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Should Stack Exchange make room for conjecture? Or experience/knowledge based ideas?

My question is a philosophical one. If we are to assume that the full breadth and capacity of human knowledge has been reached and can be referenced by online/literary sources, then by all means, we should demand that every claim, response or idea should be cited. However, if we admit that there are very creative and valuable thoughts and ideas that have not been conceived, then we should have a system within Stack Exchange to allow for this sort of discourse.

For instance, there may be a contributor out there who has vast knowledge in a particular field. Their ideas may be so bleeding edge that they are widely considered highly unconventional and/or controversial. There may not be any research to back up their claims. If he were to make a post that someone didn't agree with, his answers would get voted down, he may lose reputation and he may eventually become frustrated and decide to leave the site and not contribute further to the community. I think this is an unfortunate situation and one to be avoided. Creative and unconventional thought forms the very basis of scientific and analytical understanding. I don't think Stack Exchange should discourage outside-the-box thinking and conjecture.

Another more practical example would simply be the case of your typical professional who comes across a Stack Exchange site and would like to contribute. It's very simple for someone with lots of experience in a particular field to answer many questions from a very abstract or big-picture point of view in relative short order. But to ask this same person to back up every claim and every admonition with references may cause the professional to choose not to devote his time to contributing. Again, I think this is an unsatisfactory outcome.

All that being said, I do not think opinion, conjecture, experience and knowledge based answers should go unchecked. But I also don't think these contributions should automatically be seen as unhelpful to the community. Perhaps Stack Exchange would benefit from implementing a system of flagging an answer or portions of an answer as conjecture or knowledge-based or what have you. And perhaps this could grab the attention of the community somehow and promote a discussion where further explanation could be asked of the poster. Personally, I think ideas which challenge the status quo should get more promotion than those that don't. Maybe they could be highlighted as "novel" or "unique" and contributors could vote separately on this response to decide it's relevance to the question and perhaps its ultimate position in rank.

I think the worst thing is to allow voting down and simply ignoring responses of this nature. It's unproductive and stifles creativity in this community.

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[citation needed] –  McCannot Jul 7 '11 at 20:42
What @camccann means is, could you point to a couple of specific examples of questions where the problem you describe has occurred? Your question, as currently phrased, is too broad and vague to be answerable (which, by the way, is the reason we tend to stick with facts rather than conjecture). –  Robert Harvey Jul 7 '11 at 20:54
@Robert It's not really that vague as to be unanswerable. It's certainly uncited (haha), but there's a concrete question (why should we require citation of hard material), that's very distinctly a theme across every paragraph. –  Grace Note Jul 7 '11 at 20:55
@Grace: I guess I got lost in all the philosophy. –  Robert Harvey Jul 7 '11 at 20:56
@grace-note has cleared it up for me. I am still new to Stack Exchange and didn't understand the rules. I did experience this on Skeptics which now makes sense. I apologize for the poor question. –  BradH Jul 7 '11 at 20:59
As well as a (somewhat cryptic) request for examples, it was also a tongue-in-cheek reference to the stereotypical demand for citations on Wikipedia, which Brad seems to be confusing SO with. As @Grace's answer says, that's really not how things work here. –  McCannot Jul 7 '11 at 20:59
Do you have a specific example of a situation where this was a problem for you? This seems like a pretty long-winded rant without much basis... Who says that we "discourage outside-the-box thinking and conjecture"? –  Cody Gray Jul 8 '11 at 7:10
@cody certain kinds of thinking and conjecture should be put back in the box. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 8 '11 at 9:12
@cody like I said before, this occurred in Skeptics so it was simply a misunderstanding on my part. –  BradH Jul 8 '11 at 13:18
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2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

There is no requirement for citation on Stack Exchange. In fact, the only site on the entire network that has any specific requirement for citations is Skeptics, and that's rather the whole point of it after all.

Otherwise, there's always room for conjecture, knowledge, and experience to fuel your answers. That's why the voting system works, after all. It allows us to vet things with our own experience and testing, our own understanding of material. If your knowledge and experience is useful and can produce replicable results for the question author, then you've done success. If it isn't helpful, you get downvoted.

We don't require any documentation or claims or anything behind an answer, if the answer is potent enough to stand on its own.

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Thank you for clearing that up for me. –  BradH Jul 7 '11 at 20:42
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You might find this post useful.

Good Subjective, Bad Subjective

The entire middle portion of the post extols the entire field of subjective “expertise” that has the hallmarks of making great Q&A sites.

enter image description here

"Expertise" There's a lot of good stuff in here!

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