# Are “I suspect…” answers okay? What if we all started writing them?

I've just written the following comment:

-1 because I have always found the "I suspect that..." format troubling when used in Stack Exchange answer posts. We always encourage users to source their answers. If everyone started posting guesses in answer posts following the lead of the site moderator, we'd be in big trouble.

and I'd like to see how others feel about this to see if this view is shared by others or if the community has divergent views on this.

Searching my user name for "I suspect" in quotes returns 13 posts; 11 questions and two answer posts. Checking those two answer posts once can see that they are both heavily sourced and my suspicion is ancillary rather than central to the answer.

Searching the other user's ID for "I suspect in quotes returns 89 posts, almost all answers! There are way too many check how many are well-sourced and how many (if any) are 100% suspicion-based answers, but I suspect there are at least a few.

Question: Are "I suspect..." answers okay? What if we all started writing answers based on authoritative-sounding and reasonable suspicion?

I suspect there are dozens if not hundreds of users here capable of users here able to write likely-to-be-correct or correct-sounding "I suspect" answers, but I suspect that most of us restrain ourselves from doing so because we believe that SE answers in science-based sites should always strive to source their facts so that readers can verify and read further. I suspect that up votes have a popularity component so they can not be 100% relied-upon.

The space industry as a whole doesn't always make all of its sources publicly available. Furthermore, many of the things that we talk about on this site are hypothetical situations. Sometimes getting the data is almost impossible, or we are looking for a needle in a haystack. For instance, the first few questions I see from your search of me are the following:

• A: Why is SpaceX testing Pad Abort at LC-40 (CCAFS) but Max-Q abort at Vandenberg?
• A: Does the temperature near the surface of the Moon rise rather quickly with depth?
• A: What would be the (most difficult) challenge to make a “10,000 year satellite”?
• A: What satellites were launched into a polar orbit from Cape Canaveral in the 1950s and 1960s?
• A: Are transfers between two orbits commutative?

One of these is a purely hypothetical case, the 10,000 year satellite. The orbital transfer no doubt has a perfect answer, but it would require writing a simulation to get an answer that is perfect. The Moon temperature profile probably exists out there somewhere, I will give you that one could have had more work. SpaceX doesn't publicize all of their reasoning behind things, so unless someone happens to talk with someone who helped make that decision or was aware of why, well, the best we could do is some educated guessing. The remaining question, the polar orbits, well, there have been a lot of launches and looking at a huge list of launches I might have missed one.

Personally, I would rather have people who post answers express doubt where they are less than certain on something.

Lastly, let's look at the FAQ.

Still no answer to the question, and you have the same problem? Help us find a solution by researching the problem, then contribute the results of your research and anything additional you’ve tried as a partial answer. That way, even if we can’t figure it out, the next person has more to go on. You can also vote up the question or set a bounty on it so the question gets more attention.

Bottom line is, I believe that if someone reasonably believes that something is an answer to the question, explain their reasoning, and take the best educated guess they can, that should be an acceptable answer. If someone just says "I think that the answer is _____" with no explanation at all, well, that wouldn't be acceptable.

I do agree that where possible, sources should be provided. But many times there just isn't any publicly available sources out there. If we deny answers to questions because there is no public source, well, we will start having a lot of questions asked here with no answers at all.

• Thanks for your answer! My goal is to work out a consensus that allows us to continue to challenge unsourced answers, especially those by enthusiastic new users but sometimes by "old-timers" without applying what may be, or simply feel like a double standard. We certainly do accept answer posts that label themselves as "Partial" or "Supplementary" in their first sentence, and I think there are at least a few well received "Not an answer, but too long for a comment" self-labeled answer posts. – uhoh Oct 29 '20 at 23:23
• But if a clever crank started posting such answers regularly we still need some pre-existing criteria to try to reign in such behavior, otherwise they'd just cry "unfair! double standard!" So while "I couldn't find anything online" might feel like enough, we can never know if it means that no authoritative answer is possible by another user, so I don't think we should just jump on newly-posted questions and post suspicions as answers because a quick search didn't find obvious sources. At least that's nor what I would do. – uhoh Oct 29 '20 at 23:28
• To me as long as the reasoning behind such assumptions is explained, and they are attempting to answer the question the OP is actually asking then it should be fine. They should also explain the parts that are most speculative, and the parts that are less so. Also note, it wasn't just a quick search that I did on the matter. Let's just say that I have a bit more information on that than is totally publicly available, but not even looking through that helped. – PearsonArtPhoto Oct 29 '20 at 23:49
• I'm sympathetic to your situation and it certainly needs to be acknowledged in some way. For example I've accepted these answers prima facie 1, 2 – uhoh Oct 29 '20 at 23:57
• But in this answer though is there anything that goes beyond an "armchair guess" that any random user could post? Does it draw upon "a bit more information on that"? Should it? – uhoh Oct 30 '20 at 0:20
• The OP was under the impression that there that it would be a problem for the center of gravity. I pointed out that it could be an asset, and why. If drone finds a better answer then great! If not, at least for now there is a plausible answer. – PearsonArtPhoto Oct 30 '20 at 1:50
• It's a problem because they must be constantly monitored for balanced thrust and adjusted accordingly, and this problem is magnified by distance. They are shown mounted fixed to the "sticks" so your proposed scheme works for only *one of three equally important axes. As the other answer self-corrects after its own bout of hypothesizing, the craft probably has conventional reaction wheels. Attitude control seems to be unlikely as an advantage of, but remains as problem of this arrangement – uhoh Oct 30 '20 at 2:54
• I can see how "keeping them out of the way" of the other craft could be plausible except for the fact that they appear to be pointing in the opposite direction. I still think your quickly-posted idea has not been sufficiently thought-through to redeem itself as an "I suspect" answer in its current form. – uhoh Oct 30 '20 at 2:58
• So based on my above comments it seems to me that the "asset" you pointed out seems to be vaporware, and therefore your answer is just a random and seemingly baseless guess. What if all new users started answering in the same fashion? – uhoh Oct 31 '20 at 6:24
• @uhoh You realize that you can downvote the answer and move on, right? But the answer doesn't merit any kind of flag or delete vote. We don't need to over-police things, especially in cases where a general policy wouldn't be all that helpful. Voting exists for a reason, votes already express what the community thinks of an answer. – Polygnome Oct 31 '20 at 9:04
• @uhoh I couldn't care less how much rep you have, how many answers you have written and how many questions you have asked. That doesn't make your opinion more right then mine. Think carefully if you really want to say that my opinion is worthless because of who I am instead of bringing an argument, because that is exactly what you just did. On a question arguing about sourcing answers. Quite ironic. – Polygnome Oct 31 '20 at 9:30
• Polygnome Two things; 1) my concern expressed in the question's title and body and in several other places on the page is what happens if others start posting guess answers as well? How do we continue to direct new users not to write guess answers when it's "okay" for certain "popular" users to do it? 2) Please consider the following; many answer-writing users have asked few if any questions in this site, so when you look at a question it's almost always policing. I've asked over 2,000 questions, so when I look at a question about 50% of the time it's my question and its then stewardship. – uhoh Oct 31 '20 at 9:30
• Promptly-posted, catchy-sounding guess answers can often attract up votes in this site specifically, and that can discourage other readers, especially new users from investing the time to research and then write a more thorough answer. There should not be a double standard such that certain individuals are rewarded for guessing and others (especially new arrivals who are critical to site success) are penalized, but after five years now that is exactly the pattern I have seen and discussed several times in the past as well. – uhoh Oct 31 '20 at 9:30
• @uho deciding case-by-case because a universal policy isn't all that helpful isn't a double standard. In german, we have a word for it - "fingerspitzengefühl", which means the sense of tact required for each decision. – Polygnome Oct 31 '20 at 9:32
• @uhoh I agree with you that pure speculation is bad. Educated guesses with explained reasoning however aren't necessarily bad. They aren't necessarily good, either. hence the case-by-case decisions needed. – Polygnome Oct 31 '20 at 9:33

Meh.

This seems to be a nitpick about how the answer was worded. "There is a lack of evidence, but ..." or "Other spacecraft ..." or some other wording might be better received.

No sources supporting an answer? Then don't upvote it.

Is the answer outright wrong? Then downvote it. But I don't think that applied in this case.

That leaves the option of non-voting the answer, which I think is okay in this case.

I don't think a lack of sources necessarily deserves deleting an answer -- especially when it supported by argument, as this was -- but a friendly request for sources is appropriate.

• Your answer seems to want to steer clear of the main points raised in the question. -1 accordingly. – uhoh Oct 30 '20 at 16:22
• I think that the answer is wrong and if clever cranks start answering like this we'll have a problem. Better to address now than to "Meh" it away temporarily. – uhoh Oct 31 '20 at 6:27

I suspect this is the purpose of the down vote.

(...see what I did there?)