4

I'm often seeing questions challenged with the "answers will be opinion-based" critique. And one poster pointed out that that critique comes from SE's core guidelines.

If so, I think we have a problem. Clearly there are questions that admit of answers that are non-opinion-based -- those whose answers consist of a sutta reference for example. But there are lots more, of interest to me at least and others by the looks of things, that by their very nature are going to be based on opinion.

Are we to restrict questions only to those whose answers consist of references to suttas and more-or-less recognized commentaries? If so, I think it raises a serious question as to the suitability of Buddhism for being an SE site at all.

My suggestion would be that at least in these early stages, we:

  1. Focus more on up-voting good questions than on critiquing and attempting to close those we don't like and
  2. Even on those we do consider bad/inappropriate, we use the voting system rather than trying to close

New groups are like new fragile gardens -- easy to kill off stuff. I suggest we err on the side of getting people to ask any questions, and then use gentle voting to guide it all in the right direction. Once we've built momentum, and got a forum "culture" going, including letting the moderators find their feet, then we can more safely close stuff off (if we even need to).

  • I think a big misconception I've seen more than once here is that this reason applies to questions that express an opinion, which of course can have a fact-based answer. – yuttadhammo Jul 1 '14 at 2:16
  • 1
    OK so there are two concerns then -- one where a question itself is a bit rhetorical, and one where it will tend to stimulate only purely opinion-based answers? I think, as one commenter suggested, there was indeed a bit of "loading" in this question. But that may be muddying the fact that core question was (IMHO) perfectly valid and open to perfectly sound answers. – tkp Jul 1 '14 at 22:36
7

Here's the description for what really constitutes an "overly opinion-based" question:

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

Why is this the way it is? Well, get comfortable, and read this treatise.

All of this is to say that the "opinion-based" close reason's raison d'être is not to insta-close anything with a whiff of opinion in it. It's to avoid becoming a forum where people fling opinions back and forth and call it "debate". We want to be a Q&A site full of good answers with clear evidentiary background, even if that evidence is one person's individual experience.

There's an old, and excellent, blog post on this fine line: Good Subjective, Bad Subjective.

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. As it turns out, there is an entire field of subjective “expertise” that has the hallmarks of making great Q&A sites[.]

All of this is to say that in order to thrive, this community should continue to use the opinion-based close reason, and vote to close questions that need it. But that shouldn't mean that every question with a little bit of subjectivity is automatically kaiboshed.


A piece of discourse from the comments below that I find worth highlighting here in the answer:

This opinion thing is especially significant here in a Buddhism forum since part of the essence of Buddhism is knowledge gained via introspection which is, epistemologically, necessarily opinion. Here, more than in a group about a programming language (say) we may have to allow for more of [the] "one person's individual experience" exception. If not, I think the scope of the group will necessarily cut out whole chunks of valuable discourse. (Of course that may be OK.)

  • I think this moves the question forward but I think there's a little more needs said (for my own clarity anyway). On the one hand you make the very important caveat that evidentiary background can consist of "one person's individual experience". That's good, and crucial I'd say for a Buddhist group. But we still have the "opinion-based close" reason. That's fine, but I think we could therefore make clearer the difference between "individual experience" on the one hand, and "opinion" on the other. They could look remarkably similar. – tkp Jul 1 '14 at 22:28
  • Take, for example, this currently contentious question. Yuttadhammo's answer is clearly opinion -- almost no sources -- but it's equally clearly well thought-out, based on a lot of thinking/practice (a.k.a. "personal experience"). It's a good answer. Compare it with DamienR's answer (sorry Damien). That, by contrast, has no apparent foundation other than Damien's opinion. What's creating the difference? – tkp Jul 1 '14 at 22:32
  • 2
    I just want to hammer this point home, in case people think it's already been dealt with on SE. I propose that this opinion thing is especially significant here in a Buddhism forum since part of the essence of Buddhism is knowledge gained via introspection which is, epistemologically, necessarily opinion. Here, more than in a group about a programming language (say) we may have to allow for more of Abby's "one person's individual experience" exception. If not, I think the scope of the group will necessarily cut out whole chunks of valuable discourse. (Of course that may be OK.) – tkp Jul 1 '14 at 22:40
  • I don't think my answer was particularly opinion-based; it was Buddhism-based, just not sourced. Also logic and argumentation, I suppose, but not opinion, really. – yuttadhammo Jul 1 '14 at 22:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .