We are a site that is largely subjective. This, on its own, goes counter to the SE model requiring objective content. As such, we must strive to make our subjective content as objective as we can by holding these questions and answers to an extremely high standard. Everyone has an opinion for how to fix a certain interpersonal situation. We don't want opinions. We are not a discussion board/forum/help site.
So, to help in that, we should rely on the guidance that Stack Exchange gives us regarding subjective content and on the users (particularly the moderators) and policies of sites that have already gone through this set of issues like The Workplace and Parenting.
How does SE guide us?
Firstly, we should look to the (old but still valid) Stack Exchange Blog post "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective".
Thus, questions that are not answerable — discussions, debates, opinions — should be closed as subjective. It seems simple enough: Fact good; opinion and discussion bad. But why?
Most forums and chat rooms have a scale problem. As in, they don’t. The more people that join the discussion, the more noise each of those connections bring. So the forums get progressively noisier and noisier, and suddenly one day … you stop learning.
This shows us the heart of the issue. When everyone is just posting what they think someone should do in a situation, we end up with dozens of less-than-helpful answers that aren't much use to the person who asked the question. Remember, the users of SE expect good content that's supported with evidence. Giving them anything less than that breaks the social contract of SE and leaves this site open to removal by the Powers That Be.
The folks at Moms4mom owned up to the subjective issue and came up with a set of principles to create useful subjective discussions on parenting: the Back It Up! Principle. Back It Up! means that your answers must be based on either:
- Something that happened to you personally
- Something you can back up with a reference
They talk about how “opinion, by itself, is noise.” They’re not saying that subjective opinions are to be avoided; they’re attempting to mold and shape their inherently subjective Q&A; into something constructive, informative and helpful.
Please take careful note of this Post and read the rest of it. I don't want to reproduce the entire thing here but we need to follow this guidance. If we do not, the site will likely be closed down. There haven't been any sites closed recently (that I know of) for subjective content but a few sites have been at risk of it or were outright closed in the past. We can not hope to keep this site around if we allow unfounded content to rule here. I will duplicate the six bullet points regarding how to write a good subjective question and what should be expected in an answer:
- Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.
- Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers.
- Great subjective questions have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.
- Great subjective questions invite sharing experiences over opinions.
- Great subjective questions insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.
- Great subjective questions are more than just mindless social fun.
Just this morning I received an email from SE about this beta (It was sent to users who appear on the leaderboard). It talks about how it's time for us all to focus on the rough edges of a site and shaping it into the site we want it to be:
By now you've probably noticed some rough edges to the site: questions that don't seem to fit, tags that are lacking or ambiguous, answers that launch tangential discussions... Well, Stack Exchange sites are defined and run by their users, and we've put together some tools to help you discuss and refine your site:
While "The 7 Essential Meta Questions of Every Beta" is a bit out of date, we're working on the important questions mentioned there. The other tools are this site (IPS Meta) and Chat - where you've already mentioned your concerns about this. The last part of the email gives the directive:
- Vote up useful posts, and vote down poorly researched ones.
- Edit questions and answers that are badly worded or formatted to improve them.
- Close questions that are unclear or off-topic.
- Flag anything that's spam, off-topic, contentious, or just needs special attention... one of the moderators will check into it right away.
How do our sister sites help?
Our fellow subjective content sites are a great place to glean advice on what to do and (occasionally) what not to do. The posts on their metas are a resource to us. Here's a question on Workplace Meta from when they were in the same position we are now:
Do we have a Quality control issue?
We have a few questions that while not off topic I do not think are high quality questions as asked but have been upvoted:
These questions are broad and generic enough that they hit alot of peoples buttons. But I think they are too general to be good questions. They get up votes because people can relate not because they are good questions.
We have great participation and the one question that was clearly a rant as a question was closed off quickly. But these questions being voted up during private beta scream "DANGER WILL ROBINSON" to me.
Community Manager Robert Cartaino answered it.
My biggest concern for this site is that these overly-broad "how can I be more awesome?" questions will become the mainstay of this site. It's not that they're inherently off-topic — but you don't stand a chance at making the Internet a better place by asking generalized, generic questions that have been asked 100's of times on every other site on the topic… and the trite, hackneyed answers they attract aren't going to be all that interesting, either. [ . . . ]
The remediation is to stay vigilant. Guard jealously the core purpose of this site. If a question can be improved, improve it. If you have concerns, leave a comment or start a meta post. If a question is not a good fit, close it.
But don't be rude or overly curt. You can be a bit more strict early in the beta, because these earliest days are more about setting the right path than getting everyone's questions answered. But take every opportunity you have to discuss why you took an action or feel a post or behavior might need consideration. Leave lots of signposts to help guide users who might not "get" what this site is about.
What does it all mean?
So, I think we need to do two things and we need to do them extremely well, particularly right now.
We must require questions to be about extremely narrow, specific issues.
These issues should be related directly to a type of relationship, country and be centered around a specific example interaction that needs to be addressed. If they do not, the questions must be closed until they do.
We must require answers that address the specific question asked directly and these answers must be supported with either personal experience or a reference.
Answers that do not meet this requirement should be either downvoted, commented on for improvement, or outright deleted. Once we have moderators, they can use post notices to request improvement.
Failure, particularly at the outset, to protect this site and the core of what is on topic will put us at risk for being extremely low-quality and possibly removed entirely. We are fighting for survival.