My question here was almost immediately closed. I can see why. However I feel like there is still a well-formed question lurking in here somewhere, and it seems like if I could get to it this would be useful for both myself and others as which tool you use here is a potentially consequential issue in software engineering workflow and methodology. Can I get some advice on how I could I have made this a productive question? Or is my question ultimately always going to be a forum-discussion type of topic that won't work here?

EDIT: Looking at the comments on the question, I wonder I couched the question too much about me and "I", which naturally made it overly subjective. What if I'd said "It's well-known that the key differences of Bitbucket are a different pricing model favorable to small teams and support for Mercurial; what are the the most important lower-level features that differentiate Github and Bitbucket from a software development workflow and efficiency point of view?" or something like that? Would that bring it into the realm of productive questions?

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It's good that you are asking and willing to learn. I can't think of anything at the moment. You are right though - there are a class of questions that don't work on Stack Exchange and this might be one of them. –  ChrisF Dec 6 '12 at 13:33
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@ChrisF - thanks Chris. The "might" in your comment here is why I brought the question over here to meta. If there was definitely nothing here, I'd be the first to drop it! :-) –  Ghopper21 Dec 6 '12 at 13:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's a very interesting question, but it lacks what essentially separates Programmers (and Stack Exchange in general) from traditional discussion forums: An actual problem looking for a solution.

This, unfortunately, is not something we can overlook, it's a policy engraved in all Stack Exchange FAQs and (at least for the techonology / science sites of the network) is what keeps us all hooked, we are problem solvers by nature. You are asking us for a direct comparison of two services, without giving us any parameters that will help us decide what a good answer might be, and that's bad:

  • Voting, our way of measuring quality, fails.

    Every feature that Github has and Bitbucket doesn't is a valid answer to your question, but you've given us no way to tell which feature (or limited set of features) would be the one you actually need, and the one that will make you switch to Github.

    People will end up upvoting their favourite feature, and that not always the more helpful feature. Questions like yours tend to turn to popularity questions more often than not, and popularity isn't what the site's about.

  • There's a huge potential that most answers, even great ones, will be a waste of time.

    As a moderator, I've had my fair share of... not so pleasent experiences on Stack Exchange. However my most unpleasent moments thus far is when I've spent about half an hour of my (limited free) time to write a thorough answer only to find out that the asker was looking for something else entirely. Don't get me wrong, the couple of times this happened, I got a ton of upvotes, but I couldn't care less about what essentially is an integer on a database somewhere.

    In the case of your question this translates to an answerer writing an extensive answer about "hidden but awesome feature foo", only for you to come back and say something along the lines of "hm, nice, but bitbucket has equally awesome feature bar that better fits my workflow" or "hm, it's awesome, but it's not really something I'll ever use"1.

  • It must end somewhere

    Lacking well defined parameters means that your question also lack limits. And although we are not looking for the One True Answer To All The Things™ as Stack Overflow does, we do prefer questions with a finite and somewhat limited set of answers. There's nothing in your question, as currently phrased, to stop answers appearing ad nauseum. Every time Github releases a new feature, it's a valid answer to your question2.

There are two blog posts that describe in some detail our general approach to subjective questions, Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and its followup, Real Questions Have Answers. The last sentence of the latter stands out:

real questions have answers, not items or ideas or opinions.

And for your question to become a real one, we need you to present us with a (somewhat) specific software development problem. It could be anything really, a workflow you are using but feels crude due to some Bitbucket limitation, a workflow you would like to use but can't because it's not supported, anything. But it has to be a problem, something we can feel a tiny bit proud about when (if?) we help solve. It can be trivial, or overly complex, it doesn't matter, just don't ask us to go to Github's documentation and just copy paste features from it.

This:

However, I'm seeing there are material-if-not-overwhelming differences, e.g. Github's appealing and useful branches page versus Bitbucket's overly simple branch drop-down list.

is on the right track, but not there yet, we just need a bit more of it. But this:

This makes me wonder: what else am I missing out on? What are the lesser known Github features that folks like me using Bitbucket to save money are missing out on?

should go away completely.

I'm afraid that's all I got at this point, hope it helps.

1 Hypothetical examples, of course.
2 Certainly Bitbucket may already have the feature, but chances are they've implemented it in a slightly different way, and that, unfortunately, is all a fanboy/girl needs to write an extensive thesis on Github's superiority.

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Very helpful -- many thanks. –  Ghopper21 Dec 6 '12 at 19:17
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Awesome answer, as usual. –  Walter Dec 7 '12 at 0:26
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@Walter Thanks. Ghopper21's approach to the closure was inspiring. –  Yannis Rizos Dec 7 '12 at 4:29

I for one would have welcomed the question if you had included some of the features you have on github that are missing on bitbucket. The generalization that certain features are missing is not going to prompt me to go do a comparison, but if you have a feature you could use and why you could/would want it, someone that knows X better than Y for any X or Y could point you toward that alternative feature.

In general I don't like closed questions because they choke off discussion, but in this case, there wasn't enough meat in the question to provoke discussion as much as to get people arguing over which is better.

I'd actually love to see a list of the features you think you are missing on one platform that are available on the other. Might even show me a feature I didn't know existed, and in that case, the question would be valuable for pointing that feature out to me.

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