Keeping questions visible July 13, 2005 8:08 PM   Subscribe

What can be done so that questions posted to Ask Metafilter remain accessible (i.e., on the front page) to more users over a longer time period? It seems that we have crossed the threshold where the the increasing volume of questions is leading to a decreasing amount of useful responses.  Related discussion here.
posted by ajr to Feature Requests at 8:08 PM (41 comments total)

Another, very recent, related discussion here. There are at least several more, but I am lazy.
posted by dg at 8:21 PM on July 13, 2005

A quick browse shows that, on average, weekday question turnover is 55-60, and 25-30 for Sat & Sun each.

Despite the fact that the so-called collective and diverse expertise of Mefites is the main reason that AskMefi is valued, it remains that this collective does not visit AskMe all at once. So, there may very well be 4-5 experts who can provide accurate, bullseye answers, but unless their viewing window and pattern coincides with the prominent placing of your question, AskMe cannot be exploited efficiently.

The ideal theoretical solution is to let all questions be active till answered. The practical compromise is an interface that expands the 'active' duration of a question from the current 5-6 hours to, say, 72 hours. This has to established within the constraints of display real-estate. What this calls for, is sorting and filtering mechanisms, based on number of answers, category, question urgency (selected by poster), and soliciting specific users by the posters, via a tag-like system. All questions, older than 72 hours, but less than 30 days, are treated like open questions now. Only questions within the 72 hour window are subject to the interface.
posted by Gyan at 8:43 PM on July 13, 2005

The main AskMe page could just contain links to the different categories.
posted by edgeways at 8:48 PM on July 13, 2005

Or maybe a simple quota. Only so many total posts allowed per day or per 12 hours or something. After that, the post could get held for some period. This would eventually back up, but submissions could be turned off for periods also.
posted by Mid at 8:50 PM on July 13, 2005

Please reinstate the "current archives" option. It is much easier to scroll through the questions that way.
posted by mlis at 8:58 PM on July 13, 2005

Just to add to the complication of that, Gyan, that weekday and weekend analysis does not take into account the date line. It may not be that a significant enough portion of users are on a different day to matter, but that would have some effect I suspect - almost making three separate kinds of day - weekdays, weekends and days where it is the weekend in some places but not in others.
posted by dg at 9:08 PM on July 13, 2005

The solution can't be to complex, otherwise matt won't be able to realistically implement it.

I mean, sure we could use some kind of Bayesian analysis to evaluate comments by posters to figure out what kinds of questions they might be able to answer, combined with a logarithmic decay function for posts where the half-life is a function of the number of posts to the thread multiplied by the ratio of 'best answers'. but, that's not going to happen.

The real problem is that the hard questions don't stay up long enough. By hard, of course, I mean mine.

Breaking the questions up into categories is probably the best way to deal with the situation. Maybe with a simple "nomination" system that people could use to upgrade the good questions to a main page or something. Really the interface for MeFi and MeTa don't work for ask me, since questions are a lot more easy to find then good links or bugs.

And we want to avoid a karma-type clusterfuck like on slashdot.
posted by delmoi at 9:34 PM on July 13, 2005

The simplest solution is to remove the 25-question limit to AskMe's front page. It's clearly not working to slow the flow of questions and has now become a drag on the site's usability. At the very least, users should be able to customize the number of days shown on the main AskMe page, just like we're able to do with MeFi.
posted by mediareport at 10:02 PM on July 13, 2005

Maybe we could cut down on all the "I'm going to this city, and I know you guys talked about cool stuff there before, but I have brown hair, are there any cool places for people with brown hair?" And maybe all the "I accidentally deleted my pictures!" and the "I have a blotch on my arm that the doctor says is melanoma, but it looks like a crooked smiley face. Is it really melanoma?"

Ask Metafilter used to be my favorite place, but it seems like people are asking questions that would better be asked on specific forums. plus we need more wrap-up threads, I like seeing people's happy endings
posted by cyphill at 10:15 PM on July 13, 2005

I don't think there's a way to avoid dumb questions, and one of the great things about it (imho) is that it's a complete grab bag. I agree with mediareport.
posted by cali at 10:25 PM on July 13, 2005

Less questions but more wrap-up threads? That solves, you know, like nothing.
posted by gtr at 10:28 PM on July 13, 2005

The simplest solution is to remove the 25-question limit to AskMe's front page. It's clearly not working to slow the flow of questions and has now become a drag on the site's usability. At the very least, users should be able to customize the number of days shown on the main AskMe page, just like we're able to do with MeFi.

AskMe is much nicer than MeFi. How about reducing the number of links on the MeFi front page and increasing the number on AskMe, to help balance the bandwidth?
posted by Rothko at 10:39 PM on July 13, 2005

At the very least, users should be able to customize the number of days shown on the main AskMe page, just like we're able to do with MeFi.

Not any more.
posted by dg at 10:40 PM on July 13, 2005

mediareport writes: At the very least, users should be able to customize the number of days shown on the main AskMe page, just like we're able to do with MeFi.

I also made this suggestion in the thread linked above, and it sounds to me like the most reasonable stopgap solution. I don't know anything about coding such things, but it would seem relatively straightforward to add this kind of functionality to AskMe, if it's already a part of MeFi. But, as I say, I have absolutely no idea about the type of work this entails; please enlighten or ignore me!

On preview: Huh. Maybe not.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:42 PM on July 13, 2005

I'm not railing out against dumb questions, I often like the dumb questions. I'm against the repetitive ones, I'm not going to call out people here, but you guys know that we've seen A LOT of "where can I go in New York/Chicago/Wherever". All I'm saying is that if people just check the archives then we won't have questions with two answers that just summarize previous answers with links.

And gtr, I happen to like wrap-up threads, or at least more people taking the time to say what choice they chose. I know it will take up space but double-edged swords do not apply to me, so neener neener.
posted by cyphill at 10:48 PM on July 13, 2005

Honestly, I think that the only solution is to split it up into categories, perhaps with some filter that puts the most recently commented or most recently tagged as best answer or some other random reason to add some content to the main page. I think it would significantly alter the feel of the AskMe by splitting the community into disparate groups (the "community" part of MeFi is nowhere near as strong as it once was, in any case), which would be a shame, but at least it would function as it was intended by allowing questions to get a reasonable amount of exposure.
posted by dg at 11:13 PM on July 13, 2005

Doubtless with the baby Matt's not likely to be implementing anything of a substantial change. Fair enough.
What about increasing the question number on the AskMe front page from 25 to 30?
A little compromise.
posted by peacay at 11:39 PM on July 13, 2005

I just changed the number from 25 to 40 questions per index page.

I also added a sidebar to help people:

1) find previous questions via a Google search as easy as possible.

2) jump into the categories asked in the past month

3) see a quick list of the most popular tags of late
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:49 PM on July 13, 2005

Did I just see a search and categories and tags box appear?
posted by tellurian at 11:49 PM on July 13, 2005

Yes, yes I did.
posted by tellurian at 11:50 PM on July 13, 2005

Thanks Matt! I assume you aren't quite done, when I click on a category I get:
Error Occurred While Processing Request
Using "cachedWithin" or "cachedAfter" in CFQUERY with CFQUERYPARAM is not allowed.
Please try the following:
* Enable Robust Exception Information to provide greater detail about the source of errors. In the Administrator, click Debugging & Logging > Debugging Settings, and select the Robust Exception Information option.
* Check the ColdFusion documentation to verify that you are using the correct syntax.
* Search the Knowledge Base to find a solution to your problem.
Browser Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X Mach-O; en-US; rv:1.7.6) Gecko/20050317 Firefox/1.0.2

posted by cali at 11:53 PM on July 13, 2005

fixed the category listing page, cali.

I hope going from 25 to 40 per page doesn't lead to more questions, but I fear it might. Hopefully some helpful stuff on the sidebar will cut down on repeats.

I'd like to do more with the sidebar, like introducing a link to unanswered questions or those with the least answers in the past 24 hours. I'll keep tweaking on it, I've been meaning to add these features for months now.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:03 AM on July 14, 2005

Very nice. Thanks a lot Matt.
posted by peacay at 12:40 AM on July 14, 2005

Wow. That's great!
posted by taz at 1:20 AM on July 14, 2005

Excellent! Thanks, Matt!
posted by litlnemo at 1:57 AM on July 14, 2005

Matt, this is great, definitely the right direction. Perhaps the search and the categories should be more prominent? A bar along the top (below the normal menu items) instead of a sidebar? Or, still a sidebar, but closer to the top of the page (that is, push the login info and directions to the left and have the sidebar just under the regular menu items)?
posted by sic at 2:02 AM on July 14, 2005

we want to avoid a karma-type clusterfuck like on slashdot.

karma karma karma karma karma-type clusterfuck....[/culture club]

That's not helping, I know.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:24 AM on July 14, 2005

I don't care if it works - it looks kinda pretty.
posted by NinjaPirate at 2:37 AM on July 14, 2005

Ooo, this is terrific.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:36 AM on July 14, 2005

Thanks mathowie, the sidebar is great (how about linking "tags" in the "20 most popular tags in the past month" to the full tag page).

Perhaps it would be helpful to develop a few more guidelines to be posted on the "Post a new question" page. Posting a warning that members have a limited number of questions to ask per calendar year (maybe 25) might make everyone stop and consider if the question they want to post is worth one of their limited allotment (and, therefore, make them spend a little more time in the archives before posting away). I'd be glad to take a shot at fleshing out some more detailed guidelines, but it will be a few days before I can get to it.
posted by ajr at 7:21 AM on July 14, 2005

Thanks, Matt. I hadn't realized just how much of a drain the 'number of days' customization must have been (duh). But upping the number of questions to 40 is great, as is the sidebar "posts by category" list.

I like using tags in general, and always check the most popular tags before posting, but don't really see the usefulness of displaying the most popular tags *from the last month* on the AskMe front page. (I do like ajr's suggestion of linking somewhere to the AskMe tags list, though I'd go for the top 150).
posted by mediareport at 8:28 AM on July 14, 2005

Thanks, mathowie!
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:36 AM on July 14, 2005

The one thing I'd dearly love to see — and I have no idea if this is feasible (or even desirable to anyone else) — is for a question to pop to the top when it receives an answer. This would keep those questions with active conversations percolating near the top of the list so that the conversation don't just fade when the question scrolls off the page. I know this introduces all sorts of headaches for new questions, etc., but I'd love a way to have questions with active conversations to stay visible.
posted by jdroth at 9:01 AM on July 14, 2005

How about an interstitial page where users are forced to search before posting their question? That would solve a LOT of repeats.
posted by klangklangston at 9:32 AM on July 14, 2005

Categories is the imperfect answer--the user could click on a bar across the top that lists the most popular categories, and see all the questions in that category for the last xx hours. Or click on "View All Questions" and return to the status quo.
posted by LarryC at 12:18 PM on July 14, 2005

This is just a happy comment about the spiffy new look of AskMeta. Very nice! Very helpful. Thanks!
posted by schnee at 1:07 PM on July 14, 2005

The solution can't be to complex, otherwise matt won't be able to realistically implement it.

As I already said a long time ago, recent unanswered questions page.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:03 PM on July 14, 2005

Questions dropping off the page quickly provides a better incentive for people to think about how to write their question well. I've seen questions that needed clarification to be answered drop off the front page before the asker provided the clarification. If they had asked a better question they probably would have received the answer they were looking for. Their loss.
posted by grouse at 3:42 PM on July 14, 2005

My suggestion would be to implement the following system: People are allowed to ask 3 questions a month( or 30 days), with no wait between those three question. This helps people who are working on a project and need to ask several questions in a short period of time, while lessening the overall question load.

Under the current system, it's to your advantage to ask your next question as soon as the seven day period is over.
posted by dial-tone at 4:21 PM on July 14, 2005

i am still in favor of karma. metafilter will not necessarily turn into the alternate universe of slashdot comment hell. a simple and well planned system combined with a clean interface and adherance to standards adaptable to customization will produce a signifigant improvement in the usability of the site.
posted by sophist at 11:20 PM on July 14, 2005

Anything like karma turns into a popularity contest. I believe it would signifiacantly alter the feel of MeFi - for the worse. Please, don't do it Matt.
posted by raedyn at 9:55 AM on July 15, 2005

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