Feb 23, 2009

where to get your random questions answered

This blogger is an expert in crafting random questions--and pretty good at answering them. But where do you go when your random question needs a forthright, efficient, speedy reply? Try "AskMetaFilter," Slate's Michael Agger argues:
For example, last October, the user "Hands of Manos" posed the following query: "How can I be less cynical?" He went on to explain, "I hate most movies, I lost faith in the God I was raised to believe in as a child and I find very little joy in most things now a days" and noted, "My wife is pissed because I'm so negative and doubtful of everything."

Thoughtful replies were posted immediately, with suggestions ranging from volunteering to banjo playing to avoiding "emotionally toxic" people to reading David McCullough's book on John Adams to looking at a blog that collects examples of how the world is getting better all the time....

Not all AskMeFi questions plumb such depths.... But the questions are all united by having received helpful answers, usually written in complete sentences. This is a small miracle. Where are the personal attacks, the one-word putdowns, the LOLs, the mocking, the off-topic rants? Well, they get deleted.

To understand how AskMeFi encourages valuable typed conversation, I spoke with Jessamyn West, a noted rural librarian and one of the moderators at MetaFilter. From her home base in the center of Vermont, she spends a lot of time each day pruning and cultivating the threads at AskMeFi. Her ground rules are simple: "You have to answer the question. It doesn't matter how funny your joke is, we're going to remove it. Wisecracks don't help solve problems." She says that some members of the MeFi community feel that AskMeFi is too rigid, not playful enough, but West believes in keeping things goal-focused and civil: "It's a living room, a clubhouse, please don't come poop on our floor."
Well, it's certainly not Wikipedia or--horrors--Yahoo! Answers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find both the questions and answers on AskMe to be a source of neverending interest and variety. I answer questions there when I can, but mostly I just read the threads and learn things I would never have known about. A blocked writer could do worse than to scan the page of AskMe for inspiration.