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I would like to argue that questions like "Hidden features of python" or other "Best software for the environment", "Best unknown features of software", "Must-have Ubuntu packages" etc. shouldn't be closed.

These questions provide a valuable source of information in many fields. They allow a broad perspective on a subject, and the collection of answers usually provide a comprehensive "expansion kit" on a certain subject. The popularity of these questions serves as an excellent proof to their necessity.

Frankly, I'm starting to get a lit of Wikipedia sense in this community - where the editors, or moderators, strictly close questions or articles which do not comply with somewhat unnecessary rules.

Would we be able to ease the strains a bit? For example, have a question closed for non-abuse cause after a vote?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

"The popularity of these questions servers as an excellent proof to their necessity."

Actually it is quite the opposite. The argument is called Parkinson's Law of Triviality (or the Bicycle Shed example). Read about it. It basically argues that that organizations give disproportionate weight to trivial issues. The functional word here is disproportionate.

The occasional poll/subjective question might appear harmless while they are so few on Stack Overflow. The problem comes when they become the acceptable norm. In terms of reputation, they are the low-hanging fruit of the system. Soon, ever other question would be "what is your favorite programmer drink", "what's your favorite programmer number", and "worst programmer knock-knock joke."

That is why they are generally discouraged here.

The focus of questions Stack Overflow is relatively narrow, by design. If allowed, poll and subjective questions become a really large wall of noise which water down the intended focus of Stack Overflow; to get answers to programming questions.

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I think that mandating what the community should be interested in also has its risks. "Real", programming-related questions will be more likely to be answered if there are many active users. There are more likely to be many active users if there are questions being posted that interest them. The popularity of these questions may be "disproportionate", but that popularity also indicates that they hold the community's interest. –  Eric Aug 30 '09 at 17:26
    
@Eric: You're giving me a real identity crisis. I keep seeing your comments and going, "I didn't say that!" –  Eric Aug 30 '09 at 17:38
    
@Eric: Your comments are usually happier comments than my comments so you can use that as a helpful rule of thumb when making judgement. –  Eric Aug 30 '09 at 17:50
    
@Eric: Yes, but when that day comes that you're jovial, I'm really going to be in a mess. –  Eric Aug 30 '09 at 17:55
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This is a classic "ad absurdum" argument, which is quite irrelevant in this case. Purely programming-related CW discussions, which highlight certain elements of a programming language, do not harm the more focused questions. There should be a fair amount of common sense here: "Bust unknown python features" is acceptable, but "worst knock knock jokes" isn't, because the first is about programming and the second isn't. –  Adam Matan Aug 30 '09 at 18:21
    
See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10390/… –  Shog9 Aug 30 '09 at 19:35
    
@Shog9 I understand the argument, but I think it's a negative feedback loop, because the community gets tired quite fast. The CW might be a good solution; perhaps the site moderators should CW before deleting. –  Adam Matan Aug 31 '09 at 9:19
    
@Udi: "the community" isn't posting endless variations on the same useless questions - individual members are. That's why "the community" closes them. CW is a compromise to allow the more popular questions of this sort to stick around, but unpopular ones still get closed. –  Shog9 Aug 31 '09 at 14:28
    
@Shog9: I reiterate my statement that the community needs something to hold its interest so that it will answer the real questions. There's a fine line between draconian enforcement of the rules and nipping unwanted behavior in the bud. I think you are straying a little too far towards the authoritarian side. –  Eric Aug 31 '09 at 15:42

So long as those questions are Community Wikis, there's a lot of value in them. If they are not Community Wiki, then they are, to the system and to the community, questions that should have one and only one answer. Clearly, they aren't the latter, so if they aren't CW, then they should be closed (or have a mod convert them).

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It depends.

"Hidden features of X" where X is a programming language is clearly programming-related and mostly non-subjective; it is somewhat poll-ish though.

"Best X" is, by definition, subjective.

If you quit now, cake will be served immediately.

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