...is of less value than a qualified one.
This statement has caused me some problems on various forums when asking for people's frame of reference, past experience, actual experience, or other qualifiers to an opinion.
Someone posts that "this class was amazing!", yet when pressed admits that the only other class they ever had was the two hour lecture at the gun show to get their CWP.
Someone posts "I love my XYZ carbine!", yet eventually concedes that they have had the thing for 3 years and are still on the first case of ammo they bought with the gun.
Someone posts "the ABC bolt-on made by XYZ is the best!", but come to find out that they've never even laid hands on one, let alone used one.
Which isn't to say that these opinions are completely worthless, so long as they are properly qualified.
If the guy in example one said "I've never taken any training before, but this instructor really took the time to walk the new guys through and I absolutely loved the experience", then others that are new to training could perhaps put themselves in his shoes and figure out that this might be a class they would be interested in.
If the guy in example two just fessed up to the relatively low round count, and the virtual lack of experience with the gun, perhaps someone else with a similar intended use could benefit from the opinion and save $200 over buying more gun than they "need".
If the guy in example three just admitted that he got the information off the internet, but said "I've never used an ABC from XYZ, but both Pat Rogers and Larry Vickers have posted on various forums that they love them" (and preferably provide links to those posts), then at least they're sort of shifting the qualifier to someone else, and providing the resource where someone could go and ask questions of Pat and Larry to further their inquiries.
Yes, contrary to what your mommy and your third grade teacher told you, while everyone may be entitled to their opinion, some opinions are of less value than others.
When seeking advice on the internet, you need to include two things:
1) What do you intend to do with the product? Whether you are asking about Jeep parts, rifles, electronics, sex toys, whatever, if you leave out what you want to do with it, you could wind up with suggestions for a ball gag when what you really want is a sybian (google it if you don't know what it is). TELL US WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WITH THE ITEM IN QUESTION. What optic someone suggests will depend on whether you want to defend your barricaded family in your home or pop prairie dogs at 800 yards.
2) What is your frame of reference? If you're asking for suggestions on a new product, and you've already owned 3 of the competitive products, let people know that so they can save time and streamline their advice. If you're asking about 123 because you've already tried ABC and didn't like it, then say so. That way the people that prefer ABC can save themselves the trouble of suggesting it. If you're asking about a class to take, post your previous training experience as it will have an impact on what people recommend.
When reading advice on the internet, you need to make sure of two things:
1) Does the advice-giver have any real frame of reference for their opinions? If they don't post their qualifiers, or get upset when asked to, then you can pretty easily discount their opinion. Make sure that the guy posting on the other end actually has some kind of experience to back up his opinion, or at least tells you that he has none.
2) Does the advice-given share your frame of reference? While cops can learn from non-LE, and civilians can learn from soldiers, and soldiers can learn from competition shooters, there are times when the needs of someone in a role different from yours may not translate well to your needs. Make sure that you understand where the other person is coming from, their application and level of experience, and that you understand how their frame of reference translates to your own.
When offering advice on the internet, you should do two things:
1) Post your qualifiers. "I love my XYZ" is an absolutely useless post. It helps nobody, does nothing but strokes your own ego, and chances are you are only actually recommending the only brand/model/example/version of the thing that you have ever even seen in person. Stop it. There is nothing wrong with posting an opinion based largely in ignorance, but own up to it. Say "I bought an XYZ as my first AR and I've put x# of trouble-free rounds through it". Don't say "flawless". Please. For the children.
2) Post your frame of reference. If you use your rifle as a PMC in Iraq, say so. If you use your rifle for competitive shooting, say so. If you use your rifle as an LE patrol rifle, say so. While there may be some carryover, oftentimes there isn't. Preferably you should ascertain what it is that the other guy is planning on doing with his XYZ, and then qualify whatever advice you give based on same.
How this pertains to me, this site, and you
The inevitable complaint that follows here is "yeah, but you're just a low-speed non-LE civilian". You are absolutely right. That is exactly what I am. And I have never made any claims to the contrary, and try to make sure to "stay in my lane" with regards to giving advice to people that go into harm's way. I relay my experience, qualified as what it is and as useful as others want to make it. You should try to do the same, and expect anyone you "meet" on the internet to do it too.
The above, first written in 2008 as a response to people jumping into forum posts with useless additions like "Get the Colt, it's the best!" has since been used against me by several folks who seem to lack a solid grasp of the English language.
What is meant here is not a "qualification" as in "I am certified in XYZ therefore my opinion means more than yours", although that may be one example, and we can all then weigh what we think of said certification and what it's value may be. What I mean here by "qualification" is, instead, the more broad concept of simply stating your frame of reference. Opinions are fine. They are great in fact. But without knowing the frame of reference they are often of little value. So when I say "qualify your opinion" what that means is "explain your frame of reference." Simply having a job of one sort or another does not automatically qualify one for anything. "I am a teacher and therefore I know about education" is hardly a true statement if said teacher either has no students, or year after year produces students that cannot pass their state-mandated standardized testing.
Qualify your opinion, and insist that others do the same.