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First of all, I am nothing if not smitten with the idea of using the community to determine the "right" answer amongst many possible answers. It's a tremendous improvement over forums, where there is no way to be right or wrong.

However, given that the central improvement SO makes over forums is that you can separate wheat from chaff, why should SO actively discourage subjective questions, which are often the questions that most need to have people weighing in on them?

Where better to go if I want to get a vote (with substantiated opinions) on the best Rails plugin for a given task? Or the best approach to a problem? Or the best anything? SO's ability to determine the "best" of something is exactly what makes it great for me. Yet including the word "best" in my question gives me that nasty "your question looks subjective and may be closed" warning. I feel like I'm being scolded for leveraging the key strength of this site.

Of course, I suspect I know why SO discourages this. Probably because subjectivity can lead to disagreement, and disagreement leads to time spent managing community. I happen to run a big, community-driven website, and I "get" that keeping people of differing opinions civil can be difficult. But it is a solvable problem (hint: community+technology = automation) that shouldn't be allowed to interfere with one of the key strengths of this site.

At the least, I think it makes sense to re-evaluate trying to scare people off when they put the word "best" in their title. Asking about the "best" programming language is probably a discussion not worth having, but to discourage the asking of any question with the word "best" feels like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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2 Answers 2

You assume that people actually pay attention to it when all the evidence points to the contrary. It doesn't appear to have much effect in stopping subjective questions. I know that I've ignored it (on meta anyway).

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Well, yes, I guess I can ignore it. But if the best case scenario is that people ignore it, is that a feature that makes sense? –  user136445 Oct 1 '09 at 6:35
    
Personally, I shouldn't treat ignoring the hint as a best case scenario. I observed the hint only once or twice … whilst I can't recall the details of those drafts, the hint certainly did gain my attention – and led to a less subjective question. –  Graham Perrin Aug 2 at 16:34

Beneath an initial appearance of subjectivity there might be:

  • a very good question.

In such cases: the automated on-screen hint about subjectivity is suitably brief yet informative – but can not be as effective as a human review of the question.

Someone might read between the lines and suggest an edit that reveals the goodness of the question.

Might the “this question appears to be subjective” warning be discouraging good questions from being asked?

Possibly. But I think that the gentle forewarning does much more good than harm.

Moreover: it's so gentle that only the most rushed, or laziest, of questions might be discouraged. So:

  • the on-screen hint is a good thing.
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