One of the things that is emphasized in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective is the idea that "opinion, by itself, is noise" and talks about the "Back it Up!" Principle and avoiding purely subjective answers in favor of answers that rely on expertise.

It feels like we are drifting close to the "Subjective" end of that spectrum with some of our questions/answers, and that this is encouraging an increase in the number of subjective answers based around people's personal beliefs and opinions. This isn't to say that there isn't some room for that–it will inform someone's personal expertise–but it feels like we should be trying to emphasize expertise–what I know from sources or from direct, personal experience–rather than point of view, what I believe or that I tell myself.


  1. Is the current state with subjective questions desirable and I am just barking up the wrong tree?
  2. Assuming that it isn't desirable, what can we do to emphasize the Back-It-Up principle or some equivalent?
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    Could you point to some of the questions or answers you think would be less accepted under your proposed stricter enforcement? – Dave Liepmann Jul 23 '12 at 1:46
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    I also have to -1 just for the plain fact that I think we're already enforcing GSBS pretty well IMO, and any attempt to increase enforcement would create animosity and reduce the already paltry amount of activity going on. But I could be convinced. :) – Dave Liepmann Jul 23 '12 at 1:48
  • I'd like specific examples of this as well. I know the concept and I do feel that MA.SE may lend itself to easily treading into the bad answers/questions territory because it can easily become subjective. Admittedly, I'm partially curious if any of my answers could be considered as such. – Ben Richards Jul 23 '12 at 16:52
  • I'm starting to rethink my second comment. But I still think examples--even vague ones not connected to specific posts--would be good. – Dave Liepmann Jul 24 '12 at 0:54
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    Examples would definitely help to distinguish what would be a good subjective question/answer versus a bad subjective one. – Matt Chan Jul 24 '12 at 15:11
  • The subjectivity will probably also open a question @DaveLiepmann asked some time ago: Are we going to enforce same-style answers? – Matt Chan Jul 24 '12 at 15:59
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    Also related: meta.martialarts.stackexchange.com/questions/186/… – Matt Chan Jul 24 '12 at 16:01
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    @MattChan Unfortunately the answers to "examples of good subjective" ignored the question (which was aiming to be a resource for future questions) and focused on the specific question-closing that sparked it. I think maybe there's resistance to pointing to "bad" subjective posts (with good reason!). Maybe we could fill in that old post with some examples of "good subjective". – Dave Liepmann Jul 24 '12 at 16:06

One thing to remember with StackExchange is that a cookie cutter (or franchise) approach is taken and applied across a whole bunch of diverse subjects areas. Good on them for trying this, but the first thing anybody would say is "that approach will work when offering the exact same thing over and over, but when you are offering lots of different things you will eventually find things where it doesn't work so well".

I still have hopes for MA.SE, but I always wondered if it would fit well and attract exact answers like the poster child Stack Overflow does. In martial arts there can be many ways to do things, and many subtleties within that, so we will never achieve the level of conciseness that Stack Overflow has - even if you are able to cite references and studies.

Is the current state with subjective questions desirable?

I think it is, people are still exploring the boundaries, and it is the community that dictates where those boundaries lie. Stack Overflow did the same at the start of its life - that phase still haunts it when people moan about how it isn't the same as it used to be.

Assuming that it isn't desirable, what can we do to emphasize the Back-It-Up principle or some equivalent?

Building up a back catalogue of off topic / bad subjective questions can actually be beneficial, it gives us something to use as a reference for future questions. OT & BS questions are closed pretty quickly, I don't think we currently need to do anything more than leave comments giving some guidance.


I have to agree largely with @slugster's answer. Like slugster says, there are very many ways to do things with all the subtleties and variances across all styles.

Is the current state with subjective questions desirable and I am just barking up the wrong tree?

If the current set of subjective questions don't fit the guidelines in the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective blog post (most is good, all would be ideal), then they should be closed and have an explanation for why it is closed. There should be some learning aspect to the subjective questions that is beneficial to the community here. I think that might be the value you are seeking in determining whether to keep a subjective question or not. Correspondingly, answers should also be written to cover those points from the blog post. Hopefully, a question is asked such that an answer does meet those criteria. I think we have a mix of both good subjective ones and some mediocre ones.

If no one is learning anything, if people are just posting opinions, then the question probably wasn't very good to begin with. It should be closed with the hope that it can be improved.

Assuming that it isn't desirable, what can we do to emphasize the Back-It-Up principle or some equivalent?

I almost want to say years (hours, actually) of training could be a useful marker, though that does not necessarily invite deeper understanding. Someone who trains in various martial arts may have a wider breadth of knowledge but may not have as much a depth of understanding one particular art and vice versa. If people do answer something that is out of their experience but provide something valuable, then they should also understand and acknowledge their shortcomings and be respectful of whatever boundaries they are treading.

Stating qualifications doesn't have to explicit; that should be conveyed in what someone writes in an answer about personal experiences. I would also place more value on answers that do an exceptional job of explaining and communicating knowledge to an audience, but can do so in a way that does meet the six subjective guidelines.


The ultimate back it up principle in martial arts is "let's fight". Do that enough and you start to sort out what the right and wrong answers are. MA.SE, in banning style comparisons as non-constructive has effectively prohibited even talking about backing it up.

In the end, the rules that have been set in MA.SE prevent people from backing up what they say. It's rather like one of the MA forums (Budoseek maybe?) that banned talking about verifying lineage or other claims, and expected everyone to just trust someone's claim that they're a 7th Degree Grand Master of a style with 50 years of experience and 200 closed door challenge match victories.

What MA.SE should do is actually encourage more answers, rather than less. Sure there's noise, but at least one of the answers might be good, instead of having silly rules to protect some members' weak sensibilities that can block the right answer from even being given.


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