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Should Stack Overflow users be allowed to ask questions which promote discussion?

Obviously within the whole programming scene, but you have to appreciate that there is a cross over with project management, user requirements and functional/technical specifications which help people when discussed.

For example,

"In what context do you think a CMS would be suitable when the customer has limited experience using computers and do you think in the long term this would be beneficial?"


"How would you manage the following web project, what project management techniques would you employ?"

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::sigh:: We spent circa 2.5 years learning the hard way just how badly discussions get along with the Stack Exchange model. I know it seems like a good idea, but trust me on this... – dmckee Mar 28 '12 at 14:17


By definition these "questions" are:

[...] not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.

We have learnt by bitter experience that these type of questions just don't work. If you want a discussion use chat, Quora or forums.

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+1 for "use chat". – cdeszaq Mar 28 '12 at 13:40

Stack Exchange sites are not discussion forums, they weren't designed to be discussion forums and they fail horribly when used as discussion forums.

What you are proposing has been tried at least once, it was the original intention for the site that eventually became Programmers Stack Exchange:

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That little experiment failed horribly, and I'm guessing it played a major role in what eventually became the infamous Guidelines for Great Subjective Questions, which are codified in our FAQ as:

What about subjective questions?

Subjective questions are allowed, but subjective does not mean “anything goes”. Please keep it professional at all times. If this is a question you'd be uncomfortable discussing with your colleagues in a work environment, it's probably not appropriate here, either.

All subjective questions are expected to be constructive. How do we define that? Constructive subjective questions …

  • inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.
  • tend to have long, not short, answers.
  • have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.
  • invite sharing experiences over opinions.
  • insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.
  • are more than just mindless social fun.

Questions that do not meet enough of these six guidelines will be closed as "not constructive." Please see the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective blog post for more details and examples.

The current description of the site is:

Programmers — Stack Exchange is a site for professional programmers who are interested in getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development. If you have a question about…

  • algorithm and data structure concepts
  • design patterns
  • developer testing
  • development methodologies
  • freelancing and business concerns
  • quality assurance
  • software architecture
  • software engineering
  • software licensing

Which means that topics like project management, user requirements and functional/technical specifications are perfectly on topic, however your questions should still be on practical and answerable based on actual problems that you face. Check out the open questions on the following tags to get a general idea of what we expect from questions on these topics:

A small clarification for project management questions: We expect them to require the unique expertise of software developers, for example to be about project management methodologies that are mostly used by software developers, for example agile methodologies. For all other project management questions, you should be asking on Project Management Stack Exchange.

Lastly, the "What kind of questions should I not ask here?" section is the same in every Stack Exchange site's FAQ and it explicitly discourages discussions:

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about _”, then you should not be asking here. However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain _ to me”, then you are probably OK. (Discussions are of course welcome in our real time web chat.)

Discussions just don't work, and the Programmers community had to learn that the hard way, our rocky beginnings still haunt the site. Chat is a perfectly valid place to have as many discussions as you want, let's keep the Q&A part of the site for what it's meant for: Questions and Answers.

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Excellent answer! comment flagged as chatty flag declined! – Won't Mar 28 '12 at 20:47

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