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How to get the most out of Ask Metafilter

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When you're asking a question, phrasing can matter and affect the sorts of answers you are likely to get. It's worth taking some time to craft your question with this in mind. A few tips:

Official guidance

The Ask MetaFilter Guidelines and FAQ Entry: What makes a good question for Ask MetaFilter? are a great place to start.

Asking Questions

What makes a good question post?

An ideal post should:

  • Explicitly and succinctly state the question. There should certainly be a question mark in the post.
  • Indicate clearly what topic the question is about so that readers can quickly identify if they might be able to answer the question.
  • Clearly list what the asker already investigated or tried.
  • State any requirements that that the askee has for answers, e.g. "direct and personal experience with the specific problem". (Note: Sometimes, you have an XY Problem, and the correct answer isn't necessarily what you think it might be.)

a few things to keep in mind

  • Remember, you're asking random strangers who know nothing about you. Give the facts and include any needed details related to your question such as your location, gender, age or background.
  • Try to use proper spelling and grammar. Good communication is essential if you want people to be able to understand your question and give advice relevant to it.
  • Split your question up into paragraphs - a long, unbroken block of text is very hard to read.
  • If your question requires a long explanation or extensive background information, include this in the optional "extended information" portion of the question submission form. This portion will not be visible on the main page of Ask MetaFilter, but will appear at the start of the thread page before any comments/answers.
  • Ask a concise question. Open-ended questions like "Any thoughts?" can lead to a lot of random answers.
  • Proofread your question before posting.

a few things to avoid

  • Avoid being smart ass, snarky or clever, as that tends to confuse people. Write as simply and as clearly as you can, as that will help focus people on your question.
  • Make sure your question IS actually a question.
  • Avoid rants disguised as questions.
  • Avoid self-promotion disguised as questions.
  • Any links in a question may be removed. Use only links that are necessary for answering the question.
  • Do not ask "am I over-reacting?" if you are not prepared for people to tell you that you are overreacting.


So, a post that said 'Need help on musical instruments (MI)' would be bad, because it's not really a question and it doesn't help readers figure out if they can be helpful. A good post, in contrast, would be 'My 10 year old daughter has just started taking violin lessons. Should I buy her a violin or rent one for now? What sort of violin should I get her?' because it concisely explains what the question is and it will attract exactly the right sort of people to answer the thread (namely, people with experience with violins). Remember, writing a good question post doesn't just help other people, it helps yourself because it will attract the people who know the most about your question to answer it.

Examples of good question posts:

12572 I used to consider myself a decent writer. It was one of those things that I did well. Over the last few years though I can hardly seem to link two cohesive sentences together. Those last few years also seem to coincide with my entrance into working on the web. Does anyone have any tips for learning how to write again?

Why it's good: Open ended question that is explained succinctly in one paragraph.

Examples of bad question posts

12614 Garbage disposal/dishwasher part deux. (mi)

Why it's bad: Nonspecific, impossible to tell - without looking at the comments - whether you can add some value by answering (commenting on) the question, or even if you'd be interested in reading about the topic.

How it could have been better: While fixing my garbage disposal, I reset it and water started seeping into my dishwasher. Now my dishwasher is filled with food from the disposal. Could this be related to why my disposal died? What else can I try on my disposal?

Some guidelines

Here is a preliminary set of guidelines for Ask MetaFilter posts and comments. It is a set of guidelines only. There are also a few examples given of things that are not likely to be deleted, but which are often flagged, to further clarify some issues that may be confusing. If a post gets removed, the poster can still repost in that same week.

Types of posts likely to be removed

  • Questions about any part of MetaFilter should go into MetaTalk instead
  • Chatfilter or poll/survey the audience posts along the lines of "What is your favorite X?" These are different from questions like "I am looking for a good book to read. I like James Joyce and Mark Leyner. Can anyone recommend something else I might like?" Think "Is there a problem to be solved?"
  • Questions that are thinly veiled self-links. The rare self-link is okay to highlight or illustrate an issue, but they should be the exception.
  • Job postings. General questions about how to find a good employee, moving company, or set designer are okay. Classified ad type postings are not okay - this is what [[
  • "Help me try to find this thing that I need to pay for, without paying for it" [i.e. fonts, software, music, subscription databases] Asking if there is a free alternative is fine.
  • Political speculation and "what if" questions along the lines of "What if Hitler had never been born?" They are often fine for MetaFilter proper with appropriate links.
  • Questions that you might ask while being stoned out of your fucking mind.

Types of posts not likely to be removed

  • Questions about hot button topics usually stay unless there are other problems with the post. Examples: sex, drugs, guns, "bad language" or bad behavior generally are not grounds for deletion of a question.
  • Questions asking for specific medical or legal advice will not be deleted but it is important to know that Ask MetaFilter is not a forum for providing medical or legal advice and many responses will just say "See a doctor" or "Get a lawyer"
  • Questions asking for advice on web or graphic design in a "Can you look at this image and tell me how I could make it better" are usually fine.
  • Timely questions like "Are you seeing the X-games on your ABC affiliate right now, or do you see infomercials?" while of limited long term usefulness, are generally okay. example
  • Questions that seem easily Googleable may still be a genuine conundrum for some people.

Types of comments likely to be removed

  • On PC/Mac type questions: "Buy a [opposite product name]" type answers. There may be legitimate reasons to consider other platforms or options, and answers that contain helpful "You should switch to solve your problem, here's why" advice, are sometimes okay. The same is true for dog/cat, meat/veggie, vi/emacs, SUV/bicycle, god/atheist and other holy war topics. Comments encouraging switching are best avoided unless they can be done well.
  • Joke answers or other responses that do not address or answer the question including image-as-editorial posts.
  • Links to Google search results for a topic (unless specifically asked for) or justfuckinggoogleit.
  • Comments that include the phrase "shame on you" and variants thereof, or comments that otherwise harass the question asker.
  • Comments that question or contradict the basic premise of the original question in an unhelpful way. e.g. "Psychics don't exist."

Types of comments not likely to be removed

  • Follow-ups by the asker, even if they're just "Hey thanks for the advice".
  • Requests for clarification of the question.
  • Answers that are jokey and helpful.
  • "Talk to a doctor/lawyer/therapist/priest." may be good advice for a given medical/legal/psychological/religious topic, those answers usually stay.
  • Answers that caution the asker to take another course of action often stay, along the line of "I know you said you were getting a pot-bellied pig, but have you thought that it might not be the best choice for your small apartment for these reasons....?" but they must address the question.
  • Comments that are so far upthread that their removal would make the rest of the thread not make sense.
  • Comments on old, especially archived, threads usually are not removed.

See also