So far, most of the question and answers on this new site are setting the stage for attracting the types of experts who will help make this site a viable Stack Exchange site. Because of the nature of this topic, this site shares much in common with The Workplace SE. Like the workplace, the experts in freelancing don't have freelancing degrees or formal education in freelancing, self-employment, or small business. Like the Workplace SE, many experts are experts based on their experiences alone.

In Good Subjective, Bad Subjective, Stack Exchange talks about how subjectivity is not bad, so long as the community follows the Guidelines of Great Subjective Questions, which are listed near the bottom of the Good Subjective blog post. The key takeaway from the experiences in subjectivity is summarized by the experiences on other Stack Exchange sites:

The folks at Moms4mom owned up to the subjective issue and came up with a set of principles to create useful subjective discussions on parenting: the Back It Up! Principle. Back It Up! means that your answers must be based on either:

  • Something that happened to you personally
  • Something you can back up with a reference

They talk about how “opinion, by itself, is noise.” They’re not saying that subjective opinions are to be avoided; they’re attempting to mold and shape their inherently subjective Q&A into something constructive, informative and helpful.

While most of the answers I've seen do explain why and how and also share experiences to back up the authors' claims, I have seen some answers that leave much to be desired in this area.

We're in private beta, and in a week or two we'll move to public beta where the site will be temporarily flooded with new people who may be merely curious about this new community. This is by far the most critical period for a new Stack Exchange site, and we should be sure we continue on the right path.

There was a previous private beta of Freelance Workers, which was closed due to lack of quality content. Let's tackle this issue early on and create a site for solving real problems in the world of Freelancing!

Does this site, like The Workplace, Moms4Moms, Programmers SE, and other subjective cousins, need to implement some form of the Back It up rule? How can we as a community enforce this rule in a way that's constructive -- encouraging people to edit instead of delete -- and by exercising patience for those new to Stack Exchange subjectivity guidelines?

3 Answers 3


Yes, definitely.
So many of the questions here will probably be influenced by law in some way, or will be subjective enough that sources should be given in answers.

I don't think we'd even make it out of private beta without this rule; without it, we'd be swamped by noise and discussion when we hit public beta and the horde of newcomers start asking and answering questions.

EDIT: we've hit public beta, and should start thinking about adding this rule into the FAQ if possible.

  • 2
    There's an answer posted that doesn't have any references or experiences, and I am certain it is wrong, so I downvoted it, and another user and myself left a comment encouraging the user to expand. I'm thinking a nice mix of downvotes and helpful, encouraging comments can help set the tone in the right direction. Also, I was thinking we could post some follow up questions to evoke a response and then edit them in.
    – jmort253
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 1:34
  • 1
    We should probably also encourage editing sources into answers if the OP feels they are obvious, but others may not agree (several people on SO have touched on "google it" being replaced by "stackoverflow it", so sources should really be in questions). If answers are genuinely wrong and include no sources, under the back it up rule, would they be challenged and removed?
    – Amelia
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 1:42
  • 1
    I think this depends case by case. If something is clearly wrong, I'd insist on evidence to prove otherwise. But if it's fairly obvious that the person knows what he or she is talking about, and most reasonable people would see it to be correct, then it may be awkward to insist they provide more details. The back it up rule is really intended to reduce the amount of information that doesn't clearly solve a particular problem.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 4:12
  • @jmort253 indeed, the aim of a back it up rule should be to challenge information that may seem too opinionated or incorrect
    – Amelia
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 6:33

As for how to enforce it, I think it is usually sufficient to do one of two things:

  1. If you have a better answer you can back up, say so.

  2. If you don't have a better answer, make a comment challenging the individual to back it up. If you need to you can add a downvote and a note that you will consider reversing if the question is edited.

Over on DBA there was a guy who gave an answer like "don't use an RDBMS, use NoSQL instead." A bunch of us downvoted him and gave him comments that he needed to flesh it out, and that it was a judgement on the quality and detail of the question. He edited it to discuss why he thought that in this case, and went into some detail. He did a great edit explaining why he said that and a lot of people reversed their downvotes after that.

  • 1
    This is a great approach to enforcing the back it up rule! It will also serve as an example to let other users know what is expected in answers.
    – jmort253
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 19:09
  • Also coordinating the culture in public chat rooms seems to work well on DBA. Commented May 27, 2013 at 3:33
  • There are a few people in our chat room. It's in our best interests to build a Freelancing Chat culture early on too. :)
    – jmort253
    Commented May 27, 2013 at 3:51

For technical stuff that sounds reasonable.

For stuff relating to contracts, customers, rates, bidding, payment it seems pretty obvious people will not want to give out much identifying detail.

  • I saw a case where a company signed an unlimited-scope unlimited-duration NDA with one client. If they ever disclose 'X used to be our client', even inadvertently or indirectly, they're in potential trouble.

So if you only meant 'aim to avoid subjective-seeming opinions without justification on technical issues', then yes. Otherwise, no, this will be overly limiting.

ADDENDUM: Hiroto proposed a 'back it up' policy but didn't define it except to say 'something you can back up with a reference'. But subsequently he clarifies 'vague non-identifying detail' is ok. The onus is on the proposer to define clearly what he means.

  • Not having a back it up rule would lead to too much subjective content with no proof or credible sources. also, you may want to provide a source for people not wanting to give out "identifying detail" (which i wouldn't really class as evidence to back up a claim; i'd rather use an anecdote or a link to a lawmaker's site)
    – Amelia
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 12:18
  • see also meta.freelancing.stackexchange.com/questions/66/… - it's one of the reasons we started pushing for this rule, because otherwise it'd lead to a decline in quality
    – Amelia
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 12:19
  • What do you mean by "identifying detail"?
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 13:45
  • @jmort253: detail which would identify the customer, even partially
    – smci
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 15:10
  • @Hiroto: I didn't suggest not having a backup rule at all - I agreed with that in general. I suggested not compelling people to describe their clients or rates in a way that would reveal identifying details. I had already read your 'Private beta extended' post.
    – smci
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 15:35
  • @smci there is no indication that you are asked in any way to reveal client information in any way, so why mention it?
    – Amelia
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 15:38
  • @Hiroto, how much detail do you require if someone says 'companies in sector X will accept net-zero or net-thirty payment terms, but generally not in sector Y'?
    – smci
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 15:41
  • @smci if you are literally unable to even mention vague non-identifying details about a client, then you probably shouldnt be answering for fear of mentioning them at that rate. Go as far as you like with this, but don't force others to limit the quality of their answers.
    – Amelia
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 15:46
  • @Hiroto: now you clarify 'vague non-identifying detail' that's fine. You didn't define 'back it up' except to say 'something you can back up with a reference'. But for reference it's ok to give vague non-identifying detail. Next time you define some proposed policy, the onus is on you to clearly define what you're proposing.
    – smci
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 2:21
  • 1
    @smci - I don't think anyone is implying we should break confidentiality agreements. You can be sort of vague and still show you know what you're talking about. For instance, I answered a post on another site where someone implied walking out on a job was okay and that two weeks notice wasn't required. As a counter-example, I mentioned I had returned to several employers in my past and gave a few examples of the industries I was working in, showing I've thought about it considerably. The goal is to help make sure the content we post is something we've put some thought into. Hope this helps! :)
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 4:16
  • @smci I'm not even the proposer of the policy. Read the exchange between myself and jmort253 on my answer for an idea of how the back it up rule works.
    – Amelia
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 6:35
  • Also, to correct your quote, it should really be something with a factual basis - an experience you've had; a reference to a credible source, etc. See the body of the OP's question for more on this. When I said "Vague non-identifying information", it was an example of how you are not required to state "my client's name is x, he works in y, and I did z for w" or anything like that. Nobody is saying that; it's implicit in any professional site that we never say that, as professionals.
    – Amelia
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 6:43
  • 1
    @Hiroto: my mistake, yes jmort253 originally proposed it. I had already read your exchange with him, and it wasn't clear, hence my question. He could add clarity to his proposal. The suggestion 'something with a factual basis - an experience you've had; a reference to a credible source' seems fine. But it's for him to clarify. It's his proposal.
    – smci
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 7:21
  • @smci This has been added to meta.freelancing.stackexchange.com/questions/34 - in addition, you're welcome to discuss this in chat
    – Amelia
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 7:26

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