This is where you go when Google shrugs. A community of 20,000 of the smartest people you know will answer your question. I use Ask Metafilter when I have a question that can’t be reduced to a key word search. Say you want to know the name of that song that was played during the closing credits in a science fiction film that begins in a boy’s bedroom, or you’ve been curious what that bumper sticker you keep seeing is, or maybe you need advice about whether you should see a therapist, or a psychologist, or a psychiatrist? You need a human for these inquiries. Ask Metafilter is not great for questions requiring detailed and heavily researched answers. For that use Google Answers for a small fee. What Ask Metafilter is great for, are things that a smart friend could easily answer if only you knew which friend to ask. The Metafilter community is your all-purpose smartest friend.
There is a one-time fee of $5 to join the community in order to post a question (but its free to read). To keep the frantic rate of new questions under control you are limited to asking no more than one a week. (You can answer all you want, and please do.) The quality of answers varies, but in general the tips, referrals and advice are pretty good, and often astoundingly on the mark. For example, here are some fairly typical questions I’ve asked (with fairly typical answers).
I’ve tried a couple of other “ask your question” sites on the web and generally their answer to question ratio is so low I’ve found them worthless. Ask Metafilter has managed to retain its intelligence while scaling up sufficiently to cover all subjects; that’s a magical balance.
In fact, even when I don’t have a question I find myself reading Ask Metafilter everyday because people will ask questions that I didn’t even know I wanted to know until they asked it, and then I realize I’ve been dying to ask that. It’s a true hive mind and it really works.
[Ask Metafilter is one service of the Metafilter community blog. Reading is free. Registration allows you to post questions and answers as well as posts to the other parts of the blog.]