Why did you AskMe? May 11, 2004 1:06 AM   Subscribe

Memoryfilter? Since everyone else is doing it, I guess I'll ask: why is it that you need to ask other people if they remember that song/commercial/movie/cartoon/book/whatever? We all forget titles and names constantly. When/why do you make the decision to turn to AskMe for help? Do these questions pop up for specific reasons? Something other than "this has been driving me crazy?" No one ever says why they're trying to recall XYZ. Nostalgia? Checking to see if you dreamt it? What?
posted by scarabic to Bugs at 1:06 AM (20 comments total)

That's "bugs" as a verb.
posted by scarabic at 1:08 AM on May 11, 2004

These things not remembered, they bug people. I believe this is the Why of the situation. Speaking of which, I'm assuming these AskMe threads for things not remembered bug you, at least enough for a MetaTalk post. How does that quote from Real Genius go? "There are plenty of brands of decaf that taste just as good as the real thing?" This, then, is my suggestion to you.
posted by Shane at 8:10 AM on May 11, 2004

For me, it was a book I'd read years ago, which I would sometimes think about. I'd talked to friends about the book several times, and finding out what it was turning into a minor obsession. I'd spent hours hunting round Amazon & Google for the book, and asked every Sci_Fi Afficionado I knew (both of them) if they knew what it was. Ask metafilter seemed like the perfect next-place-to-ask.

Ironically, Since I've been given some answers, I've not been that bothered about finding it.
posted by seanyboy at 8:11 AM on May 11, 2004

Demand-side explanation: nostalgia and a discomfort with being unable to tie bits of information together under a title. Brains enjoy being able to categorize things and label them.

Supply-side explanation: AskMeFi provides a form of collective memory that is better suited to answering these types of questions than, say, Google.

Why does this bug you?
posted by stonerose at 8:12 AM on May 11, 2004

Sorry - it doesn't really bug me, that was just a lame comment to cover up the fact that I'm stupid and can't remember to set the category on MeTa.

Didn't mean this as a callout. I am just curious to hear people's thoughts on what suddenly stuck out to me as a curious question type.
posted by scarabic at 8:33 AM on May 11, 2004

I think it's become common because you get your answer so quick, and often even generate a discussion about the book or movie that leads to good tips of other good books or movies you would like. So it works well and feeds of itself.
posted by vito90 at 8:42 AM on May 11, 2004

It seems kind of natural, actually. The Metabrain is especially well equipped to answer lots of different kinds of questions, including (especially?) half-memories. With 17,000 half-brains in the mix, the odds of one of them being the a matching half to yours, especially if it's about search-hostile trivia like about '80s cartoons or Japanese movie titles.

It seems right and natural for the Great Axme Brain to answer stuff like this.
posted by chicobangs at 8:42 AM on May 11, 2004

(Please to pardon my absent-minded grammar style.)
posted by chicobangs at 8:43 AM on May 11, 2004

In my opinion, it's one of the types of questions that Ask Me is really great at answering quickly and easily. If the assembled masses at MeFi don't know, then you can rest more assured that your mystery item really is an obscure one. Otherwise, someone will also share a similar childhood reading/tv/movie list and can help you with it. Unlike just continuing to ask a bunch of people as you go through life, getting a resounding absence of an answer all at once is in and of itself an answer, which is sort of cool.

Also, to be more esoteric, the "aboutness" of books and stories is something that is hard to pin down [ask any librarian]. Almost any chucklehead can Google for some approximate song lyrics, but it's much harder to say "I know this book, it was about a girl and her pet hamster. The book was small and blue and had cartoon-y pictures" and there's not that many sites that do this sort of thing for free.
posted by jessamyn at 8:45 AM on May 11, 2004

Because I would never get to see that toy movie had I not found out the title. xxx to all of you who remembered it.
posted by pieoverdone at 9:05 AM on May 11, 2004

I wish I could honestly say I'm better informed since I got online, but I most certainly look a lot more things up than when it meant a trip (or even a phone call) to the library. And I am much less satisfied with "Well, it will come to me" than I used to be. So I think there is another aspect, besides the utility of AskMe for such a question: The availability of Internet resources has really lowered the bar for what we consider reasonable to retrieve quickly or completely. In addition to assembling so many people to ask.
posted by caitlinb at 9:13 AM on May 11, 2004

What would be nice is to get a collection of existing website/databases that are keeping track of such things. Right now, I'm working with some sources for titles of songs used in TV commercials, the best of which seem to be here and here.
posted by wendell at 9:27 AM on May 11, 2004

MeFi users seem to have memories like an elephant. I was lurking for a long time before I got the chance to join, and it always amazed me how some users remembered specific threads, double posts, comments made by a particular user, etc. That alone is enough for me to think, "Okay, someone here has got to remember this book/movie/commercial/song etc."

Also most of my friends are around my age, which makes us a boring group, and if I can't remember the title of say, a movie I saw when I was five, chances are they won't remember either.
posted by invisible ink at 9:41 AM on May 11, 2004

I see two influences in these questions. First, the desire to overcome the passage of years and the deterioration of memory that comes with age by reclaiming an item from youth. It's maddening and a little frightening to feel things slipping away, especially very magical and dear cultural items from childhood. Second, the desire to share or connect with others around that item, to find that something you enjoyed greatly wasn't, in fact, a solitary joy.

This is definitely the kind of search that calls for a human brain. I'm not really confused about why people ask here rather than elsewhere. It obviously works. I'm more interested in the stories around the search, the emotional connection to its object, and how the search to pinpoint that long lost memento engages and evolves that emotion. Few ever elaborate on why they're thinking of this particular move/book, etc or what it would mean to them to reconnect with it. I know there are stories there.
posted by scarabic at 11:49 AM on May 11, 2004

For me, it was a book I'd read years ago

well, since you're all here, i once read a book i think about frequently and would like to read again. in the plot the three main characters reincarnated through several lifetimes. since their destinys were inextricably linked, they encountered each other in every lifetime. i seem to remember that one of them repeatedly abused and/or murdered another in succeeding lives, and in one lifetime there had been a nuclear holocaust and humanity had reverted to barbarianism. there were bands of "monks", mutants who sought the "ineffable scent" of radioactivity and were tolerated by others since they pinpointed and stood guard over the location of the monstrous atomic weapons which remained and which were viewed as the ultimate evil by humanity's surviving number. about the time of the nuke wars, a soul-catching device had been perfected, and the possessors harvested multitudes of souls and reincarnated them, often into inanimate objects to provide intelligence, and into animals. in that particular lifetime, one of the three characters was a traveling medicine man/magician, the second was his beast of burden whom he abused without mercy, and the third, whose soul had been captured, was a sentient missile in the care of the "ineffable" monks. it's been many years, and hell, maybe i dreamed this all up. anyone know the book?
posted by quonsar at 3:05 PM on May 11, 2004 [1 favorite]

q, if the book doesn't exist yet, WRITE IT!
Sounds like a sure thing for Oprah's Book Club...
posted by wendell at 3:52 PM on May 11, 2004

sounds like pynchon on acid (that's not a book title).
posted by andrew cooke at 4:03 PM on May 11, 2004

That was the Bible, quonsar.
posted by languagehat at 5:19 PM on May 11, 2004 [1 favorite]

Well done, Hatted One.

My first AskMe post was a "help me find a book I remember reading when I was 12" question. In my case, I collect children's literature and really wanted this book. And I don't believe I ever would have found it without AskMe because I'd been racking my brains, checking every used bookstore and Googling for years (I couldn't remember the name of the author or the title). The next AskMe question was on behalf of a friend who couldn't remember the name of a poem. If you love books or poetry, it's a huge pleasure to be able to be able to find a lost love, and as Jessamyn says, AskMe is terrific at answering these sorts of questions.
posted by orange swan at 5:54 PM on May 11, 2004

What I want to know is why this questrion isn't on Ask Me...

Quonsar: sounds to me like the Black Adder /jest
posted by Dick Paris at 2:04 PM on May 12, 2004

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