Is using "best answer" on subjective questions appropriate? February 14, 2005 4:50 PM   Subscribe

The best answer feature used in this AskMeFi question seems a little disconcerting to me. For a question that's so subjective, is it really appropriate? I find it off putting.
posted by sophie to Feature Requests at 4:50 PM (85 comments total)

I don't see the value of this feature.

What is it supposed to accomplish? It's not like those who don't get their question answered have some kind of recourse -- a "unanswered questions" bin, for example. Seems more like some kind of bizarre popularity of opinion contest. "Ahh, yes, I agree with your answer. You get a star. But you? No. I disagree. No star! Aaaah, power!"

Once a question has the answer tag, it's unlikely people will continue to contribute answers. And questions that roll off the front page, answer or no, might as well be closed threads--save for the few people that have already contributed to the thread and are checking up to see any responses to their posts.

And what's the point of only showing the threads with answers? When I'm on AskMe, it's either because I have a question I need answered, or I want to help answer questions. If I have a question already "out there", I'll jump straight to it by viewing "My Threads". If, on the other hand, I've come to answer questions, why on earth would I care about just seeing the questions that already have answers to them? If anything it would be better to see questions that don't have answers.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:57 PM on February 14, 2005


B-b-but one of my answers was picked! It can't be all bad!
posted by goatdog at 4:59 PM on February 14, 2005


I mentioned this in the original thread announcing the feature -- that it doesn't make sense in threads filled with subjective chatfilter. I don't think the person asking the question should have used it, as they're not any better than the rest.

The feature is useful for things with an answer or soliciting advice.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:01 PM on February 14, 2005


"For a question that's so subjective, is it really appropriate? I find it off putting."

U R WRONG!11!!1!
posted by orthogonality at 5:02 PM on February 14, 2005


But it does have a guy who looks like johnmc's brother-in-law, and that should count for something.

Seriously, though, I think the best answer feature may discourage people from answering. "Asked and answered, so I might as well move on."
posted by fixedgear at 5:08 PM on February 14, 2005


Wah, they didn't pick me! I'll show them! Look, everyone! Look! They're question is stupid and they shouldn't be allowed to gold star anyone!

I bet you cried when you were picked last for kickball too.

It's their question, they determine the answers that seem right to them. Don't like it? Then ask something similar.

WTF? When we opened ourselves up to newbies, what happened? Did our age range go down into the single digits?
posted by FunkyHelix at 5:09 PM on February 14, 2005


Once a question has the answer tag, it's unlikely people will continue to contribute answers.

Not at all. I've posted on a number of threads that already had a checkmark. What it does is set the bar. "Your answer should be at least THIS GOOD." Well, that's good, isn't it?
posted by kindall at 5:09 PM on February 14, 2005


My guess: Gucky is marking answers with recommendations she might want to add to a list or something at some point. When the thread dies off she goes back, scrolls through, pausing at the marked answers and writing them down. Not necessarily of universal value, but works for the asker.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:10 PM on February 14, 2005


that it doesn't make sense in threads filled with subjective chatfilter

Matt, this is the problem I have with it: what is the purpose? I don't mean that faceciously. I mean, honestly, what are you trying to accomplish with the "answered" feature? Is it just a reward system to pat people on the back for helping them out? Can't we already do that in-thread?

The thing I liked about AskMe was that it was an objective information repository of subjective answers. That is, someone asks a question, gets a bunch of answers... all those answers are not judged or rated, but left for posterity (and the original poster) to deem useful or not. Once you put a subjective spin on the answers, AskMe turns into ExpertsExchange. And people looking at the older archives are going to scroll past what could be the "correct" answer for them, just to get to that highlighted answer that worked best for the OP.

As a method of preserving for all posterity the opinions of the OP, it's wonderful. Clearly in the linked thread you can see that Gucky likes Gremlins 2, since not one, not two, not three, but FOUR of the correct answers feature it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:13 PM on February 14, 2005


Shakedown is *not* a bad movie. That's all I have to say.
posted by bingo at 5:13 PM on February 14, 2005


Wah [...] When we opened ourselves up to newbies, what happened? Did our age range go down into the single digits?

Oh, and clearly someone has been hanging out with infants too much outside of MeFi.

Don't like it? Then ask something similar.

What a remarkably stupid waste of effort. Why bother even having a SEARCH function then, genius?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:16 PM on February 14, 2005


Shakedown is *not* a bad movie. That's all I have to say.

Which is why I chose it, bingo.

But you're the first person I've ever met who liked it. too.

Let's get married.
posted by jonmc at 5:20 PM on February 14, 2005


I agree with Civil_Disobedient. The answered feature seems to work best for the "help me remember this book I once read" type question. I think the feature should not be used when dealing with complex subjects--especially when AskMe is used in lieu of professional advice. Presumably, most questions are asked because the asker knows little about the subject, so it doesn't make sense that they then can judge when the question has been answered.
posted by greasy_skillet at 5:22 PM on February 14, 2005


Let's get married.

Okay. Do you want to drive, or do you want to shoot?
posted by bingo at 5:27 PM on February 14, 2005


I'd be surprised if this doesn't self-moderate after a while--not just because of threads like this, which are fine, but also because people will start to realize that the "good answer" highlight makes a lot of sense in some contexts, and little to none in others. (I thought it made no sense at all, as a public flag, in that thread.)

I do think it's useful tool when a question has a very specific answer--not so much on the AskMe front page, but especially after the fact, when you're casting through old posts to see if a question's been asked and answered before.

On the front page, though, there's no reason it can't work the other way, too...that a lack of a check for a factual question can call attention to someone who's still looking for help. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
posted by LairBob at 5:29 PM on February 14, 2005


With that previous point in mind, though, the new "View only 'answered' threads" doesn't really appeal to me, but that's maybe just a different take on why people come to AskMe. I don't so much go just to observe what answers other people have come up with, but to participate in the questions that are still open--I'd actually be much more likely to use the _opposite_ filter, that shows threads that are still "unanswered".

(Not asking for a pony...just saying.)
posted by LairBob at 5:34 PM on February 14, 2005


people will start to realize that the "good answer" highlight makes a lot of sense in some contexts, and little to none in others

You give "people" far too much credit. This will continue to get folded, spindled, and mutilated as much as every other MeFi feature.

The more I look at threads with "answers," the more I tend to agree with Civil_Disobedient. It would make more sense to have a "needs answer" mark that the poster could remove. But the whole thing is really not needed. We can see for ourselves whether there are useful answers in the thread.
posted by languagehat at 5:37 PM on February 14, 2005


On the front page, though, there's no reason it can't work the other way, too...that a lack of a check for a factual question can call attention to someone who's still looking for help.

Except right now the system is backwards. The current AskMe frontpage has a feature to show current questions that have already been answered, not questions that have yet to be answered, which would seem to make a lot more sense.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:37 PM on February 14, 2005


I could be wrong but I think the poster was trying to indicate which commenters had followed his directions, that is, which posters had indicated which "bad" movies they sincerely liked, rather than the "so-bad-it's-good," answers. So he was citing examples, I think.
posted by jonmc at 5:41 PM on February 14, 2005


You give "people" far too much credit. This will continue to get folded, spindled, and mutilated as much as every other MeFi feature.

To a large degree, sure, but I also think that there's an element of over-zealousness playing out right now, where people are marking answers because they feel they're supposed to use the new feature.

Let me just add that this point is basically academic to me--I'm not arguing as a huge proponent of the feature. I think the idea does have potential in situations where there's a squarely right/wrong answer, or it's pretty easy to judge a good one, but the line's a lot greyer than that in most cases, and that really minimizes the overall value of this.

(And C_D, I hope my follow-up post makes it clear that I totally agree with you on the "filter best answer" features.)
posted by LairBob at 5:44 PM on February 14, 2005


Just had a good idea.

Ok, right now, AskMe questions roll off the frontpage pretty quickly. There aren't a lot of ways to deal with this, unless you want to start categorizing questions (which is a good idea in its own right, BTW).

But how about this: once a question has been "answered", it is removed from the frontpage, replaced with a question from the que that has not been answered.

This is a win-win situation. You can still search for AskMe threads that have "correct" answers. And it gives AskMe threads that are withering on the vine a couple extra hours of front-page time before they roll off into the oblivion that is the archives.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:45 PM on February 14, 2005


Surprisingly, I like Civil_Disobedient's suggestion. It would also de-motivate people from choosing the 'best answer' just so others could see their choice. Once you consider your question answered, you agree to make it go away.
posted by bingo at 5:50 PM on February 14, 2005


Civil_Disobedient, I think that is a fab idea.
posted by Quartermass at 6:14 PM on February 14, 2005


excellent idea, Civil.

and it's stupid to mark best answer on a polling question.
posted by amberglow at 6:22 PM on February 14, 2005


Civil_Disobedient:Matt, this is the problem I have with it: what is the purpose?

Did you miss the part where I stated clearly that the best answers feature is for questions with actual answers and advice? Did you also miss the part where I said that yes, indeed this is a bad use of the feature on this question? Does that mean that is is "broken?" I say no.

I know you don't care for the feature, but it's not going away. Hundreds of folks asked for this feature since I launched ask metafilter. I believe it will be useful in the long term, but during the first four-five days it has been around, we are bound to figure out what works and doesn't work. It's called a rocky start.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:15 PM on February 14, 2005


C_D, your idea would totally and completely turn questions with marked best answers into a cold, dead "answered" status, by hiding them from everyone.

It would also mean people that check the site a few times a day would have a handful of threads disappearing on them. I don't think it's an improvement for the site because it reinforces an idea I would rather downplay (that a best answer means a question is over) and it would result in a harder to follow ask metafilter.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:18 PM on February 14, 2005


Did you miss the part where I stated clearly that the best answers feature is for questions with actual answers and advice?

I'm sorry, aren't all the responses in AskMe supposed to be actual answers or advice? Isn't that what the warning on the bottom of the page before you post is all about?

Did you also miss the part where I said that yes, indeed this is a bad use of the feature on this question?

No, I caught that.

Does that mean that is is "broken?" I say no.

I never suggested it was broken. What I have suggested--in fact outright stated--is that it is a feature in search of an application, and one that has more negative than positive side effects.

C_D, your idea would totally and completely turn questions with marked best answers into a cold, dead "answered" status, by hiding them from everyone.

Which is sadly what the checkmark already does.

You can test this for yourself. Check out the "answered" page for a few minutes. Notice anything in particular? No new comments. The only threads that are getting new comments in "answered" threads are chatfilter threads.

The "answered" status already turns questions into "cold, dead" threads. But at least these questions have answers to them. What about the hundreds of questions that are asked each week that slip off the frontpage without solutions? An extra day on the frontpage could make all the difference in the world to these people who are looking for answers. People who check off their threads already have their question answered. So what's the problem? If people want to search for threads, they're still more than able to do so.

It would also mean people that check the site a few times a day would have a handful of threads disappearing on them.

The threads users notice most are either: 1. New, or 2. Threads they've responded to already. If you've already replied to a thread, you can (and I have a feeling most users already do) jump directly to your user page where you can list the threads you've already commented on.

I'm trying to imagine a situation that you describe: a user checks out AskMe, comes back later and a question they liked (but didn't respond to) is now gone. First off, how often do you think this would happen? These aren't MeFi threads, you know? You're not following AskMe for the pure thrill of the discussion.

But OK, let's say hypothetically your user comes back to AskMe and says, "Hey, wasn't there an iPod thread around here somewhere?" Ok, so now what? They search, or click your "Already Answered Questions" link. Problem solved.

it reinforces an idea I would rather downplay (that a best answer means a question is over)

I'm really not trying to be annoying, but you have so far explained what the "answered" thing is not for, and I'm still wondering what it is for. You want to somehow make really good answers stand out? How does this accomplish this? Because if everyone isn't allowed to choose "best" answers, you're getting a very skewed result.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:40 PM on February 14, 2005


. . .have a "needs answer" mark that the poster could remove.

I would like to second LH's suggestion. Is this a possibility? When a question scrolls off the front page this would be a useful feature to have. If it is after 30 days maybe a "closed" mark could be added.
posted by mlis at 7:43 PM on February 14, 2005


For whatever it's worth, I think this is a nifty feature. Let's face it -- ask.me is getting bigger and bigger, and while adding features doesn't necessarily help things, the ability for the author to mark something as "right" helps a lot in terms of sorting and searching.

It's not a wholly original idea -- not to diss Matt or anything -- as it's been used to great effect on a number of techie-type sites. I've never seen it done on a more generally-oriented site, but I'm not all that hip to what's going on with those crazy internets.
posted by ph00dz at 8:10 PM on February 14, 2005


the ability for the author to mark something as "right"

Here's what I don't get: The person marking "best answer" is the person asking the question, right? Aren't they the one who doesn't know what the answer is?

A thread where the person asking the question has marked a wrong answer "best" is making a real mess of things for when someone else with the same question comes across that post in a search and gets fooled first by the same content that fooled the first person, and then again by the extra bit of authority a "best answer" mark provides.

"Best answer" lets the least-authoritative source involved make the most authoritative statement in the thread.
posted by mendel at 8:18 PM on February 14, 2005


Huh. I don't know why mathowie won't directly answer the question, but, if memory serves:

The purpose of Best Answer is to make AskMe more searchable and easy to use to find answers in existing questions. Right now, the focus in AskMe is on new questions, and questions which have been closed are considered kind of useless. However, AskMe's original goal is the creation of a big, usable, searchable database of questions that people can refer to.

With each question spawning a big, long comments thread, the archive isn't so usable. By marking (and thereby highlighting) good answers, the archive becomes just that little bit more usable, as you can search for someone with the same question as your self, and then pop directly down to the applicable answers.

Whether you think that's a good solution is another issue, but I figured the solution itself needed to be recapitulated, since a lot of folks here don't seem to have read the original thread when the pony was unveiled.
posted by Bugbread at 8:18 PM on February 14, 2005


The person marking "best answer" is the person asking the question, right? Aren't they the one who doesn't know what the answer is?

I would suspect that they're the person who didn't know what the answer was, but now do.

For example:
Questioner: "What movie contains blah blah blah?"
Answer: "Etc etc etc"
Questioner: "Oh, yeah, that's it!"

Questioner: "How can I make my computer do blah blah blah?"
Answer: "Just do etc etc etc"
Questioner: "It worked!"

Questioner: "Where can I buy blah blah blah?"
Answer: "On the corner of etc etc etc"
Questioner: "Thanks, they had some good stuff, and 99% pure!"
posted by Bugbread at 8:22 PM on February 14, 2005


I like the feature, even though someday somebody's going to mark every single answer in a 50-comment thread as "best answer," setting off 5 days and 3 threads of seething in Metatalk, a couple of week-long suspensions, and at least one MeFite storming off in a huff. Still worth it.
posted by furiousthought at 8:33 PM on February 14, 2005


I'm with C_D in that I don't understand what this feature adds that couldn't be said in a comment. In bugbread's example, we wouldn't learn that it was 99% pure from a checkmark, but from a comment, we would.
posted by muckster at 8:43 PM on February 14, 2005


The person marking "best answer" is the person asking the question, right? Aren't they the one who doesn't know what the answer is?

I'll take it one step further:

The people who would be best at determining which answers are "best" are the very people responding. So open "best answer" voting for everyone but the original poster. Of course, the catch is that the people responding to answers are already giving their best answer. It's not like I'm going to answer a question 4 pathetic ways before finally giving my "good" answer. No, I'll just give you my best answer right away.

And none of this--none of it--addresses the biggest problem: on questions without definite answers (not like bugbread's), what makes an answer particularly good? Length? Appropriateness to the original poster? Whether the OP happens to like a user member's previous posting personality? Why are these good metrics for determining a search result's priority in listing, if indeed that's what Matt has planned?

On preview:
someday somebody's going to mark every single answer in a 50-comment thread as "best answer,"

Too late. And you know what? They were all good answers, and what the hell do I know to judge something as best for a topic I admit to knowing nothing about? It's like, hey, let's let the retarded kids write all the math books.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:48 PM on February 14, 2005


Or you could actually just start enforcing the "no chatfilter" rhetoric.

Even though I contributed to the thread.
posted by xmutex at 8:53 PM on February 14, 2005


When a question scrolls off the front page this would be a useful feature to have. If it is after 30 days maybe a "closed" mark could be added.

Or if it's marked with "Needs answer" and hasn't been answered after 30 days, there could be a sidebar list of unanswered questions? Livejournal's helpdesk works along those lines, I believe -- although obviously with a much faster turnover.

I can't imagine how crowded said sidebar would get, though.
posted by tracicle at 8:57 PM on February 14, 2005


Furiousthought: someday somebody's going to mark every single answer in a 50-comment thread as "best answer," setting off 5 days and 3 threads of seething in Metatalk, a couple of week-long suspensions, and at least one MeFite storming off in a huff.

The five days are about to begin! Here's a thread in which someone marked off every response as the best response.

I have to admit, I was hoping that the asker would have checked off every response but one. Just to spite the person who gave a really bad book.
posted by painquale at 9:29 PM on February 14, 2005


I like the feature because I like to see which answers the posters found most useful for them. But I, as the reader, am still a part of the equation and can judge for myself whether another answer would be best for me. You have some points civil_, but they mostly assume that the reader is completely passive.

It seems to me that a good solution for some of the questions raised here would be a "sort by" option, where we can choose to view questions with the Fewest and Most (just so we don't miss any of those anonymous sex threads) answers, as well as questions with Best answers, and if another pony is added, questions that Need Answers.
posted by taz at 10:20 PM on February 14, 2005


I never suggested it was broken. What I have suggested--in fact outright stated--is that it is a feature in search of an application, and one that has more negative than positive side effects.

Holy crap dude. You consider being patted on the back a 'negative'. Did your parents not hug you enough as a child or something?

Look: people enjoy being patted on the back. People really like gold stars and 'offical' meaningless tokens. They'll compete to give the best answers, and get the most stars, and that means better answers on axme for all of us to learn from.
posted by delmoi at 11:38 PM on February 14, 2005


I love it. Makes Ask infinitely more useful.
posted by dong_resin at 12:10 AM on February 15, 2005


Here's an example of a thread that stopped getting responses once a "best answer" was identified, even though that answer wasn't necessarily the best one for the question. In my opinion that weakens the archives. I found it difficult trying to give a better answer without sounding snarky about it. I'm sure other people have chosen not to post useful answers in other threads for that very reason. I'd call that a negative side effect, but I guess a cross-eyed pony with a limp is better than no pony at all.
posted by Buzz at 12:18 AM on February 15, 2005


what dong said
posted by matteo at 12:40 AM on February 15, 2005


My 2 cents, and hopefully I won't come off as brownosing here, but I agree with mathowie entirely in this matter, and disagree entirely with C_D.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:59 AM on February 15, 2005


And questions that roll off the front page, answer or no, might as well be closed threads

Civil_Disobedient, No longer will this be a problem! Not if you use my Mefi Bookmarks application which I'll make a post about tomorrow (I'm new here and have to wait a week to post!).
posted by FieldingGoodney at 1:07 AM on February 15, 2005


Also: why would anyone check 'this is a best answer' before the thread had died down, anyway? Makes no sense to select any as best (unless it's a totally cut-and-dried question, which is the kind of question AskMe was apparently created to attract, much as some of the fuzzier ones have been popular) until your question has had time to get as many answers as it might.

Hell, I went back and looked at several of my long-dead questions, and I couldn't figure out what the best answer was (which is probably why I asked it in the first place), so I didn't check any of the answers.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:13 AM on February 15, 2005


You consider being patted on the back a 'negative'.

Re-read the comment you quote. That would be classified as a "positive" side-effect, outweighed by the other "negative" side-effects.

Makes Ask infinitely more useful.

How is it more useful? Neat, peachy, warm and fuzzy, keen, spiff, even (ack) cool... but useful?

They'll compete to give the best answers, and get the most stars, and that means better answers on axme for all of us to learn from.

I don't think I've ever said this before; here goes: That is so not in the spirit of Metafilter.

My 2 cents, and hopefully I won't come off as brownosing here

Perhaps you wouldn't come off as a toadie if you actually, say, explained your blanket statement.

Also: why would anyone check 'this is a best answer' before the thread had died down, anyway?

And yet, amazingly, they do. Your turn.

Oh, and FieldingGoodney: Now that is useful. See, dong?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:43 AM on February 15, 2005


Perhaps you wouldn't come off as a toadie if you actually, say, explained your blanket statement.

Perhaps you wouldn't come off as an asshole if you pulled your fuckin' head in, son.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:04 AM on February 15, 2005


How is it more useful? Neat, peachy, warm and fuzzy, keen, spiff, even (ack) cool... but useful?

Well, when searching through the archives, you can find look at questions which have an "answered" checkmark beside them, scroll to that particular answer and perhaps save a lot of searching time. Remember, Matt's not just concerned with current content, he wants it to be the most useful search resource too. This feature allows users to perhaps parse their search time entirely. Possibly not on certain threads but all search resources are only as good as the users who provide for them.

In terms of this "popularity contest" you seem to be referring to, Matt's not added a "you have 4 gold stars" feature to the user pages and I'd imagine he's not going to. If a few (read: very few in the context of Metafilter as a whole) decide to count their back-pat's and lord it over AskMe, that's their choice, the community as a whole will call them out and deal with them. That's how this place work.

Frankly, I think this feature is great simply because on two occasions now, I've cut my search time for answers from 1-2 minutes looking through threads to see if they've been answered to 15-30 seconds. That's usability and that's what this feature is meant for.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 3:14 AM on February 15, 2005


That's how this place work.

Me fail english? That's unpossible!
posted by dflemingdotorg at 3:16 AM on February 15, 2005


I think a lot of people (too many people) are thinking of AskMe as a chat board, where the only thing important is the here and the now. This feature is to make AskMe more useful as an archive. Being able to search for a question that perhaps someone has asked, find it (thanks to search function) and skip the chatting to find the best answers (thanks to the best answers feature) makes it a much more useful repository of knowledge.

Of course that doesn't apply to questions without "real" answers, but those don't even belong in AskMe in the first place. Complaining about this feature in relation to them is like complaining about bleach not working to remove the stains you got on your esophagus when you drank a bottle of ink.
posted by Bugbread at 6:15 AM on February 15, 2005


Perhaps you wouldn't come off as an asshole if you pulled your fuckin' head in, son.

Still no explanation. If you disagree, it would be a lot more helpful if you explained why, as opposed to going on a little tantrum. The tone in this thread was quite civilized before you came around. Go back to your bridge and your children-eating, please.

Oh, and that should be "pulled your fuckin' head out", as in, out of your ass. You're slipping, stav. It's pathetic.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:45 AM on February 15, 2005


Nope. All he said was that he "disagreed entirely" with you. That didn't make the thread any less civilized. But then you said he came off as a "toadie". It seems to me that you started swinging the first sausage, but is there really any point in pursuing the personal thing any further?
posted by taz at 8:17 AM on February 15, 2005


dfleming and others, I don't understand the "it cuts down the search time" rationale. Are you that pressed for time that you can search the archives but can't be bothered to actually read or at least scan all the answers? You are making it sound as if people were just mouthing off in AskMe ("skip the chatting.") Generally, every comment on AskMe is a genuine and useful attempt to help somebody out. If I'm interested enough to search the archives, I'll certainly take the time to read all the answers, not just the ones that are (poorly) prefiltered by a checkmark.

We might want a solution for unanswered questions disappearing from the frontpage too fast, but I don't think this is it.
posted by muckster at 8:18 AM on February 15, 2005


We might want a solution for unanswered questions disappearing from the frontpage too fast, but I don't think this is it.

I agree -- as a "disappearing question" fixer, it's a poor solution (categories would be better). As a "search results" solution, it's also a poor solution. The problem is that the search results have, for as long as I can remember at least, been really, really poorly formatted. The solution to "very difficult/obtuse search results" isn't to tack on another widget. As bugbread and dflemingdotorg point out, the real time-waster is the search page, not the individual thread. It might be nice to "skip the chatting to find the best answers," but you aren't getting that right now with tagged answers. You're getting some good answers and some irrelevant answers. As a methodology for finding good answers, the "best answers" tag is about as useful as scanning the page for the "longest answer," and that doesn't take any coding at all.

But then you said he came off as a "toadie". It seems to me that you started swinging the first sausage

He called himself a brown-noser first. Seeing as how he offered absolutely nothing to the conversation, I reiterated the sentiment. "I disagree with everything you say and agree with everything he says," is not constructive, and is in fact abjectly stupid, because I agree with Matt on some points, which makes his statement self-contradictory.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:38 AM on February 15, 2005


Are you that pressed for time that you can search the archives but can't be bothered to actually read or at least scan all the answers?

When you're scanning through more than 100 Firefox questions, then yes, it does save a significant amount of time.

I actually did this about 3 weeks ago when I was considering switching to Firefox, and wondering what experiences other people had, what type of problems they would run into, what extensions were needed to make it useful. I didn't go into every Firefox thread, but did look into probably 30 of them. Had the "best answer" feature been in place, it would have saved me time. And, despite CD's deep faith in the essential stupidity of MeFites, I would have consciously decided whether I needed to look at all answers for a question, or just the best ones, instead of just blindly looking at only the "best answer" for every question.

And on my other soapbox, people using the archives in this way is yet another reason why FPPs like "I broke Firefox (mi)" and "Simple Windows/Firefox question..." are bad. I am happy to note that these were rare exceptions and the vast majority of Firefox questions were descriptive enough in the FPP that I could tell whether I was interested in the question.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:41 AM on February 15, 2005


You are making it sound as if people were just mouthing off in AskMe ("skip the chatting.")

That's not it at all; generally, an ask-me thread has:

1)Several somewhat right answers or helpful hints on where you might find the answer. These are helpful but not as good as:

2)One or more completely informative, right answers. These are the ones we want to highlight.

If I'm interested enough to search the archives, I'll certainly take the time to read all the answers, not just the ones that are (poorly) prefiltered by a checkmark.

Me? I like to get where I'm going. Generally, if I'm searching the archives, I want the answer right now. It might not be that I don't have the time to search everything, it's just more useful of a resource the less time it takes to get the info I want.

not just the ones that are (poorly) prefiltered by a checkmark.

Give it a break, it's been a week. If we judged everything by the way people do within our first week, we'd have done away with motorcars a long time ago. Give people time to get the act of it down before judging its utility.

We might want a solution for unanswered questions disappearing from the frontpage too fast, but I don't think this is it.

Completely unrelated to this discussion but a definite problem also need facing.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 8:42 AM on February 15, 2005


It does seem like a way for people to gain invisible "points" on metafilter for making good posts.
posted by agregoli at 8:43 AM on February 15, 2005


FieldingGoodney, that's a cool setup and something I've been meaning to build into the site for a while. I'm not entirely happy seeing two popup ad windows attempt to load over mefi content though.

I was planning to add that feature into the site as a part of the mefi pro featureset.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:53 AM on February 15, 2005


Answers marked 'best' are thereby marked as targets for debate. If you don't like a 'best' answer, dispute it. As questioners start seeing their intelligence questioned for marking answers that are subsequently torn to shreds, perhaps they will then use their 'best' power with some trepidation.

This feature could result in transforming most if not all questions into chatfilter fodder. Hey, MeFi IS a discussion site! ;-P
posted by mischief at 9:15 AM on February 15, 2005


mathowie, yes currently this application is running on a free-site (hence the ads) - I will move it to its own URL and webspace sometime this week - just thought I'd get some people to try it out first! I'll make a post about it tomorrow (since I'm new I can't post for a week) as "metafilter-related".
posted by FieldingGoodney at 9:17 AM on February 15, 2005


So, FieldingGoodney — I'm not exactly clear on why you have to wait 'til tomorrow to make a post about this?

erm. just kidding. But maybe you should consider stepping step back and letting Matt do it his way?
posted by taz at 9:32 AM on February 15, 2005


It's a nice implementation considering he doesn't have access to any of the database backend to optimize the application. And it's free. Not to say that the built-in MeFi one won't be free, but who knows ("I was planning to add that feature into the site as a part of the mefi pro featureset.")

Anyway...

I didn't go into every Firefox thread, but did look into probably 30 of them. Had the "best answer" feature been in place, it would have saved me time.

I'm trying to follow you, but I don't see how someone having marked "best answer" helps at all. If you accept the fact that some people won't tag best answers, and you accept the fact that some "best answers" won't be the best, how does the flag change anything? So you arbitrarily filter out half (or whatever the percentage) of the results (some of which could contain the info you're looking for). What good does that do?

And, despite CD's deep faith in the essential stupidity of MeFites

What the fuck? Can't people disagree without being assholes about it? Everything I've said has been based on actual, real observation. The behavoral patterns of MeFi users aren't due to any inherit stupidity, it's just the way people are. I'm trying to find solutions that will cast the widest "happiness" net. In the end we're all just trying to make this place as good as it can be.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:32 AM on February 15, 2005


Actually, I was a little confounded on how to mark the "best answers" on it, but I figured since it had basically died off, I marked the ones that had a little bit of personal insight, reasoning, rationale or background behind the choices.

I wasn't picking what I thought were the best movies, but the best/funniest/most human *answers* that had more than just a movie title. Because that's what I found most fascinating.

I see the feature as a "highlights of this question" thread.

If toes were stepped on I'm happy to mark every single answer as the best, because they were all pretty damn good except for the "If you don't like this movie, you're dumb" comments which seemed to be against the spirit of the thing. ;)
posted by Gucky at 2:42 PM on February 15, 2005


Gucky, I would suggest not using the feature on a question such as that. It's not merely supposed to be a "this a good response" button. It's supposed to be highlighting what ultimately "answered" the question for you.

I need to work on educating users, which I will do in a little blurb on the page for question askers.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:07 PM on February 15, 2005


I removed the best answer options on that question Gucky, in case you're wondering where the markers all went.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:23 PM on February 15, 2005


And I've added a blurb, like this:


posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:33 PM on February 15, 2005


" If you don't like a 'best' answer, dispute it."

And have your disputation deleted by Jessamyn.

Nice try.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:59 PM on February 15, 2005


there are many ways of making jokes, being wiseasses, and even disputing a best answer while still answering the question.
posted by jessamyn at 4:43 PM on February 15, 2005


And have your disputation deleted by Jessamyn.

You could always take your dispute here, where we are supposed to discuss such things, or email the person that asked the question directly.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:52 PM on February 15, 2005


I continue to disagree entirely with C_D and agree with mathowie on this matter.

I reiterate my call for C_D to pull his fuckin' head in. I meant exactly what I said, as I assume he did when he suggested I was toadying and pathetic and abjectly stupid.

In the same way as he seems so wrapped in self-absorption as to be unable understand that certain features that may he may not find useful in asking a question might be very useful indeed to others, later, he seems unable to grasp that by prefacing my comment with 'my 2 cents', I was merely saying 'based on what has been said before -- and I feel no need to reiterate the arguments at hand -- I am in agreement with one of the disputants'.

And took my small 'brown-nosing' joke as an opportunity to insult me.

The tone in this thread was quite civilized before you came around. Go back to your bridge and your children-eating, please.

Bullshit, and it was your doing. You said these things in the thread, before I commented that I disagreed with you, Civil_Disobedient :
  • Oh, and clearly someone has been hanging out with infants too much outside of MeFi.
  • What a remarkably stupid waste of effort. Why bother even having a SEARCH function then, genius?
  • It's like, hey, let's let the retarded kids write all the math books.
Your trolling accusation is a joke, and you are, as far as I can tell, an asshole, like I said. If anyone comes off as pathetic in this little dust-up, I'd suggest that it's not me.

In the end we're all just trying to make this place as good as it can be.

Through rantiness and insults. Riiiight.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:09 PM on February 15, 2005


"You could always take your dispute here"

That's what I meant to imply, Matt. It's been fairly well-documented that Jessamyn is focused on keeping AskMe clutter-free.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:10 PM on February 15, 2005


stavrosthewonderchicken,

Oh, and clearly someone has been hanging out with infants too much outside of MeFi.

The comment was a response to this delight. I thought it was pretty reasonable in comparison.
posted by sophie at 5:35 PM on February 15, 2005


Fair enough, but it doesn't make the hypocrisy of accusing me of de-civilizing the thread any more palatable, sophie.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:43 PM on February 15, 2005


Bullshit, and it was your doing. You said these things in the thread, before I commented that I disagreed with you, Civil_Disobedient :

1. Responding to the first flame. And if you read Funky Helix's profile, you'd know that the "infants" remark was a double-entendre, the infants being the ones on MeFi (like yourself) and the children she takes care of.

2. Same comment. You're reaching.

3. This wasn't directed at anyone, but was a reiteration of comments already made ("The person marking "best answer" is the person asking the question, right? Aren't they the one who doesn't know what the answer is?").

I meant exactly what I said, as I assume he did when he suggested I was toadying and pathetic and abjectly stupid.

Stav, when someone says I agree completely with A, and disagree completely with B, but A and B agree on some things, you're statement is logically incorrect. But you clearly don't care about making sense, since you're still so firm and resolute in your hatred towards everything that is me.

I was merely saying 'based on what has been said before -- and I feel no need to reiterate the arguments at hand -- I am in agreement with one of the disputants'.

You knew what you were saying, stav. Don't back out of it now ("I was merely"). You disagreed with everything I said. Even the new stuff that has been brought up in this thread that wasn't mentioned in previous threads. And while you may not feel the need to back up such a blanket statement with reasons, I can assure you not doing so only serves to make you look like a troll.

So in summation, what the fuck is your fucking problem? Up until you came along, there was an actual conversation going on here. Disagreement, sure, but Matt was at least nice enough to address my (and others) questions, concerns, and feature requests/changes.

Your trolling accusation is a joke, and you are, as far as I can tell, an asshole, like I said. If anyone comes off as pathetic in this little dust-up, I'd suggest that it's not me.

You're statement offered nothing to the discussion. Your rebuttal offered nothing to the discussion. What do you agree with Matt about? Why do you think I'm wrong?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:46 PM on February 15, 2005


So in summation, what the fuck is your fucking problem?

I don't take kindly to insults.

Up until you came along, there was an actual conversation going on here.

How has that changed? To make it more accurate : up until you decided to have a go at me for a seemingly innocuous comment, you were (almost) the only person throwing insults around.

You're statement offered nothing to the discussion.

It was an opinion. A data point. Unlike you, I didn't feel the need to write vast trackless screeds about something so minor. Also, it's 'your' -- the possessive -- not 'you're' which is a contraction of 'you are'. You'll get my invoice in the mail.

What do you agree with Matt about?

I agree with the design decisions he made, and the ones he has made in running this site for 5 years, with very few exceptions. I have great respect for him. I have little to no respect for you, based on this thread (because to be honest, I haven't really noticed you that much elsewhere). Slow as features have been in coming, the ones he's introduced seem spot on, after the minor tweaks he's added after the fact (like the check icon). More specifically, in this thread, up the point I commented:
  • The feature is useful for things with an answer or soliciting advice.
  • I believe it will be useful in the long term, but during the first four-five days it has been around, we are bound to figure out what works and doesn't work.
  • C_D, your idea would totally and completely turn questions with marked best answers into a cold, dead "answered" status, by hiding them from everyone.
are the things I agreed with.

Why do you think I'm wrong?

Because I disagree with all of the things you said. I believe they sprang from an entirely wrongheaded understanding of what the utility of the 'best answers' is, in terms of archival value. But, since you've driven me to waste valuable time on your narcissus-quest, here are some specifics. I disagree with you on the following points, which are all of the ones you made, near as I can tell, before I came into the thread:
  • Seems more like some kind of bizarre popularity of opinion contest.
  • Only if your ego is involved, which it clearly is, with you. The highlighting surfaces what may be the most useful answers in what may be dozens or hundreds, according to the opinion of the original asker. Which is as it should be.
  • Once a question has the answer tag, it's unlikely people will continue to contribute answers.
  • Wrong. If they have a better answer, they will offer it. If it's a chatfiltery thread, they will chat even if you chain the fuckers down.
  • And questions that roll off the front page, answer or no, might as well be closed threads
  • This is an unrelated issue.
  • And what's the point of only showing the threads with answers?
  • The point is to offer options. It is not the default view.
  • Once you put a subjective spin on the answers, AskMe turns into ExpertsExchange. And people looking at the older archives are going to scroll past what could be the "correct" answer for them, just to get to that highlighted answer that worked best for the OP.
  • That's their problem, and I don't think it's a problem at all, in fact. If they're in a hurry, they have visual cues. If not, they'll read everything. It's not like all the non-flagged answers disappear.
  • But how about this: once a question has been "answered", it is removed from the frontpage, replaced with a question from the que that has not been answered.
  • This is just horribly wrongheaded, for reasons others described.
  • The "answered" status already turns questions into "cold, dead" threads.
  • No it doesn't. You say 'cold, dead', I say answered.
  • The people who would be best at determining which answers are "best" are the very people responding. So open "best answer" voting for everyone but the original poster. Of course, the catch is that the people responding to answers are already giving their best answer.
  • They were all good answers, and what the hell do I know to judge something as best for a topic I admit to knowing nothing about?
  • The person who asked the question is the only one who is capable of deciding who best answered his or her question. He or she may have a different opinion than others within the thread. If so, that person is welcome to add a better answer than the one or ones nominally checked as belonging to the set 'good answers'. This is perfect design.
There, have I satisified your ego-cravings?

You've fucking wasted my time, something I hoped to avoid, and though I don't hate you, as you suggest -- that'd be pretty infantile -- I still think you're an asshole.

But you probably think the same of me. So it goes.

I'm done, unless you want to have another go at me.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:14 PM on February 15, 2005


They were all good answers, and what the hell do I know to judge something as best for a topic I admit to knowing nothing about?

Oops. I didn't address this one, although I have elsewhere, yesterday. There are several threads of mine that I went back and looked for the best answers in. I couldn't choose the best, so I left them all unchecked. That is fine, and adds metadata in its own way to those reading the archives.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:16 PM on February 15, 2005


The best answer to sophie's question.
posted by muckster at 6:25 PM on February 15, 2005


You've fucking wasted my time

Good.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:48 PM on February 15, 2005


Good.

Excellent rejoinder. Is that the best you can come up with?

My charge-out rate is $300 an hour. I expect the check will be in the mail.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:50 PM on February 15, 2005


Look, stav, I honestly don't want to keep bickering here. I know we both have better things to do with our time. I'm glad you "wasted your time" by explaining your reasons, because it's helpful for the discussion. No, we don't always see things in the same way, but sometimes it's helpful to both Matt and the site if we occasionally take the time to question some of the decisions he's made. Many people in this thread (you and me included) have been around here long enough to get a feel for some of the dynamics of the site, and if changes are made that might negatively affect it (at least in the opinions of many people in this thread, myself included) it's nice to know that we have an open forum to voice our worries.

Honestly, I hope the "best answers" feature works like it's intended. As Matt said, we'll just have to wait and see. If the most that comes out of this thread is the warning sign muckster linked to, this was a productive discussion, snarks and insults notwithstanding. I know I didn't have to one-up your "brown-nosing" comment, but I percieved your one-liner as insultingly dismissive, and like yourself, don't take kindly to insults, either.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:54 PM on February 15, 2005


Fair enough.

Shake?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:05 PM on February 15, 2005


I'm trying to follow you, but I don't see how someone having marked "best answer" helps at all. If you accept the fact that some people won't tag best answers, and you accept the fact that some "best answers" won't be the best, how does the flag change anything? So you arbitrarily filter out half (or whatever the percentage) of the results (some of which could contain the info you're looking for). What good does that do?

I'll look at the best answer first, and decide whether that's a suitable answer for me. If it isn't, I'll read all the answers in the thread.

Everything I've said has been based on actual, real observation.

Oh really? You allege that when a best answer is marked, MeFites will blindly read that and ignore all other answers, even if the "best answer" isn't a good answer for that particular MeFite. What observation of yours supports this?

I'm trying to find solutions that will cast the widest "happiness" net.

It seems to me that that solution would be for people who don't like the "best answer" feature to simply ignore it and give the "best answer" no more weight than any other answer, while leaving people who actually find the "best answer" feature useful free to use it. I fail to see how it expands the "happiness" net for you to say, "well, I don't think the 'best answer' feature is useful, therefore it's detrimental to all MeFites."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:10 PM on February 15, 2005


Shake?

Shake.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:16 AM on February 16, 2005


Sorry DA, didn't read your comment before posting.

It seems to me that that solution would be for people who don't like the "best answer" feature to simply ignore it

What I was suggesting was that people (not everyone, but potentially large enough to make a difference) might interpret the checkmark "answered" status as a reason not to answer a thread. This doesn't mean they can't, but that they won't. My observations were based on watching the numbers of new comments appearing in checked threads.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:20 AM on February 16, 2005


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