What does a good expert question look like on this site? Possibly related to Are hypothetical questions welcome? and How can we include the terminology of interpersonal skills into our site? .

Our beta invite says:

The first questions set the tone for the site. If you ask high quality, expert-level questions, you'll build a site that attracts the experts and pros who will make it really successful. But if you ask beginner questions, survey questions, or social-conversation questions, experts and pros will not be interested.

Clearly, this is a different sort of SE site than many, but it seems like a lot of our questions so far are beginner-level: "How to assert boundaries in situation X?" or "I am a person who's not good at skill Y. What's the best way to use Y in situation Z?" A lot of our answers so far are "Establish strong boundaries" or "Talk to them about it" or "Don't be afraid to do what you already suspect is the right thing." These questions are fine, but I think we also want expert-level questions.

What does an expert-level question that is sufficiently specific and personal look like? An expert or well-read enthusiast who's very good at interpersonal skills should be able to ask questions to other experts. However, a lot of these questions might seem off-topic since they're less likely to be problems in the skilled expert's own personal life.

For example, could an expert ask a question about the difference between setting a boundary and issuing a manipulative ultimatum? Could they ask how to advise a patient who's struggling with interpersonal skills? Could they ask a really theoretical question they've been struggling with, like how to balance the concept of personal responsibility with the NVC principle that everyone is responsible for their own needs?

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    There's also the possibility of expertise abstracting situations to the point where nobody relates.
    – lauir
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 15:54
  • Why do we need experts?
    – user20
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 20:08
  • @tuskiomi Because that's what this site is for. Review your beta email for details. If you think we don't need expert questions, I think you should upvote Casebash's answer or make your own. Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 18:47
  • I'm afraid I'm not quite sure. We aren't asking questions for the sake of getting 'cool cats' on our site, are we? That's somewhat of a paradox.
    – user20
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 18:51
  • I think we absolutely are, in this beta stage. The Stack Exchange model is dedicated to attracting and maintaining a community of experts that can answer difficult questions. Our job is to create an initial crop of questions and answers that attract that community and to establish standards that will maintain it. Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 19:14

4 Answers 4


I think a lot of people on this site are confusing "experts" with "academics" or "professionals." Which is a mistake, because this is not a site that caters to academics or professionals. This is a site about everyday social situations, where answers offer practical advice for how to navigate said everyday social situations.

For this site, "expert" should mean experience. What I mean by this is that answers shouldn't be backed up with academic citations, but by the answerer's personal experience of how to best handle the situation. Don't believe me? Read Stack Exchange's official blog post on the topic: Good Subjective, Bad Subjective.

In between objective and subjective there is a middle ground: expertise. That's what this site needs to focus on.

The even better news is that we know that focusing on answers based on personal experience works! Take a look at the RPG Stack Exchange.

What does this mean for answers? Answers shouldn't say things along the lines of "I've never been in this situation but you could try this." Questions shouldn't turn into polls, where no answer is backed up and the voting merely reflects which option is the most popular. Answers should be based on one's personal experience encountering a problem and the specific steps one took to solve that problem.

What does that mean for questions? Again, let's take a look at the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective blog post:

  1. Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.
  2. Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers.
  3. Great subjective questions have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.
  4. Great subjective questions invite sharing experiences over opinions.
  5. Great subjective questions insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.
  6. Great subjective questions are more than just mindless social fun.

Will experts be interested in these questions? Again, experts in the context of this site doesn't mean "academics" or "professionals". It means people with practical experience navigating social situations. Which theoretically is everyone alive.

(If this makes you feel more comfortable, a lot of the "professional" advice is actually very simple. Professionals spend at least 90% of their time saying obvious things like "Establish strong boundaries" or "Talk to them about it" or "Don't be afraid to do what you already suspect is the right thing." Because in most cases, people already know what the right solution is; what they need is someone to talk it out with them).

This site can be successful. There's nothing wrong with a subjective topic: sites like Workplace, RPG, and Academia show that the Stack Exchange platform works for subjective topics. Emulate those sites and you will succeed.

  • But what does that mean for questions? I understand the idea of answers being based on experience/expertise. That's not what I'm asking. Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 19:08
  • @GregoryAvery-Weir I think the point is the same as what I wrote on another post somewhere here in meta... there's no such thing as an "expert" question here.
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 19:19
  • @GregoryAvery-Weir edited. But looking at the answers on this site, I get the sense that people either don't understand this or aren't putting this into practice.
    – user288
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 19:27
  • I'd like to note that RPG.SE is not keen on subjective questions, but only subjective answers. something to think about for this site.
    – user20
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 20:06
  • Good subjective, bad subjective is now seven years old. Blog posts are not good references for site policies. Questions meeting those criteria would be closed on many, perhaps most, sites in the network. Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 15:58
  • @curiousdannii not sure how anything in the "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective" blog post is out of date. Perhaps you can give me some examples of questions meeting this criteria that have been closed.
    – user288
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 16:32

I think the problem lies in how we define "expert"

Most everyone makes use of interpersonal skills. Some admittedly are more skilled than others, but it isn't the sort of skill that one would study and get a doctorate degree for, nor is it something that is really easily defined.

Some areas of study might require more interpersonal skills than others, take a doctor's bedside manner, or a social worker's patience for instance, but even these skills don't come close to covering the entire scope of interpersonal skills.

I think the question would be better posed as:

What sort of high-quality, nuanced, and interesting questions do we want?

This site covers a field where there are few if any "true experts," so it's likely better to try to focus on questions that don't necessarily have easy answers. Questions that make you think, that attract answers that make you say "hmm, I hadn't thought about it that way, good point."

Obviously many of our questions and answers will seem like common sense stuff to many of us, and there isn't necessarily anything wrong with that, but we should make a point to dig a little deeper and pose the hard questions too.


Expert questions could cover interaction and communication questions in the following domains:

  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
    • Developing strategies and plans for managing disorders such as Tourette's, ADHD, ...
    • Strategies and guidelines for relating to people with Autism Spectrum Disorders
    • Strategies for developing social skills as someone on the Autism Spectrum
  • Personality disorders
    • Warning signs that someone could have a personality disorder such as antisocial or narcissistic personality disorder
    • Advice for managing and/or escaping relationships with those having personality disorders
  • Mood disorders
    • Strategies and methods, including techniques such as CBT, with caveats that the internet is no substitute for seeing your GP (probably that caveat really belongs with all of these though)
  • Cross-cultural
    • How to manage cross cultural stress/shock
    • Questions on crossing between specific cultures
  • This all seems like subjectmatter more appropriate for the psychology site, though I'm not familiar with their scope.
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 15:30
  • @Catija I don't think so. The questions are still questions about interpersonal skills. Expertise in these domains would obviously be helpful. Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 15:56

To be honest, I can't actually picture this site being filled with expert quality questions. This works well for a bunch of other sites, but less so for social skills given the lack of clear experts. I'd suggest trying to identify categories of low quality questions instead so that they can be removed.

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