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I've been trying to understand what kind of questions are appreciated at stackoverflow. I've been reading this article: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective/

I think I don't really understand this paragraph:

Great subjective questions invite sharing experiences over opinions. Certainly experiences inform opinions, but the best subjective questions unabashedly and unashamedly prioritize sharing actual experiences over random opinions. It’s more useful to share with us what you’ve done than what you think. Everyone has an opinion. It takes zero effort or imagination to have an opinion about anything and everything. But people who have done things, real things in the world, and have the scars and arrows in their back to show for it — now that’s worth sharing. You should be uniquely qualified to have your opinion based on the specific experiences you had. And you should share those experiences, and more specifically what you learned from your experiences, with us!

Before I read this article, I thought that such questions that invite sharing experiences would get closed as not-constructive. After reading this, I'm in doubt.

According to the help center, questions about software tools commonly used by programmers are on topic at stackoverflow. Therefore it seems to me that it is allowed to write a questions which invite sharing experiences about for example programming languages (if it also meets the other criteria for good questions). Is this correct ? If so, what is an good example of such a question at stackoverflow.

Edit
To make my point more clear. When I serch on stackoverflow, I haven't ever seen a question like I'm describing that is still open. Therefore I wonder if it is even possible to write a question that asks for experiences that wouldn't get closed. And if this is possible, is there an example of such an question ? I would like to read it so that I better understand how to write such a question here that would not get closed.

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You are reading the FAQ selectively, and you are ignoring one of the most important parts: "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face". That's not optional. –  Yannis Jun 15 '13 at 18:57
    
@Yannis I don't read selectively. But maybe my interpretation is wrong. When I read: "If your question generally covers a) a specific programming problem, b)a software algorithm c) software tools commonly used by programmers d) practical, answerable problems that are unique to the programming profession, then you’re in the right place to ask your question!" I interpret this at: if a or b or c or d, then on-topic. –  Kasper Jun 15 '13 at 19:02
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That's from the "on-topic" help page, and yes questions that would be about any of the 4 categories there would be on topic. However, we aren't really discussing topicality here, are we? The more relevant help page would be the "don't ask" one. Which, I interpret as saying: Even if your question is on topic, please don't ask it here if it's not about an actual & practical problem. Being on topic is not the only requirement. –  Yannis Jun 15 '13 at 19:08
    
@Yannis Okay, I agree. But I'm not sure what your are trying to say. Do you think it is impossible to ask questions which invites sharing experiences but are also practical/actual ? –  Kasper Jun 15 '13 at 19:21
    
@Kasper: "When I serch on stackoverflow, I haven't ever seen a question like I'm describing that is still open." Of course not, because what you're describing would be closed. The kind of question you're describing would not be a good subjective question. And therefore, it would be closed. –  Nicol Bolas Jun 15 '13 at 22:18
    
@NicolBolas I'm describing invite-sharing-experience questions (about for example programming languages). Do you think such questions are never good subjective questions ? Then this sixth guideline would be like completely redundant... ? no ? –  Kasper Jun 15 '13 at 22:42
    
@Kasper: There's no such thing as "invite-sharing-experience questions"; that's the point. The guidelines are not 6 different ways to ask good subjective questions. They're 6 things that good subjective questions ought to do. A good subjective question must do most or all of them. You can't take one guideline completely out of context and ask what a good question that fulfills it would be. –  Nicol Bolas Jun 15 '13 at 23:01
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2 Answers

On SO, even good subjective questions will more often than not be closed. But on other sites, the difference is really quite simple.

An opinion could be based on many things, such as simply speculating about how a situation might develop. "Experiences" are all about how a situation has developed in at least one instance (ie: your experience). And because it has certainly happened at least once, it has more weight than simply speculating about what might happen.


You seem to really be missing the forest for the trees. You can't just say "the question is 'good subjective' because it invites sharing experiences and therefore is appropriate." That is merely one criteria. And it doesn't override other rules, like the explicit forbidding of shopping questions, comparison questions, and the like.

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"On SO, even good subjective questions will more often than not be closed. " Why is that ? –  Kasper Jun 15 '13 at 18:09
    
@Kasper: Because SO is about specific programming questions, and it's pretty much impossible to ask a subjective question about a specific programming issue. –  Nicol Bolas Jun 15 '13 at 18:27
    
According to the help center: "If your question generally covers a) a specific programming problem, b)a software algorithm c) software tools commonly used by programmers d) practical, answerable problems that are unique to the programming profession, then you’re in the right place to ask your question!" It seems to me that one could ask great subjective questions about software tools commonly used by programmers. –  Kasper Jun 15 '13 at 18:33
    
@Kasper: Such as what? Also, I said "more often than not"; that doesn't mean always. –  Nicol Bolas Jun 15 '13 at 18:34
    
I edited my question. What you ask me here, is exactly what I'm trying to figure out. What is an example of a good subjective question at stackoverflow. (more specifically, a good subjective question that invites sharing experiences) –  Kasper Jun 15 '13 at 18:52
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@Kaspar: subjective questions about programming tools are probably either shopping rec questions or an attempt to start a vi vs emacs flamewar. Either way, they're likely to get closed as Not Constructive. –  Wooble Jun 15 '13 at 19:45
    
@Kasper: See my edit. –  Nicol Bolas Jun 15 '13 at 19:49
    
@NicolBolas "And it doesn't override other rules, like the explicit forbidding of shopping questions, comparison questions, and the like." Where can I read about those rules ? I didn't know that comparison questions are explicitly forbidden. –  Kasper Jun 15 '13 at 20:03
    
@Wooble I would be more interested in asking questions that invite experts to tell their experiences about for examlpe different programming languages. For example, I would like to be able to ask questions, that could receive answers like this: codinghorror.com/blog/2013/03/why-ruby.html –  Kasper Jun 15 '13 at 20:07
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@Kasper: It's part of the whole "Not Constructive" thing: "this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion." There's no way a comparison question won't do those things. –  Nicol Bolas Jun 15 '13 at 20:15
    
@NicolBolas In some sense every subjective question could solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. But I thought the whole "good subjective" thing was about asking subjective questions that doesn't trigger too much debate etc. But triggers more opinions that are backed up with reference (or experience). –  Kasper Jun 15 '13 at 20:29
    
@Kasper: And yet you keep missing the point: there are more conditions on that page than the one paragraph you quoted. There's more to "good subjective" than just asking questions about people's experiences. Shopping questions fail guidelines 1-3. –  Nicol Bolas Jun 15 '13 at 21:13
    
@NicolBolas I don't understand why you think I'm not aware of that. –  Kasper Jun 15 '13 at 21:15
    
@Kasper: Because you keep asking about it: "Therefore it seems to me that questions which invite sharing experiences about software tools commonly used by programmmers are allowed at stackoverflow." The only way you could conclude that is if you think that the only qualification for being "good subjective" is asking about experiences. –  Nicol Bolas Jun 15 '13 at 21:22
    
@NicolBolas I asked that once... and if you read futher: " If so, what is an good example of such a question at stackoverflow." This implies that I could also imagine a bad example of such a question. –  Kasper Jun 15 '13 at 21:33
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Key words here are "over opinions".

Recipe to spoil an otherwise great question and make it useless is to present it in a way that allows mindless opinions leak through into answers.

Poison the question with "what do you think?", "what do you prefer?" (and it's fake objective smokescreen "what is preferred and why") and this will serve as an open invitation for garbage answers.

    - This code is all right

    - Hey code in question is
      float multiply(float x, float y) { return x / y; }
      how could "all right" be an answer here?

    - Sure it's a legitimate answer:
      OP asked "what do you guys think"
      and I answered what I think.

Questions should repel zero effort, purely opinionated 1 answers, as opposed to inviting these...

best subjective questions unabashedly and unashamedly prioritize sharing actual experiences over random opinions. It’s more useful to share with us what you’ve done than what you think. Everyone has an opinion. It takes zero effort or imagination to have an opinion about anything and everything...


It is also worth keeping in mind that article you refer to lists other requirements necessary for a subjective question to be a great one,

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

Statement "invite sharing experiences" should be interpreted within a framework provided by requirements quoted above. One can't just pull off a single invite-sharing-experience and claim "hey isn't my question great, it meets one of (six) guidelines".

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