We now require answers to be backed up by personal experience or external sources. I believe that a "TL;DR" of what we expect from a back up by experience would be interesting to have somewhere in the faq.

I don't know where to put this "TL;DR", but think the summary should look a bit like that:

We require answers here to be back up by personal experience or external sources. In the case of a back up by personal experience (yours or someone you know), here is what we need you to tell us:

  • Who was involved.

  • What was the situation (how was it similar/different to the one in the question).

  • What did you say/how did you act.

  • How did the other person react.

So, what do you think?


So, what do you think?

I think we already have our TL;DR. Our 'How to write a good answer' FAQ post has the TL;DR of our back up policy.


When writing an answer, try to explain when and under what circumstances your proposed solution worked for you. Explain how you learned the techniques or insights you're offering as a solution, why you think it's a good solution to the situation being asked about, and what effect you think the advice will have.

Perhaps rephrasing that is all we need to make our TL;DR:

When writing an answer, try to explain when and under what circumstances your proposed solution worked for you. Explain how you used the techniques or insights you're offering as a solution. Mention the similarities and differences between your situation and the one in the question to show why your solution should work here too. And describe the reactions from others to your approach to clarify the effect your approach will have.

That covers all 4 points you mention in your question, except it's not a list but a flowing sentence:

  • Explain how you used = who was involved and what did you do/say
  • Mention similarities/differences = who was involved/what was the situation
  • Describe the reactions from others = how did the other person react

I have also added explanations for why we want to see this information:

  • to show why your solution should work here too.
  • to clarify the effect your approach will have.

If no-one objects, I propose we edit that paragraph of our good answers FAQ, and leave it at that.

  • I'm not a huge fan of the last sentence: "And try to use the reactions from others to your approach to clarify the effect your approach will have". I'll move the "try" later in the sentence (because, right now, it sounds to me that the last sentence is optional). So, I would suggest saying something like: "Use the reactions from others to your approach to try to clarify the effect your approach will have".
    – Ael
    Jun 29 '19 at 12:18
  • @Ælis Oh, good point! I'll edit it so people can vote for that version ;) I've switched things around a bit, instead of 'use' I used 'describe', and because I don't want to use that twice in a row, I reworded the previous sentence to 'mention'.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jun 29 '19 at 12:21
  • @Harper, no, not at all. There's a focus on explaining how you used, what was similar/different and the reactions you got, not on the storytelling (a lot of people wrongly seem to assume it's the latter.). Good reads on the matter are interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/a/183/1599 (which gives an example of how such a post may be written, note that there's little to no storytelling) and ...
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 1 '19 at 20:42
  • SE's Good/Bad Subjective blog post stackoverflow.blog/2010/09/29/good-subjective-bad-subjective which focuses on sharing experiences (specifically : tell us what happened when you used the recipe to make cookies, not 'tell us how you used the recipe to make cookies'). It's an important distinction and a balanced line: We need to know just enough to know that you've actually done this and gotten a reaction, under similar circumstances as described in the question, while avoiding the whole story-telling thing (both in questions and answers, btw).
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 1 '19 at 20:43
  • I seem to recall an answer by an SE employee saying something about story-telling too, and it being bad, but I can't find the link right now. I'll update this tomorrow if I can with that link too :)
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 1 '19 at 20:43
  • Sorry I deleted the comment (after #2) because I realized it should be an answer. For reference I had worried that a thorough citing of 2-3 personal experiences, when filled out to meet above requirements and readability, would look like a personal anecdote, and those could dominate the answer. Jul 1 '19 at 20:44
  • @Harper I'll move the comments if appropriate, then..
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 1 '19 at 20:44
  • I believe we are good to edit that in our faq now. Some people seem to think that the back up policy is still a nice thing to have and not a requirement. See here: chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/50983034#50983034
    – Ael
    Jul 11 '19 at 6:55

TLDR: making cite requirements so specific will steepen the difference between IPS and the rest of SE, making it even less of a good fit, and annoying crossover users all the more.

If a person does a good job citing life experience, they might have 2-3 such instances of life experience. Now, they need to cover those four points you mention, which means they need to describe the life experience sufficiently to frame it in context. These requirements, plus making it coherent, create a certain bulk. As this life-experience reference becomes a full-on anecdote.

And then, these anecdotes start to become the bulk of the answer's real estate. So the answer appears to be less an answer to a question, and more a collection of war stories.

This invites more and worse, from newusers particularly.

This can be done well... and refined further. The problem is, it won't. Newusers can't, because they simply don't have the honed skills that the IPS regulars gained by long experience, iteration and meta discussion. This is another notch on the already-high skill levels needed to effectively answer here - already the highest in StackExchange.

This worsens a problem that's already quite bad, of IPS perceived as being hostile to newusers, and run by an inner circle that seems arbitrary, capricious and cliquey, and dislikes anyone else's contributions. What's actually true is there is an inner circle who shares the technical expertise to contribute correctly to quite high community standards. They have climbed a learning curve others have not.

Snything you do to make that learning curve steeper, needs to (at the least) be explained even more clearly to a StackExchange member crossing over from another site, which already has a serious expectations mismatch due to differing editorial standards.

In practicality, I fear that won't happen and it will only distance IPS from SE norms even further. Requiring posters to disclaim personal experience is already a stretch. Doing so in such specifitiy is a big stretch.

You'll need to help users do this - much more directly than a FAQ.

  • 1
    I 110% agree with your last 4 paragraphs. IPS is different, and our rules/actions are often attributed to malice by newcomers. We do have a steep learning curve and educating new users should be a big priority. However, I don't know if that makes us "even less of a good fit" like your TL;DR states. Also, as far as an answer becoming a "collection of war stories"--many of those four bullets Tink mentions may not even be a full sentence. At the end of the day, we just want to know why you're answering what you're answering. If you can do that by referencing personal experience, all the better!
    – scohe001
    Jul 2 '19 at 14:18

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