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If we have one really reliable 'Hatfield versus McCoy' situation on, it's the question of subjective questions. One camp (in which I generally find myself) appeals to the wording of the FAQ: "Avoid asking questions that are subjective, argumentative, or require extended discussion." The grammar is clear enough: subjective questions, even if not argumentative, are to be avoided.

The other camp has at least two things to say for itself:

  1. The close reason, unlike the FAQ, is clearly 'subjective and argumentative." So, merely transgressing the line quoted above does not justify its application.
  2. These questions can be interesting, educational, or fun.
  3. This FAQ.

The result is the ongoing 100-year community wiki war. Given a subjective question, some people start voting to close, others start asking for cwiki. If five people vote to close, five others leap onto the reopen button. With or without cwiki. Feelings are running so high that some people have started flagging some subjective questions as Spam or Offensive in an effort to raise the pain level. This can't be good. See this.

In the background, the votes pile up. If the cwiki bit hasn't got flipped on, I sense that this only further raises the blood pressure of the first group, who anxiously await the two-day timeout so that they can delete the thing.

Previous questions here that tried to clarify the validity of 'subjective but cwiki' did not lead to any change. The FAQ and close reasons remained as they are, and the cwiki faq remained as it was.

So, here I am again, tilting at the windmill. I think that it would reduce the collective blood pressure if one of two things happened:

  1. The main FAQ included a statement something like: "Subjective questions that don't touch on highly argumentative subjects, and are of very broad interest, are acceptable if marked Community Wiki."
  2. The main FAQ used stronger language to discourage subjective questions, and the close reason changed and to or to match the FAQ.

edit: I want to clarify my particular motivations here. I am generally in the front of the line closing and deleting subjective questions. I leave cwikification to the diamonds, I don't harass. However, I get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach from the comments that show up from people who object to the closes. So I'm pushing here for clarification in one direction or the other.

In passing, I would point out that a downvote on this question is purely a vote for the status quo. You should downvote if you think that everything is ponies and unicorns as things are, and that no clarification of FAQs or close reasons is a good idea.

Or because you it's 24 April, and Friday in Jupiter. This is meta, after all.

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closed as too localized by Brad Mace, Adam Lear Aug 11 '12 at 20:50

This question is unlikely to help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet. For help making this question more broadly applicable, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This should be community wiki. – Pavel Shved Apr 24 '10 at 18:20
@Pavel, not this time:… – Pops Apr 24 '10 at 19:48
@Popular, I think he was just being facetious, based on the questions's content. – Lance Roberts Apr 24 '10 at 19:56
Facetia? On Meta? – Rosinante Apr 24 '10 at 20:09
@Lance, yeah, probably. But if he wasn't, then I was useful; if he was, no harm done and meta newbies still might benefit. – Pops Apr 25 '10 at 2:26
I'm sick of hearing Community Wiki. – MSSucks May 21 '10 at 4:26
@BradMace Doesn't seem like a duplicate at all. – Adam Lear Aug 11 '12 at 18:37
@AnnaLear but it is no longer relevant, since the changes to CW and policy. Perhaps deserves to close as too localized, unless it's viewed as shedding light on how we got to where we are. – Rosinante Aug 11 '12 at 19:39
@Rosinante I'll buy that. Closing as a duplicate of something different makes no sense, but "too localized" is fair game. :) – Adam Lear Aug 11 '12 at 20:50
up vote 5 down vote accepted

That is not the purpose of Community Wiki.

Community Wiki is about who can edit. If a question is too subjective it should be closed.

Note, that I think subjective doesn't mean that it can have more than one answer, since many programming problems have more than one answer. It means that it has NO definitive answers.

One of the rudest things that can be done on StackOverflow is nagging the questioner to flag his post CW. Just vote to close if you think it's over the subjective line, and leave a commment letting him know that that kind of post isn't appropriate for StackOverflow.

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@Lance Roberts, the point of this question is that there is a large group of people who don't agree, and who can reference an official, approved, FAQ, linked in my question, in support. If your answer really is gospel, then that FAQ needs to die, the close reason needs to be clarified, and the strong feelings of all the people out there voting up subjective questions, and reopening subjective questions, need to be addressed. – Rosinante Apr 24 '10 at 20:01
@bmar, the FAQ you linked to on subjective questions didn't address the issue of Community Wiki, which is the aspect of your question that I was addressing. – Lance Roberts Apr 24 '10 at 20:13
fair enough. – Rosinante Apr 24 '10 at 21:15

I agree, in principle, with Lance's statement that this is not what CW is for. However, the intent of CW and what it's turned into are two entirely different concepts. While CW should not automagically make a question immune to closing, it can smooth over certain gray-area questions.

While Stack Overflow isn't meant for that kind of open question, Jeff himself has come down in favor of some of them -- as long as the site isn't overrun by them. Using his guidelines for the question cited by bmargulies:

  1. Does this question match the criteria provided in the Stack Overflow FAQ?
    Not really, no.
  2. Is this question accepted by the community, as reflected in upvotes, views, favorites, and answers?
    Yes. As of this writing, 921 views, 20 upvotes (admittedly 12 downvotes), 15 favorites.
  3. Does this question teach me anything that could make me better at my job? Can I learn something from it?
    Yes. Although hacks should generally be avoided, and clear is almost always better than clever, a C# developer can learn quite a bit from some of the insane hacks listed there.

Right after I wrote that last sentence, I thought about it, and clicked the reopen button on that question. It fits the 2-out-of-3 model, and does provide some value.

Again, most "fun" questions should probably be avoided and closed down promptly. But when the community speaks fairly loudly -- and they did on this particular example -- I think that we, as closers and the self-appointed Stack Overflow junior janitors -- should back off and either let the community win, or let a Diamond take care of it.

Going back to this question's main topic, two proposals are outlined:

  1. The main FAQ included a statement something like: "Subjective questions that don't touch on highly argumentative subjects, and are of very broad interest, are acceptable if marked Community Wiki."
  2. The main FAQ used stronger language to discourage subjective questions, and the close reason changed and to or to match the FAQ.

I think #1 is probably closer to the correct answer, in keeping with Jeff's guidelines. However, I'd augment it by providing a link to the (in)famous "Where we hate fun" blog post.

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I agree with you that that is what CW has morphed into, I'm just trying to keep it from going over the proverbial edge. +1 for a good post. – Lance Roberts Apr 24 '10 at 23:02
Heard and understood that it can go over that edge. Too many people think that CW is a "get-out-of-closure-free" card. – John Rudy Apr 24 '10 at 23:22

There is a surprising amount of history wrapped up in this question.

Here's how I've been approaching it.

  • Subjective and Argumentative: Close and delete with extreme prejudice. Or you can try to rewite it to remove the argumentativeness, but that is harder than it looks.

  • Not programming related: Close and delete with extreme prejudice. Even if it is programmer related. [[ I mention this because a fair number of subjective questions are like this, and can be closed without reference to the "and/or" argumentative distinction. ]]

  • Discussion, whether subjective or not: Close and delete with extreme prejudice. [[ Again a non-trivial number of these questions fail this test and we don't have to deal with the hard one .]]

  • Subjective but not argumentative and not a discussion and programming related but not CW: Close. At least until it is made CW. Then maybe reopen, if the answers are sticking to topic and not running to argumentation. Unless its a dupe.

  • Subjective but not argumentative and not a discussion and programming related and CW: again, I'm looking at the answers to make sure they conform to the same restrictions I demand of the question. Maybe this isn't always fair to the OP, but without it this kind of content will run wild.

Some time ago I wrote up a little blurb on how it came to be that non-technical content is expected to be made community wiki (because that is non-obvious).

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I appreciate your effort here, I really do. But one of the problems with subjectivity is that every user draws the "acceptable" line slightly differently when asked whether a given subjective question is okay. I like your second suggestion, but in the end I don't think either of your proposals would make a significant difference; many people on both sides will continue to act exactly the same way they do now, and find different justifications for it.

The CW issue is, I believe, closely related to but ultimately distinct from the subjective issue. For more on that, see Lance's excellent answer. Lance, thanks for saving me the typing, +1.

For the record, my current feeling is that subjective questions are often great, but absolutely don't belong on SO. It's a "letter of the law" vs. "spirit of the law" issue. I really wish that a "subjective questions SO" existed, but at least one attempt to create one has failed.

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The reason I cited the cwiki issue is that it's all tangled up with this. I can't see how to separate cwiki blackmail from spam flags from downvotes on these questions. They are all part of the same community instability. – Rosinante Apr 24 '10 at 21:17

Thanks for bringing this up, @bmargulies. Some of my all-time favorite Stack Overflow questions should have been terminated with extreme prejudice under the literal reading of the FAQ. And I would never argue in a million years that SO would be better off if they had been closed, deleted, or flagged as offensive.

As a victim of having a [subjective] closed/opened/closed question eventually deleted as offensive, I can tell you first hand that I'm pretty discouraged right now by having lost almost 4% of my reputation on a question that intended absolutely no malice, for which an identical question for another language has gotten 20 upvotes and 15 favorites (and admittedly 11 downvotes, but how many of those are just in the name of enforcing the current FAQ wording?).

+1 for your proposal #1

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This whole subjective flagging sucks.

I love and am thankful for SO. It's the best forum out there for techies. However this flagging is getting out of control with flag happy users and it's really starting to get to me and I believe if I'm not wrong many others here.

What one thing is subjective to another may not be viewed as subjective to yet this entire flagging system is flawed.

I've learned the most by asking what some feel are "subjective" questions in development. The whole black and white is flawed. Subjectivity is in the eyes of the beholder and one person's intent for asking a question that others feel are subjective may be a whole different reason they're posting the question in the first place. So flagging another's post as subjective when they may have their own reasons to post and learn from it is just wrong. Limiting what kinds of questions in development that can be asked is just wrong as well.

This whole thing about flagging posts as subjective is stupid. It needs to be's causing way more problems than it is helping in terms of policing this site.

Think about it, subjective..the term itself. So how can you allow people to flag something subjective when the concept of subjective is itself subjective! I hope that makes sense. If not then you're actually seeing my point. It's stupid to have a flag about subjectivity...or about something that may cause debate.

If it's outwardly rude that's another thing but even that gets flagged too much when people are just posting as "real" human beings. Each person posting on this site is in a different situation (stressed, happy, engergetic..had too much coffee, whatever) so when people start getting all upset about posters (like me) coming at the question even in a bold long as I'm not attacking anyone so what!

Also, when one posts a question in the development based forum, one expects it to stay there if it's a development based question. I don't appreciate it to be moved to some "community wiki" or even another SO forum. Why? Because the reason I posted a developer question in the developer related forum is so that I get most insight from developers.

Most the time the hardest parts of our job is to make decisions or to try to understand a concept that we do understand but may not know the best way to go about it even after searching the net. This is where a subjective based question shines....because we don't really know enough about it, have not had enough experience to really ask a very specific question or one with code. We ask a question in SO and we get a lot of people's experiences and opinions which is completely invaluable to helping the Poster make a decision based on the feedback / answers he gets back and is able to make a decision based on what he feels most comfortable with. I know I've asked questions just because of this reason. Where I don't know what other developers think about how to name my method that I just it not important to see different points of view (subjectivity)? I know for me it's absolutely necessary to get opinions and experiences on a certain question or problem from all walks of live, from all types of development shop experiences...and then personal opinion and habits from other developers. After all isn't SO just one big team! It's ridiculous that I'm expected as a user to only ask pure technical questions in the sense that if you don't have a code example or something other than just a general or subjective question that it should be closed. There are reasons why one poster may post a general subjective question vs. a more detailed subjective question which is more targeted. Either way there's an intent to post that question by the poster for which you may not understand...because you're not in the situation of that developer to understand that his/her question is totally critical to helping them solve a problem or make a decision on maybe what route is best to go on a particular subject or topic...a wall they have it during development.

It's ridiculous. I feel like sometimes I'm talking to a bunch of babies who all they can do is sit there and wine, wine wine about a post being subjective, rude, or whatever rather than helping a person answer their questions whether you think it's subjective or not.

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did you mean 'whine'? Or are you accusing people here of alcohol abuse? – Rosinante Sep 11 '10 at 15:29
Several times you referred to stackoverflow as a developer "forum". But it is explicitly not a forum: Maybe part of the reason you take issue here is because you are thinking of it in terms of a forum when it is really a Q/A site. – Ben Lee Mar 15 '12 at 22:05

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