Pony - best answer search February 11, 2005 12:40 AM   Subscribe

Another tiny new feature: you can search for just questions with good answers marked at Ask MetaFilter. Here's an example of a search result with this in action.
posted by mathowie (staff) to Feature Requests at 12:40 AM (34 comments total)

Thanks Matt. Planning on calling in sleepy tomorrow?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:07 AM on February 11, 2005

Cool. How are the highlighted answers being chosen though? Is that you and jessamyn?
posted by dodgygeezer at 1:37 AM on February 11, 2005

Maybe I should read metatalk from the bottom up.

(slaps head)
posted by dodgygeezer at 1:38 AM on February 11, 2005

Yay! what a pretty pony! But is it better to not highlight a particular answer in a thread where several ideas lead me to the right place?
posted by nelleish at 6:27 AM on February 11, 2005

This is very cool.
posted by iconomy at 6:30 AM on February 11, 2005

I just highlighted all the good answers in that case nelleish. I tagged nearly every answer to the general moving advice question.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:48 AM on February 11, 2005

Is "limited to answered questions only?" the best wording? That is, I've rarely seen an AskMe thread that had no answers....
posted by Robot Johnny at 7:59 AM on February 11, 2005

Judging from that admittedly small sample, I doubt this is a feature I would use much, if ever.

In the first example, the single highlighted answer is not the one I consider best. In the second example, so many answers are highlighted that it defeats the purpose. The third example is an outlier.
posted by mischief at 8:03 AM on February 11, 2005

After reading how answers are marked in the next MeTalk post, I wonder if the person asking the question is really the best judge of good answers for everyone else. For him- or herself obviously, but overall? I still think a consensus vote would be more helpful.
posted by mischief at 8:07 AM on February 11, 2005

Wouldn't it be cool if the answers-by-this-user page showed a flag, too? You know this is going to improve the quality of AskMe as everyone jockeys to give that Gold Star answer. Why not give exemplary answerers a little bit of glory on their answers-by page? That could only encourage quality.

And I love the fact that it's the questioner who defines "quality." Good shit.
posted by scarabic at 8:43 AM on February 11, 2005

After reviewing AskMe proper, I am rather skeptical of questions marked [answered] within 24 hours of posting. A couple questions that fall under this category are specific enough to be considered closed, but other 'best answers' seem to be jumping to conclusions and may have been marked before testing their validity.

SpecialK's relationship question (now that I realize it is less than 24 hours old) and its 'best answer' really points out how subjective this system can be.
posted by mischief at 8:43 AM on February 11, 2005

mischief, it is all subjective. Like the tagging system. SpecialK asked for advice, and picked the one that spoke to him?

What is your problem with this? All you have been doing is pointing out the flaws... if you don't like it, don't use it.
posted by Quartermass at 8:59 AM on February 11, 2005

/minor detour

Hey #1 and #2,

lofi is coughing up the following error message if you not logged in:

Error Occurred While Processing Request
Error Executing Database Query

I didn't want to start a new meta-thread.

Thanks for the new ponies!
posted by Jim Jones at 9:02 AM on February 11, 2005

Without criticism, how would the process improve?

Besides, I already stated that I probably would not use it. ;-P
posted by mischief at 9:12 AM on February 11, 2005

Yes, but without praise, why would anyone work to improve?
posted by Quartermass at 9:16 AM on February 11, 2005

Quartermass, your heart is in the right place, but critical brainstorming is a pretty good thing in general. Mischief's skepticism will not likely break Matt's heart.
posted by cortex at 9:44 AM on February 11, 2005

Yeah, I can handle it.

mischeif, you're correct that this is subjective and I had no idea how it would change the dynamic if folks would mark good answers in the first few comments -- whether or not that would shut down discussion.

Last night I was sweating over the wording used throughout and have made a few adjustments so that marking an answer doesn't shut down all discussion. I'll clean up the language on the search checkbox, and I've removed the [answered] tags. I've added the colored highlight to the user comment histories as requested, but they're kind of hard to see on my pc.

I'll keep tweaking this -- it's a feature often requested when I first set it up, but now that the site has been around a year, I definitely want its impact on the culture of asking and answering to be as minimal as possible.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:25 AM on February 11, 2005

but without praise, why would anyone work to improve

The same reasons songwriters will continue to write songs even without copyright: for the love of doing it. Amazing that AskMe was so useful before all the gold stars started being awarded.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:26 AM on February 11, 2005

This is what my user history looks like on my pc, Matt. Part of the text is obscured.

posted by iconomy at 10:49 AM on February 11, 2005

What about in the instances where the person asking is able to eventually answer their own question?
posted by Arch Stanton at 11:07 AM on February 11, 2005

Ok, I've wiped the colored background thing and I'm doing a check instead.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:19 AM on February 11, 2005

Ah, like the check much better. Looks good!
posted by widdershins at 11:32 AM on February 11, 2005

Three cheers for the check-mark!
posted by falconred at 11:48 AM on February 11, 2005

I check AskMeFi before MeTa and last night I wrote an answer to a question that had already been marked with a "best answer". I didn't realize the highlighted background on the comment meant such - thought it was just a bug in the system. If I had known, I would not have answered. The way I feel, if the questioner already got his/her answer(s), why should I add my comment? Are they even going to read it? Are they done discussing it? I mean, I add my two cents to be helpful, and IRL I wouldn't advise someone on an issue they already had figured out; it would feel rude.

I know my reaction isn't going to be universal, but maybe there are other people that feel the way I do. In many cases "best answer(s)" is subjective. Possibly "shutting down" replies like this so early from the time the question was asked limits AskMeFi as a resource for others that might benefit from answers different from the ones that are useful to the questioner.

I like the idea fine, I just think it might work better to allow the "best answers" marker after a period of time has passed and most people have had a chance to contribute: 24 hours, 48 hours, a week, once it drops off the front page, whatever. (I also think threads shouldn't close on AskMeFi either, for a similar reason: the more answers, the more help it could be for other readers. Of course, that would be more useful once AskMeFi is catagorized.)
posted by Melinika at 12:10 PM on February 11, 2005

Melinka, on the flip side of things, if folks can highlight the best answer quicker than 24 hours after, you won't get 20 other comments saying the same thing or "what that person said."

Last night, the first version definitely helped shut down conversations, but I do think the way it stands now should lessen that effect. I'd certainly post my response to a question that already has 1 or 2 best answers if I thought it brought a new angle or approach to solving it.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:14 PM on February 11, 2005

Okay, and to flip it back, a bunch of people saying something similar could add more weight to one answer over another, couldn't it? The collective experience shown wouldn't be something I'd want curtailed - ten people telling me "this same thing worked for me" would make me more confident in trying it than just one person saying so, in certain situations. Not to mention some of the people saying the "same thing" are giving different variants that could be quite useful, that they might not bother to add if the answer's already been marked.

I already try to only post if I can bring something new to the question. You might feel okay posting to a question already marked in that circumstance. I'm just pointing out I probably would not.
posted by Melinika at 12:27 PM on February 11, 2005

Hmm. Melinkika brings up some really good points. Maybe this is one time when it's a good idea to look a gift-pony in the mouth.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:20 PM on February 11, 2005

And here is a good example of poor usage that I think will be unavoidable. In that comment, the answer that was tagged "best answer" was this answer, which simply said, "Don't do it." Previous and later messages offered the same advice, but actually gave reasons why you shouldn't do it. Message before, message after.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:57 PM on February 11, 2005

Argh. Message before.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:58 PM on February 11, 2005

It's a nice feature and I can see why some people would like it. But, because I sometimes see questions posed by other users that are useful to me, I wouldn't want other users to stop offering answers because the poster already picked a best answer. (What Melinka describes.) The best answer for the poster might not be my best answer, and it will be a shame if this feature deters people from offering an answer that suits me (or any other reader.)

It wouldn't be a deterrent if the original asker waited a day or so before picking a best answer.
posted by sophie at 5:04 PM on February 11, 2005

To add to what Civil_Disobedient said, I myself marked a "best answer" that simply said "I sent you an e-mail," because that e-mail was very helpful with my question. Doesn't do much for anybody else, but I certainly wasn't going to ignore the contribution. So there's one kind of pointless checkmark right there.
posted by languagehat at 5:22 PM on February 11, 2005

Very often, the person asking the question has no idea what they are talking about, and very often, the best answers are the ones that they have difficulty accepting. This may not be comforting for the asker, and it may detract from a warm and fuzzy feeling of community, but it's true. Allowing the asker to designate some answers as 'good' is disempowering to the answerers, who after all are the ones bothering to share their knowledge.

Besides, even in relatively fact-based situations, it's unlikely that the asker has actually tried every piece of advice and determined one to be the best. And in the case of 'what's that movie i can't remember' threads, all you have to do is look at the number of comments; if there aren't very many, the question was probably given a solid answer.
posted by bingo at 6:13 PM on February 11, 2005

bingo, in those cases above, the person that asked the question should not pick out the best answers. And you as a reader, should take those cases into account when you read it.

Let's let it run for a while and see what new controversies crop up. I still say it's better than what we had before.

To imagine a collaborative version of this if you guys find the question asker has too much power in the current scenario: what if everyone in every thread was allowed to pick their definition of best answer, then the public shared view would only include those that got more than x votes. Sound better? I think that would be more work, since everyone would have to vote on everything basically, and there'd be a much bigger opportunity to game it or pick out answers that sounded good to everyone else, but might not have worked for the person asking the question.

I know the way it is leaves it a bit subjective, but it's only best answer according to the person that asked it, no one else. Most often, they're the only one that can determine that since they had the question and seeked help answering it.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:04 PM on February 11, 2005

OK, I've been thinking about this some more. Now, I don't know how much this matters, but I've answered a bit more than 850 questions so far, and I have to say that I think that this system will dissuade me from answering questions.

And the worst part is, I can completely see the utility of the feature, I can see why you could make good arguments for it. But in the end, anything that detracts from people answering questions I would weigh as a negative.

I don't know if anyone else feels strongly about the system in one direction or the other, so I'll keep my opinion limited to this initial comment until I've given it some time to get a feel for it. As you say: "Let's let it run for a while and see what new controversies crop up."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:13 PM on February 11, 2005

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