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What algorithm does StackOverflow use to determine if a question may be subjective?

I just entered a question titled: "What’s the best way to serialize / deserialize a Dictionary<String,String> in .Net 2.0?"

And SO told me: "The question you're asking appears subjective and is likely to be closed."

How is that working currently?
What are you looking for in the title to flag something as "potentially subjective"?
Is it because i asked for "the best way" to do something?

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marked as duplicate by John, Al E., jonsca, Toon Krijthe, Martijn Pieters Oct 2 '12 at 9:10

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

up vote 36 down vote accepted


return Regex.IsMatch(s, 
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Thank you Jeff! That explains it. Should I take from this that these words are frowned upon in question titles? Or is this just a warning? – Daniel Magliola Jul 11 '09 at 15:12
I got those words by scanning about a hundred closed subjective questions that were not good fits on Stack Overflow. Those words aren't wrong per se but they do not bode well for a question. – Jeff Atwood Jul 11 '09 at 15:52
Thanks! Curiosity Satisfied :-) – Daniel Magliola Jul 12 '09 at 17:42
One minor issue is that it will trigger on "how do you do x?", which is a common construct for non-subjective questions. – smackfu Jul 21 '09 at 1:52
The regex might be better written as "\b(?:best|worst|hardest|your?|favou?rite)\b" so you don't have so many \b escapes, and they're not immediately followed by text. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Jan 5 '10 at 18:42
"How does best-fit memory allocation work?" matches that regex. "What's better, Java or C#?" doesn't. – Perpetual Motion Goat Feb 15 '10 at 15:03
"What is a Half-Carry and how do you calculate it?" matches this and is not subjective, but "What is a Half-Carry and how does _one_ calculate it?" looks too formal. – Callum Rogers Sep 13 '10 at 15:09
Using (a part of) The question you're asking appears subjective and is likely to be closed in the title of this question would've made it easier to search. – user495470 Oct 26 '11 at 1:17

My guess is it looks for words like "best", "favorite", "your". I'd be interested in knowing just what words trigger it, and how that list was determined. Not that it matters much, I'm just as curious as you.

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Nice guess. You were almost right on. :) – Ricket Aug 6 '09 at 20:27

It's done by a simple regex as posted by Jeff. The regex matches the following words:

  • Best
  • Worst
  • Hardest
  • You
  • Your
  • Favorite
  • Favourite

It is important to note that avoiding the above words does not make your question any less subjective - "Best management tool" is inherently subjective - the warning is not there to tell you to avoid certain words, but to avoid the question altogether, or to re-word it so it can be evaluated objectively and measurably so that the answer is the same for everyone in your situation.


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And as others have commented (ages ago), using those words doesn't necessarily make your question subjective. That's the trouble with all heuristics. – Jürgen A. Erhard Jun 29 '11 at 18:16

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