According to the FAQ, non-constructive questions are those that "will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion." What happens when a good question is asked which is useful to others, can be answered based on "facts, references, or specific expertise," but still has lots of potential for debate, arguments, and extended discussion?

A good example of this is What can I do with dynamic typing that I can not do with static typing. In the original question, the OP is confused about why dynamic typing is such a great thing and asks for "a real world example where dynamic typing allows me to do something I can't do with static typing." I admit it is a sensitive question that will probably attract debate and long-winded discussion.

However, keep in mind that static vs. dynamic typing is not what the question is about, though some people will invariably get off-topic and start arguing about it. The question is about what extra practical functionality dynamic typing can offer. The question itself is legitimate, useful, and can be answered in a constructive, factual manner if we don't get off topic.

Or have I interpreted the FAQ incorrectly?

EDIT:

A great example is the currently highest-voted answer by Robery Harvey: long discussion in the comments, but off-topic. The next highest answer by ridiculous_fish (better answer in my opinion) has zero comments, is not off-topic, explains "why," and is very constructive. I don't see why such a question should be closed if it produces nice constructive answers like that.

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Re your edit: Although I don't necessarily agree with your assertion that Robert's answer is off topic, for the sake of argument let's assume it is. Now, the highest voted answer being off topic would be a very strong hint that the question is misleading / confusing. –  Yannis Rizos Oct 5 '12 at 20:04
    
@Yannis I agree, I don't really think the highest voted answer is off topic(with edits). But I also don't think the question is misleading/confusing. Unfortunately people don't take note of these marks "?" and instead answer a question that wasn't asked. Often questions like this are victims of elitists who want to bad mouth other approaches even if it's off topic. There's a reason each of these languages each have a fairly large audience, and they have scenarios where they show strength. Some people are narrow minded though, and they take the opportunity to hijack a question. –  AaronLS Oct 9 '12 at 21:57
    
@YannisRizos Sorry, I wasn't clear. The answer itself was on topic, but many comments on the answer were off-topic. –  Phil Oct 10 '12 at 13:36
    
In that case, let me answer the I don't see why such a question should be closed if it produces nice constructive answers like that. question: It generated a lot more crap than useful information. Typically we only look at the question, when deciding whether to close or not, but in borderline cases, we also look at the answers, and moderators also look at other stuff, for example there were a couple of rude comments in Robert's answer (flagged, and removed). –  Yannis Rizos Oct 10 '12 at 23:36
    
These borderline NC questions could work, but with vigilant community moderation. It didn't really happen here, it was re-opened too quickly after Karl's edit, and it will continue creating problems for us if people keep answering a question that was sufficiently answer after the first 4/5 answers... At least it's CW now, hopefully it won't get any more sub par answers now that the rep gain incentive is gone. –  Yannis Rizos Oct 10 '12 at 23:40

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Depending on the reader's frame of mind, that question either looks like someone genuinely wanting to know the advantages of dynamic typing, or like a static typing fanboi disguising a rant about dynamic typing in the form of a question. The reason it looks bad is he framed it as a comparison, made his first paragraph a complaint, and worded the question in the second paragraph almost as a dare for someone to prove him wrong.

I don't think he was intentionally soliciting debate on static vs. dynamic typing, asking purely for discussion, ranting, or wanting a list of opinions. It can be very difficult to word such a question in a way that meets the inscrutable standards of this site. Technically minded people often have difficulty noticing subtle distinctions like tone in their writing.

The post is locked, so I can't edit, but below is my attempt on what he really meant to ask. Maybe if a moderator agrees, it can be reopened.

What functionality does dynamic typing allow?

I've been using python for a few days now and I think I understand the difference between dynamic and static typing. What I don't understand is under what circumstances it would be preferred. It is flexible and readable, but at the expense of more runtime checks and additional required unit testing.

Aside from non-functional criteria like flexibility and readability, what reasons are there to choose dynamic typing? What can I do with dynamic typing that isn't possible otherwise? What specific code example can you think of that illustrates a concrete advantage of dynamic typing?

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+1 That's a good edit –  Phil Oct 5 '12 at 18:55
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Locked? Crap, it was automatically locked as a rejected migration (it was originally asked on Stack Overflow). Let me see what I can do... –  Yannis Rizos Oct 5 '12 at 19:07
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It should be unlocked now, go ahead and edit. Just keep in mind that your edit might invalidate some of the answers, and that's something we should deal with (asking the answerers to update their answers, and deleting them if they fail to do so) before re-opening it. Let me know if it's still locked (rejected migrations are a bit tricky, sometimes stuff just doesn't work as they should). –  Yannis Rizos Oct 5 '12 at 19:17
    
The edit is done. I'm not sure exactly what you had in mind about the answers. Leaving individual comments? –  Karl Bielefeldt Oct 5 '12 at 19:25
    
If you feel that some of the answers aren't consistent with the current version of the question, you can either ask the answerers to update them with a comment or vote to delete them if you feel they can't be salvaged. If you feel the answers are just fine as it is, so be it. I dropped the question in chat, hopefully others will help bring it to shape and re-open it. –  Yannis Rizos Oct 5 '12 at 19:49
    
...and there's the second re-open vote already. –  Yannis Rizos Oct 5 '12 at 19:51

It's a very interesting question, and I'm a bit disappointed we couldn't find a way to keep it constructive.

Minutes after the question was posted, one of our most senior members (by reputation) detected its not constructive nature and flagged it, asking for the "insufficient explanation" post notice (that's still visible on the question). I saw the flag seconds later, while examining the question and debating whether I should close it or not. I decided to add the post notice, hoping answerers would take it into consideration and not just answer for the sake of answering.

Few hours later I checked back, read the five or six answers that were posted at the time, and again hovered over the close button. There were a couple of answers that completely missed the point of the question, and the whole thread was starting to feel like a typical not constructive one. Again, I didn't close it, as the two technically inaccurate answers were getting downvotes and polite comments explaining what was wrong with them, and I was hoping the answerers would get the point. And they did, and removed their answers.

So, I checked back a third time, there were no flags, only one close vote, three good answers and a great one. At the time it seemed that we had salvaged the question, and decided to share it around, as I typically do with all questions I find extremely interesting. And it exploded, 14.4K views, 20 answers (+3 deleted ones). Unfortunately the later answers are quite poor (imho) and repetitive, I have no idea why people kept answering a question that was already sufficiently answered (again, imho), but they did.

Perhaps I should have closed the question right when I first saw it (minutes after it was posted), or when the flag asking for the post notice appeared (it was a good hint that someone else thought the question was attractive to poor answers). My spider sense was tingling every time I checked back, but until the last time (when the question was already closed), there seemed to be good reasons to let it open for at least a while more, and since there were no flags and I only spotted a single close vote, I happily reverted to user mode for this one instead of dropping the mod hammer.

But right now, the question has more poor answers than good ones, and lots of off topic(ish) discussion in comments. We didn't really manage to pull this one off, and I probably should have protected answerers from wasting their time by closing the question early on. We can theorize for hours on how the question could work, but in practice it didn't and it did generate debate, arguments, polling, and extended discussion.

There might be ways to accommodate and protect such questions, but we haven't found them yet. Yes, the question is extremely interesting, and perhaps on a different day it might have attracted a whole different crowd and a very limited set of amazing answers, but right now it's a typical not constructive thread, with tons of off topic / not constructive elements in answers and in comments. Shame it turned into a crapfest, but it did, and unfortunately I can't think of anything we could do to salvage it now.

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+1 Thanks for the thorough explanation. It's good to know people are thinking twice (or three or four times) before dropping the hammer. –  Phil Oct 5 '12 at 18:53
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@Phil Thomas may have been involved in the closure, but since his close vote was the fifth one, it doesn't count as mod hammer, it's a regular user close vote. –  Yannis Rizos Oct 5 '12 at 20:00
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You talk about the question being non-constructive, but you cite poor answers as evidence of this. This is like saying the maid murdered the cook because the butler has blood on his hands. In this case, I think non-constructive/offtopic answers should be moderated, not the question itself. Or some combination thereof, perhaps a comment asking the OP to narrow the post down to a single question(instead of three) and putting it in bold(I find this to be effective). Of course someone would have to think through how answers could be moderated, or as you say "protect such questions". Thanks. –  AaronLS Oct 9 '12 at 22:05
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@AaronLS Please read my answer again. I knew the question was Not Constructive before it had any answers, for the reasons Thomas mentions in his answer (that was posted before mine). I let it breath a bit, although I knew it was NC, because at the time I had time to watch it and see if it turned into a crap fest. And it did. –  Yannis Rizos Oct 9 '12 at 22:31
    
@AaronLS But I fully agree that successfully moderating the answers is a very good way of protecting Not Constructive questions. However we don't, I asked people in chat to moderate the answers before voting to re-open, and they ignored me. Well, I don't care, but if people don't care enough to moderate the answers I'll just close NC questions asap. –  Yannis Rizos Oct 9 '12 at 22:33

The FAQ says it all. It's also discussed in a blog post. Constructive subjective questions meet most, if not all, of the criteria for good subjective questions. If there is extended discussion, then there are many equally valid answers or the question might be pushing other questions off the site where they won't get answered as quickly.

What kind of questions should I not ask here?

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. To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite __?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use _ for _, what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.” we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if __ happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “__ sucks, am I right?”

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about _”, then you should not be asking here. If your motivation is “I would like others to explain _ to me”, then you are probably OK.

Extended discussions are more suitable for a forum or a chat room, not a question and answer site. You can make your own chat rooms on Stack Exchange sites for particular discussions, and most site (including Programmers) has a general catch-all chat room. These chat rooms are archived and can be linked to as references in answers to appropriate questions, from your blog, or on your choice of social network (which might also be an appropriate place for an extended discussion).

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I completely agree but... well I made an edit to my question to clarify what I mean. –  Phil Oct 5 '12 at 16:54

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