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Please, do not take me wrong. I am truly curious about this, and by no mean I am implying that this site should not exist or that it is less valid or useful or etc.

I am a user in many other sites, and it amazes me the type of questions this site has (I normally see them in the Hot Network Questions). They are questions that in my opinion in most of the other sites would be closed as primarily opinion-based. A lot of questions seem to be people asking for advice on particular issues. Are these then perfectly on-topic? What would be the criteria to define a primarily opinion-based question? The information when flagging questions as such state:

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

But how it is possible to answer, for example, this question without being "almost entirely based on opinions"?

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  • I know. We are trying to develop a suitable and clearly defined scope. The site is taking baby steps.. – NVZ Aug 14 '17 at 15:18
  • 1
    We generally recommend waiting to accept answers until the community has had a chance to weigh in. – Catija Aug 15 '17 at 1:14
  • Computer science is a science: there are correct and incorrect answers. Human relations is quite a bit squishier, and there is no right answer to most of the questions here. So how would you adjudicate this? – Curt Aug 15 '17 at 1:38
  • @Curt To start with, remove the rule that means we are expected to! Read The Tour if you haven't already: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/tour and note the section about "Get answers to practical, detailed questions". It's not that we don't want squishy questions, it's that the rules don't allow them. The rules should change, not the topics. – RyanfaeScotland Nov 2 '17 at 0:27
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Yes, this site allows more opinion than many of Stack Exchange's more technical sites.

By the nature of the subject matter, the questions on this site often don't have a single verifiably correct answer. That's just the nature of interpersonal skills...

This isn't entirely new territory for Stack Exchange though. There are several other sites in the network that have had to deal with living in the gray area. See:

https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com

https://workplace.stackexchange.com/

https://parenting.stackexchange.com/

These are just a few examples, each of them have had to find their own way of handling more opinion based questions and answers.

We're still working on this issue here, but I think we're making some slow progress.

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TL;DR: Yes... Yes it is. But our questions and answers are based on supported experience, so that we don't become a low-quality dustbin.

First off, Welcome!

You are right in that our site is basically a place for opinion-based questions. As it is, talking to people is just a subjective art. There's seldom any verifiable answer that will work for everyone. Then add the fact that each individual has their own experiences and views on the world around them, and you end up with a bit of a mess.

The issue then boils down to How can you turn a subjective topic to have as many objective posts as possible?

The answer? You enforce a specific quality standard.

The existence of a quality standard is absolutely vital to the health of the site. Subjective topics break the model a little bit - the community votes on answers that are supported with references, that are verifiably correct, and that work. With the topic of this site, our references are our experiences, we can't always tell if an answer will work, and we may not even know if it's appropriate for the situation the asker is facing.

So, we require that questions include all the information that is relevant to the situation. Where are you from? What cultures are the people in your situation a part of? Is it family? Friends? Acquaintances? What about faiths and languages? Liberal or conservative tendencies? Chances are, if you want to have a good question that will receive good answers, you need to include this information in the question. There has been opposition to including this, with arguments along the lines of "we have global norms!" and the "world is connected and nearly the same" which has been thoroughly debunked numerous times on the site. But so far, I would say we've been doing decently okay.

Next up is answers. For an answer to be high quality, you need to show why your answer will work for the situation that the asker is facing. Have you had this problem before? Are you equipped to answer this because you are familiar with the cultural norms of the situation? You can't say "Well, if this happened, I would do this."

Then the other issue is that people will often vote on answers that they plainly agree with, or that seem logical, not because they can say "I can vouch that this works!" This is a phenomenon that I've personally witnessed a few times on the site. Then a tendency to answer with "westernized" answers - which I don't blame people for, since our demographic undoubtedly leans to English-speaking countries. On the answers side of things, we still have a lot to work on.

But otherwise, to answer your basic question, we are a place for "opinion" based questions. It's just that they have to be supported.


Related Reading:

References:

Culturally-Aware Answers:

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  • "But otherwise, to answer your basic question, we are a place for "opinion" based questions." -- totally right, which is why it's ironic that my 2nd question was closed as 'primarily opinion based' (although only after it had collected enough good answers to deliver a clear near-unanimous verdict that was not reflective of contrasting opinions) -- so I recommend that 'primarily opinion based' should not be retained as a reason to close a question on Interpersonal.SE; you can find another plausible reason for closing a question. – English Student Aug 14 '17 at 20:12
  • @EnglishStudent We can't really get rid of the default close reasons. Also, some questions will still be POB. There is such a thing as too opinion based. – Catija Aug 14 '17 at 20:28
  • Well, use it sparingly to avoid contradiction, is all I can say, @Catija. – English Student Aug 14 '17 at 20:33
3

As a computer scientist that took courses in psychology I love this site! Also, there is a trend of people that are too technical/logical thinking that need help with social interactions.

I have been coding long enough to learn that there really isn't one perfect answer, or solution.

This is because:

  1. The problems are ever so slightly different;
  2. Different tools/solutions can have multiple benefits and detriments.

The difference with this site is there may be much fewer questions than stackexchange/code questions. But, there will be many more rich answers. The selected answer may not be the best for your own personal situation because your problem is ever so slightly different. However, I think we (as people) always benefit from learning about social interactions and human behavior.

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It's totally possible to find external sources on most topics

I usually link to Psychology Today or news articles reporting psychological studies, when possible.

I think that we should encourage people to find support for their claims There's a million social skills websites, psychology websites, anthropology sites, etc. There's generally not a good excuse for at least providing a link to a related topic.

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  • If it's a factual claim, then yes I support you. But otherwise, experience is experience - not something that a citation would give credibility to. – Zizouz212 Aug 18 '17 at 21:33
  • Very true. Given the amount of people on the internet, there's a good chance that there's someone out there who has done more research / writing on the same claim your making. My though was that if you're claiming something ridiculous like "all tall people are jerks" you're going to have a hard time finding an article on that. If you're saying something like "girls like playing with dolls" there will probably be a study on children's gender-related play toys and whatnot. Not all the time, you're right. – user2191 Aug 21 '17 at 14:37

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