"Speaking of Personal Experience" isn't a citation. September 11, 2012 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Saying "I have personal experience in this" doesn't invalidate or even contradict information given in ask.

This isn't a call-out of any one user (though I am giving an example), but it is getting a bit bothersome to me that people answering questions on Ask use phrases such as, "Speaking from personal experience..." to invalidate a point made by someone (or many people) who have answered a question previously.

In the case of this particular question, I suspect that many of the suggestions made were based on people who had been in rehab facilities which followed the rules and/or doubled as mental health facilities. The fact that this was left unstated is probably because of the sensitive nature of the situation.

While professionals in any given field generally can give more weight to an answer based on expertise, I think it's probably a good idea to presume that the folks who are answering Ask questions are doing so based on some sort of experience.
posted by xingcat to Etiquette/Policy at 11:31 AM (37 comments total)

...I think it's probably a good idea to presume that the folks who are answering Ask questions are doing so based on some sort of experience.

I dunno. I think it's a good idea to presume that the answers are good-faith, but wrong answers are frequent enough that, off the top of my head, I can think of at least two professionals who left MetaFilter because they didn't want to shout over dangerous speculation posing as good advice.
posted by griphus at 11:48 AM on September 11, 2012 [25 favorites]


I think you're reading into it. I think it's fine for someone to state their level of personal experience. This allows the person who asked the question to evaluate the usefulness of the answer.

But don't presume that everyone in a thread has experience (even tangentially) on the matter being asked. Some, like me sometimes, just have a thought that might or might not be helpful and might be something that the original poster hadn't thought of because of their own perspective is different.

I mean, I've answered questions on weddings, doctoral dissertations, having kids and a whole bunch of other things I've never ever experienced.

I can't be the only one who will often answer based on some sense of internal right/wrong and a bit of internet research from time to time.

Now look for my AskMe answer favorites to diminish as I reveal my secret.
posted by inturnaround at 11:48 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think it's probably a good idea to presume that the folks who are answering Ask questions are doing so based on some sort of experience.

Speaking from personal experience, this assumption is often incorrect.
posted by zamboni at 11:51 AM on September 11, 2012 [38 favorites]


I think that was a pretty good way to talk about personal experience, actually. You can sometimes use a lot of data points to make a general principles at times -- towards which the commenter was contributing -- although it should come with qualifications. Which is exactly what the commenter did, as he said, Of course, you could call first if you are unsure...
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:54 AM on September 11, 2012


i've read the thread and the comment a number of times - i don't really see that phrase used there as a way to elevate themselves or invalidate previous responses. i can totally understand why people wouldn't speak to the degree of their personal experience, but i think it should be encouraged for people to say "i've been through this." if other people don't want to say that, that's fine too.

as far as assuming that people are answering based on experience - i think i see as many "i've never done this before, but i think..." as "speaking from personal experience..." personally, i prefer to just read what's there and not make assumptions one way or another.
posted by nadawi at 11:54 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Whose answer(s) do you think Debaser626 is trying to invaildate?

I would NOT presume that most people answering questions in AskMe have personal experience or that they even know what they're talking about. Speaking from personal experience, I have seen ridiculous amounts of misinformation given (probably with the best intentions) on AskMe in the few areas in which I have expertise.
posted by amro at 11:59 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I understand your point, but the question you linked to is one I asked, and I found that answer really helpful. I just commented in the thread but Debaser626's experience seems to be more in line with the experience of the person I'm sending the care package to.

I think, as always, it falls to the reader to take any advice culled from an anonymous internet user with a solid grain of salt and to do his or her own research before making a decision.
posted by SeedStitch at 12:01 PM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


When people answer questions in AskMe, they can sometimes be susceptible to viewing subsequent answers as contradicting their answer, rather than as addressing the OP's question.

This is often not entirely in their heads. But still. AskMe isn't intended to be conversational and it should ideally be a welcoming, helpful atmosphere for the askers, and for all that to happen it's sometimes wise for people to overextend benefit of the doubt and indulge the polite fiction, "That misguided person isn't arguing with me, he's just providing suboptimal advice to the OP—who can read the entire thread and decide for himself."
posted by cribcage at 12:03 PM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


The proper syntax is "I know more about this subject than you could possibly imagine".
posted by Burhanistan at 12:04 PM on September 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not seeing any intent on invalidating other answers in that thread, it sounds more like someone speaking from personal experience and that's fine and normal for Ask MeFi.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:10 PM on September 11, 2012


While professionals in any given field generally can give more weight to an answer based on expertise, I think it's probably a good idea to presume that the folks who are answering Ask questions are doing so based on some sort of experience.

Nope. I've seen plenty of answers to questions that are blind conjecture with no real level of knowledge about the subject whatsoever. In those cases, I don't think there should be anything against someone else providing an answer stating that other answers are incorrect as long as the reason they're incorrect is adequately stated.
posted by LionIndex at 12:21 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's I think a more generous way to look at this: rather than taking "in my experience" to mean "YOU'RE WRONG," take it to mean "look, you've got your experience and I've got mine and they might be different so let's all offer what we have to offer."

Even before a disagreement, that's often what it means. Like rather than just saying "FUCK YOU YOU'RE WRONG" the person took the time to say "Look, you might still be right, but I've got experiences that don't match what you're saying so maybe it's more complicated than that." I find that to be a pretty pleasant way to frame a disagreement.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:22 PM on September 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Agree with nebulawindphone: it appears that this person was quantifying their own answer and it wasn't a personal attack on yours!
posted by Eicats at 12:24 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


So a recent AskMe was from someone who had gotten a counterfeit bill from their ATM. This has happened to me, and my bank had a very simple procedure to handle it. I thought it might be helpful to share my experience and to flag it as a personal experience, rather than "Some banks have procedures..."

Is there a particular reason that you think generalizing answers might be more helpful than accounts of personal experiences?
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:52 PM on September 11, 2012


Marking an answer as clearly from one's own life experience doesn't invalidate the answers of others, even if the other people have life experience that came to a different outcome.

I would rather not assume something as differentiating as personal experience, because many, many, many answers are based on guesses, accepted "wisdom", and faulty logic rather than actual experience.

At the same time, I've known people to state they were coming at something from personal experience when, in fact, they weren't.

It's really up to the person receiving the information to make the appropriate judgment for their situation based on the input.

If an answerer feels their response may be downgraded because it conflicts with someone who cited personal experience despite their own answer being based on same but having a different result, they could always come back and clarify the depth of their experience (or, in the case of a non-anonymous Ask or one equipped with a throwaway email, write to the Asker directly).
posted by batmonkey at 1:19 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


If "from personal experience" is really a back-handed way of invalidating previous answers, then why do people say it just as often when they are the first (or only) person to answer? Or when they explicitly agree with all the previous answers?

I think you're reading meaning into this phrase that is not there at all.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:38 PM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I think the thing to keep in mind here is that while people can in theory (and sometimes in practice do in fact) use the "well in my experience" framing as a sort of argumentative rhetorical gambit, that's not the default. People answer from a variety of perspectives and in a variety of ways; the best bet is to take stuff as well-intended wherever possible.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:01 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the word for this should be "Asksplaining".

I don't really think this.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:08 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


At least personally, I like knowing where people are coming from (personal experience, watching a friend go through it, intellectual expert, professional, whatever) when they have an opinion. It allows the reader to qualify their opinion and give it as much weight as he or she would like based on their own value system.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 2:27 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like it when people say that they have personal experience relevant to the question. A much worse problem to my mind is people completely talking out of their asses when answering questions. See any thread related to any legal topic, where someone says, "I'm not a lawyer, but I'm sure that combing your hair in public must be illegal because it's so gross to watch and unhygienic, so clearly you should call the police." Or read any parenting thread, where someone says, "I'm not a parent, but obviously the solution to your kid's bed wetting problem is to make her use a catheter for the next couple years so when she pees it just drains into the catheter bag instead of getting on the sheets." People give answers all the time when they haven't the slightest clue what the fuck they are talking about.
posted by medusa at 4:17 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


We've had similar MetaTalks about encouraging people to identify their qualifications to speak about something, so I do it a lot more often than I used to, though honestly, it sometimes sounds obnoxious. But since the feeling was it was helpful to OPs to know a bit more about where some opinions were grounded, I do it now. I think this is just an extension of that.

A much worse problem to my mind is people completely talking out of their asses when answering questions.

Amen to that. Except that it's also possible to know a lot about raising children because you have raised children or been involved in raising children without being a parent, so that's not a great example.
posted by Miko at 4:58 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


A much worse problem to my mind is people completely talking out of their asses when answering questions.

But what if people are asking if they've ever owned a mind-reading ass that could speak for them vicariously? What then??

I should probably apologize now, before I even preview this.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:02 PM on September 11, 2012


Seriously, though, talking out of one's ass probably means that you don't really know what you are talking about, rather than just a lack of first-hand information.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:05 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I appreciate it when people clarify whether they are speculating, whether they heard about a friend of a friend who tried this thing, or whether they have actual experience that relates to the question. I've seen what looked like absolutely terrible advice where the answerer didn't explain their position. It would have helped clarify things if they had said "I haven't been in this situation but it seems to me ..." or "I did this myself and this is what happened."

And sometimes I say "in my experience" because some situations are not concrete, and someone else might have a different experience.
posted by bunderful at 5:37 PM on September 11, 2012


The only reason I can imagine that one would want to invalidate or edge out other answers would be to get favorites or BEST ANSWER. I visit AskMe frequently and I haven't seen much of that kind of competition, if any at all.
posted by snsranch at 5:37 PM on September 11, 2012


100% of people have been children, even though not everyone is a parent. "Here's what my parents did for me, and here's how it worked out" seems potentially more helpful in some cases (bed wetting, frex) than "Here is what I am doing right now as a parent" because of the longitudinal aspect.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:09 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Miko and Sidhedevil, I was not at all trying to say that you have to be a parent to give good parenting advice, sorry if it read that way. I was using parenting threads as an example because they can bring out judgmental attitudes in a jiffy. Remember the thread about a boy who only pooped in diapers despite being older than the usual age of toilet training in the US?
posted by medusa at 6:19 PM on September 11, 2012


Well, but that's fucked up.

KIDDING

Seriously, though, talking out of one's ass probably means that you don't really know what you are talking about, rather than just a lack of first-hand information.

Yeah, that sounds about right.
posted by Miko at 6:42 PM on September 11, 2012


I like it when people say that they have personal experience relevant to the question. A much worse problem to my mind is people completely talking out of their asses when answering questions.

And when you have personal or professional experience with the subject of the Ask, it can be sort of maddening to watch the talking-out-of-one's ass that follows. With something like human relations questions, everyone's experience is relevant, but in something more specific, knowing about what you speak is definitely a plus.

See this excellent meta thread.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 7:01 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some people like answering questions, even if they don't know the answer. They'll guess or report urban legends.

I love it when I ask a question and people let me know where they got their info, whether that's from studying the issue, personal experience, secondhand experience, seeing a documentary about it or whatever. It lets me rank the differing advice in terms of reliability. So I always try to do the same thing myself and state my basis for answering.
posted by harriet vane at 9:12 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's probably a good idea to presume that the folks who are answering Ask questions are doing so based on some sort of experience.

I don't know. I'm imagining a future AskMe:
YANMD, but I accidentally just hammered a nail through the palm of my hand, and I can see the nail coming out the other side. Is this something I need to get checked out right away? COBRA doesn't kick in for another week, can I just wait it out?
Naturally, we'd probably all respond telling the asker to just "get thee to a physician" immediately. However, if you've actually hammered a nail through your hand, and can tell the asker that
In my experience (this actually happened to me about 2 years ago!) I didn't have insurance like you, and waiting was a really, really bad idea. The wound became infected by the next day, and now my left hand basically doesn't work. You should probably go to the emergency room.
The system works!
posted by King Bee at 10:02 PM on September 11, 2012


If I ask a question about how to fix my Toyota, and I get a number of semi-well-informed (and intentioned answers), maybe one or two of them even from mechanics themselves, and then an engineer from Toyota's factory shows up to explain why everyone is incorrect, I'm going to be happy it happened. This isn't a bug, it's a feature.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:26 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


A much worse problem to my mind is people completely talking out of their asses when answering questions.

AKA "assplaining".
posted by Omnomnom at 11:02 AM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


And when the thread is filled with lots of clueless answers, it's called "massplaining."
posted by medusa at 3:08 PM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


If anyone is still reading this thread...

I find a lot of the landlord/tenant question answers annoying because so often folks who have already been taken advantage of (mostly tenants who have not researched or exercised their rights chime in to say a version of, "Yep. You are getting fucked. Suck it up."

Every time I reply with, "My personal experience is...," it is because I want the OP to know X can go a different way.
posted by jbenben at 12:34 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The other irritating thing about landlord/tenant threads is that people don't realize that in te US this area is governed by state and sometimes local law. So you see a lot of "That's totally illegal!!!" when in fact it may not be, and vice versa.
posted by Miko at 5:43 AM on September 14, 2012


The reason that I mention if I have experience with topic is to indicate whether my advice is based on empathy or sympathy. Sometimes that is important to an asker.

Similar to saying IANAL or YMMV.
posted by Shouraku at 5:55 PM on September 14, 2012


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