This is the sort of site that could well lend itself to using personal experience to answer questions.

Is it ok to use personal experience?

Do we want people to cite authoritative sources in their answers?

or is the School of Hard Knocks an Authority?

5 Answers 5


I think I'm agreeing with most of the answers here but I would like to add some more detail to flesh this out a bit.

Personal experience is great. It's very helpful to share those experiences and note how you think it will relate to the issue the OP is dealing with, particularly as there may not be an "official" solution to these problems. Experiential knowledge is very valuable, particularly when used in concert with sourced answers.

I would like to recommend we set a requirement, though, that answers must either back themselves up with personal experience or with references from sources. This is a rule that they have on The Workplace and it seems to have worked very well for them.

Please note that answers should be backed up either with a reference, or experiences that happened to you personally. You should always include in your answer information about why you think your answer is correct.

Spitballing possible solutions if you've never been in the situation yourself is not helpful and is potentially disastrous for the person asking for help. If you do not know your solution works because you've used it yourself or you've seen it recommended by a reputable* source, do not supply the answer. Answers that do not cite a source or note that it was the solution they used in a similar situation should be marked with an appropriate post notice requesting sourced information.

The words of an early Beta user on Workplace's Meta are extremely valuable here:

Don't be afraid of "enforcement," be afraid of the site becoming low quality. When it comes to practical information, usefulness trumps inclusion in many cases. Think of the situation where you come to the site needing help with a problem. Do you want opinions and theoreticals (which you could get from random friends), or do you want practical advice from people who have actually taken on, and solved the problem in question?

Yes, we're all excited to be part of the beta, and yes we're excited to spread the word and get things going. No, we should not think that getting answers to everything is more important than practical information that people can use. If we find that too many questions are super subjective, we use the same mechanism as appear in StackOverflow (or any other site): we comment to give the OP advice, we suggest edits, we guide the community through example, and if necessary we vote down and vote to close.

(Emphasis added)

The important thing to consider when writing an experiential answer is why you think your solution worked and possibly how you made the decision. Saying "I did this, you should do the same" doesn't cut it. Explain the decision-making process and the outcome. If it wasn't 100% effective and you have a different plan for the future, note that, too. Also, if you used any resources to make the decision you did, include them to support it.

I generally agree with the write-up here, by Hamlet, about how to compose a high-quality experience-based answer.

*What makes something a "reputable source" is up for debate but not here.


Personal experience is cool here.

I highly doubt people will be able to cite references (references about culture could also not be accurate, since so much of this depends on the people, and can also have many biases of their own), and undoubtedly, many people can answer questions based on their experience - they may be a member of a particular culture and all that can help them answer questions.

The thing that I worry though, is that people may be answering questions or upvoting answers that demonstrate a lack of experience. Like I said in How do we deal with cultural differences?, we have to make sure we set a culturally relative tone to the site.

  • 3
    Yes Tolerance is key on these sites and this site in particular will assist with the developing skills to be tolerant.
    – user57
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 18:09

Yes, we always "want" references in our answers.

In reality we can't always expect there to be references available or provided.

Want = Yes

Require = No


A lot of the information in my replies comes from my own personal experience. After all, experience in these types of issues is how we learn to deal with them best.

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    (General comment; I haven't reviewed your answers.) It's a good idea to say explicitly in an answer what experience you're drawing on, so readers can tell the difference between something that actually worked for somebody and speculation. Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 0:54

No. Many people answer from their life (experience).

In such scenario, asking for reference is not a valid thing

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