The suspense is killing me [more inside] January 4, 2005 3:45 AM   Subscribe

Could we maybe dispense with the cliffhangers in Ask.MetaFilter?
posted by Space Coyote to Etiquette/Policy at 3:45 AM (35 comments total)

In the dark days of AskMe's past, the complaints centered upon longish questions eating valeuable real estate in the green. But now, it's the "More Inside" disclaimers that's raising tempers.

You're just spoiled, y'know that?
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:28 AM on January 4, 2005


I was just thinking, (as I was able to quickly scan The Green), what a great job everyone was doing of asking while not taking over the page. Clearly this was a question about comics and anyone with no knowledge or interest could choose to skip it, as I did. You prefer these posts?
posted by geekyguy at 4:34 AM on January 4, 2005


"Comics" is as wide a field as "computers"

I think that the question should be asked in the post itself, and supporting details left for the [more inside]

Imagine a question like "I have a computer question [more inside]", essentially it's the same as this comics question, impossible to know if you can answer. (Comics being as wide a knowledge area as computers, certainly)
posted by Space Coyote at 4:43 AM on January 4, 2005


I agree with Space Coyote. In the case of the "Comics" question, the post on the front page just wasn't clear. I clicked inside expecting something on stand-up. There's no reason not to indicate that there's a request for assistance in identifying a book inside.

"The recent questions about comic books reminded me of one I've been trying to identify for a while, described inside."

Although I'm not bent out of shape about it.
posted by sohcahtoa at 5:22 AM on January 4, 2005


The question 'Could we maybe dispense with the cliffhangers in Ask.MetaFilter' is pretty broad itself.

I think you should have given more details in your question.

Or maybe i'm just being petty and lack perspective.
posted by the cuban at 5:26 AM on January 4, 2005


I just think that a small paragraph or two on the front page, which clearly asks the question, so that someone reading it doesn't have to click the link before figuring out what is being asked would be preferable.

We're not trying to trick as many people as possible into clicking on the question, after all.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:58 AM on January 4, 2005


You prefer these posts?

I don't like either the front-page novellas, or the "I have a question about books" posts. There's a happy medium in there which really isn't that hard to find with a bit of effort. But if I had to choose the lesser of two evils, then yes, as a matter of fact I do prefer the novellas.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:25 AM on January 4, 2005


By cliffhanger, I thought you meant those questions trying to recall long forgotten titles of barely remembered plots. I certainly had to click your link to figure out what you asked. ;-P
posted by mischief at 6:26 AM on January 4, 2005


I agree completely with Space Coyote. The substance of the question should be on the front page. That doesn't mean a question has to take up more than three or four lines -- just that people should use some of those skills they learned in school and craft short, efficient questions.

Of course, this is arguably self-policing. I suspect that, like me, most people don't click on "cliffhanger" links, which arguably reduces the effectiveness of the answers.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:28 AM on January 4, 2005


That is a bad post. It is not a trend.
posted by smackfu at 6:32 AM on January 4, 2005


Ouch! Geez! Dang It! You guys are forcing me to click on so many links that I am hurting myself! Make it stop!

(Make that 1 vote for 1 sentence questions.)
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:34 AM on January 4, 2005


I just hope that "self policing" in AskMe does not equal "piling on the Ask'er without ever answering the question." The goal is to answer questions, not correct style violations.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:39 AM on January 4, 2005


Of course, this is arguably self-policing. I suspect that, like me, most people don't click on "cliffhanger" links, which arguably reduces the effectiveness of the answers.

I frequently don't either. However, I'm not sure that's really effective as a way of self-policing, though, as the poster has no way of knowing how many people skipped over the question because it was badly formed.

That is a bad post. It is not a trend.

Since the start of the year: That's out of 103 questions, so it's not a huge problem, but it's not "just one bad post" either.

(Make that 1 vote for 1 sentence questions.)

There's nothing wrong with one-sentence questions, if they're sufficiently detailed to give people a general idea of the actual friggin' question. Here are some examples of what I think are excellent one-sentence questions: Which is not to say that everyone should compelled to try to shoehorn their FPP into a single sentence, just that it can be done for some questions, and I have nothing against one-sentence questions per se.

I just hope that "self policing" in AskMe does not equal "piling on the Ask'er without ever answering the question." The goal is to answer questions, not correct style violations.

How do you propose we should let the poster know?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:06 AM on January 4, 2005


I read this comic ten years ago, but now I can't remember what it was. [MI]

That would have been ideal, I suppose. I have to admit I skipped that question too. But it's not a bad post (as if AskMe questions were primarily for the entertainment of the general reader) - it's a nice specific thing to ask of people that may share your experience.
posted by furiousthought at 7:31 AM on January 4, 2005


Honestly I appreciate the one sentence cliff-hangers. It saves me time. This may be because my style of reading is just to scan for the important words - "Keyboard configuration" NOPE "Yoga" NOPE "Ethics" NOPE "the Watchmen" NOPE "Batman" NOPE 'Comic-" NOPE

The single sentence makes it possible for me to reject any consideration of even clicking on the links at a simple glance, rather than having to pick out the important word(s) from an entire paragraph. I appreciate it.

I have to scan over the entire sentence before encountering 'flash projector'. I have to read AND then bother to comprehend all five words in "Where should I donate books?" because there is no key word there. 'realtors' and 'Manhattan' are at the end of the sentence - place them at the beginning thusly: "Manhattan realtors - anybody know of any good websites that rate them?" Same problem with 'London' and 'chair' - how about: "London chairshopping: I'm looking for a good place to find something for my computerdesk." Or "Returning gifts: what is a good way to do this without embarrassing anybody?"
posted by Ryvar at 7:42 AM on January 4, 2005


Sounds good to me. I think I'll try to adopt that style whenever I post.
posted by taz at 7:47 AM on January 4, 2005


It should be noted that I speak as a hypocrite on this topic - because in all three of my AskMe posts I have NOT placed the 2-3 most important words at the beginning of the query. In the future, however, I'm going to do this - and I'd encourage other people to do the same. If everyone does it, it should be possible to scan the entire AskMe page for questions that you're interested in answering in under twenty seconds.
posted by Ryvar at 7:47 AM on January 4, 2005


Yes, me too. I didn't mean I would try make mine a "cliffhanger", but will try to put a two- or three-word subject pointer at the beginning - what many people basically do with "XFilter".
posted by taz at 7:54 AM on January 4, 2005


Could we maybe dispense with the cliffhangers in Ask.MetaFilter?

No. Your gay.


His gay?
posted by signal at 7:56 AM on January 4, 2005


. Keyboard configuration question. [the more, it is inside]
. Yoga classes in Ubud. [more inside]
. Ethics and Entreprenuership. I've a lengthy question about being self-employed.
. Just finished reading Watchmen for about the fiftieth time... what an amazing book. {questions inside}
. I'm half-remembering a Batman comic here, or at least I think it was Batman. What was it? [Details inside, of course.]
. Comicsfilter: The recent questions about comics reminded me about this one that I've had bugging me for a while. [MI]


I think each and every one of those posts conveys enough information to give the casual reader a heads up as to the general topic of the question to the point where one knows whether clicking the link is worth one's time. I would much rather see this than a half-page of esoteric (to someone not familiar with subject) gobbledygook wasting the front page of AskMe. IMO, there is absolutely nothing wrong the amount of information on the first page for each of these links.

On the other hand, if the question could be asked in the same (or maybe one extra line) of space on the front page of AskMe, the whole question should be asked (and get it over with), instead of purposely going for a cliffhanger effect.
posted by Doohickie at 8:05 AM on January 4, 2005


I will continue to write my questions as normal sentences. Reading isn't that hard.
posted by dame at 8:06 AM on January 4, 2005


My complaint is not that reading is hard - my complaint is that a group effort on everyone's part here could enhance the usability of the site as a whole (which almost certainly dooms it to failure).
posted by Ryvar at 8:16 AM on January 4, 2005


However, I'm not sure that's really effective as a way of self-policing, though, as the poster has no way of knowing how many people skipped over the question because it was badly formed.

True. I think the phrase I should have used is "self-defeating," rather than "self-policing."
posted by pardonyou? at 8:29 AM on January 4, 2005


Thanks, DevilsAdvocate, I should have done that legwork at the top of the thread :)

I only posted this thread because I don't want to skip over a question that I could have answered because, well, there was no question on the front page, not just to be the style police.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:33 AM on January 4, 2005


I'm too lazy to find it now, but the revamped AskMe post page that Matt made up actually is designed to display all posts with a one-line question, forcing all detail into the comments/post page.

I prefer the one-line questions. It makes it much easier for me to decide whether to read it or not. But I agree that they need to have sufficient information. As for the post in question, I was able to skip over it since I've never been a big fan (and thus no expert) of comics. It had enough info for me to realize I couldn't help. I'm not sure what else the poster could have added to the one-line question without going into specific details that you suggest should be left for the [MI].
posted by BradNelson at 9:08 AM on January 4, 2005


I'm too lazy to find it now, but the revamped AskMe post page that Matt made up actually is designed to display all posts with a one-line question, forcing all detail into the comments/post page.

And I have already urged Matt to change that before it goes into production, for that very reason.

As for the post in question, I was able to skip over it since I've never been a big fan (and thus no expert) of comics. It had enough info for me to realize I couldn't help.

Thus, it's a very nice post for you. "Macintosh question" would be a very nice post for me, as I can quickly realize that I am both unable to answer the question and uninterested in it, and easily skip over it.

But what is a very nice post for you or for me is not a nice post for AskMe at large. I'm a big fan of just a few comics, but the vast majority of comics I know little to nothing about. So the FPP isn't enough for me--or other people in my position--to have any idea if we're likely to be able to help or not.

I'm not sure what else the poster could have added to the one-line question

"I'm trying to identify a comic I read about ten years ago involving sleeper agents. Possibly Hellblazer or Big Numbers. [MI]"
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:24 AM on January 4, 2005


DevilAdvocate: how about, for those of us who like to scan:

"A comic I read about ten years ago involved sleeper agents and I'm trying to identify which one it was. Possibly Hellblazer or Big Numbers. [MI]"

This allows the considerable number of us out there who have never picked up a comic book of any variety to simply read 'comic' in the second word and immediately scan the next post.
posted by Ryvar at 9:34 AM on January 4, 2005


Yep, that's even better than my suggestion.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:35 AM on January 4, 2005


Touché.
posted by BradNelson at 10:26 AM on January 4, 2005


I admit that the one-line question I teased you so mercilessly with on the front page wasn't as concise and precise as the community-edited one that has emerged here, but I don't think it's that bad. I didn't intend for it to be a "cliffhanger" to trick people into clicking on my question - is there an AskMe referer program that I'm unaware of or something? I originally did have the whole thing on the outside, but it looked a bit cluttered on preview, so I chopped and pasted.

I think that most of the "offenders" listed above are just fine. It does look like a trend, but it seems like a pretty okay trend to me, so I went with it. "Comics" was right there in the first word. If you don't know or care about them, fine, skip it. If you do read comics, maybe you would have run across the thing I was looking for. Eh. Doesn't seem like it's worth a callout, but whatever. My apologies for wasting your time, mister pickypants.
posted by majcher at 10:45 AM on January 4, 2005


Short question summary on the front, any additional details needed for clarity inside. How hard is that to understand? AskMe is not the place to try to wow us with your cleverness or personal style. It's a place to ask questions in the most efficient manner possible.
posted by rushmc at 11:53 AM on January 4, 2005


I agree with rushmc, or to iterate what SC said:

I just think that a small paragraph or two on the front page, which clearly asks the question, so that someone reading it doesn't have to click the link before figuring out what is being asked would be preferable.
posted by Witty at 11:56 AM on January 4, 2005


I'll just chime in and say that this phenomenon bugs me too. It's not hard to phrase a succinct, specific question in one or two or three lines. Nobody's complaining that the posts are too short. It's just irritating when someone posts "I have a question about books [MI]", and it makes the search engine less useful too.

When this was brought up before (too lazy to find it), an offender justified it by saying that it added mystery to the question and got more people to click through. Unfortunately, lots of us will just skip a question that's too vague or lazily formatted. Just ask!
posted by bonheur at 12:24 PM on January 4, 2005


I thought this thread was going to be about a different sort of ask.me cliffhanger, although it seems to be both in this case-- Questions that require follow-up responses, but are abandoned by the poster. I've tried to answer a few questions recently that were never clarified by the asker, and that can really take all the fun out of it for those of us trying to help with the problem-solving.

That's probably an issue for a new MeTa thread. But I still think majcher should at least go back to his comic question and help out with the process of elimination.
posted by obloquy at 1:59 PM on January 4, 2005


That is a bad post. It is not a trend.

I think this comment confuses trends with majorities.
posted by nthdegx at 4:56 AM on January 6, 2005


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