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I'm often torn when faced with providing an answer to a question that is clearly asking for an opinion based response. We've all seen those types of questions that ask:

“What's the best...”

“In your experience,...”

“Can you recommend...”

etcetera.

Some users on this site have no problem providing answers, while, some of us tend to flag the question as “opinion based”. I find that in some of those instances, we may be missing out on some really good replies if the rules were skewed just a bit. I'd like to feel that providing an opinion based answer is accepted if it is based on some valid experience or anecdotal evidence, and, not just a

“well, it worked for me once.”

At the same time, I don't quite agree with the “points” strategy that provides the same rating (ie. “+10”) for an answer that is later closed as “opinion based”, and, an answer that is backed by studies/fact. In fact, I've seen where some users have answered the question, received an up-vote, and later voted to close the question as “opinion based”.

I'd much rather see the site change to allow opinion based responses, as long as they are supported with some kind of “evidence” (anecdotal?) or long term experience. That would mean an answer like,

“...it worked for me...”

without putting some context and experience behind it would not be valid. I think the site would become more useful because we could be relying on the wealth of experience from its users, some who've been training for many years in varied disciplines. This would encourage users to share their experiences more easily without the fear that the question will eventually be closed. And, to further encourage these types of responses, I'd like to suggest that “+5” be rewarded (rather than "+10") for those answers that are eventually voted as “opinion based”. Providing a different rating for opinion based responses would support the validity of fact based answers.

I'd like to know what others think.

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Unfortunately, you're talking about changing two fundamental concepts of the entire SE model.

The points awarded for types of answers would definitely be a SE Meta question for consideration, as that is tied to all sites.

The other could possibly fly, but again you're talking about changing a fundamental concept of SE. I have seen it the other way, where answers without concrete references are deleted, but I haven't seen opinion based SE answer sites. (Not to say they don't exist, I just haven't seen them).

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My main problem with using anecdotal or experience based evidence is that your experiences are shaped by who your are and your interpretations of your experiences may be completely different if you were brought up differently with different beliefs.

Causality

It is very easily to mis-attribute causality, and when it comes to fitness (particularly getting 'in-shape') there is a lot of this mis-attribution. To illustrate with a recent example from my office:

"The main issue for me losing weight was drinking diet cola. Once I quit that I lost LOADS! I told my friend and she lost weight the same way too, you should stop drinking the stuff, it only stops you losing weight"

We know diet soda does not contribute to weight gain so the statement is invalid and could be considered incorrect advice. By allowing/encouraging anecdotal evidence we give validation to these incorrect claims. Even with just voting, the most up-voted answer will be the most popular one, not always the correct one. (see: reddit)

Much is misunderstood when it comes to diet and nutrition and exercise. I love this site because it encourages scientific rigor to answering questions about fitness. That is what makes this site unique from reddit, bodybuilding.com, fitness forums and the like.

I see this place as not just a question-and-answer site but more of a education portal. Slowly people can spread the facts, debunk those fad diets, discourage pyramid-scheme-smoothies, and educate people about the real, visible, changes they can make to their bodies with a little dedication and hard work.

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Agreed. I guess it all depends on your background.

I fully understand not having citations can be frustrating and anecdotal evidence is a joke.

However, when you understand how things work, it seems nonsensical to then Google and find a link that supports conclusions that were learned by studying or by applying knowledge of how systems work, kind of like how you wouldn't go see a doctor and ask for a Wikipedia link for where he got his info.

I do understand there are two sides to the coin however so a very valid point.

People tend to fall in the "Research Trap", health is not a math problem. Research frequently flawed - methods are not understood. Sample sizes are too small and draw such broad conclusions, secondary factors aren't accounted for, etc..

Just embrace the shades of grey.....

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  • {nods} Although I'll note that your doctor analogy breaks down in that, as has been lamented on this very Meta site, we attract few professionals, so mostly it's anecdotes and bro science if you let people just "say what they know". – Sean Duggan May 11 '17 at 19:45
  • Yeah it can get dangerous too with sites that publish research that's a joke -- presented as it's a ground breaking story just to attract visitors (so good ole google can bite too). Shocking if I wikipedia to be quite good. It doesn't help when public figures like Dr Oz and "The Doctors" do the same. – Mike-DHSc May 11 '17 at 20:30

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