Deleted AskMe August 8, 2005 9:52 AM   Subscribe

http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/22288. Deleted. Boo.

I want to know why. This was by far one of the Best Ask questions I've ever seen (over pet peeves.) I even flagged it as such. It was insightful, illuminating, and gave me great insight on others, as a writer, as a human being. Did it have a single answer? No. Was it a valuable question? Hell yes. Look at how many responses in such as short period of time.

Makes me want not to come here anymore. Close it instead. Deleting it robbed me of the perspectives of others. At least in closing it (Rather than deleting it) I'd have a chance to archive what I wrote (which is my copyright, isn't it?) and what others wrote.
posted by filmgeek to Etiquette/Policy at 9:52 AM (153 comments total)

I neither flagged it or participated... but I gotta wonder why, whenever one of these chat questions comes along, people bother participating. You know it'll be deleted. Why waste your time?

There, that's my pet peeve.
posted by dobbs at 9:55 AM on August 8, 2005


An AskMe question is generally asked with a purpose in mind other than starting a conversation about a topic. I suspect that is why this thread was deleted.
posted by Rothko at 9:56 AM on August 8, 2005


What they said, plus add that there have been at least two other AskMe threads about pet peeves that I can think of off the top of my head.
posted by iconomy at 10:00 AM on August 8, 2005


which is my copyright, isn't it?

Um, this is a really irrelevant point and I wish you hadn't included it.

That said, I hate the utter deletion of threads; it makes me crazy when I see it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:02 AM on August 8, 2005


filmgeek: The copyright issue has nothing to do with it - don't clutch at straws. You own the copyright to the work, but you grant mathowie the publishing (mechanical) rights when you click "Post". If he doesn't want to publish it, he doesn't have to. If you didn't keep a copy of something you wrote, then its loss is your problem, not Matt's...
posted by benzo8 at 10:03 AM on August 8, 2005


Makes me want not to come here anymore. Close it instead. Deleting it robbed me of the perspectives of others.

Robbed me?

Boo-hoo. Drama queen.

I have the thread as of 9:20 PST. If you want it, email me.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:07 AM on August 8, 2005


That said, I hate the utter deletion of threads; it makes me crazy when I see it.

Better to have a strict or no editorial policy than an uneven one. The guidelines seem largely to keep the place useful, and FWIW, I have to agree that those guidelines work well.
posted by Rothko at 10:08 AM on August 8, 2005


thanks kwanster, I will
posted by filmgeek at 10:08 AM on August 8, 2005


filmgeek : " http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/22288. Deleted...I want to know why...Did it have a single answer? No."

I think you just answered yourself.
posted by Bugbread at 10:13 AM on August 8, 2005


I posed that question because my favorite AskMe threads are the open ended ones. One favorite I recall was about stupid/dangerous things people did as children.

I haven't seen any guidelines that forbid "just curious" questions like the one I posted today. Perhaps they should be made clearer; Metafilter is full of unwritten rules. It's a lot less fun to participate when one doesn't know if they are breaking the rules or going to get called out in public.
posted by Alison at 10:14 AM on August 8, 2005


What was the question?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:22 AM on August 8, 2005


Metafilter is full of unwritten rules.

This is very true.
posted by iconomy at 10:23 AM on August 8, 2005


But there are specific rules!
Note: until some guidelines are cooked up, try to keep the questions from being too specific or too stupid. Don't be an ass, ask your question if you feel it is important.
Actually, those aren't specific at all.

ChatFilter: I know it when I see it?
posted by grouse at 10:24 AM on August 8, 2005


...but I gotta wonder why, whenever one of these chat questions comes along, people bother participating. You know it'll be deleted. Why waste your time?

This is a little unfair. I don't tend to participate in them myself, but there have certainly been a number of chatty questions that have been allowed to remain. (It doesn't seem that the sidebar has an archive, but I remember Matt even linking to one there as an exemplary AskMe experience).

In any case, leaving the thread in place but closing it to further comment and adding an explanation up top as to why the question/thread doesn't meet the guidelines would have the added benefit of educating readers about what is and isn't acceptable.
posted by nobody at 10:24 AM on August 8, 2005


Also remember the ask-me thread about life-changing events, which turned out to be one of the greatest things I've ever read in my life.

As others have said, please, please don't delete threads. Close them instead. This may not be possible with the AskMe code, but surely you could work out something? Jessamyn was kind enough, when emailing me about the Vanilla Extract Sans Alcohol thread, to include the entire un-edited version in the body of her message. I really appreciated this, since it's what I miss most about having things altered on-site.

Close if necessary, don't delete... please.
posted by odinsdream at 10:25 AM on August 8, 2005


It really is annoying when you spend time bothering to write an answer and the whole thread is deleted without a trace. Why can't these deletions be more like the blue, where you can still find the old read-only page if you want?
posted by grouse at 10:26 AM on August 8, 2005


Was it a valuable question? Hell yes. Look at how many responses in such as short period of time.

Why should the number of responses be a measure of the value of the question?

I'd have a chance to archive what I wrote (which is my copyright, isn't it?)

You're entitled to save copies of anything you've written, but no one else--including Matt--bears any obligation to make it technically possible for you to do so. This applies not just to borderline questions, but for everything you've ever posted to MetaFilter (or anywhere else on the web!) which could disappear tomorrow as far as you know. Better get archiving NOW if this is such a big concern of yours!!! Hurry!! Your posts could disappear any minute!

You can always use metachat for more chatty questions like these which don't belong in AskMe. If you're concerned about getting enough exposure for the question, buy a TextAd.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:29 AM on August 8, 2005


There are some preliminary guidelines on the wiki, but I'll write some up soon for the site.

As for open-ended questions, we've gone over this dozens of times before: chatty questions that don't solve a problem and just let everyone vent simply do not scale. Once in a while they're fine, but if they're really about shooting the shit, more will follow and Ask MetaFilter will become Chat MetaFilter and I prefer it to be somewhat utilitarian.

As for other similar questions, it's of course as always not a black and white issue. The seemingly open-ended question about childhood stupidity had a point -- the question asker had a child that was starting to go through the same things and wanted to hear similar stories of what to watch out for.

This morning's question didn't have a purpose, goal, or problem to be solved.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:31 AM on August 8, 2005


Why can't these deletions be more like the blue, where you can still find the old read-only page if you want?

Because I haven't gotten around to copying the code over to do this, but will get to it eventually.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:33 AM on August 8, 2005


A link to the Wiki would be really helpful on the 'post a question' page.
posted by Alison at 10:35 AM on August 8, 2005


I personally would have a thousand AskChatFilter questions than one more fucking "Hey I will be in NYC; where do I eat and what do I do?" But hey.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:38 AM on August 8, 2005


I like the Meta form of closing and wish you would apply it to Ask. It would be much better and have the same end result. It's not like disappearing the bad questions actually helps people learn what kind of thing is bad.
posted by smackfu at 10:43 AM on August 8, 2005


At least in closing it (Rather than deleting it) I'd have a chance to archive what I wrote

Why not just save what you wrote on your own space instead of relying on Metafilter to do it for you?
posted by agregoli at 11:00 AM on August 8, 2005


The guidelines seem largely to keep the place useful

The guidelines are so many fig leaves designed to give the Powers that Be a handy myth to cling to as they delete whatever they feel like deleting.
posted by alumshubby at 11:18 AM on August 8, 2005


alumshubby : "The guidelines are so many fig leaves designed to give the Powers that Be a handy myth to cling to as they delete whatever they feel like deleting."

Sure. Sure they are. Mathowie also sells crack to preschool kids. He's using it to raise funds for South American guerillas.
posted by Bugbread at 11:21 AM on August 8, 2005


That bastard.

I paid the high price of $5 for my access but I still consider my self as Matt's guest to a certain degree because I get a lot more than $5 worth out of the MeFi world (Come to think of it, in reality we really are nothing but his guest). I wish it hadn't been deleted but I don't get characterizing Matt like he's "the man" and running rough shod over people's precious freedom of expression.
posted by Carbolic at 11:33 AM on August 8, 2005


Another vote for "Close, yes. Delete, no."

(Actually, I'd prefer "Close, maybe. Delete, never (unless it's just fucking stupid).
posted by ColdChef at 11:33 AM on August 8, 2005


Don't like he way Matt runs the site? Tell you what, you can register a domain name for less that $7 now. Go nuts.
posted by crunchland at 11:49 AM on August 8, 2005


I pretty much agree with Carbolic. Metafilter doesn't have a constitution to which Matt is a signatory and to which he can be held. He may be a little arbitrary and inconsistent, and your job is to decide if that makes participating here unacceptable to you. By participating you're saying that you're willing to put up with the way he runs the site, because by and large you think he does it right.

And if you get freaked out about it, consider that perhaps you might have a little too much emotionally invested in somebody else's website. (On preview, what crunchland said.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:49 AM on August 8, 2005


I know a MetaFilter-like site where you can ask whatever chatfilters you want.

I wonder if Matt deletes things more readily since the advent of MetaChat, thinking "bah, they can ask this over there!"
posted by agropyron at 12:07 PM on August 8, 2005


I'm the biggest proponent of "it's just the web". I guess that's why monkey filter and metachat have started.

Sometimes is okay, but not today? C'mon. Pick one or the other.

And as to: did this mornings question have a goal? Like a Koan, sometimes the answer isn't definitive but illuminating.

Dammit, it was a good question with good answers that illuminated about the human condition. And it may have very well been education to that person who didn't realize they were running over other's pet peeves.
posted by filmgeek at 12:07 PM on August 8, 2005


Metafilter: This answer, does it illuminate?
posted by mr.marx at 12:22 PM on August 8, 2005


filmgeek, I emailed you and Alison the entire text of the post [anyone else need a copy? email me]. I would, like you, prefer having a lofi version of AskMe where posts could be saved without being deleted, but it's not the way the site currently works. We try to be consistent, and getting started with some guidelines is a way to be able to do that, which this thread was a good nudge to do.
posted by jessamyn at 12:25 PM on August 8, 2005


so ummm... anybody wanna tell what the question was (approximately) for those of us who missed it?
posted by raedyn at 12:38 PM on August 8, 2005


raedyn, it was just "what's your pet peeve?" and the poster proceeded to tell us their own.
posted by dobbs at 12:44 PM on August 8, 2005


The question was, essentially: "What are your pet peeves?"
posted by rhapsodie at 12:45 PM on August 8, 2005


Seems to me AskMe questions should be either of some use or have a definite use. If it's neither, it's chatfilter and should go to..... surprise! MetaChat.
posted by orange swan at 12:57 PM on August 8, 2005


Sorry, that should read, "be either of some use or have a definite answer".
posted by orange swan at 12:58 PM on August 8, 2005


MetaFilter: It makes me crazy!
posted by loquacious at 1:03 PM on August 8, 2005


That's all it was? a "pet peves" question? I seem to recall questions like that in the past, as well as their deletion.

Oh well, hardly a catastrophic loss.
posted by delmoi at 1:03 PM on August 8, 2005


I saw while it only had a few comments, and it seemed to be developing into a thread where people show off how utterly small and vicious they can be. I also wish it had been left open for comments.

It's good to be reminded how angry people can become over such tiny little things.
posted by Irontom at 1:06 PM on August 8, 2005


Sometimes is okay, but not today? C'mon. Pick one or the other.

Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. The fact that something else that was equally against the spirit of AskMe didn't get deleted doesn't mean that the one whose deletion your complaining about was a good AskMe question. Otherwise, we'd quickly sink to the lowest common denominator since the minimum standards would just get set whenever Matt was out of town.
posted by anapestic at 1:13 PM on August 8, 2005


"A foolish consistency..."
posted by benzo8 at 1:21 PM on August 8, 2005


I haven't gotten around to copying the code over to do this, but will get to it eventually.

Awesome. Thanks Matt.

you can register a domain name for less that $7 now.

I'll consider it when it costs $8 for a new MeFi membership.
posted by grouse at 1:26 PM on August 8, 2005





Daddy's got a big mean hand.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 1:50 PM on August 8, 2005


filmgeek, I agree with you, consistency is important. AskMe is proving very valuable, perhaps moreso than the blue. But I'd rather see ChatFilter banned forever and not tolerated in the slightest. If there's not a specific problem then forget it. I think this policy would be what's best for everybody in the long run. And it's so easy to turn AskMe-ize questions that it's not even worth debating. In this case if the poster had bothered to prefix it with "I'm writing a story and need examples...," "My boss does... how do you deal with your pet peeves...", " "My SO is going to leave me unless I stop..." All of these questions are slightly different from the completely open-ended "What's your pet peeves" but with a tiny bit of effort they can provide the same valuable (perhaps, moreso) insights than the water cooler talk.
posted by nixerman at 2:02 PM on August 8, 2005


As for open-ended questions, we've gone over this dozens of times before: chatty questions that don't solve a problem and just let everyone vent simply do not scale.

My interpretation of this is when the detachable module Ask Me moves to a subscription model with a refined search, people will pay for the wealth of 'shared knowledge' provided by the paying users, but people are probably not going to pay a subscription for a USENET type of discussion. Those who participated in it have a nice time, but it's not something that can be repackaged and sold. No one wants a bunch of 5 year old conversations, but everyone wants to know how to get their cat to stop eating the linoleum.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 2:17 PM on August 8, 2005


I haven't had a question deleted for a long time, so I've learned the "rules." But it was really hard for me at first. I wish that people here would be more understanding of mindsets that are different from their own.

By "more understanding," I don't mean not-deleting-posts. I'm fine with deletions. I mean that "rule breakers" should not be subject to ridicule, sarcasm and scorn.

What seems obvious and clear to many of you is NOT clear to all of us. I love this site, but my mind doesn't classify information the same way as many other minds here, so I've had to work really hard to change my thinking in order to participate. I know I'm not alone in this.

I'm one of those people who never outgrew the "why" phase that most children go through. I NEED to understand everything. And all questions are EQUAL to me. So when people talk about only asking questions when you need to know the answer -- or only asking questions that solve a problem -- people like me don't really get it. I need to know EVERYTHING. All questions are attempts to solve a problem. The problem is that I don't know something that I need to know.

Okay, I don't NEED to know -- I want to know. But the "need" thing is confusing, because many people here ask questions that they don't NEED to know (they won't die if they don't know the answer) and they get away with it: What song should I listen to? What's a good game to play? Etc. What's the difference between those and "what is your pet peeve?" Both are asked for fun. Both set up opinion-based answers. (And, in my experience, both lead to chat and discussion.)

Some people here -- the majority (or is it a vocal minority?) -- just have no interest in questions about psychology, philosophy and abstract topics. Or at least that's how I've tried to explain it to myself. Asking a question about nuts-and-bolts physical objects is okay (even if said question leads to opinionated answers or chat); asking a question about abstractions is not okay.

I'm sure many people here would quibble with this and bring up examples of okay abstract questions, but by following this rule -- which seems TOTALLY arbitrary to me (because the abstract/concrete distinction is not one I generally make) -- has kept me floating on this site.

Fine.

But don't assume I'm a moron because I don't think like you. Don't tell me "Oh come ON. YOU know what the difference between chatfilter and serious questions." It's a hard distinction for me, even if it's easy for you.

We keep having these discussions because the rules (posted or not posted) are unclear and contradictory. For every do or don't, one can come up with legit questions -- questions that have been popular and sanctioned -- that violate these dos and don'ts. Which is perhaps why the status quo keep throwing up their hands and saying, "Oh come ON! You KNOW what makes a good question." They mean that they don't know how to describe it, but they know it when they see it -- and they assume (wrongly) that this is true for everyone.

So keep enforcing the rules if you want to. But don't treat me rudely. (Deleting or flagging my post isn't rude. Insulting me is rude.) Don't assume you know what's going on in my head. That's the HEIGHT of rudeness. Don't tell me, as many here have, "I KNOW why you posted that." You CAN'T know what goes on in my head.
posted by grumblebee at 2:24 PM on August 8, 2005


Let's have tags for reasons for deletion ;)
posted by nthdegx at 2:28 PM on August 8, 2005


My interpretation of this is when the detachable module Ask Me moves to a subscription model with a refined search, people will pay for the wealth of 'shared knowledge' provided by the paying users, but people are probably not going to pay a subscription for a USENET type of discussion. Those who participated in it have a nice time, but it's not something that can be repackaged and sold.

This is EXACTLY the sort of thing that confuses me. I get that no one, in five years, will care what I think of the latest Britney Spears video. But since I find it fascinating NOW to know about people's pet peeves, why wouldn't I find that equally interesting in five years? I would argue that such info will be MORE useful in five years than a question about a harddrive that won't even be manufactured in five years.

Again, I'm not arguing for keeping the pet peeve question. I just think the rules are unclear.
posted by grumblebee at 2:28 PM on August 8, 2005


Kim Chee, those remind me of my own Rule 11, a version of which I recommend to anyone organizing or running a fantasy football league (or just about any other group endeavor that is more for fun than for profit):

11. The Commissioner is Omnipotent.

a. The Commissioner has the final say in any interpretation or application of these Rules, or in anything not explicitly covered by these Rules.

b. The Commissioner still tries to be fair, though, and just wants the whole thing to be fun for everybody! (Himself included!)

posted by yhbc at 2:30 PM on August 8, 2005


In this case if the poster had bothered to prefix it with "I'm writing a story and need examples...,"

I'm confused by this too. How on EARTH would this make any difference? Wouldn't I get the same answers either way? Sure, you'd know more about my intent, but how would that make the answer info any more or less useful?
posted by grumblebee at 2:31 PM on August 8, 2005


grumblebee : "What song should I listen to? What's a good game to play? Etc. What's the difference between those and 'what is your pet peeve?'"

The difference, as I understand it, is that the first category are calls for advice, which is permitted, while category two is not a call for advice, but just discussion, which is not. As for why advice is OK and chatting is not, you'd have to ask Matt, but since I happen to agree with his conclusions I'm not too troubled about his rationale.

grumblebee : "I'm sure many people here would quibble with this and bring up examples of okay abstract questions, but by following this rule -- which seems TOTALLY arbitrary to me (because the abstract/concrete distinction is not one I generally make) -- has kept me floating on this site."

True, but that doesn't mean that the rule is correct, just that it's oversweeping and therefore makes you super safe. It's like saying "I don't know which parking spaces I can park at for free, and which I can't, but my belief is that in reality nobody can park anywhere except their own home. Some people would quibble and bring up examples of places you can park for free, but by following the rule of parking at home, I've managed to avoid getting any tickets". Yes, true, sure, but it isn't very helpful unless you intentionally want to block out not only what you can't do but many of the things you can do.

But, yeah, besides that, I agree: it's a nebuluous concept, and some people grok better than others, and while there are some infractions that warrant being rude (if someone posted a non-question with blinking tubgirl graphics and strings of text from random metal bands, you could assume safely that they were way out of the pale), for most of the things that get deleted, it's hard to determine if the author was criminally, neglectfully, stupidly wrong, or just not grasping one of the finer points of what does and doesn't fly on AskMe.
posted by Bugbread at 2:37 PM on August 8, 2005


"In this case if the poster had bothered to prefix it with 'I'm writing a story and need examples...,'

grumblebee :"I'm confused by this too. How on EARTH would this make any difference?"

On postview: I think this is another example of where the difference is between asking for random opinions and asking advice (whether you agree with it or not is another thing, but hopefully it helps to understand what about it makes it different).
posted by Bugbread at 2:40 PM on August 8, 2005


The difference, as I understand it, is that the first category are calls for advice, which is permitted, while category two is not a call for advice, but just discussion, which is not.

Thanks for your thoughtful answer, bugbread. But I STILL don't think it's 100% on-the-mark. "What's your pet peeve?" is NOT a call for discussion. It may -- as a side-effect -- LEAD to discussion (which is, I think, why Matt dislikes it), but, taken literally, it is an answerable question.

Q. What is your pet peeve?
A. People who chew gum.

In my mind, this is almost identical to

Q. What's a good sci-fi movie?
A. Aliens.

Both rely on subjective opinion.

There seems to be an idea here that the first example is more likely to lead to "chat" than the second ("Oh, really? My aunt chews gum? Are you saying she's not a nice person?") I don't think this is true ("You like Aliens? That movie sucked!"). Almost any question can (and often does) get chatty. Why not just disallow chatty replies? Why not simply make the rule: responses must directly ANSWER the question and not attempt to engage other posters in a discussion?

"Advice?" To me, that just seems like spin. Give me advice as to what's a good sci-fi movie? Give me advice as to what common pet-peeves are. "Advice" does make some sense if you're planning to DO something, but that gets us into intent. Then we should simply say that all questions should be asked because the questioner is planning to make some CHANGE to physical objects. I am asking a question because I want to know how to do X to object Y. This means that no one would be allowed to ask questions out of pure intellectual interest.

Bugread, I disagree that "there are some infractions that warrant being rude." Rudeness isn't necessary. Just delete the question. If the user keeps breaking rules, ban him. No need to insult him.
posted by grumblebee at 2:55 PM on August 8, 2005


grumblebee : "'What's your pet peeve?' is NOT a call for discussion. It may -- as a side-effect -- LEAD to discussion"

Good point. I should amend my phrasing. Perhaps I should have said "AskMeFi smiles on questions with single, correct answers; multiple but limited correct answers; and advice. Questions with unlimited correct answers are frowned on."

grumblebee : "Almost any question can (and often does) get chatty. Why not just disallow chatty replies? Why not simply make the rule: responses must directly ANSWER the question and not attempt to engage other posters in a discussion?"

It is a rule. From below the entry box at the bottom of the page: "note: Ask MetaFilter is as useful as you make it. Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. Wisecracks don't help people find answers. Thanks." True, wisecracks are singled out, but I don't believe they are the only thing addressed when he says "limit comments to answers". The fact of the matter is just that matt and jessamyn don't have the time (or energy) to prune every non-egregious but chatty comment in AskMe, and if they did, would probably just get hounded for being delete-happy or inconsistent.

grumblebee : "'Advice?' To me, that just seems like spin."

That's fine. As I said, my comment wasn't trying to convince you of anything, just to point out the difference that has eluded you. Hopefully, even if it seems like spin, you can see that certain questions ("What Pink Floyd albums do you like?") are spun different from other questions: ("I've never heard Pink Floyd. What album do you recommend I buy, if I only have the money for one?"), and whether or not you agree with the spin being a substantial difference, you can see the difference?

grumblebee : "'Advice' does make some sense if you're planning to DO something, but that gets us into intent. Then we should simply say that all questions should be asked because the questioner is planning to make some CHANGE to physical objects."

Not quite. As I said, the guidelines/unstated policies allow for several types of questions: factual single-response, factual multiple-but-limited response, and advice. Saying that all questions should be asked in regards to physical changes both ignores the first two categories, and ignores non-physical changes ("How can I cope with a death in the family?" involves mental changes, not physical changes to physical objects).

grumblebee : "Bugread, I disagree that 'there are some infractions that warrant being rude.' Rudeness isn't necessary."

Well, I did say warrant, not require. There's never a need to be rude, but if someone posts an AskMe question about how to clean the chunks of decomposing flesh off their genitals after sodomizing a recently deceased family member of mine, rudeness is warranted, though not required.
posted by Bugbread at 3:26 PM on August 8, 2005


I think Grumble and I are in the same category.

I find the answers to questions like this are just as valid, opinion based sort of questions as "Why is the sky blue" and "where should I go for good eats." To the people who feel that the solution is "Run your own site."...I could. But then the audience is missing and that counts too. Metachat and Monkeyfilter are both interesting reads....but neither has me looking at every single post the way Ask.mefi does. In fact, I don't read the blue anywhere near as deep as I read the Green.

I think it comes down to inquisitive, learning natures. Some of us enjoy the personal digressions, the opinions. For example, when someone mentions what we'll call as "soft question..." (What are good SF books) the fact that it is an OPINION is what counts.

Back in film school, several similar opinons counted...if one person says something, it's a possiblity, when two or more share the same opinion it warrants a deeper look.

Rudeness is a pet peeve of mine. It was quite enjoyable seeing some of the responses to this thread go into that space.

As to "did the answer have some use?"
As a writer, it gives me insight over those things that characters could do/get upset over.
As a human being, it gives me some insight to my fellow person - some of the answers were very telling.

I could go on, but I hope you get the point.
posted by filmgeek at 4:13 PM on August 8, 2005


certain questions ("What Pink Floyd albums do you like?") are spun different from other questions: ("I've never heard Pink Floyd. What album do you recommend I buy, if I only have the money for one?")

I really see no difference, except one of INTENT on the part of the asker. And why should I care about that? Given either version, the answers would be the same. When someone asks a question, I don't care why they asked it (and if YOU care, why DO you care?). I just care if the question/answers are interesting/useful.

Actually, I think the first question is better (more useful), because its it has a better signal-to-noise ration.

But, yes, I CAN detect the difference in wording and I do see that -- for whatever reason -- some (influential?) people here care about intent. So I can play the game.
posted by grumblebee at 4:18 PM on August 8, 2005


I personally would have a thousand AskChatFilter questions than one more fucking "Hey I will be in NYC; where do I eat and what do I do?" But hey.

Afuckingmen.
posted by docpops at 4:23 PM on August 8, 2005


grumblebee and filmgeek, I think the core issue is the future direction of Ask MetaFilter. For me personally, I see questions-without-a-goal-or-objective as something potentially problematic. Everyone likes to talk about general subjects and those posts tend to be very chatty and offer little in terms of useful information about something. By asking people to limit questions to those that solve an immediate need or have some semblence of a proper answer that simply can't be found, the site remains useful for a greater number of people.

I see open ended chatty questions that don't meet a goal as something detrimental to the long term usefulness of the site.

It's sort of like MetaFilter proper -- for the longest time people had a problem with the need for a link in a post -- that a post had to have something to do with a site on the web. They saw no harm in having linkless posts in order to cover general interest subjects, but I knew there was no way I could allow that and have a site worth reading everyday.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:29 PM on August 8, 2005


grumblebee : "When someone asks a question, I don't care why they asked it (and if YOU care, why DO you care?). I just care if the question/answers are interesting/useful."

Well, personally, I don't care so much why they ask it, but I'd be even stricter with AskMe if it were my site. No questions without answers that are objectively verifiable (for example, advice questions would be fine ("What should I put on gum to make it easier to get out of hair?") only to the extent that one could in fact compare them and determine the best answer(s). So "What album do you recommend?" would be deleted off AskBugFilter). But since I'm not the admin, that doesn't matter; just answering your question.

mathowie : "It's sort of like MetaFilter proper -- for the longest time people had a problem with the need for a link in a post -- that a post had to have something to do with a site on the web. They saw no harm in having linkless posts in order to cover general interest subjects, but I knew there was no way I could allow that and have a site worth reading everyday."

Wow, when was that?! (Must have been before I discovered the grey).
posted by Bugbread at 4:46 PM on August 8, 2005


Matt, I respect your right to structure your site any way that you want, and I understand that you want AskMe to be about useful answers to needful questions. I also understand that it's sometimes (often) a judgement call as to which questions fit this bill. Which is why I support your deletions, whether or not I agree with specific ones or not.

I don't really understand what you base your judgement calls on. Maybe just gut feeling. Maybe it's rules that my all-questions-are-equal mind can't understand. I just have to write it off as "it's Matt's site and he can do whatever he wants" (God moves in mysterious ways...)

I'm okay with that. I'm less okay with the people who keep claiming that there are clear rules and clear directions that one should follow. There aren't. There are FASHIONS that some people get and some people don't. It's basically a crap-shoot. Ask a question and see if it survives (it will or not, depending on Matt's judgement). You can be conservative, as I am being (never risking a POSSIBLY chatty question), and you're likely to never run into trouble. Or your mind can be similar to Matt's, and you will have a better chance of second-guessing him.

If there's an interest in actually publishing clear rules, I suggest that it will be hard, because -- I think -- the defacto rules are amorphous. There seems to be a desire for nuts-and-bolts questions, and some rules circle around that, drifting in and out of orbit. Anyone who comes up with rules will probably find other people coming up with dozens of exceptions.

Perhaps a better idea is for several people -- people who think they have a handle on the rules -- to come up with 20 example questions. Each example should be different from the rest. They can then submit these questions to Matt, and he can quickly yay or nay them (giving explanations if he can). These examples may go further to help explain the rules than actual explicit rules.

When rules ARE amorphous, it's unfair to be too harsh on rulebreakers. Matt isn't at fault here. I've never seen him act harshly. He just quietly deletes.
posted by grumblebee at 4:47 PM on August 8, 2005


1. Question seeks a single true/correct answer.
2. Question seeks a subjective answer for a tangible, real-life problem.
3. Question seeks subjective answers, ostensibly to find a solution to a real-life problem.
4. Question seeks subjective answers just for the heck of it.

1. What is 1+1?
2. What is the best way to wash my car?
3. I'm writing a book on pet peeves and seem to have hit a wall, because you know, no-one around me is ever annoyed. What are your pet peeves? Why do you think you have them? Thanks!
4. Hey, what are your pet peeves?

Arguably, one could say that the guideline might be "try not to ask a question just for the hell of it" -- ie, if you're asking a question, please ask it because you want to solve a problem. If you must ask a question just for the heck of it, try to skew it so it at least SOUNDS like you've got a problem to solve. If you can't be bothered with that and just want to chat, why not call your mother? She misses you.

Of course, then again, I could be totally talking out of my ass. I'd need a doctor to check.

that said, my pet peeve is people freaking out about "USING UP" their question. OH NO LIMITED WEALTH
posted by fishfucker at 5:01 PM on August 8, 2005


Fishfucker: Agreed with your 4 questions, 4 answers, and judgement of which questions are allowable, but disagree with your proposed guideline, as there are plenty of (in my opinion) good questions in category 1 that are just-for-the-hell-of-it (for example, "Why do Cheeries gravitate towards eachother in a bowl?", "What's the difference between plastic and PVC?", "Why do TVs take longer to turn on the older they get?"). They're curiosity questions (i.e. "for the hell of it"), but with very concrete answers, and (as far as I can tell from looking), they would probably be approved of.
posted by Bugbread at 5:06 PM on August 8, 2005


So is the for-the-heck-of-it "Why do cherries gravitate...?" more useful than the for-the-heck-of "what are your pet peeves?"?

Presumably, "cherries" has a non-subjective answer. Whereas "peeves" doesn't*. But we're okay with SOME subjectively-answered questions, right? ("Good sci-fi.") So are subjective questions okay when then will, most likely, lead to short, specific answers and bad when they lead to long-winded answers? Could "peeves" be successfully rewritten as "Please tell me your pet peeves in five words or less"? Or is there something inherently worse about "peeves" than "sci-fi"?

*actually, answers to this question wouldn't be subjective in the sense that there could be any disagreements. Each person can definitively tell who his pet peeve and no one is in a position to argue.
posted by grumblebee at 5:17 PM on August 8, 2005


Grumblebee, I'm starting to not understand why you are not understanding. Why is it that you posit that we're okay with good sci-fi?
posted by Bugbread at 5:21 PM on August 8, 2005


And I think bugbread meant "Cheerios" :)
posted by tristeza at 5:47 PM on August 8, 2005


But we're okay with SOME subjectively-answered questions, right? ("Good sci-fi.")

Oh, come on, grumblebee, quit grumbling. Asking for good sci-fi is a request for recommendations that will be useful to the poster. Asking a chatty subjective question with a "this might be interesting" shrug is completely different. Fishfucker nails it: "Try not to ask a question just for the hell of it." And bugbread, most of the "idle curiosity" questions like "Why do Cheerios gravitate towards each other?" can easily be answered with a simple Yahoo search; I'd be perfectly happy to see them disappear.

Optimus Chyme: I personally would have a thousand AskChatFilter questions than one more fucking "Hey I will be in NYC; where do I eat and what do I do?"

That's a folks-not-bothering-to-search problem, Optimus, not a kind-of-question problem. Different discussions.

P.S. Matt, while we wait for an updated set of question guidelines for the site, please consider quickly adding some version of your comments in this thread to the AskMe posting page. Something like this would take just a moment to add, would help a lot and might even eliminate the need for a longer explanation:

AskMe questions should have a purpose, goal, or problem to be solved. Open-ended chatty questions that don't offer a problem to be solved are detrimental to the long term usefulness of the site.
posted by mediareport at 6:08 PM on August 8, 2005


Generally questions like. "what's a good sci-fi book/mystery/Jazz quartet" are sanctioned. "What's your pet peeve" isn't. What is the difference between these?

Both can only be answered subjectively. Both can be answered verbosely or simply.

The major difference, as-far-as I can tell, is that sci-fi points to physical objects (books in bookstores) whereas peeves points to mental constructs. And, as I suggested earlier, it seems like there's a bias here against psychology and abstractions.

Yet I never hear "questions must point to real-world, physical objects." I heat, "questions must no be chat filter." And THAT is what I don't understand. Because the sci-fi questions, which never get flagged or deleted, often get chatty.

Peeve has specific answers. I can tell you -- and only I can tell you -- what my peeve is. On the other hand, "the best sci-fi" is a completely subjective call.

Sci-fi calls for subjective judgements about objective objects. Peeves call of objective judgements about subjective objects. Why is one more appropriate than the other.

I don't really know what "solves a real problem" means in terms of these two types of questions. Sci-fi solves the problem of not-knowing-which-book-to-read. Peeve solves the problem of not-knowing-what-other-people's-pet-peeves-are. Why is one problem more of a problem than the other?
posted by grumblebee at 6:09 PM on August 8, 2005


Oh, come on, grumblebee, quit grumbling. Asking for good sci-fi is a request for recommendations that will be useful to the poster. Asking a chatty subjective question with a "this might be interesting" shrug is completely different.

This is EXACTLY the reaction I was talking about. That throwing up of hands. I'm sorry if I seem dense, but I'm not the only one who doesn't get it, which is (one of the reasons) why there are so many problematic questions.

We read sci-fi "for the heck of it." We want to know pet peeves "for the heck of it." Both are for mental recreation. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
posted by grumblebee at 6:13 PM on August 8, 2005


I'm with grumblebee on this.

I joined MetaFilter partly (heck, mostly) due to the seemingly "chatfilter" AskMefi posts. I've saved nearly 1000 AskMefi posts on my computer and the best ones were always the open-ended "tell me more about yourself" questions.

There's plenty of great discussion, I learn a lot about human behaviour and psychology, and reading about other people's experiences often helps me with my real life - more so than the "true advice" questions, which are usually too specific to apply to me.

I know there's MeCha for "chatfilter", but the posts there are random and less coherent. Randomness is good, but AskMefi has a readership with great minds and personalities and the answers and discussion are very enlightening and intriguing.

It would be great to allow those questions in once in a while. Not many, it seems, have an idea on how helpful and entertaining they really can be.
posted by divabat at 6:29 PM on August 8, 2005


Wow. I can't imagine making it any clearer, grumblebee. I mean, "the problem of not-knowing-what-other-people's-pet-peeves-are"? That seems like a ridiculous stretch to me.

Anyway, I should mention that deletions which obliterate relatively long threads bug me, too, and that just closing them until Matt can copy the proper code over to save them seems like the right thing to do.
posted by mediareport at 6:32 PM on August 8, 2005


what grumble and diva said...some of the absolutely best questions (for helping the asker, and as reading) have been those that were not about physical things to buy or see. There is a bias toward the concrete and consumable.
posted by amberglow at 6:39 PM on August 8, 2005


Thanks for being "with me," divabat. Just to be clear, I'm not advocating chatty questions. (Nor am I against them.) I'm advocating either (a) clarity of rules, or, if that is not possible, then (b) admission that the only "rule" is Matt's mysterious judgement.

The people who insist that there are already clear rules tend to state them as, "oh come on, you KNOW what they are." Which isn't helpful if you DON'T know what they are. Saying "a question must solve a problem" over-and-over isn't specific enough. YOU know what you mean by "a problem," but I don't know what you mean.

"What toaster should I buy?" is an attempt to solve a problem, yes? It's a problem involving a real-world, physical device.

"What is the origin of the word 'Luck'?" is an attempt to solve a problem. The questioner doesn't know a word origin. THAT is the problem he's trying to solve. But his problem doesn't point to a real-world object. (Or does it? Is the questioner trying to solve a real-world crossword puzzle? Is he doing research for a novel? Do we care? Does it make any difference to the question?) Is it okay for the questioner to ask just because he is interested? What if the asker of the toaster question has no intention of buying a toaster. What if he's just interested in toaster? Is it good enough that he MIGHT be interested in buying toasters -- or that someone might?

"What is your pet peeve?" is an attempt to solve a problem. The problem: the questioner doesn't know what your pet peeve is. There is only ONE way he can solve this problem. By asking you. (You are in a unique position of being the only person privy to the answer.) How is this different from the word-origen question? How is it different from the toaster question?
posted by grumblebee at 6:42 PM on August 8, 2005


Maybe this: If the question is actually "I want to know more about you," it's pretty much chatfilter (as in, it's getting-to-know-you-smalltalk).

If the question is actually "How would you solve this problem?" then it's goal oriented.

The "solution" part of the second one is what cuts out the pet peeves question. The answers aren't "I would solve your dilemma by doing X," they're just personal tidbits of info.
posted by occhiblu at 6:55 PM on August 8, 2005


I can't imagine making it any clearer, grumblebee.

I'm sorry, but you haven't made it clear at all. Maybe you feel the way I would feel if I said, "I love my wife" and someone asked me what I meant by that. I would have an incredible urge to say, "oh come ON, you must know what that means." But the truth is, I can't explain it. I just assume that the person I am talking to knows what it means. If he doesn't, I'm at a loss. But that's not HIS fault. I must admit that love is a mystery that I can't explain.

Your "explanation" was "Asking for good sci-fi is a request for recommendations that will be useful to the poster. Asking a chatty subjective question with a 'this might be interesting' shrug is completely different."

First of all, did the poster say, he asked the question because "it might be interesting?" Or are you just assuming that? (If he DID say that, then that was his particular quirk. There have been plenty of similar questions in which no such claim -- that the question was asked because it "might be interesting" -- was made.")

ANY question is "useful" to the poster if he wants to know the answer. We have a question -- a desire for knowledge -- so we ask. Who is to say that one question is more important or "useful" than another?

(It IS possible that a particular question might be more useful to a lot of people than another question. "How do you bake a cake?" is useful to many, many people. "What book should I buy my friend who likes mystery novels by one-legged, Polish writers?" is useful to far fewer people. But no one has suggested that we judge this way -- and what a nightmare if we tried!)

Some people seem to want posters to explain HOW a question is useful to them. So it's NOT okay to ask, "what's your favorite color?" but it IS okay to ask, "I'm trying to start a T-shirt company, and I want to make shirts in a color that will sell to many people, but I can only afford a run of one color -- so what's your favorite color?"

How would this lead to different answers?

Why do we need to know the reason?

Why is information needed "to start a company" better than (or more appropriate than) information needed because "I want to know for the heck of it"?

Other than because those are Matt's rules. Which is FINE. And it's fine if Matt's rules are to your liking. But what ARE Matt's rules?
posted by grumblebee at 7:00 PM on August 8, 2005


occhiblu, I think you might be on the right track -- or a track that makes sense. But I once asked a similar question to "peeves" and it got deleted. When I asked it, I had NO desire to get to know the AskMe community better. I was trying to solve a problem -- a puzzle about human psychology.

For arbitrary reasons (I guess), questions about psychology are frowned upon. When someone asks such a question, we can't know that they asked it to get to know the people here better.

And I'd like to see the evidence that psychological questions are more likely to least to chatfilter than other sorts of questions. I've seen many different types of questions get chatty.

Again, what does "solve a problem" mean. All questions are request for information -- solving the problem that the questioner didn't have the info to begin with.

By most of the criteria suggested in this thread, we should outlaw questions like, "Who was the first known female monarch?" -- questions that don't help the questioner fix his hard drive or deal with his sick cat. Yet these questions are accepted.
posted by grumblebee at 7:08 PM on August 8, 2005


Maybe this: If the question is actually "I want to know more about you," it's pretty much chatfilter (as in, it's getting-to-know-you-smalltalk).

I think this pretty much nails it.
posted by Penks at 7:08 PM on August 8, 2005


You'll all be happy to know that I'm going to bed now. I find this whole thing extraordinarily frustrating (and I'm sure I'm really frustrating some people -- sorry).

But I BEG people to (a) examine their assumptions to see if they are truly logically consistent and EXPLAINABLE, and (b) to not assume that everyone shares the same mindset.

Thank you.
posted by grumblebee at 7:10 PM on August 8, 2005


Grumblebee, yeah, I think I'd probably also have to add in "requests for factual info," like the monarch question you brought up.

Though, as many have said, a lot of those could be solved with more time spent with a search engine or Wikipedia rather than clogging up AskMe.

You also have to realize that guidelines *are* a bit fuzzy, and the mediation *is* a bit inconsistent, so you're not going to find a set of rules that addresses *every* question that's ever been successfully asked (or even every question that's been deleted).
posted by occhiblu at 7:12 PM on August 8, 2005


grumblebee, for the future, you should carefully examine why you're essentially the only person who has such trouble grasping the difference between a question that prompts answers and a question that prompts conversation. It is not a subtle or mysterious distinction. And, as I've pointed out earlier, it's not a big deal. Almost any question can be subtly altered to slip it past mattjessamyn by just introducing a need or making it very specific. You could slip almost anything by them--they're very lenient, overly so. You could probably even swing "How was your day?" if you made an effort and put it as "How do you decide if a particular day is good or bad? Is today a good day? I seem to have a lot of bad days..." (Though that's admittedly somewhat iffy, I've actually been curious about people who chronically have 'bad' days.) This isn't rocket science. And no matter how many requests you make there'll most likely never be a rigorous definition of an "acceptable" AskMe question. And most people are able to deal with that just fine.
posted by nixerman at 7:28 PM on August 8, 2005


grumblebee, for the future, you should carefully examine why you're essentially the only person who has such trouble grasping the difference between a question that prompts answers and a question that prompts conversation.

nixerman - she isn't the only one. And what is so wrong about "questions that prompt conversation"? They're helpful too, they let you learn from previous experiences - heck, they can be even more helpful than most of the kosher questions here since there's a way you can apply them to your life.
posted by divabat at 7:39 PM on August 8, 2005


If the question is actually "I want to know more about you," it's pretty much chatfilter (as in, it's getting-to-know-you-smalltalk).

I think occhiblu said exactly what I've been trying to say all along. Asking people to recommend movies, music, books can be chatty, but at least it helps the reader learn about new directors, musicians, and authors they didn't know about.

Posting a question that asks everyone what their favorite color is or what their biggest pet peeve is doesn't do anything for a reader aside from (arguably) letting you know something about other members.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:58 PM on August 8, 2005


divabat, there's a difference between "What's your favorite color?" and "I'm having a problem and think I might be depressed; can anyone who's gone through this share any experiences that might help me?" The second type of question has gone through without any problem (and those are the threads I like the best). The first type, however, those "survey" questions, are what we're talking about.
posted by occhiblu at 8:00 PM on August 8, 2005


Okay, I couldn't sleep (too riled by this discussion, I guess).

grumblebee, for the future, you should carefully examine why you're essentially the only person who has such trouble grasping the difference between a question that prompts answers and a question that prompts conversation.

Are you sure I'm the only person, nixerman? That's not my impression. I'm being very vocal about it, but I've seen many posts by people totally in-the-dark about why their posts have been deleted. In any case, assuming I AM the only person, what is your point? That I'm stupid or abnormal? What do you think I should do?

I have asked for explanations. You and others haven't given them to me. What you keep saying is, essentially, that some questions prompt conversation and some prompt answers. I get that. I don't get your criteria for deciding what is an answer and what is a conversation. I don't get how you decide which questions prompt conversation and which questions prompt answers.

I have been VERY specific in my question. I have posted example questions. You have NOT been specific in your answers. You have just said that there are two kinds of questions. If you look back at my previous posts, you'll see that when this discussion started, I stated an understanding of that -- that Matt didn't like questions that prompted conversation.

Still, his classification of certain topics AS conversation seems odd to me. I have seen much chat in so-called "fact-based" questions. I can only translate conversation as "stuff Matt doesn't like." Since I'm not Matt, I can't know what Matt doesn't like. So that leaves me -- and people like me (if any exist) -- in the position of just posting and seeing what happens (or playing it super-safe, as I do).

You claim that there never will be a "a rigorous definition of an 'acceptable' AskMe question." I agree (and I've said as much IN THIS THREAD and I've even posted an idea about how to deal with that). Yet you're telling me that it's a really simple concepts; that everyone gets it except me; but that it can't be explained; and that "most people are able to deal with that just fine."

SOME people are able to deal with it just fine. SOME people aren't. I'm not sure of the ratio. Are you? Can you back it up with evidence? Can you blame us confused folks for being confused when you people in-the-know keep saying, "it's really simple, but we can't explain it, but you should understand it anyway, because people just DO?"

I realize that's not exactly what you're saying, and I'm sorry if I'm putting words in your mouth. You ARE explaining things -- you (and others) keep saying (over and over) that some questions fall into category A and some into category B. But if you can't pin down (1) why a particular question should fall into a or b, and if you (2) can't explain the difference between (a) and (b), then your explanation is not very helpful.

Almost any question can be subtly altered to slip it past mattjessamyn

Are you joking? That sounds dishonest.

I think occhiblu said exactly what I've been trying to say all along. Asking people to recommend movies, music, books can be chatty, but at least it helps the reader learn about new directors, musicians, and authors they didn't know about.

Posting a question that asks everyone what their favorite color is or what their biggest pet peeve is doesn't do anything for a reader aside from (arguably) letting you know something about other members.


Matt, It really sounds like you have a distaste for certain kinds of data. (Psychology, as I've suggested.) I can honestly state that (a) I have ZERO interest in getting to know the "mefi" community (sorry if that sounds harsh). I almost never read profiles, I don't read people's blogs, I've never been to a meetup, etc., but (b) I find those peeve questions FACTUALLY interesting. The most interesting facts -- to me -- are facts about the human mind. I don't see how these "facts" are qualitatively different from "facts" about directors or authors. Except that they are not your cup of tea. And it's your site, so you have a right to keep it centered around things that interest you.
posted by grumblebee at 8:56 PM on August 8, 2005


It really sounds like you have a distaste for certain kinds of data

No, I don't want pointless chatter, I want Ask MetaFilter to remain interesting reading.

Let's try something different: What's your favorite color grumblebee?

Right now, mine is green. A sagey green. When I was younger it was purple. But now it's green. I like all earthy colors, but green's my current favorite.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:15 PM on August 8, 2005


Blue.
posted by justgary at 9:34 PM on August 8, 2005


No, I don't want pointless chatter, I want Ask MetaFilter to remain interesting reading.

That's the problem right there, isn't it? What's pointless chatter to you might actually be interesting reading to others--and the distinction is arbitrary. I didn't see the pet peeve question, but I imagine the answers would tell you more than just "getting-to-know-you chit chat"--you would get a random sampling of people's pet peeves, and to me, that could be fascinating.

I would have thought curiosity is a good enough reason to ask a question.
posted by muckster at 9:40 PM on August 8, 2005


muckster, what's your favorite color?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:41 PM on August 8, 2005


I like orange, but I'm starting to like blue more than I used to.
posted by jessamyn at 9:45 PM on August 8, 2005


See, that question isn't very interesting to me. I'd skip that thread.
posted by muckster at 9:49 PM on August 8, 2005


I find what you consider "pointless chatter" to be interesting reading.

Often, these "survey type" questions don't just end with a simple answer - there's bound to be responses that are thoughtout and provide a reason to their choice. Not everyone answers the same, and it is this diversity that brings it out from "survey" into "interesting reading".

My favourite colours are crimson and black. It may have something to do with my fascination for mystery and vampires. It used to be green but not really now.
posted by divabat at 9:53 PM on August 8, 2005


Matt, I sincerely apologize if it sounded like I was condescending or chastising. I didn't mean it that way. I really am trying to help. We have different ideas, perhaps, but we both want this site to run smoothly. I'm trying (failing perhaps) to be the voice of some confused members.

Jessamyn just sent me a fantastic email with a VERY clear rule. I have urged her to post here, because what she says is the first thing that makes total sense to me. I will paraphrase here, but I hope she find the time to say it herself, because she'll say it better:

Compose questions which prompt responses about something besides the personalities of the responders.

"What's a good mystery novel to take to the beach?" is fine, because (though it may be subjective), it's a question about mystery novels. "If you could choose to be any famous detective, who would you be?" is bad, because it's about the personalities of the responders. "How do you deal with your anger?" is fine, because it's a question about anger. "What makes you mad?" is bad, because it's about the personalities of the responders.

This, to me, is CLEAR.

Much more clear than rules about "questions with answers," "solvable questions," "facts," "non-chatty questions," etc. All of these are in the somewhere in the ballpark, but they are too vague. "What is your favorite color?" is bad but it has answers; my desire to know more about Matt is a problem, and it has a solution (but the solution would lead me to ask a bad question!); it is a FACT that my favorite color is purple; all sorts of threads get chatty (contain jokes, gossip, in-fighting, off-topic remarks) and sometimes "what's your favorite color?" threads (though bad) stick to the (bad) point without deviation.

I have been clear that I like psychological questions (though I never ask them anymore -- nor do I intend to). But I'm NOT fighting for chat. I've never fought for that in this thread. People against chat have characterized me as if I am fighting for it and people who LIKE chat have claimed me as one of their teammates. I'm not. I don't really care about chat. I care about clarity, fairness (when possible), polite discussion, and making this site run smoothly.

It may be impossible to pin down the rules 100%, but -- DAMMIT -- it's worth TRYING. (In my view, it's more important than new ponies.) People (not just me) are confused and that confusion is hurting the site. I am trying to help stop that confusing. I am trying to do this by doggedly asking the same questions over and over, in the hopes that the people who know the rules will clarify them. And this has irritated some people. But it has paid off, because Jessamyn wrote me that great email!
posted by grumblebee at 9:57 PM on August 8, 2005


Perhaps possible X factors here are risk and urgency. If a person is asking about good toasters to buy, it is implied that she is out to buy a toaster. There is urgency there, and a risk that she might pay good money for a product that would contribute in a small way to life's miseries. Now, someone wondering about the origin of the word luck, he has some curiosity to sate, but he didn't lose anything or have his life worsened by not knowing.

"is there something inherently worse about 'peeves' than 'sci-fi'?"

We can see these questions in the same light. "Peeves" is knowledge for knowledge's sake, no downside to not knowing. However, when looking for sci-fi, one increases the chances of avoiding terrible books by asking for advice.
posted by catachresoid at 9:58 PM on August 8, 2005


...no downside to not knowing.

Not knowing is in itself a downside. I'd rather "know" than read sci-fi.
posted by grumblebee at 10:02 PM on August 8, 2005


Compose questions which prompt responses about something besides the personalities of the responders.

Yes, I agree, that's it exactly, and sounds pretty much like what occhiblu said earlier. The things I consider detrimental to the future of Ask MetaFilter are people talking about their personalities, instead of helping each other solve problems, share experiences, or answer questions.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:09 PM on August 8, 2005


"Not knowing is in itself a downside."

I agree. I should have phrased that differently. Perhaps: "the negative aspect does not lead to yet more negativity."
posted by catachresoid at 10:32 PM on August 8, 2005


By their very nature, rules, laws and guidelines are always arbitrary (and often unfair) when viewed from some perspectives. That's unavoidable. There are no perfect set of laws or rules anywhere, because it's not possible or reasonable to create a separate law for each discrete incident. Thus, rules, and - in this case - guidelines, are created to satisfy a limited number of conditions with the fewest possible edicts.

So it might be more useful to look at the question of what those conditions are for AskMe, and how the rules can satisfy them. The purpose of the rules here are to keep the site useful and directed (in other words, keep it from becoming a chaotic, all-things-to-all men mess), and to keep answerers on-topic and helpful.

To satisfy the first condition, the rule is that the information requested needs to be useful in some way, and not be too general or too specific. From grumblebee's perspective, every question is useful, but from the perspective of applying guidelines to keep the site from sprawling out of control, questions need to be pruned and focused, so questions that don't address some concrete problem or goal are discouraged.

For those who don't really see the distinction, it might be helpful to imagine yourself in the position of applying the guidelines that are meant to keep AskMe helpful/useful instead of conversational. There are many imaginary metrics that you might apply... For example information that is generally deemed worthy of publishing versus that which isn't. Product and arts reviews (which we see as recommendations here) are published, advice (advice columns, for example) are published; do-it-yourself information is published; travel tips are published. But you generally don't find published material that lists what 105 random people ate for breakfast or what their pet peeve is.

Please believe that I'm not being sarcastic at all... and I tend to like those questions myself, but from the point of view of managing the site, I completely understand why the rules must exist, why they can't be perfectly fair, and why they are so difficult to state absolutely.
posted by taz at 10:42 PM on August 8, 2005


Compose questions which prompt responses about something besides the personalities of the responders.

That is both clear and good and should be added to the "post" part of AskMe.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:24 PM on August 8, 2005


But the favourite colour scheme isn't the same as the pet peeve issue; one really is chat-filter, while the other is genuinely giving a creative insight into all the possible things that one could do/does do to annoy another person. The colour scheme has only a few possible answers, bounded by the rainbow, or colour refraction, or possibly nomenclature. That's chat-filter, sure. But pet-peeves, and many other 'open-ended' questions give many of us an insight into what makes other people tick; that is, there isn't a boundary of possible answers that is already provided in a dictionary or wikipedia, but rather presents an entire universe of possible, creative answers.

Also, it gives many of us an insight into different people's lives, their stress-inducing responses, and a chance to examine ourselves in response to the question/answer. The colour scheme doesn't do that either; that's basically an extended version of a yes/no expected response. I agree that chatfilter is useless, but I think you need to be careful that deleting threads in which many had taken the time to construct careful, humorus and intersting responses, obviously striking a nerve and a cloud of interest. It's not your cup of tea, but it's one of the things that I, and many others, think that makes AskMe not just an auto-response generator, but something with a personality, a bit of humour and genuine thought. Chatfilter accomplishes none of that, but pure data-driven threads don't either.

mathowie writes "Yes, I agree, that's it exactly, and sounds pretty much like what occhiblu said earlier. The things I consider detrimental to the future of Ask MetaFilter are people talking about their personalities, instead of helping each other solve problems, share experiences, or answer questions."

Besides, how are pet-peeves not a subset of sharing one's experience? I'm trying not to rely simply on this particular deleted thread but this thread was the needle that broke this camel's back.
posted by fionab at 12:15 AM on August 9, 2005


fionab writes "but I think you need to be careful that deleting threads in which many had taken the time to construct careful, humorus and intersting responses"
Good point - it devalues peoples' investments - particularly where many have contributed. They won't perhaps bother again if that's what potentially happens. That in itself might destablize the long term viability of AskMe. And I say this without having a position on the 'pet peeve' thread. Upgrading to 'close' a thread in the green seems eminently sensible.
posted by peacay at 12:48 AM on August 9, 2005


I'll consider it when it costs $8 for a new MeFi membership.
Hmm, so being the master of your own site and having the ability to set your own guidelines (or utter lack thereof) is worth less than $3 now? Talk about devaluation.
posted by darukaru at 5:20 AM on August 9, 2005


mediareport : "And bugbread, most of the 'idle curiosity' questions like 'Why do Cheerios gravitate towards each other?' can easily be answered with a simple Yahoo search; I'd be perfectly happy to see them disappear."

Probably a bad example, as I was thinking off the top of my head. Perhaps my example should have been more along the lines of "I saw thing X the other day. It looked like Y. What was it?" (as that is also idle curiosity but virtually impossible to google).

divabat : "And what is so wrong about 'questions that prompt conversation'?"

In general? Nothing. In AskMe? That's not what AskMe is intended to be. There's nothing wrong with selling puppies, but if you set up flea market for selling used clothes, you wouldn't want people selling puppies in it. There's nothing wrong with the Eiffel Tower, but if you ran a school you wouldn't want a kid to bring the Eiffel Tower to "pet show-and-tell day".

Grumblebee, it's good that Jassamyn (and occhiblu) have helped you understand better what standards are used. Regarding your assertions that "Matt doesn't like psychology questions", I fail to see evidence from your side of that. "What is your favorite color?" is a bad psychology question (for the reasons given by Jessamyn and occhiblu). "What colors are known to cause an increase in aggression?" is a psychology question that isn't bad (ok, maybe it's bad because you can google it, but it isn't bad because it's about psychology). It seems that because you find Matt has problems with some questions that involve psychology, you're drawing the unsupported conclusion that he has a problem with psychology questions in general, and then trying to draw conclusions from that unsupported foundation. This may explain why you aren't/weren't coming up with hypotheses that other people can agree with: you were using bad input data, so you're going to get bad output.
posted by Bugbread at 5:42 AM on August 9, 2005


I'm in the same boat Grumblebee is. Have no illusions about it. It's not just him. And multiply it minimally by 10 (for those who also have this problem and don't ever read metatalk.)

I see no difference between what is your favorite SF books...and what is your pet peeve. The fact that it's a question of 'wording' is a very slippery slope.

I get the idea that we have problems with the scroll rate of Ask, I get the idea that there is a 'chattiness' unknown quality that some people can detect quickly and easily.

Matt, you say The things I consider detrimental to the future of Ask MetaFilter are people talking about their personalities, instead of helping each other solve problems, share experiences, or answer questions.

How exactly is sharing the experience of a pet peeve not exactly falling into that category?
posted by filmgeek at 6:41 AM on August 9, 2005


Now that I've read Jessamyn's explanation, I no longer suspect that Matt doesn't like questions involving psychology.

My problem was that none of Matt's explanations of what he did/didn't like made sense to me. Nor did anyone else's. People kept talking about questions that solved problems. I kept pointing out that the deleted question DID solve a problem. Obviously, Matt and I meant something different by "solved problems."

Yet no one would grapple directly with THAT confusion. No one would explain to me how I was wrong -- how such questions DON'T solve problems. Or how the problems they solved were not the right kind of problems. So I suspected that "solving problems" or "fact-based" or whatever was not the real issue. (Or, at the very least, that those terms are too nebulous to be helpful.)

The same is true with chatfilter. "Chatfilter" is VERY meaningful to people -- like Matt and others here -- who have a gut feeling of what it means. It's useless to the rest of us. Even the term "idle chit-chat," when used in everyday life, is vague. What is the difference between useful conversation and useless conversation? When pressed, people fall back on "usefully conversation solves problems" or "usefully conversation concerns facts," so we're back to square one.

I suspect that many people feel that, "though I can't explain useful conversation, I know it when I see it." Which is reasonable and fine, but what is LESS reasonable is to add, "and so should YOU!" And it's bordering on outrageous to add, "and your gut feeling of useful should necessarily match my gut feeling of useful." Useful is a relative term -- subjective -- unless you give it a very specific, localized meaning. Which no one here seemed willing or able to do (until Jessamyn).

So "useful" seemed -- to me -- to be "stuff Matt likes." (Which I actually don't have a problem with, as long as it's clearly, honestly stated) That was the only way I could parse it. So I tried to find a pattern in Matt's likes and dislikes. The anti-psychology idea was the best I could come up with. I now reject it in favor of Jessamyn's idea.

My goal here has ALWAYS been to clarify things for myself and the other confused members. If we can do this, the site will improve, because more people will either share the common goal or realize they dislike the common goal enough to leave.

Looking back, though I wasn't consciously aware of this at the time, I did have a hidden agenda. It is a fundamental belief that, while not everything is explicable in words and definitions, many things are. And the benefits of clear explanation are so great that it's worth trying VERY hard to get things crystal clear before we give up and proclaim clarity impossible.

To those of you who stuck with the conversation, trying to explain, clarify and grapple with my confusion, I thank you. To those of you who threw up your hands ("Oh come ON") or condescended ("Let me explain this very simply concept, Grumblebee") or were just plain rude, I am sorry you lack skills of polite discourse and patience with people who are different from you.
posted by grumblebee at 6:59 AM on August 9, 2005


The most interesting facts -- to me -- are facts about the human mind. I don't see how these "facts" are qualitatively different from "facts" about directors or authors.

Once you have enough answers to the question "What is good sci-fi," you can go out and get those pieces of good sci-fi. Once you have enough answers to the question, "What are your pet peeves," what will you be able to do, armed with this data, that you would not have been able to do without it? What use will you put this information to?
posted by 23skidoo at 7:00 AM on August 9, 2005


I agree with filmgeek that "share experiences" is too vague. I suspect Matt means something like "share experiences about the subject of the question, given that the subject is NOT about personalities in the MeFi community."

It is so clear to Matt (and some others here) that he sometimes abbreviates his explanations. But if we care at all about stopping confusion, we can't afford to abbreviate.

I think a crystal clear ruleset is possible (POSSIBLE -- not inevitable). But it will take work. I think this work is worthwhile . It is more important (in my view) than technological site enhancements (it would benefit the site more than new features). But it will take work. To Matt, it may not seem like worthwhile work, because it may seem like spending a lot of time explaining what should already be clear.

Maybe Matt shouldn't be the one to take this on. Maybe a group of us (I don't have to be included, since I may fall into a minority here), can come up with a draft of the rules and then run it by Matt and Jessamyn.

But the rules should also be run by people like me and filmgeek. We shouldn't MAKE the rules. But we can give feedback as to whether or not the rules are clear.
posted by grumblebee at 7:07 AM on August 9, 2005


What use will you put this information to?

23skidoo, I doubt we'll ever see eye-to-eye on this. GAINING the new insite IS the use. I have zero interest in applied math, but I love abstract math.
posted by grumblebee at 7:09 AM on August 9, 2005


grumblebee : "So 'useful' seemed -- to me -- to be 'stuff Matt likes.'"

I hope that's just a careless phrasing, because on it's face, I'm sure that even you don't really believe that. Matt probably likes to see pictures of naked women, yet I don't think you actually believe that Matt considers pictures of naked women to be "useful" in the AskMe sense. Perhaps you meant to say "useful seemed to me to be stuff Matt considered useful".

grumblebee : "I agree with filmgeek that 'share experiences' is too vague. I suspect Matt means something like 'share experiences about the subject of the question, given that the subject is NOT about personalities in the MeFi community.'"

Agreed. That "share experiences" thing, as phrased by matt, seems to actually open up a lot of chatfilter (as I understand it).

grumblebee : "I think a crystal clear ruleset is possible"

There, we disagree. I think there will always be fuzziness. However, I agree that we can get a much clearer ruleset than currently exists.
posted by Bugbread at 7:14 AM on August 9, 2005


GAINING the new insite IS the use.

Gaining the new insight is the reason for asking the question, obviously, but it's not the use for the new information. The new information is not applied towards some goal. A good question will have a goal beyond having the question answered.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:26 AM on August 9, 2005


23skidoo, if you're talking about a possible rule for this site -- that all questions must have a goal of applying the gained info in some way -- then sure, whatever. That's as good (or as bad) a rule as any.

But if you're saying that pure knowledge is not useful (in general -- not just on MeFi) then I fundamentally disagree. (Unless you're just defining the word "useful" to mean "applied.")

To me, non-applied information is more useful than applied information. Everything I do, I do to enrich my life (other than the things I do to enrich other people's lives). My life (and I'm just talking about me) is MORE enriched by pure info than it is by applied info.

I recently learned the Perl programming language. I learned it by reading a book, because I was interested in it. I have no plans to ever program Perl. Now that I have learned it, I'm done with it. The learning WAS the goal.

I understand that this is mystifying to some people. Maybe it's cultural. I come from a Jewish intellectual family. I don't consider myself culturally Jewish, but maybe the Jewish love of learning crept into my bones.

bugbread, my phrasing was somewhat careless, but not in the way you mean. I should have said something like, "stuff Matt likes within certain broad parameters but not EVERYTHING and ANYTHING Matt likes." But I really couldn't (and still can't) make sense of the "useful", "factual", and "problem solving" stuff. So I could only explain it as "he seems to have a dislike of questions about psychology." Jessamyn showed me how the specific questions that got deleted were different from general psychological questions. Her explanation didn't rely on "useful" or "problem solving."

A "crystal clear" ruleset is possible (probably) because it should be possible to extrapolate the rules from all the deletions so far (or by monitoring them in the future). There will be commonalities. There will also likely be contradictions. But these contradictions can be explained by Matt as exceptions (for some specific reason) or because he goofed. The clear explanation might be long and complex, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. I think we're dealing with knowable properties.
posted by grumblebee at 7:59 AM on August 9, 2005


I see no difference between what is your favorite SF books...and what is your pet peeve. The fact that it's a question of 'wording' is a very slippery slope.

In one case, the questioner very likely intends to read the favorite SF books of the commenters. I doubt that anyone is really so short of pet peeves that he or she needs suggestions so that he or she can adopt a new one. But if the motivation of the question was really "I'm just not angry enough about stuff; what should I be angrier about?" then the questioner could have said that. (Please note that the last sentence was irony.)

I understand that there is value for some people in gaining insight on the human condition. There is, however, no shortage of places on the Internet where people are just dying to share their human condition with you, and many, many of these people are not at all reticent to share their pet peeves.
posted by anapestic at 8:00 AM on August 9, 2005


anapestic, I am still totally mystified why anyone would care about the INTENT of the questioner. In my view --

Q. What's your favorite color? = bad question.

Q. I want to paint my kitchen in a color that will please the majority of my houseguests, so what's your favorite color? = bad question.

The are both bad (or good, depending on goals for the site), because they both will generate the exact same answers -- favorite colors. The only difference is that in the second case, we know more about the reason WHY the person was asking. And we know they plan to use the answers in some physical, real-world way.

So what?

How does that make the site any better? How does knowing that make the database of answers any more useful to someone OTHER than the asker. And if it doesn't -- if we only care about the asker -- then it should be fine if the asker wants to know "just for the heck of it."

Also, anyone can make up a utility. I can want to know people's middle names "just for the heck of it" but know that's against the rules. But I can cheat the rules by saying, "I'm trying to give my hamster an unusual name, and I've noticed that many people have odd middle names. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe middle names are mostly ordinary. What's your middle name?"

What's the point of having people con the system like this? Do we care so much about intent that we're happy with ANY intent -- even a made up one? WHY?
posted by grumblebee at 8:55 AM on August 9, 2005


No, we're not happy with it. But people with a burning desire to ask a question that doesn't meet the guidelines who then don't even make the effort to make it look like it does meet the guidelines... obviously aren't trying hard enough.

It looks like we're best able to define questions that should NOT be asked -- those that "prompt responses about something besides the personalities of the responders."

Questions that blatantly do not follow those guidelines should be deleted. Questions that are borderline, even if they're borderline because the questioner "gamed the system," may or may not be deleted because we're all imperfect human beings who are just trying to make judment calls, and sometimes we get fooled. But that doesn't make the question any less borderline.
posted by occhiblu at 9:07 AM on August 9, 2005


Given my two examples above, I'd say that neither is borderline -- they are both bad. They are totally equivalent, except for intent. Intent is the only difference between them. And why should we do care about intent?

Any system based on What the Questioner is Going to Do with the Information seems very odd to me. We have no way of knowing what they are going to do with it, though they might suggest a reason. Knowing that they are going to do with the info doesn't change the info. Knowing what they are going to do with the info doesn't make the info more or less useful to someone else, who might do something quite different with it. Information is neutral (and potentially useful in all sorts of ways). What I do with information is personal and not terribly useful to anyone but me.

We care about intent in a court of law, because we're judging a specific person. We don't care about the plumber's intent, as-long-as he fixes our sink.

Also, if you care about "use" and you define use as doing something with the info besides just knowing the info, then you MUST delete questions like, "who was the first female ruler of England?" And I don't think Matt wants such questions deleted. So use/intent is not the criteria.
posted by grumblebee at 9:24 AM on August 9, 2005


I somehow feel like you're not reading my posts -- like I said, I think we've established that the only guideline we can agree on is what NOT to ask (don't just poll your fellow members). Set aside the "use" thing for a second.

I agree that all your examples are equally bad. The bad ones that are obviously just "tell me about your preferences" questions would be immediately deleted. The other two are borderline; I would delete them, but others might not.

You seem to want a yes/no, black/white, stay/go always-binary system for something that's relying on human judgment. Which isn't to say that we shouldn't attempt to institute guidelines, but you have to accept that at some level, there's going to be debatable calls made.
posted by occhiblu at 9:28 AM on August 9, 2005


We read sci-fi "for the heck of it." We want to know pet peeves "for the heck of it." Both are for mental recreation. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

Here's one way to look at it: We read sci-fi for the heck of it. We ask about sci-fi to get recommendations for sci-fi to read. The "heck of it" is not the direct cause of the question; it's there, but it's one step removed. The mental recreation is achieved by using the answers to find and read good sci-fi, not directly from reading the answers themselves.

In asking about pet peeves for the heck of it, "the heck of it" is the immediate, direct cause of the question; there's no intermediate purpose. The only mental recreation achieved is in reading the answers themselves.

On preview: Also, if you care about "use" and you define use as doing something with the info besides just knowing the info, then you MUST delete questions like, "who was the first female ruler of England?" And I don't think Matt wants such questions deleted. So use/intent is not the criteria.

I would say that use/intent is not the only criterion. It seems that questions with objective answers are OK regardless of use/intent (if you've tried Googling first); questions without objective answers require some practical use as justification.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:36 AM on August 9, 2005


Q. I want to paint my kitchen in a color that will please the majority of my houseguests, so what's your favorite color? = bad question.

Useless answer: My favorite color is black.

Useful answer: My favorite color is black, but you want to paint your kitchen in a light color so that you have more light on the food you're cooking.

In the useful answer, the part where the poster talks about his favorite color is just noise. That kind of noise makes for sometimes-fun conversation, but it makes AskMe a lot less useful and interesting to people outside of the circle of MeFi chatters.

Questions like the pet-peeve one can only generate useless answers, because there's no stated way to help the asker. Matt seems pretty consistent to me in deleting questions that can only generate useless answers, and that seems to me to be what he means by "ChatFilter".

Sometimes a badly phrased question will stand, and people will find a way to give useful answers to a badly-worded question. I see Matt deleting questions where there's no possibility of a useful conversation.

I basically trust in what I believe Matt is trying to do. I wouldn't put much trust in a written set of rules, which would just generate endless nit-picking over interpretation of the rules, which would lead to more rules and heavier enforcement, which would kill what I like about this place.
posted by fuzz at 9:39 AM on August 9, 2005


Questions like the pet-peeve one can only generate useless answers, because there's no stated way to help the asker.

Arg! There's a CLEARLY stated way to help the asker. You can HELP him by telling him your pet peeve. That's what he ASKED for help with!

It's still a bad question, but not because you can't help the asker.
posted by grumblebee at 10:07 AM on August 9, 2005


All right:

"I want to know X about the world" -- OK question.

"I want to know X about you, the general MeFi population" -- not an OK AskMe question, because really, that's what MeTa is for.

That seems to be the distinction that people are making, that you're not getting.
posted by occhiblu at 10:12 AM on August 9, 2005


occhiblu, I understand your frustration, but I AM reading your posts and taking them seriously. It may seem like I'm not, because we're missing some common ground and so interpreting things very differently.

You say I would delete them, but others might not.

I don't care what you or others would or would not delete. I only care what Matt and Jessamyn would would not delete, because they are the only people doing the deleting. They have strong opinions about what's good and bad, and I don't see any likelihood of them changing these opinions.

I'm trying to figure out a pattern to what they delete and what they don't delete. And I'm trying to help others understand this pattern. I'm not trying to persuade them to change their patterns.

Yes, there will be some fuzziness in their patterns, because they are human. Even if they have clear rules, they will not always follow these rules. Fine. But the rules can still be stated (with the disclaimer that the enforcers are only human and might not always perfectly follow the rules).

This is my main point. My subpoint is that though you say "put the use issue aside," I don't think you're putting it aside (though I may be misunderstanding you, because I'm a little unclear which example questions you're referring to). If you're calling one of my example questions borderline, I disagree. They are totally equal questions. Both clearly bad. The difference between them is USE. So you can't ignore use if you claim one is borderline and one is not.

Matt always seems to allow trivia-type questions that, as-far-as we know, the questioner only wants to know about "for the heck of it." (i.e. What did Henry VIII eat on a typical day?), but he doesn't allow personality-based questions which the questioner only wants to know about "for the heck of it" (i.e. What is your favorite type of dog?).

So I suspect the "for the heck of it" (i.e. use) is a not the real issue. The real issue is personality-based questions vs. non-personality based questions (as Jessamyn wisely pointed out).

Personally, I don't see an important difference between personality facts and historical/scientific facts. There is no difference that I care about. And I don't care about "use." I just care about whether or not the questions/answers are interesting (which is a subjective call). So if it were my site, I would allow such questions.

But it's NOT my site. And I have no interest to try to make it my site. So I'm not arguing in favor of such questions. I am simply trying to get the rules straight. The fact that people keep talking about "use" makes me think that the rules are far from straight.
posted by grumblebee at 10:22 AM on August 9, 2005


That seems to be the distinction that people are making, that you're not getting.

No, I AM getting it and I agree with it. That's what Jessamyn pointed out to me. I think it makes total sense.

But you, me and Jessamyn are the only people who are talking about this. Everyone else is talking about use. Questions about the community may be very useful. But they are not the sort of questions Matt wants here.
posted by grumblebee at 10:24 AM on August 9, 2005


But the deletions often come because other users have flagged the posts, so it's not just Matt and Jessamyn.

And I suspect we cross-posted; maybe what I posted above helps with the "use" issue? And helps resolve why I'm calling two of your examples "borderline"?

BAD * What's your favorite color? = polling the MeFi community

OK * What color do you recommend I paint my kitchen? = I need help from the MeFi community so that I can solve an emotional/physical problem

OK* What's the most popular color for kitchen paint? = I want to know X about the world in general.

OK * What effect does orange kitchen paint have on one's eating habits? = I have a possibly-theoretical, but could-be-applied-to-the-real-world question and need help with research

"What are your pet peeves" is the first category, because it's focusing exclusively on the MeFi community without creating a larger, Why-is-the-world-like-this context. "Why are people so annoyed by little things?" creates that larger context, which makes it a probably-OK psych question, because you're asking about the world in general.

"What's the origin of the term 'pet peeve'?" is also an OK question, because it's asking about the world at large and not just about MeFi member preferences.
posted by occhiblu at 10:33 AM on August 9, 2005


Serial posting, trying to find some system or rule that will help clarify:

What if you think about it like this: An AskMe question should draw on things that other users have LEARNED or EXPERIENCED. You're asking for their knowledge, whether that knowledge was gained through firsthand experience ("How do you deal with depression?") or through reading ("Who was the first monarch of England?").

You don't want a question that just asks about the other users' preferences.

The only complication I see in that is the recommend-good-music threads, but you could say that other users have researched bands, singers, etc. and you want to draw on their discriminating knowledge of these areas.
posted by occhiblu at 10:43 AM on August 9, 2005


Matt always seems to allow trivia-type questions that, as-far-as we know, the questioner only wants to know about "for the heck of it." (i.e. What did Henry VIII eat on a typical day?), but he doesn't allow personality-based questions which the questioner only wants to know about "for the heck of it" (i.e. What is your favorite type of dog?).

So I suspect the "for the heck of it" (i.e. use) is a not the real issue. The real issue is personality-based questions vs. non-personality based questions (as Jessamyn wisely pointed out).


Well, the existence of this thread is evidence enough that the rules are far from straight--I'll grant you that. But I think you err in reasoning, "since personality-based questions are usually deleted, whether a question is personality-based is the sole criterion on which its worthiness is judged." It seems to me that whether a question is personality-based and use are both criteria used to judge the worthiness of a question. It's fine to try to understand the rules, but I don't see any reason to think that they can be compressed into a single, atomic criterion ("A question is worthy iff X.") The "rules" may consist of several criteria ("A question is worthy iff A and B and [C or D or [E and not F.]]")

This, for example, is very much a personality-based question, but it also asserts a practical use for the information, so it is allowed to stand.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:46 AM on August 9, 2005


Yeah, I think the recommendation threads are a big problem with your rule, above. Jessamyn suggested that when people recommend books or music, they're not just using personal preference. They are using some external criteria. In general, I'm skeptical.

Yes, users flag, but they should only be flagging posts that violate Matt's rules. If they CLEARLY understood his rules, they would waste less of his time.
posted by grumblebee at 10:47 AM on August 9, 2005


Devils, I don't think the rules can be compressed and I expect that clear rules will be quite long. But I haven't yet seen "use" described here in a logical way. And I haven't yet heard anyone explain why one should care about use? And I haven't yet heard anyone explain the relationship between use and other criteria.
posted by grumblebee at 10:52 AM on August 9, 2005


grumblebee, there was an op-ed in yesterday's NYT by Sasha Baron-Cohen talking about his Systemizing vs. Empathizing brains, which contained this:

Systemizing involves identifying the laws that govern how a system works. Once you know the laws, you can control the system or predict its behavior. Empathizing, on the other hand, involves recognizing what another person may be feeling or thinking, and responding to those feelings with an appropriate emotion of one's own.

I feel like you want a system, but the form of the thing we're talking about -- (imperfect) human beings asking (imperfect) questions of other (imperfect) human beings -- requires more "empathy" (for lack of a better term), more fuzziness, and more "well, this *feels* right" responses. You're right -- there is a bit of touchy-feely "I know it when I see it" vibe to the deletions and guidelines, but I don't think we can transcend all of that.
posted by occhiblu at 10:53 AM on August 9, 2005


Heh -- that should have been "his Systemizing vs. Empathizing brain theories."
posted by occhiblu at 11:11 AM on August 9, 2005


But I haven't yet seen "use" described here in a logical way.

I can't quite find it now, but I think someone upthread said something to the effect that "use" constitutes some way of taking the information in the answers and applying it beyond simply reading the answers for personal satisfaction or enlightenment.

And I haven't yet heard anyone explain why one should care about use?

Because Matt and Jessamyn appear to care about use. I don't mean to be snide, but if you're sincere in your assertion that you're simply trying to understand Matt and Jessamyn's criteria, rather than trying to convince them to change them, that's reason enough. If you want to have a discussion about what the rules should be, "why one should care about use" would need a different answer, but if you're only trying to divine what the rules are, it's sufficient to observe that use appears to be relevant.

Now I could be wrong. Maybe Matt and Jessamyn don't care about use. But I have a hypothesis, involving use, which explains why this thread is not deleted. If you have a different hypothesis which does not invoke use that explains the worthiness of that thread, I would be happy to entertain it.

And I haven't yet heard anyone explain the relationship between use and other criteria.

I hypothesize that personality-based questions are allowed only if a practical use is asserted. Non-personality-based questions are permitted regardless of whether a use is asserted. To put it in boolean terms, worthiness is equivalent to [(NOT personality-based) OR use asserted].
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:17 AM on August 9, 2005


You may be right, occhiblu, but it's hard to tell if we don't try to get the rules clearer. I suspect the truth lies between what you're saying and what I'm saying. Only a REAL attempt at clarification will tell.
posted by grumblebee at 11:17 AM on August 9, 2005


grumblebee, I honestly don't think I can appease you in this case. I'm not going to write an encyclopedic set of guidelines that account for every edge case because it can't be done.

I will add a sentence to the effect of asking people not to focus their question on the personalities of others, as has been stated here (and I thought it was a satisfactory answer before you went to sleep, but apparently not).

I really don't have time to debate this further or go into every example anymore.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:19 AM on August 9, 2005


yes, but is your favorite color still green?
posted by crunchland at 11:31 AM on August 9, 2005


Man, I had a bad dream last night. Did you guys have bad dreams? er...I mean...I'm fascinated by the limits of the human psyche and by dreams. Is it possible to have a dream in which you die? In which you murder someone? Whats the worst dream you've had or anyone could have.
posted by vacapinta at 12:04 PM on August 9, 2005


Matt, I don't expect you to appease me. And I know that we're in different mindsets about which is more important -- adding features or defining rules. Why should I expect you to agree with me?

Which is why I suggested that someone BESIDES you write the guidelines? Would you have a problem with that? I don't mean that they would make up guidelines. I just mean that they would write up their best understanding of YOUR guidelines and submit them to you for your thoughts. If you thought they were good, you could okay them. At which point they should be posted as a draft for comments. The comments would only matter if they were about clarity. Comments about fairness/unfairness would be ignored.
posted by grumblebee at 12:35 PM on August 9, 2005


Devil, I am unsure what Matt means by use (your definition may be right, but who knows) or how important it is to him. I ask why it's important because I can't imagine why it would be -- to anyone. But you're right: if it IS important to Matt, then it's a guideline. Whether or not I understand why is immaterial.
posted by grumblebee at 12:37 PM on August 9, 2005


I guess one of my points, if anyone is still listening, is that questions about personalities, responses, and subjective answers are still useful; questions with a finite set of responses (colours, numbers, whatever) are more of a chatfilter-style scheme, but those with creative and diverse responses are useful, interesting, and are what makes this place tick. How is "what are your pet peeves" any different than, "how do you know a relationship is over" or "how do you tell your parents you want more boundaries" or "how do you recover from a marathon injury"? All of those are subjective, part of a personality, and possible chatfilter instigators. But in my view, and I assume many others, they are still all worthwhile questions and responses. If I keep responding to deleted threads, I'm going to be far less likely to respond in the future. I'm not saying that chatfilter should be encouraged, but I am saying that deleting questions and threads that don't have a "right answer" is not the best direction.
posted by fionab at 12:37 PM on August 9, 2005


It's different because in the three OK examples you cite (relationship over, parental boundary-setting, marathons) you can take those answers and APPLY them to your own life. You are asking for experiences so that those experiences can HELP you with your own life.

With pet peeves, not so much. You are not explicitly collecting experiences that will help you solve your own problem.
posted by occhiblu at 12:48 PM on August 9, 2005


23skidoo, if you're talking about a possible rule for this site -- that all questions must have a goal of applying the gained info in some way -- then sure, whatever. That's as good (or as bad) a rule as any.

But if you're saying that pure knowledge is not useful (in general -- not just on MeFi) then I fundamentally disagree. (Unless you're just defining the word "useful" to mean "applied.")


I wasn't trying to poo-poo your (or anyone else's) learning styles: we all learn different things for different reasons, and that is okay. But wasn't talking about a possible rule either, I was explaining my understanding of the current guideline that gets consulted when chatty AskMe posts get deleted. The distinction that I pointed out is a good rule-of-thumb for figuring out whether a post will be deleted for being too chatty.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:00 PM on August 9, 2005


(fionab, I like such questions too, but...)

-- "What are your pet peeves?" is about YOU. You can't just ask "What are pet peeves?" The topic doesn't make sense unless it is about your personality.

-- "How do I know a relationship is over?" is about relationships.

-- Matt likes questions provoke discussion about things BESIDES aspects of MeFi personalities.

He and some other people here call such questions "useful" and the personality questions "non useful." That's what confused me for so long (maybe it's confusing you), because I see both as equally useful. But useful or not, there is a difference: personality vs. non-personality.
posted by grumblebee at 1:04 PM on August 9, 2005


occhiblu: But you're just extrapolating that from the wording of the question. If it had been formulated as, "Someone is beating me up over my stupid pet-peeves. What are your pet-peeves so that I can show him that it's not a rational annoyance and I'm not alone?" Or, as someone suggested above, "I'm writing a story and need some pet-peeves as examples. What are your peeves?" it would likely stand, as it would help you with your own life. So it's not the question, just the wording of the question with which you take issue. That doesn't prove it's chatfilter or not, just that the question was worded poorly. I'm not trying to pull up every last stupid example, but it's not as cut-and-dry as you make it out to be, and erring on the side of deletion isn't good for the community, in my not so humble opinion. I don't participate in many other aspects of the MeFiEmpire, but AskMe has a particular twist to it that attracts me, and that's the more human side. Deleting things for automatic Chatfilter, when many other people who participate in that part of the site don't agree it is chatfilter, isn't in the spirit of that community.

grumblebee: I guess my above statement applies to your response as well, because it's not about relationships, it's about how each individual person responds or decides something in a relationship. It's still about a personality and subjective decisions. Ok, so the wording "What are your pet peeves" doesn't fly, but would the topic stand if it was worded more productively?
posted by fionab at 1:08 PM on August 9, 2005


fionab, I agree with everything you're saying. The wording *does* matter, because the wording of the question influences the wording of the answers. And I've said over and over again in this thread that wording questions differently can take them from automatic deletes to borderline, probably-will-stay questions.

Which doesn't make them *good* questions, just acceptable ones.
posted by occhiblu at 1:16 PM on August 9, 2005


I know, I'm just pissed right now because while many deletions haven't bothered me personally, this one struck a chord for some reason. I think that means I need to do some work instead of get pissy about deleted threads, but in the meantime, I'm adding "deleted threads" to my growing list of pet peeves!
posted by fionab at 1:23 PM on August 9, 2005


Just to illustrat occhiblu's point, each of your modified pet-peeve questions would likely provoke answers that the original would not, such as:

"Someone is beating me up over my stupid pet-peeves. What are your pet-peeves so that I can show him that it's not a rational annoyance and I'm not alone?"

"Point out to him that he has stupid pet peeves too, or that some person he greatly admires also had stupid pet peeves."

"I'm writing a story and need some pet-peeves as examples. What are your peeves?"

"My mother's friend's cousin has this really bizarre peeve which would be great in a story..."

Neither of these are answers to a bald "what are your peeves," but are useful answers to the "reformulated" questions, which illustrates that those reformulations, though similar, are not exactly the same question as the original.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:31 PM on August 9, 2005


I wish I had bought a six pack of coke at the grocery yesterday.
posted by buzzman at 3:22 PM on August 9, 2005


I like Diet Coke, personally, but I hear the new C2 is pretty tasty!
posted by fionab at 3:23 PM on August 9, 2005


i like pancakes
posted by schyler523 at 8:42 PM on August 9, 2005


Dang. grumblebee.com is already taken. Will you settle for grumblebee.net?
posted by crunchland at 8:46 PM on August 9, 2005


I don't like completely deleted threads.
posted by jb at 9:35 PM on August 9, 2005


I think grumblebee passed into "angels dancing on the head of a pin" territory long ago, and recommend highly that the site managers not spend too much time worrying about gb's fine-point distinctions of things that don't really need such fine-point distinctions, so long as a bit more clarity about the site managers' take on valid questions is added to the AskMe post page.
posted by mediareport at 10:43 PM on August 9, 2005


*seconds fionab*
posted by divabat at 6:38 AM on August 10, 2005


mediareport, I'm sorry if you feel like I'm wasting people's time. I care about the site and I'm trying to suggest ways of making it better. From the emails I've been getting (by members who are scared to post because they know they'll get dumped on), I know I'm not alone in my concerns. I'm just willing to vocalize them.

crunchland, I keep scrolling up, but I can't figure out what you're referring to. I own grumblebee.com (it's down at the moment). Who is looking for a site with that name?
posted by grumblebee at 8:52 AM on August 10, 2005


« Older Spell check suddenly not working   |   Bukkake.Metafilter.com? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments