There are now a lot of questions that are of the same caliber:

Should these types of questions be allowed on Programmers.SE, or should we be limiting the scope of the site to subjective questions that promote extended discussion?

It was suggested on the Community Wiki on Programmers question that we should use the Community Wiki flag to allow these types of questions, but prevent rep farming on them. But is that a good solution? What about closing these questions as off-topic even on Programmers.SE?


6 Answers 6

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Yes they should be allowed.

They'll automatically get converted to wiki questions after 30 answers, and they will get there IMMEDIATELY so no need to worry about serious rep farming.

Longer term the mods may want to close and lock them, as a "favorite programming joke" question with 1,000 answers isn't really helping anyone, is it?

The Six Subjective Question guidelines -- enforcement notice

@Jeff Atwood what about recommendations? Where is the line supposed to be drawn? I see plenty of questions asking for products such as keyboards, books, etc, things you pay for; yet when I asked for a designer (who delivers a product, a design) it was closed.. –  Francisco Noriega Sep 26 '10 at 3:14
It's because that question tends to draw direct professional advertisement, rather than personal recommendations based on experience. If you disagree and tend to think that the community also thinks different you can always try to create a new meta question. I don't think your issue will get enough attention in the comments of an already accepted solution... –  Tom Wijsman Sep 29 '10 at 11:58
A better question would be what qualities should I look for in a designer, and how to find a good one [in my area]. –  Incognito Sep 29 '10 at 14:25
-1 I don't agree, why allow this weird exception and wait while it places bad examples on the front page? See my comment on The Six Subjective Question Guidelines — Enforcement Notice –  Tom Wijsman Sep 29 '10 at 23:12
@tom my comments predate the policy; they should be allowed if they meet enough of the subjective question guidelines. –  Jeff Atwood Sep 30 '10 at 0:30
Which they don't, but @BigOwn has given a good reason on my comment at the other answer which might be a good reason to change those gradually... Thanks anyway for responding, I don't usually check times. –  Tom Wijsman Sep 30 '10 at 0:36

I don't think subjectivity should be among the criteria for being unacceptable. I mean, one of the stated goals of this site was to catch what SO considers off-topic, and "Favorite Cartoon" was even on the definition stage here.

Furthermore, I think there's only a finite number of those that can be created and still draw interest, whereas there is much more variety in the threads that generate more discussion ("Will Java still be relevant in 5 years?", "Agile for the Solo Developer", etc).

Whether a question is subjective isn't what's at issue here, but the quality and appropriateness of certain questions that do not promote extended discussion (i.e. so-called "poll" questions). I suspect almost every question on Programmers.SE is going to be subjective. –  user8 Sep 1 '10 at 23:01
Ok, fair enough. Nonetheless, one of your example questions was in the definition of what is 'on-topic' for this site. I think we do need to determine what, if anything, constitutes an unacceptable question, but whether it prompts extended discussion is a good metric. –  Fishtoaster Sep 2 '10 at 1:07

If a question like “What's your favourite programming quote?” is to be allowed on this site, then as per the site definition

Programmers - Stack Exchange is for expert programmers (…)

all answers should reflect programming expertise. An answer that simply contains a quote or URL is unacceptable.

This can work only if most of the community is disciplined enough not to post one-liner answers and to downvote any one-liner answers, and moderators are expected to and do delete any throwaway answer that goes through the cracks.

I can't see this ever working for a question like favorite cartoon and favorite joke: does your favorite joke have a virtue that makes it insightful and not just funny? Did you explain that insight in your answer? You didn't, did you? These questions violently violates all six subjective question guidelines.

A question like favorite quote could, in principle, meet the guidelines: maybe a quote did make you see the Light. Maybe your favorite blog is full of interesting information for programmers. So, does your answer to this question why your favorite blog is interesting? No? It's clear that this sort of question does not work on this site.

So, I say, good riddance to all of them. By deleting these questions, you're fixing a few window panes.

broken windows


In last Friday moderators had a chat cast to clarify some points of the Robert will post new blog posts with details, so we can't be overzealous with every question on Pr.SE.

List/Poll questions should have home on Pr.SE. This type of question doesn't meet 6 guidelines but it fits on usefulness. Not every list/poll question should be kept open, just the useful ones. We'll wait Robert give us more details.

So, probably poll tag will survive. We should wait.

Usefulness for whole community probably will be more important.

One misconception about new guidelines is that they change everything. Actually nothing changed, they are just more clear now. I have seen question with 4 votes to close which probably will survive.

To some questions, it's not clear yet, at least to me. An example: What symbols out there best represent programming?

We count with collaboration of whole community to close bad subjective questions, but these guidelines should be applied when the usefulness is doubtful. This is not a official position of SOIS team, I am just trying to clarify before the closes go out of control. Again we'll get more details soon.

Feel free to post your doubts.

About poll: Could you elaborate on "So, probably poll tag will survive."? I've seen people say similar things that but that's all they say without any further explanation. The poll tag didn't work out on Programmers.SE as questions were incorrectly tagged, the tag doesn't tell anything about the content and the tag has been useless for determining what the question is about neither for searching through questions. I don't think we should have [poll] just for the matter of having a [poll] tag without any additional useful benefit... –  Tom Wijsman Oct 2 '10 at 15:15
About community: Why is there yet again a private discussion; in this case a conversation that consists of Pro Tem moderators and SOIS, without us being even aware of the discussion and decisions? Jeff's decision was fine for most of us, but if they want this to stay democratic and community driven I'm wondering if the upcoming blog post will stay to be that way... What if the majority disagrees this time? Maybe this would be a wrong approach then? Perhaps a limited share of high reputation users could be invited in such conversation? But well, just my doubts/speculation... Let's wait and see. –  Tom Wijsman Oct 2 '10 at 15:19
@Tomwij: I think it will be good to people that don't want see poll questions can filter them. Probably we have a wider audience soon. All I say is a big probably. Nothing is guaranteed yet and this is my interpretation. We have time to put the site on the right way. And that was not a private discussion, it was not a discussion and there is no secret. I posted what it was talked. In summary the only thing what it was talked it is some things will be better defined. Nothing is being changed. –  bigown Oct 2 '10 at 15:53

Something else that may be a little confusing (from the FAQ):

"Stack Exchange is for expert programmers who are interested in subjective discussions on software development."

Then in the following paragraph:

"What kind of questions should I not ask here?

Avoid asking questions that are subjective, argumentative, or require extended discussion"


This was what I thought was my first legit question (being the man whose cactus is still dying for lack of an awesomer programmering plant being found)

I'm kind of under the impression that I have absolutely no business on this website at all. Unlike SO where I can ask good questions and routinely give crap answers. Here I can't figure out what to ask at all.

I think that the proper pronunciation of Delphi is about the perfect question - for Delphi programmers, which I know there to be quite a few good ones (Mason Wheeler, Gamecat, not me) because they answer my questions on SO a lot.

It sucks to live in the ignominy of having questions closed. Why would a guy ask questions just to have them closed, just to be funny - sometimes (but that should be ok within limits)... But if he's not why treat him like a child?

It's kind of hard not to take it as an insult and a cue that 'you don't belong in programmer land'. This ain't freaking usenet.

I think that this is a perfectly legitimate question and we're getting ourselves in a bit of a close frenzy at the moment. I think the problem is that with all the talk from Joel et al about the quality of questions here, people are beginning to second guess what is allowed and what isn't. I think we should let this happen organically, but I'm often wrong... –  Paddyslacker Sep 29 '10 at 19:33
Proper pronunciation of Delphi has only one flat valid answer. If other users disagree with that, they can reopen the question. –  bigown Sep 29 '10 at 19:54
@bigown. I'm not so sure you're right about that. I know for a fact that there two very good reasons to pronounce Delphi in very different ways. 1. Borland calls it Del-Fi 2. Marco Cantu calls it Del-fee. Just because I know there is a discussion to be had doesn't mean I can't ask the question and get some really interesting answers. I don't know why the Greek letter Phi is different than Delphi, do you? –  Peter Turner Sep 29 '10 at 20:00
@Peters: Pr.SE is a site to get subjective answers but not to get into discussions about linguistics. If I'm wrong, community or other moderator will reopen it. –  bigown Sep 29 '10 at 20:27
It's not a question of linguistics, it's a matter of programmer subculture. If someone posted a really interesting post about European Delphi programmers vs American Delphi programmers and how one pronunciation will eventually topple the other, then it would contribute something to the site in my opinion. Since no one can do that because you closed the question, it ain't going to happen. So go and stifle creative discussion, you have your mandate and your diamond. –  Peter Turner Sep 29 '10 at 20:52

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