AskMe Standards May 11, 2004 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Some AskMetafilter standards? Debated posting this because conformity is like, so something the MAN wants you to do. But when I was looking through the AskMetafilter archives I noticed a few things, like "more inside" and [filter][/filter] stuff that breaks the formatting.
posted by geoff. to Etiquette/Policy at 11:59 AM (19 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I realize AskMetafilter is not "done" yet, but unless Matt decides to whipe out all the previous questions, we have a ton of questions/answers and a ton more to come. So I propose the following things, being that this site is about me and you should all do what I say:
  • No (more inside)
  • I think this has come up before, but in order to facilitate easier searching and also easier "glancing through", all the person really should need is the first post, such as:
    "My older cat thinks its a dog. We have tried giving it lithium, xanax and prozac to no avail. Any suggestions?"
    As oppose to:
    "My cat is sick and think its a dog (MORE INSIDEE(!!!@!)
    The first comment with a more detailed specific history is obviously still great. Such as what the doctor says, the cat's previous medical problems, what you think might help, etc.
  • [Jockitch Filter]
  • Unless everyone does it, it just kind of adds junk. I'm a big poop and hate junk.
  • Asking the question
  • The first part of the "question" being a description and the last line being the actual question, even it is restated. Just for clarification of what the actual question is.
The only reason I'm doing this is because AskMefi could be a valuable resource or just a forum. The archival and research quality far exceeds Metafilter itself. The questions aren't dependent on outside resources and have a lifespan much longer then Metafilter's links (ever tried going back 2-3 years?).

Didn't mean this as a callout, I'm just trying to set somewhat of a quality standard I guess. Also I'm sure someone out there has a better idea on how to format questions for better searching and categorization. And I apologize if I stepped on Matt's toes if he had some great thing envisioned or is sitting somewhere screaming "I'm not done with it! Just wait, bastard."
posted by geoff. at 12:00 PM on May 11, 2004

I think it's fine to start a discussion about setting standards, but unfortunately I find your proposal really unclear.

You're against [more inside] which is understandable. But Matt has said in the past that he intends to re-code the submission form itself in such a way that each question will have a headline or brief version, followed by an extensive elaboration if desired.

What do you mean with the [JockItchFilter] thing? I don't see what you mean there.

And as for the last sentence being the question, that seems arbitrary. A perfect example of why this won't work is the "how to remove bees from my house" question recently. Do you think the following is really the correct form?

"I've tried liquid nitrogen and it doesn't work. I don't want to use poisons. There's another remedy that seems too good to be true. How do I remove some bees who've nested in my wall?"

I see no reason to impose a standard on where in the text the question mark needs to be. That's just arbitrary.

How about starting over with what you hope to achieve with these standards?

1) Easily scannable list of questions
2) More thorough questions, inviting more targeted answers
3) Better archiveability/searchability
4) Better readability
5) Fewer tired in-jokes

Is any of these on the track of what you're saying? You're not being a megalomaniac for attempting this, but you're not making a clear and complete proposal either.
posted by scarabic at 12:22 PM on May 11, 2004

askmefi works well because answers are individually tailored to questions. that's why it works when google doesn't.

so i don't understand why people get so up-tight about it being an archive for posterity. it's never going to match google, and what it does best (customized response) isn't archivable anyway.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:29 PM on May 11, 2004

For the [Tag] thing, here's an example of what I mean. Any kind of tag or preface doesn't work unless everyone uses the same tag and preface, if you get what I mean. Especially considering that most likely a category designator will some day be hardcoded into AskMetafilter.

Yours list is exactly what I was trying to say. I was just trying to apply theory to actual practice. I guess it didn't come off as well as I had hoped in my examples.

For the question you give for the bee one, how about this:

"I can't rid of the bees who've nested in my walls. I tried nitrogen, poison doesn't work, etc. What's a good way to remove the bees?"

It seems an easier visual indicator to have the actual question at the end or at the beginning. Simply rephrasing the question in a condensed form would greatly improve readability. Where the question mark is specifically doesn't matter, as long as the question is clearly asked. And not in the middle of everything.

Let me take this example from cedar's post and rephrase it:
I cannot remember a short story I read about a man, his son, and possibly nephew. They go fishing offshore (New England), lose their boat but escape to a rock. Unfortunately their is a rising tide. Anyone remember what this short story was called or what book it was from?
That is ignoring his second question of a movie he's also tryin to remember, which ideally would be two separate posts. If he rememebed more details about the book he could post them as the first comment or whatever.

it's never going to match google, and what it does best (customized response) isn't archivable anyway.

I would argue that the highest value of each thread would be of course to the original person who answered the question, but the information resulting from that question can be broad and archival.
posted by geoff. at 12:44 PM on May 11, 2004

No (more inside)

I like "more inside" it keeps the front page of AskMeFi clean and scannable. Also, people use it. A lot. So, trying to convince folks otherwise will just be swimming upstream/pissing into the wind/sisyphean. Unless you hardcode against it, in which case people will endrun you. I think scarabic's standards list is a better thing to try to aim for. Honestly, with a fully-functional search capability and a few small bells and whistles [I want an *answered* tag so people can basically close out questions. I bet it's in the works in some way] AskMeFi is already consistently better than 100% of all the question-answering interfaces I've used so far [and that includes my inconsistent library and godforsaken Google Answers] so all I want it to do is keep working which, to my delight, it mostly does.

I think the more you prescribe features and directions for better archival usability, the more you limit people's ability to use it for its primary purpose [question asking and answering] and hence make it less useful now, even if it's marginally more useful later. What you may be looking for is a better way to post-process the collected data for better retrieval? Or, put another way, how do you reckon you'll get the herd of cats that is Metafilter to do something different [or not do something they like, bracketcommentfilter] for such esoteric goals as "readability" and "archival research"? I'm just not seeing it.
posted by jessamyn at 12:55 PM on May 11, 2004

I'm with geoff. on this one (though I have less than fuzzy feelings towards him for choosing a nick that breaks normal sentence structure, but that's a subject for a different spree of MeTa posts). Yes, posting more information inside is good, however there has to be a concrete question in the main post, i.e. "How do I best unclog my drain after filling it with superglue?", not "Question about drain unclogging and adhesives".
posted by fvw at 1:22 PM on May 11, 2004

I actually think we should have AskMetaTalk, where you ask an etiquette question and then get yelled at for three hours.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 1:29 PM on May 11, 2004

posted by quonsar at 2:45 PM on May 11, 2004

[I want an *answered* tag so people can basically close out questions. I bet it's in the works in some way]

I rather like reading the discussion after the 'answer'. Also, sometimes it turns out the initial answer isn't as complete as it first appears. I'm all for the questioner being able to tag a comment as an 'answer', and perhaps a link being added to the top of the page to said comment, but I do hope you don't mean close the thread to new comments once this is done.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:35 PM on May 11, 2004

The only reason I'm doing this is because AskMefi could be a valuable resource

AskMefi is a valuable resource. I don't see the slightest point in trying to control exactly how people ask their questions (most of which are of real interest to nobody but themselves), unless you just like controlling things. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Or, what jessamyn said.
posted by languagehat at 5:28 PM on May 11, 2004

Ok well I guess that answers that question. I guess we just let AskMetafilter run its course until the day it aquires enough knowledge to become sentient. The thought of an artifical, immortal being that is both snarky and knows a ton about cat problems scares me.
posted by geoff. at 7:39 PM on May 11, 2004

well, the point to AskMefi is to be able to get an answer to a burning question you may have. if your sentence structure or train of thought or whatever leads you to ask the question in an arcane rather than straighforward way, you shouldn't expect a direct answer. just as AskMefi is only as useful as the appropriateness of the given answers, the value you get out of it as a questioner sort of depends on how you ask the question.

and quonsar - please say "excuse me" after belching. it's ever so much more polite. thanks.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:54 AM on May 12, 2004

I'm content to wait for Matt's re-codes, and I'm confident enough that MeFi users can find their way to the question without being forced to put the question mark in a specific place.
posted by Vidiot at 9:01 AM on May 12, 2004

The (more inside) thing is really sort of a mild "in-joke" of sorts - a way for AskMeFi'ers to create new, inventive (?) methods of phrasing it. It's cute and harmless.
posted by davidmsc at 9:04 AM on May 12, 2004

I don't think AskMe (as it is now) is worth archiving; after 30 days, questions and answers should be deleted from the database. This opinion may change once version x.y is released.
posted by mischief at 9:14 AM on May 12, 2004

In large part, I agree with Jessamyn, but I think a nice feature of Matt's recode would be a basic categorization tool. Ideally, it would allow users to tag a given post with a category (or two or three), whether hard-coded into a drop-down or user-created (I'm thinking of a cross between the MeTa categories and ID3 tagging). That said, I echo the "it ain't broke" folks and want to voice my great appreciation for Matt's creation of yet another extremely valuable piece of the web.
posted by Sinner at 11:43 AM on May 12, 2004

In response to this:

What goes on the front page of AskMe isn't supposed to be a "title," it's supposed to be a question. Admittedly, the interface isn't terribly clear on that, calling it merely "description." If it were merely a title, I agree, "Futon advice needed" would be adequate.

People with information about or an interest in futons can click to read the details of my question...

The issue is that people's knowledge or interest may be more specific than that. Was your question about buying a futon, or about building one? And how is someone who knows a ton about building futons, but very little about buying them, supposed to know that from your post? What's next, "Advice about computers?" ("People with information about or an interest in computers can click to read the details of my question...")
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:53 AM on May 13, 2004

The thought of an artifical, immortal being that is both snarky and knows a ton about cat problems scares me.

Ahhh, my work here is done!
posted by deborah at 9:46 PM on May 13, 2004

Personally, I think there should be full-scale archives for AskMe... or at the very least, archives that go back a year or so. It'll be really annoying if those of us who read AskMe every day get hit with the exact same questions every 30 days (or however long it takes for the archives expire). Plus, six months from now when my cat suddenly thinks it's a dog, it'd be nice if I could look up the previous thread about it.
posted by vorfeed at 1:03 PM on May 14, 2004

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