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I sometimes see questions asking for the "best" software to solve a particular problem. Usually I have no hesitation closing these as "not constructive" as they rarely add value to the site. If the software is ubiquitous, there are usually any number of people willing to weigh in - and typically there are existing sites that already encapsulate reviews of said software. For example, the "best IDE", the "best AJAX file uploader," are not adding much value to the internet.

Recently, though, I came across such a question (see below) that was narrow enough that it seemed likely that there were few if any resources that might be devoted to compiling a list of the available options. It made me wonder if there might be exceptions to the rule where a question asking for a simple list of available options with recommendations might not be acceptable. I'd argue that any question that asks for "best" is simply begging for an argument, but one asking for a compendium of options might be acceptable. For the example below, I edited and tried to recast it as such a question?

Your thoughts? Should it or similar, narrowly-focused/lower popularity "give me some options"-type questions be allowed to remain open?

Example: Looking for an ExtJS-based ERD-Builder

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New Q: What's the best example of how to ask and write a successful "best of" question on Stack Exchange? ...this is meta, right? :P –  Yuck Dec 17 '11 at 13:57
    
@Yuck first we must ask what is the best example of how to ask a question of how to ask and write a successful best of question on Stack Exchange? –  Ben Brocka Jan 16 '12 at 16:52

2 Answers 2

The question is asking for a list, and it doesn't seem asked because a real problem the OP is facing; the answers would be equally valid. I think these are three reasons for closing the question as not constructive. The other reason is that such lists are never ended; every time a new item could be added. It is similar to the questions asking for book recommendations, except that in that question users are not called for a judgement of which one is the best, even if it is probable that users will first report what they think the best entity relationship diagram builder, or the better ones. It is like when somebody ask you a list of cars; it is probable you start listing the ones you like better, then you will list the ones you know are liked from other people.
If the OP described why he needed the entity relationship diagram builder, and that helped in narrowing the list, that would be preferable; as it is, the question is just a "let's build here a list with items you normally get from different sources" kind of question, which doesn't suit a Q/A site like Stack Exchange's.

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There are two kinds of questions about what tools to use, books to read, blogs to follow and so on:

  • "there are 1000 possible items, so I'll ask for the best" will get 1000 answers because each of them is the best at something
  • In a space with only 3 tools, you are likely just going to ask "what do I use to do X" and perhaps get 3 answers. Or "why is X worth $1000 more than Y" and get an answer or two.

The "Best of" wording makes a question off topic not because we don't care what's best, but because it's a sure fire red flag marker for a 30 answer subjective-a-thon. If you see a question containing the word best that isn't a list-generator, edit it to take away the "best" wording and you'll likely have a good question left over.

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