The software would support our having a "site-specific post notice".

A "post-notice" is something which looks like this:

enter image description here

The current posts which have a notice, on the main site, are listed here.

A post-notice is a notice a moderator can add to a post.

It's possible to define a site-specific post-notice -- see What about site-specific post notices?

What I propose

I suggest we ask for a notice with the following wording:

"Show how this answer explains specifically Buddhist teaching or practice".

Why I think we need it

Our policy for questions is very permissive. In particular we allow or welcome questions about practice or daily life, even which aren't obviously related to Buddhism:

  • So a question might appear to be non-Buddhist.
  • But we want to require that its answers should be based on Buddhism -- the reason why the OP posted on this site was to get an answer based on Buddhism and not only general advice.

An answer "based on" Buddhism might mean either of two things:

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.

  • There is already a predefined post-notice for references ...

    Needs citation
    This post contains content that needs citations from reputable sources.

    ... however the policy of this site is that references are not required ...

    What about providing sources?

    References (e.g. hyperlinks or citations) to sources are welcome and helpful. They're not required though, i.e. you are allowed to answer questions without giving references.

    Good answers may be based on references or on experience; answers based on experience may be unreferenced.

    Some people sometimes post a comment under an answer to ask for a reference, only if they disagree with or have doubts about an answer (asking for a reference can be a polite way to disagree with an answer).

    ... so I'm disinclined to use that post-notice. The reason why references aren't required is that readers might know and recognise the references already -- and we do not want to make answering "feel more like a chore, like editing Wikipedia or something" by requiring references.

  • There is also already a predefined post-notice for adding details ...

    Needs detailed answers
    This question needs detailed answers, including citations and an explanation of why an answer is correct.

    ... but that contradicts this policy ...

    When my answer is short, shall I post it as a comment instead?

    Please post your answer as an answer, and not as a comment, even if your answer is short.

    ... so I don't always want to use that notice, either.

So I think we want a post-notice for answers, which might (or might not) be based on life experience or common sense, but which is not evidently based on Buddhism somehow -- an answer which might be posted by someone who has never tried to learn or practice "Buddhism".

This requiring a relation to Buddhism is inline with some previous policy:

See also for example Lanka's comment there ...

I think the answer is great and should remain on the site. Although a buddhist approach should be added as well.

... i.e. if an answer isn't evidently based on Buddhism, but could be, perhaps that basis deserves to be clarified or added.

When we'd use it

We probably wouldn't use it on the answers of the regular or high-reputation users -- not because they're regular but because their answers are already generally welcome.

I expect the notice would be useful sometimes for users who are new to the site, and don't know its norms, and maybe don't know that the site is for focused Q&A site and is not a "forum" or for sort of general chat -- even if it's interesting and helpful but not especially related to Buddhism.

I propose that moderators can probably recognise posts which are or aren't obviously related to Buddhism somehow (and it's easy to correct if a notice were ever posted in error).


Before I ask SE to create this notice:

  • Do agree that the notice might be useful?
  • Do you agree with my proposed wording of the notice?

The proposed wording, in detail

There was a New Post Notices rollout on Stack Overflow and I'm a bit confused about the wording of notices now.

It seems as if there is ...

  • A title (which only moderators can see)
  • A formal description (which only moderators can see)
  • Some friendly advice (which is posted publicly in the notice on the page)

... for example ...

  • Title: "Needs citation"
  • Formal description: "This post contains content that needs citations from reputable sources."
  • Friendly advice: "Add citations from reputable sources by editing the post. Posts with unsourced content may be edited or deleted."

If that's so I suggest something like the following for the new notice -- the wording is based on, taken from, one of the "off-topic" close reasons for questions.

  • Title: "Unrelated to Buddhism"
  • Formal description: "It's not obvious how this post relates to Buddhist teaching or practice."
  • Friendly advice: "Show how this answer explains specifically Buddhist teaching or practice. To be on-topic on this site an answer must be evidently related to Buddhism."
  • A "post notice" might be used for some answers (not for your questions). Answers that are unrelated to Buddhism seem to happen rarely enough now that this new post notice isn't worth asking for.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Mar 11, 2020 at 13:45

2 Answers 2


I agree and support all of the above, with one additional tweak to the wording. For nitpickers such as myself out there, a statement about an answer may not be true about all parts of an answer. Meaning, if some parts of an answer are related to B and some are not I foresee someone arguing back that the notice is not accurate. So perhaps we can qualify it a bit by saying "All or major (or 'important') parts of the answer".

  • Is that more restrictive, less permissive, that my proposal? IMO per my proposal an answer would be OK if any of it were related to B -- per your proposal, most parts of it should be, so a two-part answer like, "doctrine says A and my experience is B", becomes debatable: i.e. is your experience on-topic? Also if the post applies to the whole answer and the answer doesn't comply then the remedy is obvious (i.e. delete the answer). Per your proposal a remedy might be more intrusive, i.e. to delete merely-personal bits from an answer: which may be seen as a "hostile edit". Or did I misunderstand?
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 21, 2020 at 21:48
  • Or perhaps you want to say that "doctrine says A and my experience is B" might be OK, however "doctrine says A and my opinion is B" might be subject to challenge like, "what's your opinion based on?" I don't know, I thought the principal use case was for new users whose answers might be entirely off-topic -- your proposal might be meant to target answers which are mostly or even slightly off-topic, is that so (and what you want to do)?
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 21, 2020 at 21:52
  • I was thinking about DD's answer (about conditional love?) that had some Buddhist references but which also made some very specific assertions that weren't traceable to any teaching I know of. So I thought of also tagging such answers that had some important key assertions made that were not obviously or even probably Buddhist. I'm fine with keeping your wording though, even if it is useful for a smaller subset of answers.
    – Andriy Volkov Mod
    Jan 21, 2020 at 21:58
  • Yes I was too, thinking about that as a case -- i.e. this answer with these comments. I think a post-notice is a blunt instrument used to complain about the whole of an answer without specifying bits of it. To question or seek clarification about a specific sentence in an answer, or even to say that some bit of it reads like an unreferenced opinion, maybe a specifically-written comment is still the appropriate way to do that.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 21, 2020 at 22:21
  • Maybe you want to discuss that policy (commenting) too; and/or consider a (new) policy of extending moderators' scrutiny to whether each sentence in an answer is true or verifiable -- which I might try to do sometimes a user, but as a moderator I think I currently only try to ensure that no sentence reads as immoderately hostile.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 21, 2020 at 22:29
  • Assuming I am still allowed to comment like that, I don't know what value a post-notice would add? Unless it were, also, a change in site policy TBD. I guess what I do see a post-notice being useful for, is when there's an answer which doesn't seem to say anything about Buddhism -- then I could just post a notice instead of complaining personally in a comment, and possibly delete the whole answer immediately.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 21, 2020 at 22:44
  • Okay, so are you saying, this is only for completely non-Buddhist answers, which we currently delete and now would keep, tagged with this notice?
    – Andriy Volkov Mod
    Jan 21, 2020 at 23:21
  • Well yes, that at least I propose (as a new tool) without any associated real change to existing policy -- because "completely non-Buddhist answers" are already off-topic, and we should be better at deleting them. The other case, I don't know -- I think it's sensible and desirable that people should comment (politely) as a user, if they think they see a mistake, or a phrase that isn't clear, a missing reference maybe, etc. -- I just don't know about doing that as a moderator. My first-ever manager advised me, kindly, "It's not enough to be right", once when I was right but not collaborative.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 21, 2020 at 23:32
  • I'm more timid than you are? The ethos till now has been that it's not a moderator's job to detect a wrong answer. I don't mind detecting hostile answers -- I think that is my role -- ditto off-topic posts. Something that's entirely off-topic is kind of obviously our job to handle. Moderators demanding that every phrase be verifiable, though -- would be a change in policy. Maybe some sites/communities are strict/rigorous like that, this one hasn't been. I am willing to discuss a change in policy, try to define it, take votes: to try to identify what any problem is and how we may handle that.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 21, 2020 at 23:41
  • Another possibility might be a "benevolent dictator" model, to make moderators slightly more autocratic. We could ask SE to hold moderator elections (though this may not be an opportune time for that, I suspect they're busy with other sites, if you know). Or just an informal community vote, like, "do you want the current moderators to simply post this new kind of notice in such and such a circumstance when they see fit to?"
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 22, 2020 at 0:03
  • completely non-Buddhist answers, which we currently delete and now would keep, tagged with this notice? I'm saying I'm too tolerant sometimes of completely non-Buddhist answers -- afraid to delete them because they aren't bad and we allow answers based on experience so I'm not sure that what they posted is against the rules and non-Buddhist. And that having a post-notice and clarity about when to use it would make me use it more reliably -- to post a notice against the answer and probably to delete it immediately (it could be undeleted later if the author fixes it but they might not),
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 22, 2020 at 1:03
  • The seemingly-partially-incorrect answers is a different issue -- maybe one which you want to address also with a new policy -- or maybe one which we (users, the whole community) already handle fairly reliably just by posting a comment, even if a moderator doesn't also post a notice.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 22, 2020 at 1:07
  • So sigh... too suggested alternate wording here -- "This answer in it's part or entirety looks unsubstantiated." What I don't understand is that, that wording would apply to the (IMO perfectly good) answers which you post, without references. Sometimes (rarely) someone asks you to reference what you posted, and you don't. More generally I suspect every user probably posts some sentences that are unreferenced.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 23, 2020 at 9:03
  • So I think you're suggesting a counsel of perfection as a way to maybe force improvement of some doctrine/explanation (in a post) that you find unsubstantiated. I think it would be difficult to apply the letter of the law impartially. Instead it would require good judgement (of what doctrine in a post is dubious) to apply the spirit ... and I don't know that everybody would trust my judgement as to what's dubious in a post.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 23, 2020 at 9:08
  • 1
    I'm definitely not in support of changing the policy to demand every idea to be referenced or quoted.
    – Andriy Volkov Mod
    Jan 23, 2020 at 12:12

I think it's for the most part useless and not really something that can be enforced lest moderators are willing to become inference police which i imagine nobody wants.

That is because someone might demonastrate their reasoning and these people might agree that it is rightly substantiated whereas other people might disagree. If it looks or sounds buddhist doesn't mean that it is.

Therefore the treshold for substantiation will be practically non existent because once an answer is allegedly substantiated it is then a matter of scrutinizing the inference more so than a matter of substantion.

I would like something that would place the burden of proof on people but imo one can't do that whilst suspending judgement.

  • 1
    That being said if moderators want a 'scarecrow' kind of tool to give the appearance that this is not a place where anything goes i think it's good.
    – user8527
    Jan 22, 2020 at 5:33
  • I think the nature of this platform is such that it allows a variety of opinions on what Buddhism is and what the Buddha taught. The word Buddhism is undefined and opinions of ANY [self proclaimed] buddhist school of thought is welcome here. That means Buddhism is undefined here, effectively it is just a meaningless word being thrown around.
    – user8527
    Jan 22, 2020 at 5:45
  • I think what constitutes a buddhist answer is akin to a solution to an algebraic equation. If it's wrong then it's unrelated, unreasonable and is a product of delusion.
    – user8527
    Jan 22, 2020 at 6:10
  • A question one could ask is 'if an answer is wrong, is it a Buddhist answer?'. As i see it, if it's wrong then it can't be a doctrinal answer per definition, nor is it related to the doctrine because it is not representative of the doctrine.
    – user8527
    Jan 22, 2020 at 6:14
  • Thanks for answering. Yes I see it as a scarecrow -- I see it as a cold-or-warm/canned/impersonal response to a broken window i.e. a "non-Buddhist" answer posted by a new or recently-arrived user, who may or may not know anything about Buddhism, and who might be posting an answer based only their own experience/opinion and/or even based on the doctrine of a religion other than Buddhism.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 22, 2020 at 9:41
  • Hopefully the moderators might see more of a use for that you do -- if moderators have successfully deleted many of that type of answer in the past before you saw them.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 22, 2020 at 9:43
  • In earlier/original posts on Meta -- e.g. here -- some were reluctant to let moderators decide what's a good answer or even whether it is an answer at all. So I'm reluctant to intervene (as moderator) in answers which are trying to be based, superficially appear to be based, or claim to based, on Buddhism. That meta-topic wasn't very definitive though, and it was early, before the community had an opportunity to assess the judgement of the moderators. And the community was more active then, possibly moderators should do more themselves now.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 22, 2020 at 9:54
  • And the community was more active then, possibly moderators should do more themselves now. I say that e.g. because there have been some not-evidently-Buddhist answers from newish users, which no-one in the community downvoted (but which a moderator eventually deleted anyway). SE's theory of moderation is for a larger site than this -- if there were 100s of active users then they (not moderators) would moderate the content, and moderators would only moderate the users, or something like that. So possibly moderators should do something of what, on other sites, the community of users might do.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 22, 2020 at 10:05
  • So possibly moderators should do something of what, on other sites, the community of users might do I'm not arguing that moderators should do that, necessarily, I'm suggesting it's a possibility. I think that Andrei (and I) for example sometimes see a phrase or something in an answer, a phrase which sounds dubious or unclear, perhaps mere personal opinion -- and Andrei was thinking of using the new "post notice" proposed here as a signal to readers that the content of that post or maybe the comments under it might need to be read carefully (I don't clearly foresee what Andrei was proposing).
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jan 22, 2020 at 10:12
  • 1
    Perhaps something like 'This answer in it's part or entirety looks unsubstantiated. Please consider completing it with a demonstrable basis for doctrinal inference.'
    – user8527
    Jan 22, 2020 at 17:13

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