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We occasionally get history questions along the lines of, "What's the origin of such-and-such saying," or, "What was going on in the game that inspired this anecdote/comic/video/whatever," or, "This anecdote/comic/video/whatever appears to misuse the rules for X, were they using houserules or a different edition or something?" This meta question is not about the validity of those questions (though that might be a reasonable topic for discussion in a separate meta question).

These questions sometimes attract answers from new (1 rep) users saying, "I was actually the guy who said that," or, "I was one of the players in that game," or some other similar claim to authority. Then they lay out their explanation for the quote, rules quirk, or whatever was being asked about. Recent examples can be found here and here.

Are these answers acceptable?

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We should ask for links to verifiable 3rd-party websites.

Anyone can claim to be a relevant notable figure; StackExchange has no method of verifying these users, the way Twitter does. Because we can't verify such claims, they are essentially hearsay, i.e. opinion.

That said, notable figures can still provide answers. If you really are That One Guy, then you can post on That One Guy's blog saying, "I recently saw a question about X over on RPG Stack Exchange. Man, what a crazy game that was! Here's what really happened: ..." You can then answer the question by linking to the blog post, which is a verifiable communication from the person in question.

This approach benefits the stack in two ways: First, it makes these answers trustworthy, rather than just, "Well, some guy on the Internet claims that he was really there and it was X." Second, it helps drive additional traffic to the stack (assuming the notable figure actually references RPG.SE).

If someone wants to go the trouble of making a blog where they pretend to be That One Guy just to spread fake information or get a sock puppet some rep, that's a problem for That One Guy (and his lawyers) rather than for the stack.

To put this a little bit differently, who posted an answer shouldn't matter; the content of the answer needs to stand on its own merits. When someone answers a rules question by claiming that the rules work a certain way, we ask them to cite the relevant rules (in a quote and/or with a link) to properly support their answer. Answers to questions about specific real-world events should be held to the same standard. An answer that starts with, "I'm Bob and I was actually there," is ultimately no better supported than an answer that starts with, "I heard a rumor that..."

Just like we would ask someone who answered a rules question to properly support their answer so it can stand on its own, we should ask people who answer anecodotal questions to properly support their answer so it can stand on its own.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree we should encourage this. It might not be super effective in the two cases you cited in the question. Bill Baldwin's web presence is basically his account on Paizo's forums; if he posted about it there, it's not nothing I suppose. Jason Carr has none, but maybe some of the other S*P folks do? For things that were popularized almost 2 decades ago, the notable people involved might not be notable or have a huge platform today. \$\endgroup\$ – J. Foster Aug 18 '18 at 1:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ The answers to rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7342/… basically apply here. We don’t ask for proof because it’s not relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Aug 18 '18 at 1:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Opinion" is not the same as "unverifiable facts". Are you saying we should delete such answers unless they provide an external evidence trail? Please clarify. We ask people to back answers with personal play anicdotes; do we also demand evidence trails there? \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk Aug 28 '18 at 14:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yakk No, we would not ask for evidence trails for most cases where people back their answers with anecdotes from their games. This meta question is about questions where identity is important. The asker in these questions is not looking for just anyone's play experience, they're looking for certain very specific people's play experience, and we have no method within SE of verifying that the person posting an answer is actually that specific person. Asking people making such claims to point to a 3rd-party platform lets us outsource the problem of identity verification. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Aug 28 '18 at 14:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage We also have no way to verify within SE that someone's actual play experience matches their actual play experience. What is it about identity based claims that you think they should require higher scrutiny? Second, are you arguing that such verification in this case should be mandatory? Your answer lacks what you think the consequence should be when someone doesn't provide this evidence. Should we delete answers that claim an identity without proof? That seems harmful. Plus, answers on SE should stand alone; external verification is against SE policy in general. \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk Aug 28 '18 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yakk I think a case can be made that there is non-trivial categorical difference between someone making potentially false claims about their play experience and someone making potentially false claims about who they are. Deleting such answers might be a stronger response than is called for, but we should at least add comments to such answers asking the answerer to provide some sort of verification. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Aug 28 '18 at 15:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yakk To take a different tack at what this meta question is about, in 99% of answers to questions on SE it doesn't matter who answered the question; only the content matters. When someone claims to be a relevant notable figure, they're making their identity part of the answer, rather than allowing the answer to stand on its own. Plenty of answers provide references (either quoted or linked) to support their claims, and when they don't we ask the author to fix that; answers that rest on a specific person's experience should be held to the same standard. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Aug 28 '18 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is unworkable. This won’t result in improved answer quality, it’ll result in designers being effectively unwelcome. It would mean making users jump through special hoops because of who they are. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 28 '18 at 23:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie That's one interpretation; another is that it would mean not letting users bypass the usual hoop of supporting their answer with a simple, "Because I said so, and I'm someone special." \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Aug 28 '18 at 23:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie In any case, this meta question is intended to focus on questions about notable cases of actual play that can only be answered by someone who was involved, rather than questions about the rules where a designer might offer their interpretation or even errata. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Aug 28 '18 at 23:54
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This is effectively asked and answered already in Is there an established way to handle a game's designer on the site? and To what extent does a well known representative from an RPG company who represents their product need to provide evidence of this in their answers?

No, we don't ask for "proof", because the proof doesn't make them automatically right anyway (see linked questions for further discussion). Their answers should stand and fall by our usual site quality standards. Ideally if they're the designer they should be able to Back It Up! with real play experience, yes? (Which also, we don't require proof of... "You say you used that house rule, but do you have video of it!?!")

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