact that it was a lot less one-linerish, boy-zone-ish, scatological-ist than I'd expected. Yes, it pushed AskMe's envelope but did not tear it. Of course, its existance will doubtless be used by others to shred the envelope, but Matt is being especially vigilant right now, and AskMe (as well as MeTa) threads that are deleted do leave no trace...

Now, I might have thought differently if someone had commented the following:

posted by wendell at 6:40 PM on December 18, 2003

I found the fart thread to be educational and humorous at the same time. I thought that most of the posters were relating true-to-life stories that had significance to the thread. It came across as a sociological question that had far more answers than I expected, and frankly, I feel that I've been enriched for having read the thread. I say this in all honesty. I had no idea that there were such strong feelings about farting, and it was a lesson in realizing that we are all different and all react differently to something as human and necessary and basic as flatulation.

In short, I don't think it is the death-knell of AskMefi. As a matter of fact, I think that almost everybody in that thread acted quite appropriately (was there mention of peeing in the thread? That might not have been appropriate.)

y6, I admire your persistence for quality and the value you place on it. I respect the fact that you are concerned that something as wonderful as AskMefi, and MeFi itself may be corrupted into the commonplace. To be honest, however, I really don't think that we are ready for it. I truly believe that AskMefi will devolve to the level that MeFi has, not that MeFi is all that bad. Human beings in general can't handle the responsibility of taking care of their emotions, using care and consideration when dealing with others, or using tolerance and understanding, so why should an online forum be any better?
posted by ashbury at 9:27 PM on December 18, 2003

Human beings in general can't handle the responsibility of taking care of their emotions, using care and consideration when dealing with others, or using tolerance and understanding, so why should an online forum be any better?

Yes they can. If you honestly believe that human beings can't control themselves, society would cease to exist. It is because of our self-control, restraint, and decency for one another that we exist as a society. And the reason that AskMetaFilter is SO much more informative than MeFi is because people care, and are using restraint, when answering questions and contributing information.

I've said this before and I'll say it again, We can do better. AskMetaFilter is the proof.
posted by BlueTrain at 9:46 PM on December 18, 2003

I'm with Stan Chin on this one. For my money, Ask Me is a pretty low grade chat room with fart jokes and the odd query about bitrates, MP3 players or the like which as Stan says could be resolved with a little Googling.

I'm not sure it's the end of MeFi, but I do think it has a very differnet tone from the rest of the site.
posted by johnny novak at 2:13 AM on December 19, 2003

In addition, I 'd say; if it's not to your taste don't go there. Unless it has some impact on the quality of the rest of the site (which I haven't yet divined), I can't see it's a bad thing.
posted by johnny novak at 2:52 AM on December 19, 2003

This MeTalk callout turned out to be a wet one. ;-P
posted by mischief at 3:48 AM on December 19, 2003

brap <- guilty
posted by boost ventilator at 4:16 AM on December 19, 2003

Questions like the fart one (or other unwritten modes of conduct and psychological and interpersonal things) are more valuable, at least for me, than those about what to buy, or where to vacation, etc...Farting really is one of those things that mark a turning point in a relationship and not really something you can reliably google for or ask Dear Abby about. I don't see it as a problem--I think too many questions about cameras and computers are more of a distraction (given that that info is all over the web), but i guess valuable in that you can get firsthand advice from people who have specific makes and models.
posted by amberglow at 5:40 AM on December 19, 2003

I agree with amberglow. The answers to the fart question has a form of unspoken subtext, so that answering the question also provides additional unspoken information, information which can not easily be asked for but which attaches to the spoken information and is interesting in itself.
posted by biffa at 7:04 AM on December 19, 2003

I enjoyed the fart question/answer repartee. I took vito90 as being at least mostly serious and a lot of the responses -- which varied to a large degree -- were also mostly serious. I think with any really touchy issues [farting is one, the rape thread was another, that got at least one comment that I know Matt axed] you're going to get people poking fun but if the thread as a whole stays on topic despite this, I think it's okay. There are much much better examples of annoying boyzone behavior; I think fart humor transcends gender lines.
posted by jessamyn at 8:25 AM on December 19, 2003

that was my favorite askMe thread so far.
posted by Hackworth at 10:53 AM on December 19, 2003

I wonder how long it will be before somebody decides to take a Diceman approach to AskMe and lets the group make an important life decision for them.
posted by urban greeting at 3:23 PM on December 19, 2003

...and lets the group make an important life decision for them.
I think we already did with Keyser's "should I join the service or go to college?" post.
posted by amberglow at 3:28 PM on December 19, 2003

Ah yes - your absolutely right amberglow. Well then I guess the logical progression is for somebody to let the hordes make *all* of their decisions for them. Any volunteers?
posted by urban greeting at 3:44 PM on December 19, 2003

sorta done on TV, but i never saw it aired: Masterplan : >

It would be fascinating but way too dangerous, I think.
posted by amberglow at 4:28 PM on December 19, 2003

I dont think thats a dice man approach urban.
The reason being there is no process of disernment in assigning actions to the roll of a dice whereas there is one that follows taking the pros and cons of any situation into consideration.
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:28 PM on December 19, 2003

So lemme get this straight: Andrew "Dice" Clay actually asked people whether his comedy should be funny or not, and they picked "not"? The mind boggles.
posted by arto at 3:59 AM on December 20, 2003

Ask Me is a pretty low grade chat room with fart jokes and the odd query about bitrates, MP3 players or the like which as Stan says could be resolved with a little Googling.

The thing I like about AskMe is that the questions aren't necessarily ones I would have thought up on my own. I can look up the answers to my own questions, but that implies I know what the questions are already.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 2:29 PM on December 20, 2003

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