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The current effort to be stricter with unsupported answers has made me realize that some of my older answers come across that way too, and probably the only reason they haven't been targeted (yet) is that they're upvoted and I have high rep. In most of these cases my answer is based not on cited studies but on my experience and observations from decades in the work force -- valuable, but just one person's observations.

Should I go back and qualify those answers to say more about what experience they're based on? On the positive side, it makes the answer a little more supported. On the negative side, I'm bumping old posts just to say this is based on my experience, which people have apparently inferred and deemed ok because they voted for those answers.

I'm well aware that the plural of "anecdote" is not "data", but the answers seem valuable nonetheless. Should I make an effort to improve these? At all? Systematically? Only if poked by a comment?

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  • Keep in mind you can have a short answer which still explains why it is correct. – enderland Mar 6 '14 at 22:43
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Look at your answers and see if they explain why they are correct. Explaining why the answer is correct is more important than explaining how you know the information. If you can not explain why then an anecdote of how your experience shaped your opinion is appropriate. If you quote specific stats then you should really have some reference for them even if it is "based on my experience."

I had some of my older answers down-voted for that reason and as it happened I either deleted the answer, or updated it to meet the standard.

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  • +1: Explaining why the answer is correct is more important than explaining how you know the information. Agreed. – Jim G. Mar 6 '14 at 12:09
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Editing older posts: Focus on the worst of the worst

If there's a certain answer that really bugs you and it's going to keep you awake at night, then I'd say go for it and edit away. But no one should feel like they need to go through everything in their answers list and make everything perfect. Quality, like many things, is subjective, and as long as we have more high quality material than we do low quality material, I'm happy with where things are heading.

During one of the pre-graduation cleanups, one of my answers did come up in the discussion, so I used that as an opportunity to add more objectivity to my answer, as did others to theirs. So there's nothing wrong with making some improvements if you so choose, especially since editing is one of the most important tools on our site. However, this was done during a controlled effort where we focused on one question per week to limit the amount of material being bumped to the top of the page. Since that question was being edited and bumped anyway, I also edited my answer, even though I didn't feel like it was ever really on the chopping block.

Since the worst of the worst is now history, the best course of action may be to wait until we resume the cleanup efforts jmac started before graduation and edit then, if your posts are on one of those questions.

Just as an aside, for anyone else reading, this is also why it's so important to provide respectful, constructive comments. When those cleanups do resume, it's important folks understand there are users like Monica out there who are interested in helping out by improving her own posts. So comments don't always need to take an authoritative tone. In my experience, friendly tones tend to have a better chance of leading folks to take action anyway.

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  • 1
    Thanks; that makes sense. Part of my reason for asking is that deletions are silent (unless there's a mod-comment within a small time window), so if one of my answers were to appear in the crosshairs I might not even know about it. I'd rather fix problems than delete them. (That's part of the motivation, but the main motivation is wanting to maintain quality standards and not be a bad example. I don't have specific answers in mind. I have a lot of answers, though.) – Monica Cellio Mar 6 '14 at 1:58
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    @MonicaCellio - I generally look at the age of the post and then how long it's been since the author last visited. I also look at the content to decide whether or not it's just one or two problems or if the entire post is a problem. If I think there's a chance the person would be interested in editing, I'll leave a helpful comment with a suggestion. So far, the only silent deletions I've done, without leaving a comment, were on posts where there just wasn't any thought put into it. These were one-liners for authors who had already been explained the guidelines, in most cases. – jmort253 Mar 6 '14 at 2:43
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No. If your answers have survived this long, then they are probably fine.

Also, you seem a bit confused about the "Back It Up" principle. Please see my answer here for more information.

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  • I'm not confused about "back it up"; I'm talking about answers where I didn't explain how I know what I know (just asserted it). In those cases it's based on experience and that would qualify, but my question is whether I should go and edit that in to bring those answers into compliance with site policy. Sorry if I was unclear in my question. – Monica Cellio Mar 5 '14 at 20:54

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