The current post notices don't really meet the need for addressing the problems of answers that don't meet our "back it up" policy here.

Having such a notice would make it much more likely that I'd use a post notice in this case. It also saves us from having to write comments on all of these posts and the posts with notices are easily searchable so we can check in on them more easily than posts with comments.

The current best candidate for this is the "Citation Needed" post notice.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

I suppose the "insufficient explanation" one isn't too bad, either...

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

But both of these specifically call for "citations" and say nothing about personal experience. As such, I'm not a huge fan of using them on posts here because they don't really do the job.

Could we please have post notice that explains our policy for supporting answers?

I'm pretty blatantly cribbing from the Workplace here:

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.

When I suggest a post notice that reads something like:

This site requires that answers be backed up with either a reference or personal experience. Explain why your answer is correct, even if you think it's obvious. Answers that don't back themselves up may be removed.

Feel free to improve the wording in comments or answers. If a link can be added to the post notice, we should link to one of our discussions on meta if there's a "best" one. I'm personally fond of my answer here.

  • 3
    My hope is that seeing such a post notice on the main site will help users who are reviewing posts in the LQP queue realize that these answers don't meet the site's policy and are candidates for deletion.
    – Catija
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 22:24
  • I would say "personal experience" so that we avoid implying that e.g. things that have happened to someone's spouse aren't allowed.
    – Cascabel
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 22:59
  • 5
    @Cascabel Updated. I also added "Even if you think it's obvious" as I find we get a lot of pushback when we ask for this that's essentially "if you don't understand why this works, you're an idiot".
    – Catija
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 23:03
  • The other way to avoid pushback is to try to be helpful when it's something that's honestly pretty obvious. Maybe we can't always just edit, but we can at least use a comment to suggest a specific addition. "Can you explain why you think this is a good idea?" can come across as needlessly quizzing the author in some cases.
    – Cascabel
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 0:53
  • 1
    I must ask, if you're so sure that an answer merits deletion that you'd slap a notice on it to try and get reviewers to vote this way, what's stopping you from hitting that button yourself? @Catija
    – Magisch
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 6:25
  • 2
    @user5389107 One of the things we have to keep in mind is that if moderators start deleting everything, we're also the ones that have to undelete everything. A post vetted and deleted by the community can be edited and undeleted with much less trouble. It also doesn't put all the power about 'what's sufficiently backed up' in mods hands.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 7:10
  • 4
    @user5389107 The post notice would be useful in cases where it's not as obvious and also to give people some chance to fix the problems without deletion. There's no urgency for deletion of low-quality answers and a notice might deter people from writing similar unsupported answers themselves.
    – Catija
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 11:27
  • fair enough I guess
    – Magisch
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 11:28
  • Is there a character limit for post notices? I like the one you propose, but I feel it should have a link to meta, maybe? We have an answer on meta already that gives some insight into how to include personal experience in answers, for example
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 8:30
  • @Tinkeringbell Last paragraph? I'm not sure about a character limit.
    – Catija
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 11:35
  • How did I miss that? Sorry. Yeah, that link seems okay. It links to the answer by Hamlet I had in mind too :)
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 11:39
  • 1
    Has there been any progress on this, or is this likely to be one of those 6-8 weeks sorta things?
    – apaul
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 1:17
  • Another reason: as a regular user, it's extremely frustrating to leave comments on not-backed-up posts, as we are currently instructed to do, and then get attacked for it.. but if I don't comment, reviewers might not understand the flag, users don't know why their answer got deleted. A post notice would solve all of these problems quite nicely.
    – Em C
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 19:53

2 Answers 2


I do like this wording:

This site requires that answers be backed up with either a reference or personal experience. Explain why your answer is correct, even if you think it's obvious. Answers that don't back themselves up may be removed.

That said, I think this is getting ahead of the game. And, that's probably my fault.

A couple of weeks ago, I proposed a strategy for handling these answers:

So here's what I'd propose as a strategy for everyone using the site:

  1. See an answer that's unsubstantiated
  2. Post a comment to the effect of,

...aaand that's where I made a big mistake: step #2 is really important. Step #2 is where you point out what's lacking in the answer, offer guidance to the author on how to fix it, provide a path for learning and growth to someone who is probably participating in good faith but simply doesn't realize that they could be doing better. Step #2 is where we learn how different people communicate regarding what it is we're looking for here; step #2 is the launchpad for the dozen or so meta discussions made regarding specific answers that teach us how to convey this information in a way that works.

But I got in a hurry, and instead of spelling all that out I just posted a quick and dirty example of what form such guidance might take. I tried to make it blatantly ridiculous...

we here at Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange Q&A Site and DIY Dance Hall are a bit strict about this

...but I don't think that really came across; some jackass has been running around posting it verbatim. And here are the other comments that've been used repeatedly for this purpose:

  • Can you please support your answer with experience or references? https://interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2994/59

  • Can you back up this answer with personal experience or references?

  • We actually have a back-it-up policy on this site. Can you please support your answer with experience or references?

  • Welcome to Interpersonal Skills. Please take a moment to visit the [help] and take the [tour]. We expect answers to be more substantial than just saying "do this." Could you [edit] this to provide an explanation for why you think this will address the OP's concerns?

  • We expect answers here to be more than "try this!" Do you have any personal experience or references to back up this answer? Can you explain why you think this will be effective, given the OP's history with this person?

...that first one has been used 8 times. THREE of these just link to my proposal for a process - as though to say, "I have no idea what to write here, but some guy told me to write something".

Meanwhile, there are a bunch of very, very abstract discussions here on meta debating the pros and cons of deleting answers that aren't backed up, with everyone making assumptions about what's being talked about. Bad assumptions. Assumptions that assume the worst about authors, about flaggers, about moderators and about anyone who is proposing a change to the status quo. This isn't helpful.

This isn't a criticism of your post notice idea

I think y'all will need that post notice. And your proposed wording might be just the ticket. But... First we have to build support for using it. We need folks who can provide much more specific guidance than what a post notice can offer. We need discussions here on meta to train folks on what, specifically, to look for and how to handle it gracefully when they find it.

So let's work on that first, and revisit this idea in a month or two.

  • I thought the boilerplate nature of these comments was preferable... Seemed less likely to devolve into debate if we just pointed users to the policy discussion rather than making more personalized comments that could be taken more personally. But then again, I'm a jackass, so I'm probably wrong.
    – apaul
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 1:44
  • 3
    Linking to your answer was more of a way to say "look, this is official community policy, see here to understand why this is happening". It also talks about users raising flags as the appropriate action which I hoped would help reviewers review correctly. And the question has lots of links to other relevant discussion. So yeah, I actually did think about it, and it seemed like a reasonable place to direct people looking for more guidance.
    – Em C
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 1:51
  • I completely understand, @EmC - again, this was my fault; I glossed over the intent of the step and provided insufficient guidance; I got in a hurry, and I've paid for that in spades since - hopefully it's not too late to correct.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 1:54
  • 3
    @apaul: Nobody actually reads boilerplate, if it's obviously boilerplate. I imagine the eventual end state would be something like this (e.g. in somewhere-else.chat.SE): Alice: "So I posted an answer to IPS, and somebody copy/pasted that annoying 'back it up' comment again." Bob: "They do that on everybody's answers. Just ignore it unless you get downvotes. It's not like Skeptics where they actually vote on citations."
    – Kevin
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 5:39

A short one I had tried for a while with autoreviewcomments userscript. Has a lot of room for improvement. Feel free to copy or edit this.

We're looking for answers that provide some explanation and context. Answers that don't include an explanation may be removed.

"Explanation and context" here links to the following meta:
What do we expect from an answer on Interpersonal Skills?

If we can polish that meta, this short one could work nicely. Or if there's a better meta link specific to this, then that would be better.

  • I worry that the brevity of this leaves out all of the actual valuable details we want to convey and forces the user to go to a link to actually understand what we're asking. Can you explain why "explanation and context" is sufficient? Right now this is pretty much identical to the one we already have (the insufficient explanation one)... just with less information.
    – Catija
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 19:21
  • @Catija Agreed.This might be too short.
    – NVZ
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 9:58

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