If there is ever an internet writing hall of fame, it must include this classic Metafilter post:

In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you’re a Guess Culture person – and you obviously are – then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you’re likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.

If you’re an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.

@metafilter http://ask.metafilter.com/55153/Whats-the-middle-ground-between-FU-and-Welcome</footer> </blockquote>

In short, the idea is that individuals and groups of people are either Askers or Guessers.

Askers Guessers
If you want something, ask for it It’s rude to ask for something directly unless you’re sure the answer is yes
You are responsible for your own wants You are responsible for other people’s wants
You can always deny a request It’s rude to deny a request
All askers get along Many “subcultures”, each with their own rules.

I tend to agree with Jonathan Chait that asking is better than guessing, though I also agree with Austin Frakt that it can be situational.

I wanted to apply this to people who generate noise in shared spaces but I’m actually not sure it’s the right framework. I think this comes from my sense that most people who are generating noise (talking loudly, playing music on their phone, whatever else) would actually deny the request. This leads you directly into a key issue with Ask culture: what if someone says no?

Now you’re in a position to convince, negotiate, or simply seethe.

This could be my Guess background peeking through, of course. Maybe most people who are loud are really unaware, and happy to change.

But I think the better framework to understand it is Coasean – where does the initial property right actually lie? And how can we effectively negotiate? If I don’t want anyone on the bus playing music do I need to negotiate with each of them separately? What if multiple people want to play different music?

In general, I think we underestimate the effect of sound pollution, and we should try to default to quieter spaces with sound allowed as exceptions. When hiking in the wilderness, you can hear cars and planes from a great distance away – there is so little silence remaining.