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Good Subjective, Bad Subjective underpins the current network approach to subjective questions. It lays down the principles found at the bottom of What types of questions should I avoid asking? which help us distinguish what kinds of subjective questions we do and don't accept.

Something it also does is lay down our expectations for Good Subjective answers, which are expected to be based on actual experience. Here's what it says on that topic, all original formatting included:

The folks at Moms4mom owned up to the subjective issue and came up with a set of principles to create useful subjective discussions on parenting: the Back It Up! Principle. Back It Up! means that your answers must be based on either:

  • Something that happened to you personally
  • Something you can back up with a reference

They talk about how “opinion, by itself, is noise.” They’re not saying that subjective opinions are to be avoided; they’re attempting to mold and shape their inherently subjective Q&A; into something constructive, informative and helpful.

This is great guidance, but there's also a problem here: This is the sum total of guidance on the entire network's official documentation that I've ever found that explains what's needed for creating a Good Subjective answer, and it's just two paragraphs and two bullet points buried in the very middle of a very large blog post that's otherwise entirely about questions.

Note also the link: the page it points to doesn't contain or mention Back It Up! anywhere anymore. Moms4moms has a “back it up” link in their footer but the link is a 404.

This means resources directly explaining what we need for Good Subjective answers are sort of missing or inadequate. “Good Subjective” doesn't even get mentioned in the help center except for a link to this blog post in a related reading list; searching for “subjective” fares no better. How do I write a good answer? doesn't mention any of this stuff.

Good Subjective citation for answers is a pretty important thing though. The sites that interact with these principles a lot (like Role-Playing Games or Interpersonal Skills or Software Engineering) have to explain it often. Because the above quote is actually fairly light on details we have to flesh out more detailed explanations ourselves on meta, re-inventing the wheel each time so to speak. In fact until we wrote one earlier this month (January 2018) RPG simply did not have any one single explanation of Good Subjective, just many different more specific ones. But there are many more Subjective sites than ours, and those sites could do with a single Help location that actually dedicates itself to explaining Good Subjective expectations for answers.

Could a help center page please be added that focuses on explaining Good Subjective and the Back It Up! principle in the context of answers?

P.S.: Something I've run into is that people can have trouble understanding what passages in their answers are subjective. Sometimes they think “this is the best course of action for your situation” is just fact. Such a help center post should help people identify what subjective means such that they can better recognise when a post needs subjective citation.

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    And I'd ask for this advice to be in plain speech and should be easily understandable to people who don't have an English Language degree. Users generally don't like being forced to use Google to work out what the heck terms like "Good subjective" means. – Snow Jan 28 at 11:51
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    Perhaps before asking for a help center page, it would be better to try creating a canonical question on Meta stack exchange asking for guidance? (That might lead to good explanations that could eventually provide a basis for a help page; but even if it didn't, it would be something we could link to.) – D.W. Jan 28 at 18:33
  • Here's the archived link for Moms4moms: web.archive.org/web/20100927183400/http://moms4mom.com/… – Laurel Jun 4 at 2:53
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After some discussion and diving into this — at this time, I'm going to decline the request to widely codify what constitutes a "good subjective answer" for every site on the network.

Many communities have their own guidelines about what constitutes an acceptable answer on their site, so trying to enumerate a set of one-size-fits-all rules can easily become a blunt instrument on sites where such rigor simply is not warranted.

There has also been a some early discussion and feature discovery around the issue of subjective content in general, so it would be a bit untimely to start writing up requirements when unknown changes could come into play.

TL;DR: At this time, the issue of providing answer guidance should remain a local community issue handled locally, preferably in meta.

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    Where, within the help center, should (and can) we link those meta posts? I don't care if the post itself is on meta (like it is on at least one of my sites), but "how to write a good answer" isn't mod-editable. Can we change that? – Monica Cellio Jun 3 at 22:07
  • @Monica I can't think of a good place (and no built-in way to modify random parts of the help center if there was). I'm just not a fan of finding yet more ways to stuff more rules into the most obscure corners of the site. Write a meta post if it's really an issue, but talking directly to users when these problems come up is preferable to expecting everyone to RTFM over obscure issues -- just my opinion. Even better if I can play a significant role in a feature discovery handling subjective issue much more comprehensively <fingers crossed> – Robert Cartaino Jun 3 at 22:34

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