What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 127 Stack Exchange communities.

Which is not the same thing at all.

E.g. "what's the best book?" - people will vote up the books they've read. This might be useful but won't answer the (possibly unanswerable) question "what's the best book".

Does this even matter?

share|improve this question

migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 10 '09 at 7:30

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

add comment

13 Answers

Yes. And yes.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Poll questions aren't even officially supported. They are always a popularity contest and should be regarded as such.

I wouldn't worry about it.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Well, whenever you have a question that is subjective that will happen. You will then find the most popular x based on what people individually think the best x is.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I guess it doesn't really answer the question. Just the word "best" brings out the competition.

If the question was worded "list an OK book you like reading" for example, I would imagine it would die like a limp fish.

The "best" is ultimately a subjective question, and its befitting that SO leaves it formatted to form a subjective answer. ( the little votes don't mean a lot, and the question poster choosing an answer is by no means unbiased )

share|improve this answer
add comment

Stack OVerflow IS ONLY about popularity. The please don't discuss format discourages the consensus building that'd be needed to arrive at a reasonably good "best" answer to a non trivial question.

And this also happens for questions that aren't asking the "best" something...

That is why it'll probably never answer really hard questions, but that's not its aim, so it's all good.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Those questions are not encouraged... let's hope the site will stabilize in the future... it's brand new

share|improve this answer
add comment

Well yes, but generally people have a reason for picking one over an other option. And if 90% of people prefer x to y, then generally x is better for y, at least for 90% of users.

Sometimes people cry "popularity contest" when really there are actually good reasons (speed, amount of features, learning curve) for the choices made

share|improve this answer
    
What I'm criticizing is that comments would be needed to clarify that, just up/down voting will not make it clear why an option is better than an alternative, which is most certainly needed in any complex question –  John the Seagull Sep 17 '08 at 21:44
add comment

There is definitely a correlation between "best" and "most popular", even if it's not as strong as we would like.

As with Google, sometimes you need to look beyond the topmost answer.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I think that's why subjective posts keep getting voted down, but they make for a fun read and you get to spout off every now and then... who does it hurt?

share|improve this answer
add comment

Code Complete is very popular answer to "what's the best book" question. That does not mean that people didn't read other books. They did, and they choose CC. In some degree, such opinion can be valuable. If someone who didn't read CC sees that so many people chosen it as a best book, he could take interest in this book.

share|improve this answer
add comment

As has been noted, "Best" is entirely too subjective to even be a good question. A better way would be to ask people to post their "Favorite" [whatever] and ask other posters to up vote rather than duplicate post. You can infer "best" based on what gets the most votes.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I agree that it should be "favorite" instead of "best". I'm also one of those who believes that developers want to know what other developers are thinking, what their likes and dislikes are, what their opinions are, etc.

This site was designed to provide definitive answers to definitive questions. Questions about "favorites" are too subjective to have a definitive answer. Some people on SO think that such questions should be disallowed. They go about and close such questions, often commenting that they are "subjective and argumentative". I call these people grannies, and I think they're missing the boat.

I think the immense popularity of subjective questions shows that it would be a terrible mistake to disallow them. Instead, StackOverflow must adapt to subjective questions by allowing them to be formally marked as such, and altering the reputation system to reflect that. (I think subjective questions should provide rep, particularly if they engender a lot of discussion, but I think the system should be a bit different for them. Exactly how I don't know.)

share|improve this answer
add comment

Reputation should be at least based on the size of a community.

Say you were a c# and f# (or java and scala) developer. Your brilliant f# answers will not count as much as your lousy c# answers because there are not too many people interested in f#.

I would like to see reputation based on a tag. “This guy's reputation is x from f# and y from c#.” The answer could be a normalized value per tag: reputation from tag / max reputation for tag for all users (the best f# guy). This can answer the question if someone is the f# specialist or not independently of the size of community. There will be some obscure results for new or marginal tags so there should be some threshold.

The harder question is to normalize reputation globally. It could be sum(normalized reputation per tag). I'm not sure if this would bring enough extra value. The world is not fair why should stackoverflow be fair? (Chances are that you know Britney Spears but never heart of Maria Callas.)

share|improve this answer
    
Go to your user profile (or anyone else's) and then click on any of the tags down the bottom. The results page of that will show you the questions tagged and the votes they received. Excludes non-repful wiki answers/questions. –  random Sep 13 '09 at 7:48
    
That's nice I did not know that. I thought this is just a list of tags and would lead me to all tag related answers. (But then the view is not consistent. Question, answer, tag are with user context. Badges links are without. Votes lead nowhere.) But how do I find out the reputation of a user for this tag with this view? –  Thomas Jung Sep 13 '09 at 7:57
    
If you want to see what the top users score in various tags do this: Click on a tag, Click the stats tab. Like this: stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged?tagnames=sql&sort=stats But right now, you can't view an easy breakdown of which tags got the user the rep. –  random Sep 13 '09 at 8:14
    
That would be nice in the user view (reputation source) and in the question view (reputation for the tags of the question). You could then show the percentile the user is in for a tag. A whole bunch of new badges could be added then: Star (top 1% of tag), Tiger (top 10% of tag), Master (top 50%), Journeyman (top 80%) (the two last could be stolen pragprog.com/the-pragmatic-programmer). –  Thomas Jung Sep 13 '09 at 12:40
add comment

You must log in to answer this question.