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I'm on SO pretty much every day researching something to do with programming, and over the last month or two, I find I'm growing frustrated and a little disgusted at how many interesting questions have been closed as "not a good fit" or "too subjective".

I think there is a confusion between "subjective" and "calls for judgement". To me one of the most valuable things about SO is the tremendous breadth and depth of experience of the members, and experience translates into smart decisions and advice, and that advice cannot always be asked for, or expressed in terms of, bald facts and data. It's going to be 'subjective'.

I don't think SO should be Wikipedia. I think that if I could ask a question to a group of skilled programmers sitting around a table at lunch, and get interesting, valuable answers, then I don't care whether the question or the answers are 'subjective', I think that question should equally well be fair game for Stack Overflow.

I would like to see a mechanism whereby people who vote to close a question lose reputation when somebody expresses interest in that question or its responses.

How can I, or can I, influence this aspect of SO?

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Post on meta. Then you will a.) Get reasons why this is a bad idea or b.) It will be implemented into the site. –  Doorknob Feb 14 '13 at 2:46
I'm dropping the [feature-request] tag because even though you have a sentence that asks for a rep drop under certain circumstances, I feel like the rest of your question makes for a good, constructive discussion and I'd rather focus on that first. If the outcome of this discussion is some sort of technical solution, it's likely best posted separately and with more details. –  Anna Lear Feb 14 '13 at 2:46
Your question would be aided by some examples: what do you consider a "subjective" question, vs. one that "calls for judgement"? –  Michael Petrotta Feb 14 '13 at 2:55
I don't get this. If you use SO for research then you'll have, ballpark numbers, 3 million questions to look at are on topic and not closed and at least 2 million good answers. If you keep running into closed ones then you are just using the wrong site to do your research. Fix that by finding another site, not trying to change this one. –  Uphill Luge Feb 14 '13 at 3:41
The premise that these are "the best questions" is rather flawed. 2 of them ask for the "best X" with no criteria whatsoever, 1 shows no effort to solve the problem before asking, and the other is about meetings, which belongs on the Workplace or Programmers sites. –  Wooble Oct 9 '13 at 14:38
Define "best". Best for what? –  Oded Oct 9 '13 at 14:39
Please note that closing questions is not restricted to moderators and that members having reached a certain threshold of reputation can vote to close questions. As for the reasons, they are stated and explained in each question and I don't think that they can be more clear than that. –  Jerry Oct 9 '13 at 14:40
It's really hard to not pull the deletion trigger after seeing some of those questions. "Are weekly status meetings necessary?" Seriously? –  George Stocker Oct 9 '13 at 14:40
interesting != useful –  Richard Tingle Oct 9 '13 at 14:41
"So what if it's not a definitive answer?" Stack Overflow advertises itself as a site where you'll find definitive answers. Allowing questions that have extremely little - if any - chance of generating definitive answers breaks that promise. There are plenty of other places on the internet where you can get answers to overly vague and broad questions. –  Yannis Oct 9 '13 at 14:48
I'm only interested in stuff that's useful to me - of course you are. But we don't care just about you. –  Oded Oct 9 '13 at 14:59
@Oded, on one of those questions, 65 people clicked on a button that says 'This answer is useful'. –  Matt Darwin Oct 9 '13 at 15:12
Popular doesn't mean it fits. –  Oded Oct 9 '13 at 15:13
You might want to read A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy and the The Trouble With Popularity –  Some Helpful Commenter Oct 9 '13 at 15:17
@JasonOOO They weren't allowed to increase the traffic so much as it took some time for the community to realize the questions were bad for the site. At first, the community, like so many new users, just didn't think the questions were bad/problematic. When they began to realize how much of a problem they were to deal with, the decision was made that they shouldn't be allowed. –  Servy Oct 9 '13 at 15:46

12 Answers 12


We already tried supporting those questions, we even gave them their own site. Sadly, it didn't work out. C'est la vie.

In 2010, a Stack Exchange site called Not Programming Related came out of Area51, the Stack Exchange staging zone. NPR was supposed to be a site where questions that were too subjective / broad for Stack Overflow would find a new home. The site was greeted with enthusiasm, and in theory it looked like a perfect solution: Stack Overflow would remain as laser sharp focused as possible, and NPR would host all those exciting and sometimes helpful (but not really answerable) questions.

However, as it usually happens, theory and practice are two entirely different beasts. NPR's promise proved extremely attractive to people who were more interested in posting joke answers, or just repeating earlier answers, or posting outright crap (Do you fart in the cubicle?). It didn't take long for everyone to realize that the site was not working, and most people just didn't bother with it. Here's what Quantcast tells us for the first year of NPR's existence:

enter image description here

Tons and tons of people visited the site after it went public, but very few decided to stick around. For over a year, the site experienced no growth to speak of. And even fewer people contributed worthwhile content. Turns out that while everyone loves those questions, very few are actually willing to spend any time to answer them (seriously), and maintain and moderate them.

Fortunately, Stack Exchange realized their mistake soon enough. First, Joel warned us that the site was "degrading into fairly stupid water-cooler nonsense" and then Jeff stepped in, and enforced the infamous subjective guidelines. It took more than a few months for people to realize that NPR's (by then already renamed to Programmers) scope had changed drastically. The site had been heavily advertised as Stack Overflow's toilet bowl, and naturally most people believed it was just that, long after the subjective guidelines were enforced.

To make matters even more complicated, there was a small - but solid - group of early members that were attracted to the site by its initial scope and were contributing high quality content. Unfortunately, they weren't enough to maintain a healthy site, and some - if not all - of them were (understandably) quite frustrated after the drastic change. They were doing everything right, and then suddenly the site they were originally promised was no more.

Then came the clean-ups. Changing the scope wasn't enough, we had to change the way we advertised ourselves to the world. Just saying that we were now a serious Q&A site about software design wasn't going to cut it, at least not until we cleaned up all the content that no longer fit the site's scope. After a few months of intense Meta drama, we deleted about 2K questions. And then some. A couple more months passed, but finally we started experiencing growth:

enter image description here

Whatever your opinion of the site's current scope might be, you can't overlook the fact that it only started growing when it became a vigorously moderated serious Q&A site. Growth aside, every other aspect of the site gradually improved. Hard questions that were once ignored in favour of the latest "let's build yet another list" question are now answered, correctly and relatively fast. More and more people have Programmers as their top site, the one site that they actively and regularly contribute. We are not there yet, but we are certainly on the right track.

The site you seem to want existed for more than a few months, and it failed. Horribly. I'm sorry but I see no reason to try it again.

Further reading

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Possibly the unimaginable-hell-hole-exchange needs to exist so we can point to it and say "see!" –  Richard Tingle Oct 9 '13 at 16:58
Wow... I never knew all that about Programmers' history! –  Andrew Barber Oct 9 '13 at 17:28
Isn't that what Yahoo! Answers is for @RichardTingle? –  Yannis Oct 10 '13 at 8:33
This is a useful answer! Thanks for not being patronizing or sarcastic. –  Matt Darwin Oct 10 '13 at 8:58
@MattDarwin you mean in this answer? Because he's extremely patronizing and sarcastic everywhere else.. –  Jimmy Hoffa Oct 16 '13 at 23:01
If you think I'm sarcastic and patronizing now @JimmyHoffa, I wonder what you'll think if you ever happen to be at the receiving end of one of my mod messages... –  Yannis Oct 17 '13 at 13:45
Isn't it normal for a site to grow in visitors and regular users as it ages? It seems a bit arbitrary to directly link the change in scope with visitors when so many other factors play a role in how a site gains users, especially since if you graph user activity (votes) on Data.SE there is a steady decline. Or see my answer here for more details/stats/graphs regarding user retention –  Rachel Nov 1 '13 at 12:26
Voting is just one aspect of user activity @Rachel, and if you look closely at your graph only the upvotes are in steady decline. Given that Programmers was plagued with bs upvotes early on (polls and fun questions tend to get extremely upvoted), that's actually a good thing. –  Yannis Nov 1 '13 at 14:12
@Yannis, I was wondering if the problem could not have been on embracing subjective questions, but rather on the method for doing so (opening a whole SE site and with a naming that appealed for non-programming questions)? Has it been considered just to treat subjective questions differently in SO, like not giving reputation or other? Some questions stackoverflow.com/questions/1012573/… still seem so useful. It is a pity to see them closed –  Thomas May 10 '14 at 10:55
This too was tried, @Thomas: meta.stackexchange.com/a/61526 –  Josh Caswell Jul 16 '14 at 19:37
Yes but Programmers was intended to be questions related to programming but off-topic at StackOverflow.com like "recommend me a book". Now they are Off-Topic there too. –  CashCow Oct 7 '14 at 14:08
By the way, good on you for using the superior Quantcast written in C++, the king of programming languages, over that inferior Java thing called Hadoop.. –  CashCow Oct 7 '14 at 14:09
I think something like elite.programmers.stackexchange.com has a decent chance of working if it required you to have a certain amount of points on SO or programmers before you can participate. Or perhaps subjective or otherwise against the rule programming related questions should be allowed by people with a certain number of points, but only people with over a certain number of points are aloud to respond to them or comment about them. Part of the reason people want a site like this is just because of the format Stack Exchange websites have, which tends to be much better than other websites. –  INTPnerd Feb 9 at 0:42
How does growth indicate quality? Myriads of flies love shit, yet it is still shit. –  what Feb 24 at 12:25
How does a site with a misleading name like "Not Programming Related" count as trying this development related concept? "Not Programming Related" to most people means OFF TOPIC. And you all were "shocked" when this resulted in a ton of off topic crap? Gee, I never would have seen that one coming. –  Crusader Mar 22 at 21:42

I think that if I could ask a question to a group of skilled programmers sitting around a table at lunch, and get interesting, valuable answers, then I don't care whether the question or the answers are 'subjective', I think that question should equally well be fair game for Stack Overflow...

Assuming it's like group sitting around "table at lunch" is exactly where you are mistaken.

To find out why, consider studying Shirky's article A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy. The article is fantastic, it could profoundly teach the reader about the difference between a lunch group and large community, but for the sake of brevity I'll just quote the key point relevant to the mistake in your assumption:

"human interaction... doesn't blow up like a balloon"

Simply put, when there's a handful of colleagues in a group, a subjective conversation can go like this: first person asks a question, second answers it, third one answers from a different perspective, fourth sparks a joke, fifth adds a side note... and that's all.

  • In a setting like this, you get a reasonably limited amount of information, an amount your brain can handle... you've got something you can learn from.

At Stack Overflow, you better think of something like 1000 guys sitting around the... world.

In such an environment, your subjective conversation will probably go like this: first person asks a (subjective) question, second answers it (so far so good huh?), twenty more add answers from different perspectives, fifty more attempt all imaginable kinds of jokes, hundred more add all imaginable kinds of side notes... and so on and so on, over and over again, until your brain explodes.

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Wow, that "A Group is Its Own Worst Enemy" article is excellent, I can't thank you enough. One note - some supposedly 'subjective' conversations (on SO) go that way, but some don't, it's not a law. I understand though; To avoid drowning in bathwater, we have to throw out a few babies. –  Spike0xff Feb 15 '13 at 18:49
@Spike0xff these thanks would better go to MichaelT: his rather heavy promotion of this article at Whiteboard made me curious enough to invest efforts into studying it. I think you got it right with the reasoning about avoiding "drowning in bathwater" –  gnat Feb 15 '13 at 19:10
"The best way to learn something is when someone else figures it out and tells you: "Don't go in that swamp. There are alligators in there." Learning from experience about the alligators is lousy, compared to learning from reading, say." Beautifully put, Thanks for the article. –  apaul34208 Oct 20 '13 at 17:08
I can understand the perspective you're articulating; however, there's a problem waiting to be solved here. People want to ask subjective questions even if there are many perspectives and side notes. I can understand also that SO doesn't support this kind of things; however, that doesn't mean there isn't some implementation that could somewhat overcome the issues you describe. –  Mario Jan 19 '14 at 21:19
@Mario right. The very article I am referring to ("A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy"), describes an example of such an implementation (MetaFilter) –  gnat Jan 20 '14 at 5:34
I drink so much answer just for this question –  Ooker Mar 1 at 11:06
So to prove this, have you read enough of these answers to explode your brain? Pointing to that article as proof in itself would be an Appeal to Authority logical fallacy. The fire hydrant pic was hilarious, but I don't buy your argument here that there is zero value in being able to scan through as many viewpoints as you want. Just yet another theoretical/subjective opinion. I find reading subjective Q&A valuable, at times. (On a side note, I bet that guy was able to drink as much water as he wanted!) –  Crusader Mar 22 at 21:49
...somewhat funny to see comment about how easy it would be to handle questions with multiple answers from someone who seems to have missed a top answer in this very question (which incidentally describes what happened when we tried to support such questions) –  gnat Mar 23 at 9:03
@Crusader - gnat has read enough to explode anyones brain, it's a wonder he can still function. The article citation wasn't an appeal to authority, it was a reference to an argument that is intended to be persuasive on merit. Subjective QA can be valuable, but it has proven hard not to have it degenerate to the lowest common denominator and drive away the knowledgeable. Which is quite unfortunate, as subjective QA can help solve a much broader set of problems. –  psr Mar 24 at 21:01
@gnat I disagree with the answer. It's very plausible, unless you can prove otherwise, that the title "Not Programming Related" simply made serious participants avoid even looking at the site. It's just a verbose way of saying "Off Topic". Personally I know I never even noticed it. If I avoided it for that reason, how many others also did? I think the name of this alleged "trial" of this concept poisoned the well. So basically I don't accept the premise of the argument here that "this was tried before". If this was the intent with NPR, it was a piss poor attempt... you have to see that. –  Crusader 13 hours ago
I'm not sure why I even bother... it'll never be attempted again due to the rigid opinions (and quite possibly egos) of those in control around here, and that's that. For all I know the site was intentionally given such a terrible name (i.e. basically "Off Topic") so it would be doomed to fail and could be used as a "told you so" example against the people here clamoring for a subjective question site. I would hope nobody would be that petty, but developers seem to be known for their easily bruised egos after all. Funny firehose pic though. –  Crusader 12 hours ago

I think that if I could ask a question to a group of skilled programmers sitting around a table at lunch, and get interesting, valuable answers, then I don't care whether the question or the answers are 'subjective',

That's fine. We care.

We care because subjective discussions will destroy this site. We care because subjective discussion is exactly why many of us are on this site instead of on many of the thousands of programming forums on the Internet.

Stack Overflow is not intended to be everything for everyone. You come here to ask objective, practical questions that have real, objective answers. If you want to have a subjective discussion about some programming issue, that's wonderful.

Don't do it here just because there happen to be a lot of smart people here. You'd be subverting the very reason why those smart people are here.

What you're asking is no different from wanting to read a book at a movie theater; what you want is at odds with why the place exists.

I would like to see a mechanism whereby people who vote to close a question lose reputation when somebody expresses interest in that question or its responses.

This is one of the most ridiculous suggestions I've ever seen someone seriously suggest for this site. The potential for abuse of this is so massive that nobody would ever close anything again.

How can I, or can I, influence this aspect of SO?

This is one of the founding aspects of SO. You can no more influence this than a fish can change the flow of the river. The anti-subjective bias is not merely part of the community, it is at the very core of why Stack Overflow was invented.

Again, it's like being annoyed that movie patrons ask you to turn off your reading light at the theater. You're not going to get them to change their views either.

SO is lenient in some respects to different opinions. This is not one of those cases.

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"This is one of the most ridiculous suggestions I've ever seen someone seriously suggest for this site."OK, I get it, I misunderstood SO. –  Spike0xff Feb 15 '13 at 17:45
Ironically, I picked this as the best answer, although @gnat - thanks, very informative. The hostility underlying this answer puzzles me though, and it exemplifies why, for me, SO increasingly feels like a bad neighborhood. I go there when I need something, but I'm not going to hang around any longer than I have to. Yes, I know, that just proves I'm not the right kind of people. –  Spike0xff Feb 15 '13 at 18:25

So far the only site that I've ever been on or heard of that removed questions such as those is the SE network, so to answer your question of:

Where should this information be exchanged if it's not on stackoverflow?

Literally anywhere else on the entire internet. Any forum, q/a site, or interactive site that allows one to ask programming questions. Virtually none of them will refuse to allow questions like this. There are lots and lots of places where people can go to ask these questions.

You might say that you're unlikely to get good answers on those sites, since SO has so many experts who may have more valuable information to give. That's not a coincidence. SO tends to have higher quality content, more experts, etc. specifically because it is restrictive in the questions that it allows. By prohibiting questions that have shown, over an extensive history, to cause problems and result in lower quality content, the remaining questions end up being (largely) of great quality, and it creates a site that experts want to be active on, as they don't have to deal with a lot of the lower quality questions, the bike sheds, and the arguments/flamewars/ranting/etc. that come along with questions like those you suggested.

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You can ask them on SO chat too. –  Linuxios Oct 9 '13 at 15:00

I don't think SO should be Wikipedia. I think that if I could ask a question to a group of skilled programmers sitting around a table at lunch, and get interesting, valuable answers, then I don't care whether the question or the answers are 'subjective', I think that question should equally well be fair game for Stack Overflow.

Some questions aren't really answerable questions, they are discussions.

Stack Exchange is a Q/A network, not a discussion board.

Interestingly, a Wikipedia type site seems to me the exact format you are wanting - because you can have more discussion of pros/cons to different things which is more applicable to an article than an "answer."

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I understand why you and others ask this question. Sometimes questions with a fair amount of subjectivity do receive useful answers, possibly get heavily upvoted, then get closed.

The main goal of SO is that someone can use a search engine to get an answer about a topic, and have a really good chance of getting useful information. So, why sometimes close questions that have elicited useful information?

To understand that you have to understand the effort it takes to make sure answer quality is reasonably high. Even with the current, pretty strict, guidelines (which do sometimes rule out useful content) a lot of people volunteer (a very few get paid) what is collectively an enormous amount of time just trying to maintain the current standards - and are struggling to even do that (the backlog in the review queues is enormous).

So, like many matters in programming, you have to drop the ideal (in which hordes of knowledgeable and benevolent moderators and users spend the time needed to curate any number of subjective questions, deal with the many people who are upset that their question has been rejected while a similar one has not (because, you know, that's pretty much inherent in the whole subjective thing), and generally spend the large amounts of time needed to make things ideal) in favor of the possible (in which smaller hordes of overall surprisingly knowledgeable users and moderators spend an enormous amount of time curating the site but often come up with heuristics to save enough time to make completing the job possible).

Some of the time-saving heuristics include closing categories of questions that historically have taken up large amounts of curator's time and produced a disappointing quantity and quality of good content. I agree with you that some good content is lost, and certain categories of very useful content are nearly absent from SO. I think after a little time on the site this problem is readily apparent.

What is less readily apparent is how very hard it is to have that content without burying it under content of far lower quality. I would love to see some method of solving that. I'd complain too - it seems a shame that certain things are missing - but, unfortunately, I don't have a feasible solution that scales to the level of this site and uses the resources available. I don't think anyone has figured that out.

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The backlog of the close vote queue is high. The other queues generally sit around zero... –  Servy Oct 9 '13 at 20:22

My discussion on this was closed (Too many closed questions) referring me here to this question.

This is not an answer, but further support for the asker:

It would seem that if there is even the possibility of the question being subjective, it is closed. These days there must be a dozen ways to code something, yet those questions are allowed to stand. Yet the instant somebody asks a "what is a library that will do 'X' it is closed. The irony is that these questions, even in their closed and decaying state, are often the most valuable to me. Sometimes I'll test three or four third party components before I commit to one. This is a time consuming process that I would gladly augment with the vote-validated answers that others might have.

Examples include:

I'll concede that the last one is too general but I left it on there because even if it was free control that does 'X' it still would have been closed.

If these questions cannot be asked on stackoverflow proper, which subsite should be considered (keeping in mind that the other sides hardly get any where close to the SERP rankings that SO gets).

Does the asker need to explicitly ask the "subjective" guidance questions to avoid getting closed?:

  • Please explain “why” and “how”
  • Please elaborate
  • Please only share items that you have personal experience with.
  • Please post any data you have relating to your experience

Isn't that a mess? Shouldn't we be able to rely on the answerers to follow the guidelines instead and if they violate them make effective use of the down vote button beyond simply being wrong? Why does all the burdon fall on the asker when it's the answerers that should know the rules and how they can best serve the asker without turning them away?

Are these questions even subjective? It is a fact if a component meets a need. "Best" is subjective, but isn't that inherent anyway? Is anybody going to list the item they've already discarded for themselves? Are we really going to let a single adjective decide a questions fate? Isn't this easily cleaned up with comments?

I understand we're trying to avoid the wild west of a forum, but we're not debating politics here. Many of these questions could be answered with "here's what I did and here's why". We could restrict answers to things that are pulled directly from the examples on MSDN, but why exactly do we want to do that?

What is the guiding principle here? If we want to help programmers save time and create better software, then things that stop them from getting to page 17 on Bing should be included.


For those that chose to dismiss my examples as "shopping" questions please explain the difference between asking "How do I create an excel file from .net" (which there are dozens of un-closed examples of and "What is the best component for creating an excel file". Doesn't one question simply acknowledge that the best candidate for an answer is likely going to be a component?

If there is no place for subjectivity in SO, what is the point of the voting mechanism?

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Why does all the burdon fall on the asker when it's the answerers that should know the rules...? Because the asker should know the rules as well? Because the question helps shape the answers? Because a bad question pretty much (but not always, I'll concede) guarantees bad answers? –  LittleBobbyTables Aug 6 '13 at 13:42
@LBT - I'm not suggesting that the asker shouldn't follow the rules. I'm suggesting that in the context of the set of solicitations that automatically qualifies a question as a valid subjective question, that answerers are likely the more experienced of the two and should know to include the responses to those solicitations without explicitly been asked. –  b_levitt Aug 6 '13 at 15:41

Even if they do become a bit of a discussion

Well, that's the crux of the matter, right?

We find discussion to detract from the purpose of the site - to be a repository of questions and answers.

Popularity and usefulness don't come into that equation.

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so you're saying you don't care how useful the questions and answers are? Isn't that the whole point of the site? I for one only come here because I find it useful, not because I enjoy long discussions or debates. –  Matt Darwin Oct 9 '13 at 14:46
@MattDarwin A discussion or debate is not an answer though. We want questions with answers. –  Matthew Green Oct 9 '13 at 14:49
@MattDarwin Stack overflow optimises for total usefulness. If a rule makes the site more useful for you but less useful for 100 other people that is optimised against. This is of course accross all questions; if a rule stops 1 useful question and 99 unhelpful ones then it is a good rule –  Richard Tingle Oct 9 '13 at 14:50
No. The point is to have a repository of questions and answers. Not a repository of useful debate or discussion. We focus on our mission, @MattDarwin –  Oded Oct 9 '13 at 14:51

Some of these questions are very old. Over time, Stack Overflow has become more strict on what is allowed.

And these strict rules are there for a reason. There are enough places where people talk about which tool is "the best". Stack Exchange sites aim at giving definite, objective answers.

Questions also need to show prior effort. This prevents the site from being overrun by "help vampires". But also, when I have a problem and look on most other sites, I see a list of things that I've already tried myself. When I look on Stack Overflow, I find someone else who has also tried these things - and failed. Then (hopefully) an answer follows that shows a new insight, that I have not yet tried myself.

So, even though there may be informative things in the answers, questions asking for "the best product" or questions that show zero effort should be closed. It may seem harsh, but it is necessary if we want to keep a high signal-to-noise ratio.

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SO has some standards for questions to be welcomed... the FAQ has detailed information about what you can ask in here and what you cannot ask.

  • JPA Implementations - Which one is the best to use?: SO expects questions to be answerable. That question is opinion based and also the answer can change according to your requirements. This is not a discussion site, you can ask your questions and get direct answers.

    Also probably it will not offer much as a future reference since requirements differ and choices change too. If some application is the best choice at present, that does not mean it will be the best in 3 years time.

  • How to read a large text file line by line in java?: SO is not a place where you can make other people do your job. You must try and search before you ask something in here. You must have some specific problem to be solved, not a whole concept to be written for you.

    Closing an answered question is necessary because if it is not closed, then it will encourage people keep doing the same thing. If SO do not close an answered question which do not fit its format, then people keep asking them since they will think "No problem, we got our answers".

  • Are weekly status meetings necessary?: SO is for programming questions. SX has many sites for many Q&A formatted questions and this is not the right place. Visit programmers for such questions.

And one more thing, this is a community moderated site. If there are no strict lines for moderating, then everything will be a mess. There are thousands of people in here who can access moderator tools and there must be guidelines for them to follow.

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The simple answer from reading many of the replies here is that the current infrastructure wasn't made to accommodate subjective discussions. The best way SO could reign in the "subjective vigilantes" is to provide infrastructure to support subjective exchanges. In this way the subjective and objective questions could be dealt with differently.

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It seems to me most technical problems involve at least some opinion to be solved. You see, many technical problems have multiple approaches to solve them. Sometimes, only one of those approaches is worth mentioning. For more complex technical problems, however, it's almost always a matter of opinion which approach is the best.

In fact, the more complex or rare the problem tends to be, the less obvious the solution usually is and the more opinion is required in answering a question.

Also, there's the matter of different tools being better for different tasks. Often, there's no "best" answer to a question. Some tools are better for some problems. Others are better for other problems. And sometimes the answer to a question is just a matter of taste, a matter of experience or both.

Opinions based on the taste and experience of senior programmers are often the most valuable thing one can learn during the first couple of months as a junior programmer. There are few ways to learn the job faster and more efficient than adopting the best practices of a senior colleague and gradually refining them to your own personal taste as you become more experienced. And then, a couple years later, you'll be the one sharing your personal taste and experience to the fresh meat that just joined the company.

Note that this is not restricted to programming or technical expertise. This is how human knowledge has been shared from one individual to another throughout history. We can learn a lot from books and films, but in the end we tend to learn most from our own experiences and the experiences shared by other members of our species. Traditions are the "best practices" of our ancestors that have made us who we are through a gradual process of refinement... much like biological evolution.

It makes no sense to me whatsoever that sharing opinions on technical matters is frowned upon on Stack Overflow. It restricts the sharing of valuable information that can help programmers, engineers and designers build better applications and tools.

I started my own thread on the matter: Are some of Stack Overflow's rules anti-intellectual at their core?. I copy-pasted the first part of this answer. My question itself was inspired by a comment on another question (What is too opinionated about this question?), which I included in my question along with links to several other questions that are somewhat related to the same problem.

In just four hours, it received a multitude of comments. In fact, many of them were posted within an hour of posting my question. One of the commenters seems to fully agree with my position, whereas the others are a perfect illustration of the bullying that's going on in this community, along with the 15 downvotes my comment got in those four hours.

Within the same timeframe, it was also closed as a duplicate of this question, not allowing anyone to actually answer the question. As this question does indeed reflect more of less the same position and one of the other answer involved an experience similar to mine, it shows that at least four people have the same perspective. My question also had six upvotes, which adds adds at least one other person. I wonder how many more are afraid to speak out or have already left the community because of this...

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"One of the commenters seems to fully agree with my position, whereas the others are a perfect illustration of the bullying that's going on in this community" - have you considered the possibility that people can disagree with your opinion, and that that doesn't necessarily imply that they're wrong or that their own opinion is worthless? Apparently more people disagreed with you than agreed (at least, of those who said anything). –  Mat May 21 '14 at 14:39
@Mat: If a question is downvoted and considered irrelevant for an observation shared by at least five other people in this community, it illustrates that there's some kind of "inner circle" in this community that doesn't tolerate any non-conformity. How is that any different from the behavior of high school bullies, who also herass anyone who is "different" from whatever is considered the norm? –  John Slegers May 21 '14 at 14:42
Who said your question was irrelevant? –  Mat May 21 '14 at 14:43
When you start a discussion and people give you their constructive feedback stating that they disagree with your position that's not bullying. That's giving you exactly what you asked for, a discussion. If you are unwilling to be given contrasting viewpoints to your own, then don't start a discussion on the topic in the first place. –  Servy May 21 '14 at 14:54
@Mat: Why else the downvotes for a question that reflects a problem with this community that has been reported by at least four different people? Why the very negative responses to questions by well-meaning people who are taking the risk of getting downvoted and/or herassed for expressing their genuine concern for where this community is heading towards? I feel like Peter Horvath, Spike0xff, b_levitt, myself and those who dare not speak out simply aren't taken seriously by the "inner circle" who declares what rules the rest of us should follow if that's how we're treated. –  John Slegers May 21 '14 at 14:54
There is a huge difference between opinions and expertise. Opinions have virtually no value. Exptertise can have value. See this blog post for some insight into the difference. –  Servy May 21 '14 at 14:55
@Servy : As I explained in my answer, there's no clear distinction between opinions and expertise. Much of the most valuable things I learned (both professionally and personally) consists of nothing but opinions shared by people with more experience than myself. –  John Slegers May 21 '14 at 14:57
@JohnSlegers Plenty of people speak out against this community on a daily basis on meta. You are not alone. So is a radically different site, it sparks lots of intense emotions among its users, it often holds rather extreme positions on issues when compared to other sites. As a result many people love the site, and many people hate it. That's fine; it's not designed to be a site for everyone. If the site isn't for you, then it's not for you. It happens. Trying to claim that you're a martyr because you were downvoted is just being overly dramatic. –  Servy May 21 '14 at 14:57
@JohnSlegers And I'm asserting that you're wrong, that there is an important distinction between opinions and expertise, and we don't want the former here on this site. There are plenty of other sites around the world that do let people just post opinions. If that's what you want, you're welcome to use them, but it's not what we want here. –  Servy May 21 '14 at 14:58
@Servy : Overly dramatic is what I'd call the way some of the more privileged people in this community respond to people who hold an opinion different from themselves. And really, that's all I have to say about it. My life is too busy to put any more effort into expressing my concerns with how this community is heading towards self-destruction. And yes, that's just my opinion... but it's an opinion that's most definitely not unique, as almost identical statements by Peter Horvath, Spike0xff and b_levitt can show. –  John Slegers May 21 '14 at 15:01
@JohnSlegers: please consider that the rules to exclude opinion-based questions are there to prevent the site from self-destructing. See Yannis's answer to this very post that has facts to back it up. You may disagree with that, and that's entirely your right. You're also welcome to voice your opinion. But don't expect people who disagree with you not to express theirs. And voting, on meta, is a means for that (showing agreement/disagreement). –  Mat May 21 '14 at 15:04
@JohnSlegers Of course it's not unique. Lots of people love seeing these types of questions. That's one of the biggest problems. People love to participate in flame wars and hold pointless arguments with no basis in fact/evidence. It's entertaining, even though it doesn't add value. That's what makes it so destructive to communities. And nobody is saying you can't have your fun. We're just saying that you can't have it here, because we want this to be a site with a much higher signal to noise ratio. –  Servy May 21 '14 at 15:05
"whereas the others are a perfect illustration of the bullying that's going on in this community" ... if you're not at all genuinely interested in the view of others who might disagree with you, perhaps just don't ask anything on Meta. Dismissing them as "bullying" is quite rude, even more so given that you don't know whether those commenters are also the downvoters or not. –  Bart May 21 '14 at 15:09
Oh bullcrap @JohnSlegers. "and a multitude of statements expressing why Stack Exchange should not take their opinion seriously and maintain its current policy" ... Just ... No. At most a multitude of statement taking your opinion seriously, but expressing reasoned disagreement. If that is "bullying" to you, get a thicker skin. Or just don't meta. –  Bart May 21 '14 at 15:28

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