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Perhaps I'm a little unique, but it took me a little while to understand why subjective but relevant questions were not acceptable on Stack Overflow. (Here is the object lesson: Questions about performance versus code based solutions)

If the guidelines were updated to state these three points clearly, I think it would prevent a lot of subjective question asking on Stack Overflow, and raise awareness for Programmers:

  1. Questions that are not answerable — discussions, debates, opinions — should be closed as subjective. It seems simple enough: Fact good; opinion and discussion bad.

  2. Why? Eventually the experts (i.e. people who are teaching you stuff) get drowned out and you are left with an experience that looks more like the magazine rack at a grocery store than a book shelf at Harvard. (— Robert Scoble)

  3. Subjective questions associated with software development best practices, experiences, and behaviors are not bad. We simply choose to forego those subjective discussions. That is what Programmers is for.

It may also encourage moderators to move questions to Programmers rather than closing them down.


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Worded like that, your last point says "anything subjective can be thrown over to Programmers". That's not the case, Programmer's FAQ is already much more precise than your proposed FAQ addition. And what FAQ are you proposing to update anyway? – Mat Dec 27 '11 at 9:37
As for "Of course Programmers is not for any subjective question", I feel your post reads very differently! (And not just its title.) – Arjan Dec 27 '11 at 9:52
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The site descriptions (also used in close reasons and close explanations) were already updated recently:

Stack Overflow
Q&A for professional and enthusiast programmers

Q&A for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development

I thought this made it plenty clear, myself. In addition to that see

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.

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Well, ultimately, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. I'm open to hearing how we can make this more clear, but you have to realize that a certain contingent of users will never read anything you put in front of them. And I assure you that contingent is always, always, always a lot larger than you'd expect. Or want it to be... – Jeff Atwood Dec 27 '11 at 10:05
well, you are a good example of why (ironically) this sort of change often doesn't work, or has negligible benefit. Either you're the type of user who self-educates, and that is excellent, or you're not -- and no amount of text changes will help the latter users. At best it will reach a tiny percentage of them. (Granted a tiny percent is still better than nothing, but it's not exactly the "we changed the copy and it's all fixed now!" outcome that might be expected..) – Jeff Atwood Dec 27 '11 at 10:15

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