1

Would it be appropriate for a querent to ask for answers from other users with similar backgrounds? Or to ask for answers from a specific set of users?

Like:

I would prefer answers from a woman/man's perspective.

Looking for answers from people who've actually done this thing personally.

While I value different perspectives, I'd rather have answers from other LGBT+ folks.

Please don't answer if you've never raised children.

I realize that there's a few gotchas in this. We can't verify that people are who they say they are online. We should probably be careful in how these requests are worded. And so on...

But it seems like some questions are much better served by answers from people who've actually lived through the experience being asked about. And sometimes those answers, get buried in a heap of popular, but not useful or informed answers, particularly on questions asked from a minority perspective.

I'm not thinking about being punitive about it, not necessarily deleting answers that don't come from the perspective asked for, at this point.

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    Related past discussions on backgrounds (mostly culture): interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1396/1599, interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1255/1599, interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/q/4/1599, interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/q/230/1599 and interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1315/1599 as well as probably all those questions/answers about backing up your answer. That said, if this trick will work in getting answers to be actually backed up... I've seen how helpful answers written from a certain perspective can be :) – Tinkeringbell May 10 '18 at 17:42
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    Based on comments on the chat room, I'm deleting my answer and I apologise for it and any harm it has caused. Based on the example edited into main, you're describing a scenario (initial benefit of doubt, escalating to prepared, defensible points in response to a specific threshold, yet still followed by doubling down from the other side) quite different to the one my circle exposes me to more typically (snap observation of an event in the moment and identification with an established problem, typically well formed, sometimes consciously speculative, occasionally unconsciously so). .... – DeveloperInDevelopment May 11 '18 at 22:59
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    .... I am sorry that your approach doesn't meet with better success. Again I apologise for any offense caused - in my experience, people rarely object to having their snap judgments queried, right or wrong, but I can see how upsetting and harmful it must be to routinely have well considered, prepared positions dismissed in this way. I do not condone this, and I'm sorry if my posts suggested that I do. – DeveloperInDevelopment May 11 '18 at 23:14
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    @DeveloperInDevelopment Thanks, it's nice to see someone reevaluate the situation. – apaul May 12 '18 at 22:20
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I think there are two sides to this proposal:

  • Asking for answers from members of Group X
  • Asking people not in Group X to refrain from answering

For the first one, I say yes! Full steam ahead. If you ask a question where it's important to have a woman's point of view, then obviously you'd want answers from women who have been in the same situation. I don't see anything wrong with saying something like

I would appreciate answers from women who have had the same sort of problem as me and solved it.

I'm less keen on the second side. Just because a potential answerer isn't a woman doesn't mean they don't have something that could be useful. For instance, if you're asking about a situation involving an interaction between a man and a woman where gender is important, hey, maybe a man who's been in that situation could talk about what actions best resolved the problem.

Yeah, if a person isn't in Group X, it might be harder for them to give good advice. But it definitely doesn't mean that an answer they write is going to be bad or not useful.

6

Asking for answers only from members of group X (presumably, your group or a sympathetic group) is usually what you want if you're looking for opinions that reinforce your own.

This site isn't about opinions. This site is about questions and supported answers. It doesn't matter who the answerer is, if that person can provide the information the asker is looking for. That person might be a professional who can draw on actual research, a family member of someone in your target group who's observed solutions to your problem, a well-read and thoughtful amateur, or even another (insert group here) who's been through what you're dealing with. Any of those people could write an answer that enriches this site.

And, of course, any of them -- including that other member of (insert group here), who you want to limit answers to -- can also make this site just a bit noisier, uglier, or less useful by spouting personal opinions unsupported by anything we can evaluate. If you're here to get answers rather than support and reinforcement, you should care about that.

If you want support and reinforcement, there are better places both on and off the network to get it -- chat (on) and discussion forums (off).

  • "can also make this site just a bit noisier, uglier, or less useful by spouting personal opinions unsupported by anything we can evaluate." – apaul May 11 '18 at 18:20
  • Perhaps I wasn't very clear... I'm trying to avoid answers from people who don't know that they don't know, and subsequently seeing those answers rise to the top, because most people don't know that they don't know... And admittedly a lot of these answers fall into being a bit rude, sometimes blatantly enough to flag for removal, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, often times they're on just this side of the line. And all I can do is hope that I'm not just losing my mind, and that hopefully some people don't think that's ok. – apaul May 12 '18 at 3:51
  • @apaul perhaps I wasn't clear. Being a member of a particular group does not, by itself, grant knowledge. Being a non-member of a particular group does not mean the person doesn't know (or doesn't know he doesn't know). If things are rude or don't answer the question, flag and downvote. If you think someone is unintentionally doing something problematic, guide the person if you're up for it or just downvote and walk away. – Monica Cellio May 13 '18 at 2:21
  • Ya, the usual steps don't seem to be working... But apparently people are fine with it. The tone deaf inherit the site, what's the worst that could happen... – apaul May 13 '18 at 2:33
  • Perhaps I'm grasping at straws, this may not be the best way to address the situation. Just been noticing that majority rule doesn't work well for the minority folks a good portion of the time. – apaul May 13 '18 at 2:43
5

I don't think so. We want to be inclusive at this site, we don't want to have anyone feel as if they're being left out. We don't want to open up that can of worms, because if we did then ALL of these qualifiers would have to be accepted.

  • Hi, I need advice from straight people only
  • Hi, I need advice from white men only
  • Hi, I need advice from Muslims only (No Jews)

More trouble than it's worth, IMO.

Plus, there's the simple fact that people outside of a given group can provide perspective that one might not think of within the group. the invention of surgical glue by a nurse who saw the suffering of post-op patients, and the theory of plate tectonics first proposed by a cartographer, not a geologist. are two examples of how such perspectives can contribute.

From an IPS perspective. If those of us on the Autism spectrum only sought information on IPS from other autistics, then to say we would be limiting ourselves would be an understatement.

We want to serve as many people as possible and not fracture ourselves into various microcosms of group identity and throw ourselves into echo chambers of limited input and less insight.

5

Asking for personal experience is generally okay, and accepted, from what I've seen.

Intent is somewhat important, too. Wanting personal experience is okay, but asking that answers come from a specific source is not.

If we let questions discriminate on answers based on the user, we lose the objectivity that Stack Exchange was built for.

Importantly, by allowing this, we would be allowing a slippery slope.

For example:

Please don't answer if you've never raised children.

.... might be seen as acceptable (though highly ignorant. There are many childcare and development professionals who don't have children.)

However, who's to stop someone from saying:

Please don't answer if you're Muslim.

Which is totally unacceptable.

The situation in which it creates is one where our Moderators are now assigned with an additional duty to make a judgement on "what kind of discrimination is acceptable and what's not".

Also, if your question is that subjective, it's probably not a question about interpersonal skills, but rather general advice, "what should I do", etc

I would challenge, in fact, that there isn't a single question about IPS that couldn't be adequately answered by someone without any personal experience in the matter (assuming they are knowledgeable enough). Interpersonal Communication is agnostic.

Subjective answers are fine, but the subjectivity should be supporting details. The answer itself should normally strive for objectivity.

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    You seem to be suggesting that questions on IPS can be answered without experience... If you don't have experience, what do you back up your answer with? Because if you take that out, wouldn't people just be giving their opinions on the matter? And if questions can be answered with just opinions, they're just primarily opinion based according to your answer? What do you consider supporting details, if not relatable experience? – Tinkeringbell May 10 '18 at 20:22
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    Subjectivity isn't really the same thing as being prone to unhelpful answers from people who don't know what they don't know. To put it another way, that "assuming they are knowledgeable enough" caveat is a pretty big one; sure, it's true, someone could know enough without personal experience, but the fact that a lot of people don't (but think they do) doesn't mean there's something wrong with the question. – Cascabel May 10 '18 at 20:42
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    @Tinkeringbell Knowledge, of course. Interpersonal Communication is taught. It's taught online (here), it's taught in school, etc, etc. For example, if someone in your life asks a question you saw on IPS, would you be unable to answer it using the knowledge you gained from here? Interpersonal Skills are not opinions nor experiences. To reiterate, it's easily possible to be an expert in child development and give advice on raising a child using that knowledge, even though you've never actually done it. – Clay07g May 10 '18 at 21:16
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    @Cascabel Not necessarily, and you're right, which is exactly why we can't just say "don't answer if you're [X]". We have no idea what people know, so why would we allow questions to make that assumption? Every question ever asked is prone to answers from people who don't know what they don't know. It doesn't mean you should make assumptions on who doesn't know what. – Clay07g May 10 '18 at 21:20
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    I am not questioning whether someone without direct personal experience can have the knowledge to answer a question. I'm saying that your bolded bit toward the end equates all this with subjectivity, and I don't think that's a particularly helpful perspective. – Cascabel May 10 '18 at 21:24
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    I am still not getting it. Where does your knowledge come from, if not from experience? Books? I'm pretty sure sure we do allow mentioning sources as back up as well, but I'm still getting the impression that's not what you mean by knowledge and that you're still advocating just putting your opinion out there, masked as common sense or knowledge... – Tinkeringbell May 11 '18 at 7:16
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    @Tinkeringbell Books, school, classes, scholarly articles. I would highly suggest not posting an opinion without backup. The information has to at least be plausibly verifiable. The techniques we suggest for thing such as conflict aversion for example are often rooted in human psychology. Yes, a psychologist and a normal person can both reach the same conclusion, but maybe in different ways. The normal person has seen what works best, the psychologist knows enough about human conflict to determine what will work best. – Clay07g May 11 '18 at 14:44
4

The fundamental problem is more that people answer without actually knowing what they're talking about, not that they're not part of the group in question. (Of course the two are related.)

I would say that it's fine to ask people to back things up with experience (or solid citations of others' experience, etc), and really we shouldn't even have to. That's just part of Good Subjective answers. This strikes me as a rule we could more realistically apply than directly limiting who can answer.

I'm also happy if an ally writes a good answer on behalf of others. Putting in some emotional labor is one of the most valuable things an ally can do! So I'd rather we not pass up on that opportunity.

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    Ally? who are we fighting? – The Wraith May 10 '18 at 19:27
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    @RichardU "Ally" has nothing to do with fighting. It's a term for someone who is not part of a group, but actively supports them. I believe it originated in an LGBT context, but it is used more broadly. – Cascabel May 10 '18 at 19:35
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    Sounds way too militaristic for me 1. a state formally cooperating with another for a military or other purpose, typically by treaty. – The Wraith May 10 '18 at 19:37
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    Well, okay, but it's the term that's in common use. I don't really think this is the place to debate whether the best possible term was settled on. – Cascabel May 10 '18 at 19:38
4

Is the purpose of this question to prevent people with certain "biases" from answering certain questions? Because I feel like allowing people to ask for answers only from like minded people would cause even more division on this stack rather than the unity SE is looking for right now.

Other views can help us challenge our own thinking and look at problems in ways we might not have thought about which I think is a better thing than just having our own views reinforced repeatedly. Also if we allow questions to only be answered by minorities or people of a certain group than we have to allow questions to be answered only by majorities or people of a certain group.

I feel this is highly counter productive to the whole "Be Welcoming" push that is happening right now.

Besides if an answer to a question is not a good answer for that specific question than it should in theory be voted down and taken care of by the community regardless of who posted it anyway.

  • Theory and practice are often far removed. – apaul May 10 '18 at 20:54
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    @apaul True but I think the Mods do a pretty good job of keeping overtly bad content off of here. And our community is pretty quick at shutting down rude answers regardless of the user. Also believe me when I say that I am not trying to be argumentative here but sometimes a good answer can be an answer that you disagree with. Even if it doesn't help the OP per se it might help another user with that question. I think rather than trying to ban people based on something they can't necessarily help it would be better to just dv the answers you disagree with and post your own with.. – user15922 May 10 '18 at 21:02
  • your own "more relevant" experience. – user15922 May 10 '18 at 21:03
  • @IceC Sort of philosophical question: What happens when some group that's a majority on SE votes up the answers that make sense for that group, but not for the person asking the question? I guess that the OP can accept the best answer, but it might be discouraging if the other good answers from that perspective aren't recognized. (E.g. if the question is, "How do I make a website in MS Word, because I don't know compuers much?" and all the tech-savvy people here say, "You should actually be using HTML, CSS, and Java.") – cactus_pardner May 10 '18 at 22:15
  • @cactus_pardner But what's irking apaul is not that noone is answering his question from his perspective, it's that there are highly-voted answers answering it from another perspective. – sgf May 11 '18 at 3:12
  • @sgf Hmm... you're right about that. The main harm I see there is if many of the highly-voted answers involve questioning the premise of the question, because the majority (of posters) rarely encounter that premise in real life, yet the minority does. (That explanation--inexperience--assumes the most goodwill.) I feel like the (repeated) premise-questioning/reframing suggested by majority members is the part of this situation that causes the most grief/tension/conflict. – cactus_pardner May 11 '18 at 8:22
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    @cactus_pardner I can see your point. I think it is good to have our frame of mind challenged respectfully from time to time though. If the OP doesn't agree with the frame challenge then there is nothing preventing them from ignoring those answers that they don't agree with. OP can just wait until an answer they do agree with comes along and give that answer the checkmark which usually gives that answer some more upvotes. – user15922 May 11 '18 at 13:15
4

How about... "Only answers from people who demonstrably know how to solve this specific problem"

Best part is, you could apply it to any question without having to segregate the site beyond what can be represented in tags.

Granted, you'd miss out on answers from all the folks who have no idea what they're talking about.

  • I was trying to be gentle with the wording of the question. Should I have been more direct? – apaul May 10 '18 at 20:57
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    This is part of what the encouragement (rule?) to back up your answer is about. – Magisch May 10 '18 at 21:00
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    This should be implicit in every question on the site... the difficulty we have is in deciding when an answer shows that they have that knowledge... – Catija May 10 '18 at 21:18
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    You're trying to substitute group membership for knowledge, @apaul. Like saying that only employed programmers can answer questions on Stack Overflow, or members of a church can answer questions on Christianity. That's not gentle or accurate. – Shog9 May 10 '18 at 21:40
  • Not so much about group membership, as it is about people outside of the group often answering in a way that's not great. There's been a good chat about that today, may be worth checking out. – apaul May 10 '18 at 22:26
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    You're looking for a proxy rather than the real thing. It's like when a website wants to measure the growth of their audience, but collecting and analyzing data on how folks use the site is hard and time-consuming so they just publish signup numbers instead. It's not what you actually need, it's just the closest thing that's easy to get. The problem is, folks tend to forget why they're using a proxy, and start assigning magical qualities to their simple metric: of course professionals are better programmers, that's self-evident right? Next thing you know, you're asking for credentials. – Shog9 May 10 '18 at 22:30
  • To tie this together a bit: yes, this proposal was definitely an imperfect proxy for "know what you're talking about." However, as Catija said, the actual goal is really hard to evaluate. People are quite happy to write (unknowingly) uninformed answers full of all kinds of "justification", and flaggers and mods are in the unenviable position of having to try to evaluate who is and isn't actually demonstrating knowledge. So how do we actually implement your suggestion? – Cascabel May 10 '18 at 22:34
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    This isn't a new problem @Cascabel. It's just extremely tedious to enforce. But there's no magic bullet; if you want questions that attract unsubstantiated opinions, you have to be willing to quash those opinions. – Shog9 May 10 '18 at 22:39
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    Y'all have been discussing this in chat for nearly a year now, @apaul. Nothing has changed; there's only one way out of this box, but no one's in a hurry because you, me & everyone else loves to share our own opinions on stuff. But... The longer y'all wait, the deeper the cut will be. – Shog9 May 10 '18 at 22:43
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    Thanks for your cavernously deep insight. – apaul May 10 '18 at 22:44
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    Last week you were on MSE begging us to apply one specific set of cultural assumptions to everyone on the entire network, @apaul. Now you're here trying to limit the reach of others' assumptions on your own question. Doesn't feel good to have your experiences invalidated by someone who hasn't had to deal with 'em but thinks they know better, eh? But we can't have two standards here. The folks answering your question with their southern-orifice-sourced opinions are riding on the same policy that you'd hope to ride when dictating a solution to someone from a culture that is not your own. – Shog9 May 10 '18 at 22:48
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    So the "be nice" policy is culturally subjective? You're comparing apples and poverty. While they both may keep the doctor away, they're very different things. – apaul May 10 '18 at 22:51
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    "Be nice" applies to what people do here, @apaul. That's all we have any say over. If you very politely give someone advice that gets them ostracized, beaten or worse when they try to apply it, then it made us feel better at the cost to the person with the problem. So yes: it's a hard problem because no one, not a single person here, is going to feel comfortable applying a "actually knows how to solve it" policy to every question. There will always be questions that we'd secretly or not-so-secretly hope don't get solved because then we can pretend it wasn't real. – Shog9 May 10 '18 at 22:55
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    @Shog9 Yes, I even referenced Good Subjective in my answer. What I'm angling for is, even if there's no single magic bullet, some advice about approaches would probably help given that the mods seem currently pretty unsure what they can quash, and this is often about highly upvoted answers that seem plausibly informed, and the author believes they are. – Cascabel May 11 '18 at 0:11
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    I look for a "why", @Cascabel. A lot of answers don't even have that, but the ones that do often amount to... "Because I think people work this way". If there's no anchor to that - the author's own experience, the relevant experience of someone else - then it's just an opinion, just noise. (There's a really conspicuous example of this on apaul's latest main-site question) – Shog9 May 11 '18 at 0:22

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