One question a week January 22, 2004 10:45 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone else think that Ask Metafilter would be improved if people could only ask one question per week? There are no 'bad' questions, and I love the site, but maybe it would be better if people saved up their questions for really good stuff, rather then just asking a question of the moment. The down side is that some off the cuff questions are the best, they mirror the way the mind thinks while on the web...
posted by chaz to MetaFilter-Related at 10:45 PM (31 comments total)

posted by scarabic at 10:56 PM on January 22, 2004

on the more macro level, I think that Ask is potentially so useful, that it really needs a better categorization system... AskMeFi could be the 'google' of its genre, a text-based, efficient way to 'ask questions' and have the internet answer.

A user-supplied combo of the Straight Dope, the Encyclopedia, epinions, and pre-surfed search engine, AskMeFi brings out the best of the MeFi community. Gone are the petty bickering that looks ridiculous when viewed from afar, gone are the ridiculous personas based on politics and usenet-style "super-sweet-arguing"...

AskMeFi is something that should last forever. Categories are a must, and threads should be voted on for usefulness. Eventually the search could be refined, the categories would be easy to browse, and the most relevant, highly-rated threads would rise to the top.

AskMeFi is a way to use the amazing, tremendous resources of this site (the brilliant people who are its denizens) and allow them to exist in harmony. Y2Karl and Steve_at_Linwood are brothers on AskMeFi. ParisParamus and Postroad can post useful stuff about their areas of expertise...clavdivs and thomcatspike could get those remedial english lessons they cry out for as we all stand, stone-faced and unable to assist....

MeFi will of course never go away, and always be the place for arguing and new sites and current events... but AskMe, if properly applied, can be the lasting monument to the best that this amazing Matthowie contraption can be.
posted by chaz at 10:56 PM on January 22, 2004

I think MetaTalk might need better categorisation too, it appears people keep missing it when matt tells them There will be categorisation, this is just a quick mockup, this is not the finished thing.
posted by fvw at 11:11 PM on January 22, 2004

3-7 days between questions was what I was going to code.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:12 PM on January 22, 2004

Sometimes the silly questions spawn really interesting answers. The belly button lint one is a good example.

But the Windows XP tech support stuff gets kind of boring. If a posting limit would discourage those posts, I'm for it. Keep in mind that AskMe exists as much for the reader as it does for the questioner. If it wasn't any fun for the reader, nobody would answer any questions.
posted by PrinceValium at 11:58 PM on January 22, 2004

Does anyone else think that Ask Metafilter would be improved if people could only ask one question per week?

That will be it for the next 7 days for you, young man.

Good off the cuff question, though.
posted by namespan at 12:01 AM on January 23, 2004

when should we expect categorization of askmefi?
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:34 AM on January 23, 2004

Since we're talking about features of askmefi i'll throw in my 2 cents.

If people are going to ask computer questions maybe you can make a menu in which they select what OS they are using. personally I'm tired of people asking questions about what is the best software for x task and not mentioning that crucial bit of info. it would also help people quickly know if they can be of use in answering the question.
posted by rhyax at 1:27 AM on January 23, 2004

Good point rhyax, although i guess they could just put a [Windows 3.1] after the question rather than relying on a drop-down menu.. I keep seeing questions and thinking "gee, I know exactly how they could do that in Linux!" but then realizing they probably won't be too interested in the answer...
posted by Jimbob at 3:32 AM on January 23, 2004

I don't know if the MetaFilter delay between posts will work that well. What's to stop someone from asking multiple questions in one then?
posted by yerfatma at 5:16 AM on January 23, 2004

I don't know what would be involved in the backend and it may be too much trouble, but I wonder if it wouldn't help to figure a scheme for limiting questions based upon participation and merit. We have something of a commons here and the tragedy of the commons is that there are always those who take more than they give and lower the value for all.

Going on the assumption that we all know something about something why not take this chance to implement the oft suggested 'karma' thing. Make a useful answer, get a question or two. Post three questions without helping another, wait a week for the fourth.
posted by cedar at 5:35 AM on January 23, 2004

I think it's working out fine. Except for oissibuke, people don't really seem to be abusing it.
posted by bshort at 5:36 AM on January 23, 2004

No, forced delays between questions seems like a bad idea. You don't know when you'll get a question and it's always entirely possible that you'll have an important question in under 7 days, 3 days or an hour past your previous question. If questions really aren't useful then the best deterrent is not to answer them. Maybe somebody else will find it useful or interesting however and answer it.
posted by substrate at 5:52 AM on January 23, 2004

I have to say that I agree with substrate. I've asked one question since AskMe debuted, but as I mentioned in an earlier thread, circumstances may occur (for quite a number of reasons) that might lead to my having a number of questions in succession. If at all possible, I would love to see it configured a bit differently, so that the time between questions is not the criteria that determines whether one may post, but perhaps the total number of questions posted within a given period.

Also, PrinceValium: the "Mac support" questions would be boring for me, if I read them, but the idea of suggesting that Mac questions should be curtailed would never occur to me. In this case, I think it has to do with 'what the market will bear". You find XP questions boring; if, after a certain point, enough people find it boring that nobody responds to XP questions, then they will die a natural death, no? And if they don't, it will probably be because there are people interested in asking and people interested in answering, which suggests there are probably also people interested in reading.
posted by taz at 6:33 AM on January 23, 2004

I think AskMe is doing a great of of policing itself so far. It's kind of like a party where everyone is being cool and nice, and no one wants to be the first jerk. So I guess I'm against rules until needed.
posted by Shane at 6:44 AM on January 23, 2004

I agree with Shane.

What DID we talk about on MeTa before there was AskMe?
posted by orange swan at 6:47 AM on January 23, 2004

Miguel Cardoso?
posted by jennyb at 7:31 AM on January 23, 2004

No, forced delays between questions seems like a bad idea. You don't know when you'll get a question and it's always entirely possible that you'll have an important question in under 7 days, 3 days or an hour past your previous question.

So how about 4 or 5 questions a month? I don't know, there's only so much you can do to protect people from their own impulsiveness.
posted by furiousthought at 7:33 AM on January 23, 2004

I agree with Shane. It's working fine; why mess with it?
posted by languagehat at 7:47 AM on January 23, 2004

No. If one abuses AskMe s/he should be called on MeTa, and possible banned for some time. Punish harsh (ban for one week) not to punish often (3-7 days between questions) !

Matt would have to monitor (sorry) just an AskMe MetaTalk category, which, based on the previous history, it would not have too many posts. If things go really bad, then, yes, introduce the rule.

Karma: no. Any such system can be played with. I can give some google type answers just to get enough points to keep asking questions.

Another thing that might work would be an option for the person who asked the question to close the post. He or she should add a final remark about the help received and mark "thread is closed". After that no one should be able to add any comments to that post. If the thread is not closed in the given time (2 days ... 1 week ... 1 month) it should be closed automatically. Threads that are still open should be filtered / displayed at the top ("recently closed" might be a good idea for a filter too). This will provide an incentive to give feedback ("why is this thread still open after 5 days?") and clean the front page a little.
posted by MzB at 8:14 AM on January 23, 2004

I've really been enjoying AskMetafilter. I recommend a policy that followup questions be asked within the original thread.

In addition to recommending a good Googling, there are other good resources for some of the technical questions. What about links in the categories to resources recommended by Metafilterers. I.e., in the technical questions, a link to Experts-Exchange. I'm sure there are others, and we can always Ask!

I can't imagine a dire need to use AskMe more than once a week, except for the technical questions. But maybe the good will of the technical experts will get exhausted if it's abused.

It's a nice pony. thanks, Matt.
posted by theora55 at 8:20 AM on January 23, 2004

Whoa, everyone's agreeing with me today! I'm off to ask my boss for a raise. Little do my favorite MeFites realize it's all part of my agenda, as my next dozen questions (in quick succession) will come directly from here and here.

If toast falls butter side down and cats land on their feet, what happens
when u put a slice of bread ( butter side up ) on a cats back?

I recommend a policy that followup questions be asked within the original thread.

I have wondered about that. I don't think it's practical, as threads disappear too quickly and people forget them. Although I do realize that posting new follow-up threads causes proliferation, I think it is okay within reason. Opinions?
posted by Shane at 8:23 AM on January 23, 2004

FWIW, I'm with those who would rather not see a limit. If it becomes frequently abused, then that might be a potential solution, but I'd just as soon not implement a "solution" for a problem that currently doesn't exist.

Another thing that might work would be an option for the person who asked the question to close the post.

However, I'd be against this as well. The original poster might have had his question answered, but others may yet supply additional related information which, while perhaps not of interest to the poster, could be useful to others reading the question.

Which thread would you rather see: (The question here would obviously not be a good question for AskMe, but I think it serves to illustrate my point.)

Thread A
Poster: How many quarts are in a gallon?
MeFite1: Four.
Poster: Thanks. {thread closed}

Thread B
Poster: How many quarts are in a gallon?
MeFite1: Four.
Poster: Thanks.
MeFite2: Here's a website which gives hundreds of conversion factors...
MeFite3: Did you know about Google calculator?
MeFite4: The Imperial system of volume has a fascinating history. In 1384 King Geoff III established...

Oh, and just because I haven't said it before, thanks, Matt. I discovered the green just a few weeks ago, and know I hardly even look at the blue any more. I feel like we've been asking for all these ponies, and then Matt went and got us a freakin' warhorse instead.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:36 AM on January 23, 2004

Prince, thank you for prompting me to read the bellybutton lint thread. Still laughing.
posted by theora55 at 8:39 AM on January 23, 2004

I think it's important to not allow the author to close a thread because, in some instances, the supposed "correct" answer may in fact be wrong. With the thread closed, there would be no mechanism to point out erroneous information to the author beyond e-mail, and that correction would never be available to anyone who found the thread later.
posted by Danelope at 9:05 AM on January 23, 2004

Ask is the first thing I read at MeFi now. Signal:noise is pretty low. It needs taxonomy and a specific search but that's about it. Why have a delay between asking questions? If it ain't broke, etc.
posted by tranquileye at 9:41 AM on January 23, 2004

So, No.
posted by tranquileye at 9:44 AM on January 23, 2004

Signal:noise is pretty low.

I think the opposite, actually. It's good, not bad!
posted by kindall at 9:55 AM on January 23, 2004

High signal, low noise. Working out well, although there are some patently silly questions (ie. there are easy to find answers readily available with even a poor search effort).

I'm going to push for the wikification idea again. If we work to generate a logical structure for it, it'd soon become a Fount Of Knowledge for a very good many broadly interesting questions.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 AM on January 23, 2004

"...if people could only ask one question per week?"

No. Even with such restrictions, there are 17,000 people who could post crappy questions in a week. Why not encourage people to use the tool wisely instead of limiting the utility of the tool?

"...why not take this chance to implement the oft suggested 'karma' thing."

No, no, no, a thousand times no. Any system which can be gamed should be completely avoided, and believe me, tying one form of behavior (answering) to another (asking) with an algorithm not only can but very much would be gamed. It creates an economy instead of a collaboration. Ask isn't about individual performance, it's sharing knowledge. I have some mild objections to Matt's proposed gold star best answers system, but at least it doesn't create a mechanism that can be exploited.

"But the Windows XP tech support stuff gets kind of boring."

Boring, perhaps, but fully appropriate. You would generally expect a large portion of Windows users to need lots of help on simple things. For the most part, you get to deal with Windows merely as a consequence of owning a computer, no expertise or experience asked, required or expected.

A few of the OSX questions I find alarming, though: why would anyone go out of their way to run Unix and not know how to exploit its power?

And the "how do I use my application/hardware/product I just bought?" questions are even more boring -- and more likely to be better answered by reading some documentation or calling those people you paid money to in the first place -- but everyone's gotta start learning somewhere, and hey, at least the answers will all accumulate in one convenient place! Just goes to show you, one man's uninteresting question is another man's lifeline.

There's a very simple acid test for the value of every type of question that will be asked. Questioners should ask themselves "am I wasting everyone's time by asking this question?" Sure, it's subjective, but if people are honest with themselves the questions will be good enough in aggregate.

"It needs taxonomy..."

In my opinion, "taxonomy" is a bit too strong a word for the minimalist "couple of levels of categorical hierarchy" it needs. "Taxonomy" implies, at least to me, a level of specialization that wouldn't be useful. But that's purely my opinion.
posted by majick at 11:17 AM on January 23, 2004

How about at least limiting the word count of each question? There could be an automatic "More Inside" feature when you're typing it in for further explanation/background. That would help keep things from sliding past too fast.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:34 AM on January 26, 2004

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