As per current enforcement of the back-it-up policy, we require answers to either list references or explain how personal experience is relevant in the answer. This should improve overall quality of the answers, because you can understand the context of how and when this answer applies.

Now, as Interpersonal matters go, some can become quite personal.

For example from the last weeks I recall: sex, divorce, polygamous relationships, father<->son conflict, death of a loved one etc...

Now I see a little conflict here as not everyone who has relevant experience may want to discuss that openly on the internet. On the other hand, answers from a well matching personal experience can be more valuable then some conjured links paired with a random suggestion. So it could be detrimental to the overall quality of answers one gets if we require too much detail to back up exactly which, how and why the answered can relate.

How can we maintain the balance between backup and and privacy?

Edit: First, I have no clear opinion on that topic but rather see a optimization problem I´d like to see some opinions and ideas on.

Second, I´d like to remind that this whole Stack-exchange system is really built around finding that one brilliant answer, not about getting enough answers. So there will always be a trade off to be made between being open to contributions and weeding out the low quality answers by raising the bar for answering in the first place.

How best to shape that trade-off for those especially delicate topics, is what I want to discuss - a problem that most other sites don´t seem to have, because the are just not that personal! Ideas to mitigate that problem entirely are also welcome (like option 2 of @Em C´s answer)

For reference I´ll include a piece of the co-founder: Optimizing For Pearls, Not Sand

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    You seem very opposed to this policy. Are you sure you're asking this in good faith or are you trying to undermine it by attempting to construct controversy against it? – sphennings Jun 7 '18 at 15:17
  • I heard somewhere that questions and answers aren't treated as 'personal data'. Nevermind, I found this that talks about GDPR and this. What people publish here becomes public, only OP's can handle what they want to publish on here. – CaldeiraG Jun 7 '18 at 15:23
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    @sphennings: No I am actually neutral to it any try to back my posts up. This was triggered by the recent post asking a user to provide details about his marriage counseling and cheating incidents, but I recall other questions where I really had to weight answering because I could relate vs not answering because I myself didn´t feel comfortable. – user6109 Jun 7 '18 at 15:24
  • "Just asking" is increasingly looking like trying to stir up controversy. It certainly could be unintentional. If you are acting in good faith it would be a good idea to keep this in mind going forward. – sphennings Jun 7 '18 at 15:44
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    @sphennings: What´s wrong with controversy? Isn´t that what meta is for? For me these are some opposing goals which need to be optimized against one another, and I think it would be better to discuss it here then under a answer on the main site what exactly we want. I certainly getting tired of you publicly accusing me of acting in bad faith - if you don´t think this is a valuable discussion, why are you here? – user6109 Jun 7 '18 at 15:55
  • There's a difference between controversy and stirring up controversy. Meta is the place to have discussions about clarifying site policy. If you are acting in good faith you did everything right. I must admit that I'm somewhat skeptical of this. I definitely could be wrong. I hope that I'm wrong. I am sorry if you felt that I was calling you out for acting in bad faith. – sphennings Jun 7 '18 at 16:09
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    @sphennings Let's be nice and assume good faith. As arguing about Daniel's intentions just causes more arguments/comments that aren't really useful. Good faith or not he brings up an interesting point that people seem to think worth discussing and there have been plenty of other recent meta questions that have been answered that could be assumed to be asked in bad faith that haven't been as interesting. – user15922 Jun 7 '18 at 19:57
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    I expressed a similar concern in a previous post. There may be some users who would like to help an OP but might be put off if they have to divulge too much on how their answer derives from a sensitive personal experience. – user8671 Jun 8 '18 at 8:26

There are, of course, basic measures everyone should take to preserve some privacy, if they so desire, such as leaving out unnecessarily specific information and using placeholder names, if you want to. We all also probably protect our privacy in other - maybe automatic at this point? - ways, like using pseudonymous usernames of keeping sensitive information out of profiles.

That said, I don't think it's appropriate to sacrifice quality for the sake of privacy, nor is it okay to avoid a policy merely because someone believes it makes them reveal too much personal information. Nobody should do anything they're uncomfortable with when it comes to personal matters, and of course there's an easy way to keep with this philosophy: don't answer the question at all.

I'm not convinced we're going to have a dearth of answers because . . . well, that's not an issue at the moment. I don't think anyone's been forced to write an answer they don't want to write. For question askers, it's a bit different in that you need to provide enough material, but that's based on something entirely different, not Back It Up. Put simply, the best way to avoid giving up personal information when writing an answer is to not write the answer at all. And hey, maybe someone else will write something similar, and the OP will get the same advice anyway.

To be honest, if we were to allow someone to violate Back It Up in the name of preserving privacy in a given case . . . well, that's a really slippery slope, because everyone wants to preserve different amounts of privacy in different cases, and there's no object way of choosing.

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    In the cases I remember, of the top of my head, no there were not really other quality answers present - not even counting the ones we did not see. I´d urge you not to consider the overall activity on this site, but really those delicate cases. Of course not all experienced-based answers are good answers, and in no way do I want to suggest do skip backup altogether. You provided some useful links and @Em C has provided a good example of balancing backup vs. privacy. – user6109 Jun 7 '18 at 15:50
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    I think that requiring explicit personal experience might well be a cost, and the big takeaway for me is that we should remember that "back it up" doesn't mean "tell us you've lived through exactly this". On a question about trans issues, we really would like to hear from people with direct experience or solid references (it's a tough thing to understand well), and that includes trans people who may well not want to out themselves. So if someone writes an answer relying on some general facts, on the experiences of unnamed people they know... that's backing it up. – Cascabel Jun 7 '18 at 18:56
  • @cascabel The problem with that is that everybody has a "friend" who has gone through the same thing and in a lot of IPS situations there are no "facts" as every situation handles differently. There's general assumptions for sure but those are hard to back up under the current semi-inconsistent policy. – user15922 Jun 7 '18 at 20:05
  • Also HDE I am not sure it is wise to sacrifice privacy over quality. If you end up doing that too much you will find there is no quality because none of the thoughtful/concerned users will be here anymore. Just look at how much money and users facebook lost recently once people felt they had lost some of their "privacy". – user15922 Jun 7 '18 at 20:07
  • @IceC We have no way of verifying any experiences whether they are about the experiences of the poster or their friend. – sphennings Jun 7 '18 at 20:11
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    @IceC I'm not saying you should sacrifice privacy for anything; I'm saying you should retain it if you choose by simply not answering. The comparison to Facebook is not a good one; nobody is forced to hand over information here. Posting is voluntary. – HDE 226868 Jun 7 '18 at 20:11
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    @IceC Facebook was sharing people's data without them realizing it.. here it is entirely voluntary and transparent, that's a big difference. – Em C Jun 7 '18 at 20:11
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    @spennings True but then why ask for experience at all if it can't be verified. Anybody can say that they have experience. – user15922 Jun 7 '18 at 20:15
  • @EmC and HDE the facebook example was just to show how easily people are pushed away if they feel they can't have their privacy. If we make users feel like they have to sacrifice privacy or have their answers deleted how can we expect them to stay? – user15922 Jun 7 '18 at 20:16
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    @IceC If they cannot back up their answers they shouldn't be answering the question. They could either cite sources or decide that it's worthwhile to reveal a particular piece of information to back up their answer. No-one is forcing them to answer the question. Remember that the poster is the one who gets to choose what to reveal and how to reveal it, this is an entirely opt in process. – sphennings Jun 7 '18 at 20:20
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    @sphennings My point is how can we use experience to back up anything if it is so easily faked? In other words how can we consider answers that only go by personal experience as being backed up? – user15922 Jun 7 '18 at 20:24
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    @IceC That's a concern that's been raised in the past, and one that makes sense, but I think that that discussion belongs elsewhere, not here. – HDE 226868 Jun 7 '18 at 20:25
  • @HDE226868 I agree. I was mostly just trying to say why should we make users feel like they have to give up any privacy if experience itself isn't a reliable source. I can see how that could start a whole new discussion though so I digress. – user15922 Jun 7 '18 at 20:34
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    @IceC By "facts" I mean things like "being misgendered is unpleasant for trans people" - stuff that is clear enough that we don't really need to ask for further proof. And as for people lying, yeah, that's a pretty separate issue. My general point here is that, within the constraint of needing a sufficient level of support for an answer, we should try to be as flexible as possible about the exact form of that support, so as to permit people to avoid compromising their privacy more than necessary. – Cascabel Jun 7 '18 at 21:36
  • @Cascabel I can understand your point and I agree. My issue though is how much privacy or details do we need to ask someone to give up before we deem their answer backed up enough and is that cost going to be high enough that it starts causing people to lie one way or the other. But again that line of thinking has become a separate issue from this question. – user15922 Jun 7 '18 at 21:51
  1. Users can make an anonymous account or post as guest, so that their personal stories are not linked to their main accounts or identity.

  2. Users can find references to use instead. You could even say "I have some personal experience with this, and I found this blog post / book / forum / whatever to be an accurate depiction. Like Jane Author says, ...".

  3. Users can pass on answering that particular question. Not to be too harsh here, but ... we aren't exactly having an issue with not enough answers per question. If you're uncomfortable talking about an issue on the internet, it's okay to choose to not talk about it.

I've personally run across a few questions of this variety before - there are some things I won't discuss, and yet they still got good quality answers without my help. Other times I've skipped the gory details e.g. saying "I've had mental health issues also" without specifying what exactly, because it wasn't really necessary to answer.

I have strong doubts that we will ever get such a unique question that there are no references available elsewhere on the internet to use and no users willing to share relevant experience.

That said, if you see people pressing users for personal information that is not relevant to the post, I'd flag it and/or (politely) suggest the commenters back off.

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    Other times I've skipped the gory details - the question is, would that be okay under current policy or would we require you to explain further to understand how they relate ... – user6109 Jun 7 '18 at 15:28
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    @Daniel so the post I had in mind there was this one which is pretty recent. I explain the relevant bits of personal experience but nobody has suggested I need to disclose what exactly the issue was. Of course it's my own answer, but I do think that's decently backed up. The one you mention above didn't even suggest that the answerer had any personal experience originally, though. – Em C Jun 7 '18 at 15:32
  • With your second point I feel that if it was that easy to find references walking people through these IPS situations then they would have no reason to ask their questions here. – user15922 Jun 7 '18 at 20:10
  • Also with your third point if we make users feel like they have to provide experience to answer a question and they don't want to provide any details about their own experience then wouldn't that make them feel like they literally can't answer any questions? Also slight comment on your first point. Do most users here still come from stack overflow? Because a lot of users already have their names on their accounts then and stack exchange discourages the idea of having multiple accounts. So creating an anon duplicate account probably isn't best either. – user15922 Jun 7 '18 at 20:14
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    @IceC you might be surprised how few people search first :) Plus I think a lot of IPS questions come about because the asker doesn't know what skills to use, so a big part of answers is identifying those skills (how many questions do we have where the answer is "you need to learn how to set boundaries"?). That can be definitely done with references. I don't know where users come from - my first account was on SO but I made this profile specifically for IPS. AFAIK as long as you don't cross-vote it's perfectly fine to do so. – Em C Jun 7 '18 at 20:19
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    I guess I see it as the price of participating on this stack. We're not a site for soapboxing and moralizing; if you want to post your opinion about how to handle a situation, you need to give some minimum of credibility by either providing personal experience or by putting in the effort to find references. – Em C Jun 7 '18 at 20:21
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    @EmC I cannot tell you how much I agree with that last comment. More than all the reasons why we're implementing this policy, this comment is the message we should be sending to our newer users or those who don't participate in meta. – scohe001 Jun 7 '18 at 20:24
  • @EmC Oh I agree that many users don't bother to search first but a lot of times they aren't looking for what skills I need to learn it's more so how do I handle this particular situation. Which is similar but slightly different and I think that small difference makes references harder to find. Plus I am doubtful about using "experience" as backup too as I stated on the other answer. Also I agree with the majority of your last comment. I am not against backing up answers I just think we need to find a better way to do so without having to add more hurdles for new users to jump through. – user15922 Jun 7 '18 at 20:29
  • @IceC Have you visited many other sites on the network? So many people treat Stack Exchange as a lazy alternative for manuals/wikis/dictionaries/etc! – curiousdannii Jun 8 '18 at 6:13
  • @curiousdannii Oh I agree but on other stack exchange sites those questions are generally not well received because it shows a lack of research in fact it seems most of the stack sites have meta debates about whether they should outright close such questions or just down vote them. Plus in probably most of the cases those types of questions are so poorly written they are closed for other reasons anyway. But I can understand your and Em C's point. – user15922 Jun 8 '18 at 13:21

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