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So today I was informed that I had an answer, to “Pathfinder RPG in Forgotten Realms 3.5 setting?” that was not “licit” because I have not done the exact specific thing asked in the question (run Forgotten Realms in Pathfinder).

I have run other D&D 3.5 settings in other systems (not Pathfinder), but that, to me, is irrelevant.

Why? Because this is not a particularly subjective question. The actual questions posed were “can it be done?” and “has anyone done so?” the answer to both of which is quite simply “yes.” It’s not even a particularly onerous or difficult process; I don’t have explicitly that exact experience but I have related experience and I have knowledge of both the setting and the systems. My answer isn’t even particularly different from the answer of someone who did have such exact experience, and with a score of 11 (higher than that answer), apparently quite a few people found the answer useful, more useful than the one that had the exact experience in question.

But in reading several comments in the chat by mxyzplk today, it seems that the mods’ new definition of “subjective” is “anything that’s not pure rules-lookup” and their idea of “Good Subjective, Bad Subjective” is that you are required to have the exact same experience as the question-asker before being allowed to answer the question.

So I want to know:

Which questions does the community feel are subjective, and how should Good Subjective, Bad Subjective be interpreted?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't a duplicate of the brand new meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/3204/…? \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Nov 25 '13 at 21:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Am I correct in thinking your primary concern is figuring out the criteria for "Good Subjective" (or at least "licit") answers to "Good Subjective" questions? \$\endgroup\$ – Alex P Nov 25 '13 at 23:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlexP Basically, I want to know where the line is drawn such that failure to cite personal experience precisely matching the conditions of the question result in an answer that is not “licit.” \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 27 '13 at 0:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk I would argue that it is not, no. That Q&A is about how to answer questions where experience is the only valid way to back up one’s answer. This question is, “which questions are those?” Because you seem to be indicating that “if not just rules-lookup, those without perfectly-matching personal experience need not apply,” which is a massive paradigm shift from how this site has been operating. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 27 '13 at 1:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan, no, that is a false dichotomy you're drawing between "100% subjective" and "not" that GS/BS does not endorse. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Nov 27 '13 at 5:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk The question is when the mods are supposed to start deleting answers, when answers that don’t reference perfectly-matching personal experience are “illicit.” That is a binary choice, so yes, on some level, there is a hard dichotomy. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 27 '13 at 14:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related on Is this site for experts or not? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 14:14
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My own thoughts:

Subjective Questions

“Purely” subjective questions are those specifically requesting experience. Also, by special rule, all questions, because “shopping” questions need special care to prevent getting out of hand.

All other questions are still somewhat subjective, but that’s the nature of the games we play and the topic of the site. Even rules-lookup questions can be subjective if you get into cases where interpretation can play a role or the actual rule is problematic and people propose alternatives. Thus, experience is always useful. But the distinction I am making is that these are cases where experience is not the only relevant source of information.

Role of Good Subjective, Bad Subjective

It seems to me that the importance of Good Subjective, Bad Subjective is in the requirement that you “Back It Up!” not in some requirement that you have exactly the same experience for every question where experience could be relevant. We recognize experience as often valuable (an answer with experience is better, all else being equal, to an answer without it), which should be reflected in the voting, but the requirement is that statements be backed up. Perfectly-matching personal experience is not the only way to achieve that, and rules-lookup questions are not the only cases where a well backed-up answer might never mention personal experience.

In short, experience is a source of information, an important one, but only in pure “what do you like best for this?” questions is it the only source of information. questions always fall in that category, and others outside it may as well, but moderators should be reluctant to unilaterally make that call: in most cases it is best that the community weigh in through the voting mechanism. Moderators are not here to correct the community; their primary purpose, I think, is to act in cases where privileges are reserved or immediate action is necessary (flagrant spam, inappropriate material, etc.). Otherwise, all users should have their position judged on its merits, not on the basis of reputation, privileges, or polygons that may or may not follow their name.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Couldn't agree more, If I know how system X works and I believe it could be applied to solve problem Y I shouldn't need experience in a specific example to be able to answer using the core features and advantages/disadvantages of system X for Y \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Nov 25 '13 at 17:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaAslanSmith Eeeh... I kind of agree on the stronger requirement for system-recommendation. It’s just the expansion of that to a much broader range of questions that I object to. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 25 '13 at 18:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is some good information in your answer, but the premise that GS/BS is a guide for voting and not for closing is fundamentally wrong. I've been on SE since there was a SE, and GS/BS was definitely created to help determine what was a good answer and what questions were on topic and not. Many SE sites won't even entertain recommendation questions at all. \$\endgroup\$ – C. Ross Dec 1 '13 at 23:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @C.Ross Thank you for your feedback; you’re right that I had not considered BS/GS from a question perspective (i.e. closing), which is more important (and also more communally-handled). I have amended my answer to correct that misappropriation of BS/GS; please let me know how that stands. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 2 '13 at 0:24
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The question, ultimately, is what kind of expert answer are you going to give. There are two kinds of experts:

  • I've done this. This can sometimes be the best kind of expert. The person who's done what you're trying to do and knows how to do it well, or at the very least, knows what didn't work.

  • I've read a lot about this. Also valuable. These are the folks who, while they may not have done what you're asking about, have read extensively on the subject, are knowledgeable in the field and can give you good advice about what you're trying to do (can even tell you with some certainty whether something will work or not).

There has been a lot of talk about the parenting site, the Programmers site and the blog post these two sites sparked (the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective post that's linked in other answers here).

One of the important things that's missing from this discussion is there there two criteria that can be used to "Back it Up." The first and most authoritative is external sources. The second is personal experience.

So if you're interested in writing an answer and you don't have personal experience you need to go do some research. This is how the second kind of expert writes his answers. You don't just spout your knowledge, you do research to confirm what you know (or counter it).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sure, and that's what Back It Up! says. That's fine. That's not what the OP did really, and it's also a fine line between 'research' and 'I Googled it and it says something exists.' It's a bad answer for game-recs for the same reason. Real research becomes expertise - real research. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Dec 3 '13 at 3:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ How much research is really needed to answer a very obvious question? \$\endgroup\$ – Cypher Dec 5 '13 at 1:09
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Have you read Good Subjective, Bad Subjective? It makes it pretty clear that there is a continuum of subjectivity that begins immediately after "Does this code compile?" (RPG.SE equivalent: "Is there a RAW or other factual answer?") and proceeds onward from there by degree. It's therefore a false dichotomy to ask if a question "is a subjective question." Most of our questions are at least partially subjective. The entire article was inspired by the moms4moms site which was by its nature mostly subjective as compared to the coding questions on SO, and that guidance was for their entire site's operation!

GS/BS is a not just guide "to voting," many of its rules are in all sites' help centers for a reason. See https://rpg.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask. That's not custom for RPG.SE (we can't even edit it), it's all about not asking "bad subjective" questions as overall SE guidance.

The Back It Up! principle is therefore relevant to whatever portion of a question is subjective.

As mentioned in How do we ask and answer subjective questions? (which is where this discussion probably belongs) I know people think they know everything and can easily extrapolate. And sure, relevant experience doesn't have to be totally exact. But it's just like the value of playtest info over the value of armchair theorycrafter info - it's just plain better.

For "Running Forgotten Realms in Pathfinder" - that's right, if you can't explain that you've done that, or seen it done, or even directly analogous experience ("Well, I converted Eberron to PF fine and it's just about the same process"), or can otherwise back it up (citing others' experience, facts...) then it's not a valid answer. It's certainly not that you're a bad person or your theories are necessarily wrong - it's just that there's no reason to believe they're right besides appeal to your authority. And when everyone does it, to quote the meta.SE blog post, "you are left with an experience that looks more like the magazine rack at a grocery store than a book shelf at Harvard."

Everyone on the Internet thinks they know things. Here, we specifically want expertise. Experts have actually done things. It's pretty simple and direct. If you can't Back It Up! then it's not a good answer.

In this case, a question about running the Realms in Pathfinder, one might legitimately expect expertise, personal or cited, in that actual topic instead of "converting from 3.5e to Pathfinder's easy." The OP cited a conversion guide. "I'm sure it'll be fine, because game system conversion is easy" is no better answer than "Oh you can use FATE for that because it's good for anything" or any other such. In this case the answer's bad because it's a mix of lacking expertise and also not answering the real question (game system conversion from 3.5e to PF is an existing question with answers - how does it bear specifically on the Realms?).

See How do we ask and answer subjective questions? for more on site policy on subjective questions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And experience is not the one and only way to “Back It Up!” for every question that is not pure rules-lookup. The overwhelming majority of my answers, including some very highly-rated answers, do not involve any references to my personal experience. Unless you are arguing that the entire system is broken and I should not have been upvoted on any of those answers, and my reputation score is somehow not indicative of the quality of my answers. If that is the case, then this site has much more serious problems. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 27 '13 at 0:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ To the degree your answers are indicative of real expertise and not conjecture they're fine. Something like running the Realms in Pathfinder is pretty specific, and just "I'm smart so I say it should be OK" is not a good answer and a waste of space. Voters aren't always right, which is why we have mods. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Nov 28 '13 at 15:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Where is the line drawn? Why is this question “pretty specific”? It is your opinion that it is “not a good answer and a waste of space” but I see absolutely no guidance on when this begins to come true. At no point did I assert that it should be OK “because I’m smart” but rather because I know the systems are extremely similar; there is very little that has to be converted. And your assertion that it is your job to correct voters does not seem to be borne out by the site’s description of how this site is run, nor do those voters seem to agree with you. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 28 '13 at 15:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a subjective call made by real humans; if you want a hard rule of what is subjective or not you're living in the wrong universe. In general, when answering questions, leverage things you can reference (like rules, math, sources, etc.) or things you've done (experience). There is a fuzzy line but game-recs are not an odd outlier - any question as subjective as game-rec has the same requirements. As for the rest of it, welcome to SE. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Nov 28 '13 at 15:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ You will notice your answer didn't get selected as the most helpful on that question - one from someone who actually has done it did. That should tell you something if you're in the mood to listen rather than just shout. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Nov 28 '13 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that’s a new record for you: most comments back and forth before you insulted me. I hope you’re proud, but I’m done. If you were in a mood to listen, you’d notice you really don’t have a lot of community support on this. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 28 '13 at 16:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk The problem for me lies here: for most subjective questions, there's no strict requirement of experience, but a lack of experience will lead to a terrible answer which will be downvoted. For game-rec questions, there's a strict requirement that you not only have relevant knowledge, you have done just about that exact same thing, and something close to that thing but not it is strictly not good enough. Through your writing here you are extending the latter guideline to everything including the former cases. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 2 '13 at 3:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ So there's a line here that's been removed, and rules for one group of questions are apparently now applied to all of them. That is startling and not good, so I can fully understand KRyan asking the question of what now counts as subjective, and what is now affected by this requirement of experience in that exact scenario or else the answer gets deleted (the treatment they get where that rule is currently applied, in game-rec). Because it should not be everything. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 2 '13 at 3:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's not "a line," it's a proportion based on how much of the question is subjective or not. Is no one actually reading the linked posts? When moms4moms came up with Back It Up!, it's not for one "class of posts", it's to handle the issue of subjectivity in the Stack. That's what it's for here too. Theory questions - theorycraft away. Rules questions - rule away. How do I do X - Back It Up! \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Dec 2 '13 at 13:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ asserting that experience is the only requirement to being able to answer a subjective question (what you very much seem to be doing here), is incorrect and insane. There is also facts, others' experiences, etc. I look at this particular argument and think you're insane for taking your stand here of all places. The idea that a question about porting setting material into something that is effectively a mod of the same system the setting material was designed for requiring practical experience is...dubious at best. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Dec 3 '13 at 2:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Experts haven't just done things. They've studied things, they've learned things. An expert is characterized by far more than just experience. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Dec 3 '13 at 2:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ The basis of my concern is your reason for objecting to KRyan's answer: he hadn't done it himself, and in this answer you're saying it's invalid, and invalid answers get deleted. This seems to be extending the very strict requirements of game-recs ("you must have done it") to places we have not extended them previously. The line I was speaking of is the one we draw around game-recs. Whether it's poor (but valid, thus downvote-worthy) is something entirely separate to the matter of whether it is invalid (and thus delete-worthy). \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 3 '13 at 3:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Can I run FR in Pathfinder?" is just like "Can I run a Western game in FATE?" A useless non-expert answer is "sure just convert everything over! Enjoy." A good answer is from someone who actually knows more of what's involved who has more insight. The Realms, with its rich history and all, will have rough and smooth edges in any system you try to port it to - someone expert will be able to say what they are. Is there something in PF that works like the Mythal already, for example? This is all pretty obvious stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Dec 5 '13 at 1:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ But there is no other answer to give. I have run FR in 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder, Shadowrun, and d20 Modern. The only thing I had to do was convert the rules. The rest is fluff. I simply don't understand what other kind of answer you would expect from a broad and simple question such as that. \$\endgroup\$ – Cypher Dec 5 '13 at 16:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll also add that I think the question mentioned in KRyan's post is a poor example of a "good subjective" question. A better question would have been something specific and answerable where the unique aspects of the Forgotten Realms setting need clarification under a different rule set. The question, as it stands, is asking merely if it's possible to run the setting under a different rule set and if anyone has ever done it. The answer to both question is a simple, "yes and yes." This question seems to fail the test here: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective \$\endgroup\$ – Cypher Dec 5 '13 at 17:11

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