The Summer of Nonsense
Personally I consider the Summer of Love a mostly failed campaign, especially when it comes to the smaller sites of the network (I don't know if it benefited Stack Overflow, and I don't really care). Most people fixate on the whole "niceness" theme and forget that actively trying to help an asker, even just a tiny bit and even if only by pointing flaws in their question, is incredibly nice. No one is paying us to close questions, or comment on them or anything, if the comment is generally polite and points to the right direction, it's helpful (and nice, dammit!).
We can't be walking on eggshells, afraid we might offend someone, just because we politely expressed an opinion on the topicality of a question. We disqualify types & categories of questions not because we are elitist --------1, but because we've seen time and time again that these questions are more likely to turn to junk than anything useful. By closing these questions we help askers avoid having to read populist answers full of misinformation, something that could potentially hurt them a lot more than the slight sting of having their question closed.
A newer member of the community probably doesn't know all this. They haven't seen hundreds of
foo vs bar questions turn to painfully moronic holy wars, they haven't seen populist but utterly useless answers getting tons of votes just because they were dropped in a similarly minded chat room, etc. Your comment, and I'm guessing your close vote, was a correct reaction to the question, and although the OP didn't immediately realize it at the time, I'm sure if they stay around they'll soon realize why we tend to disqualify overly broad / non constructive questions.
One small thing I would have done differently would be to remove the third question in the question in question right the moment I first read it. Since you immediately identified the question as overly broad, removing the lesser of the three questions would have been a good thing, and it would have helped make it a tiny bit more specific.
Since all but one of the answers ignored that part, I went ahead and removed it. It would have been absolutely fine if you had removed it when you first saw the question, be bold and edit! The OP can just rollback if they wish...
Views, favourites and popularity in general
Ben already mentioned that there are troubles with popularity but I'd like to make a few points a bit more specific to Programmers. The subjective nature of the site unfortunately makes it a lot more attractive to bikeshed questions than Stack Overflow. We really need to always keep in mind that popularity alone says absolutely nothing at all about a question's usefulness and topicality, and ideally it shouldn't even be part of the discussion.
Having earned 17 gold Publicists badges on Programmers (and a few on other sites), I think I'm more than qualified to discuss how amazingly worthless a metric popularity is. I've manipulated it more times than I can remember, and yes sometimes I've benefited from it with some sweet but mostly pointless rep. The gamification aspects of Stack Exchange is what keeps us all hooked, and all of us who've been around for a while understand that quality > quantity, but it's also understandable that a newer user seeing their question getting tons of views, votes and being favourited will think that it's a good question2. Why wouldn't they?
Well... Let's see some examples:
Is ORM an Anti-Pattern? (+28, 13 favourites and 6,215 views)
Is it a good question? No, it isn't and I said it when I first read it:
"Your question is very broad and ambiguous", as noted in the SO question. ORM employs a variety of techniques, some may be considered to be antipatterns. Take a look at this related discussion.
I remember hating that question with a passion the moment I first read it, good thing I was a regular user back then and my close vote didn't kill it. I still don't like it, but that didn't stop me from posting an answer, one that is currently voted at +51. Why? It's very simple really, I was extremely bored at the time and had nothing better to do ;) Is it a good answer? I don't know what the rest of you think, but I don't particularly like it, it's not the kind of answer for example that I'd choose to show to colleagues.
Even if you consider it a good answer, it's not worth +51 and although it got a decent amount of votes when I first posted it, it exploded when I shared it on Reddit, which also gave me my second gold Publicist. It's a pure populist answer, and the only reason the question is popular it's is noobesque quality and, well, Reddit. Today I'd just point to the Wikipedia article I reference, close the question and forget all about it (well technically if the same question was asked today I'd close it as a duplicate, but you get my point).
What's up with the outburst of new programming languages and frameworks that's out/coming out lately? (+10, 1 favourite, 1312 views, deleted)
A lesser example, that is now (rightfully) closed, but worth examining because it was closed and re-opened, and then closed again. I voted to close minutes, perhaps seconds, after I first saw it, but again being a regular user at the time my vote was not binding. And yet, there it is, my +39 answer! Yes, once again I was bored!
But this time there's something more there, the answer is utter nonsense. And I even say so, publicly (but not so visibly) and a bit more privately:
- The third footnote, expanded reads as: Could be wrong, though. Who knows? (is my actual answer).
- At the end of the answer there used to be an invisible html comment (since purged automagically by the system?) that in no uncertain terms declared: This is nonsense!
This was mostly a trolling answer, some people picked up on it's light hearted nature, but there wasn't ever any serious reaction to my absolutely unscientific analysis. I have no idea why the question was re-opened, and I can't say anyone benefited from the answers3. I deleted the question a little after I posted this, as it quickly got 2 delete votes.
I'll stop using my answers as examples, in fear of a rain of downvotes, but in the spirit of completeness and just in case anyone is still reading this, here's a couple more examples of the problem with popularity, from our community blog:
How we managed 24 software development trainees
An amazing post by a very skill full writer, providing unique insights of the training process, a must read for every software developer (imho). Currently it has been viewed 1,034 times and has 1 comment.
20 controversial programming opinions
A bit of a meh post re-iterating not so controversial opinions, that was rushed in as other more useful posts were being written, mostly to keep up with our schedule. Currently it has been viewed 91,845 times (and counting), has 77 comments, generated a couple of questions (on Math and Code Golf), at least one retort, a vibrant discussion on Reddit and a translation in Chinese!
A meh post, I slapped together from a deleted question with the sole intention of keeping up with our schedule...
The question in question (about time ;)
It's not a bad question. Certainly it's of the
foo vs bar flavour, naturally attractive to opinionated and populist answers with little actual usefulness and perhaps even off topic under the "which technology is better" clause in our FAQ. But this category of questions is off topic by virtue of being almost always not constructive, so let's examine whether it fits the not constructive description:
As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, see the FAQ for guidance.
This question does solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion, and we don't like that around these parts of the Internet ;) It's a question build around an opinion, how can it not solicit even more opinion? Effective C++ was published 20 years ago (1992), still a wonderfully useful book, but is there any point any more4 to discuss an obviously light hearted comment from it?
And is there any point in generally comparing languages and platforms at all? I think not, unless of course you have an actual specific problem to solve, which is something we very clearly point out in our FAQ:
You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.
A rule we so often forget, but really applies for the question in question, that currently has 7 answers, and all but one have quite a few comments. Is that wrong? No, not necessarily, but it does strongly hint that this isn't a question we'll easily find an answer to. And we do care about finding answers to questions, this is what essentially separates this site from a typical programming forum. We don't disqualify certain types and categories because we don't like them, or because we can't answer them, but because we are trying to build something different than a discussion forum, a high quality Q&A site where questions get sufficiently and sometimes even definitively answered.
To that end we have build a certain set of tools and more importantly a community philosophy and culture that simply fails with overly broad and / or discussion oriented questions. Sometimes the reason is just plain trolling, sometimes it's opinionated answers that although not trolling are extremely hard to judge the quality of5, sometimes it just gets to a point where there are so many answers and comments that the whole thread is impossible to navigate.
Again this isn't a bad question, and it's one I personally like, which is why I edited it and spend some time to write all this. It certainly did not turn terrible, and some of the answers I think are useful. But I do agree that the question doesn't really fit the scope and philosophy of the site, and I voted to close it. I don't think it will benefit from further answers and it already had four close votes when I started writing this. One of them expired while I was writing the answer (!) but this is still a community closure, I probably wouldn't have mod closed it.
Finally a word to the OP (and I'll stop, I promise ;)
On Stack Exchange we have two peer review systems, one for quality and one for topicality, and both are based on voting. Closing a question is not necessarily a comment on the question's overall quality and it's reversible, even if a moderator is involved in the closure. Furthermore closure is a temporary state, a closed question might be re-opened if improved, or simply if five members who can vote to re-open think it shouldn't have been closed in the first place.
That said, most closed questions do not get re-opened, and I can't promise yours will. However even if it doesn't the effort you put to it wasn't in waste:
- You got 7 answers, and although some I don't find particularly useful, they were all thoughtful and added something (even if a tiny bit) to the discussion.
- It generated this Meta discussion6 that will hopefully help the community better understand the nature of overly broad questions, why we close them and perhaps even help us find a way to better cope with them in the future and not have to close them at all.
- It's not a question we'd typically delete, I can't promise that it won't get delete votes from the community but I don't see any reason why it would.
- And you got some rep from it ;)
It would have been a shame if you had self-deleted it, a fellow user pointing out some flaws in it wouldn't justify such an overreaction. At the end of the day what you suggested happened naturally, the question did sit for a couple of days before getting closed, Oded just expressed his opinion (both with his comment and his close vote), but you'll have to keep in mind that it (usually) takes five to tango ;)
I honestly hope you won't get disheartened by the closure and decide to stick around, you've already done your bit to help the community grow. And me closing the question doesn't really say much if the community doesn't agree with me. I have been wrong in the past (once or twice ;), and I may be wrong now. Who knows? ;P
1 Not that there was any such accusation in this case, this is a more general rant. This whole Summer of Love thing ended up being mostly a big troll party... [sigh]
2 Not saying that the question in question isn't good, again a more general comment.
3 Although I must say that Paul Nathan's answer is highly amusing
4 And I'm not suggesting there was ever a point...
5 How do you downvote someone's personal opinion?
6 ...and gave me the opportunity to write yet another short novel!