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This question's comment thread presents a particularly pungent view of the subjectivity conflict. Various people trying as best they can to support the words in the FAQ, and Juliet sneering at them and calling them the 'wiki police'.

Here is another example.

We've got some people who hate the 'Missouri compromise' of community wiki because they don't think there should be any subjective questions, others who hate it because they think there should be aleph-null subjective questions, and the rest of the community, including the new users, stuck in the crossfire.

Jeff Atwood's silence on this subject is somewhat eloquent, and I interpret it as standing off and allowing the community to sort this out.

I do not see the community moving toward a consensus here. Or, if I were as pessimistic as Mr. Butterfield, I'd see a movement in the direction of ever more ever more subjective questions, as the insurgents inexorably build rep. If that's what he wants, ok, I wish he'd just take the anti-subjective language out of the faq altogether.


  1. Guilty as charged of tilting at a windmill. I try to hold it down to once every few weeks.

  2. I don't claim that this question, from a content standpoint, is a particularly clear example of a good question or a bad question. It's an example of the jerky name calling that infests the subject.

  3. In case anyone doesn't get the reference, I'm referring to the (ab)use of cwiki as gray area for some somewhat subjective questions as 'the Missouri compromise.'

  4. I see a better display name for myself....

The trilogy is founded, in some respects, on 'don't be a jerk.' My view is that this dispute, in which even the diamond mods disagree, creates a stress that causes more 'jerk' and 'near-jerk' behavior.

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There's nothing wrong with that question except for the argumentative title. It's a valid question relevant to programmers, even if it is subjective. However, that topic has been discussed before, so I voted to close as a duplicate. – Jon Seigel May 19 '10 at 18:14 follow up, the question is now closed as a duplicate, and the close is sticking. – Jon Seigel May 19 '10 at 18:44
Confusion, arguments, a character named Juliet (who I once ran into under similar circumstances at a different question), and the words "war," "question" and most of all, "iteration"? Reminds me of Lost... which is actually how I feel each and every time this topic comes up. +1 for continuing to tilt at the windmill, bmargulies. (Have you considered changing your Meta name to Don Quixote?) – Pops May 19 '10 at 18:55
@Popular: I though we already had one. – perbert May 19 '10 at 18:58
@voyager: that quack? – Pops May 19 '10 at 19:14
@Popular Demand: 4 8 15 16 23 42 – Juliet May 19 '10 at 19:40
@Juliet: [Spoiler alert if you haven't watched the season 5 finale] Oh my GOD shut UP you are DEAD! Though I suppose that hasn't stopped anyone else from dropping by.... – Pops May 19 '10 at 19:54
@Pop: that hasn't stopped a lot of people on season 6... – perbert May 19 '10 at 20:04
@voyager, quite so, that's what I was trying to refer to with my last sentence. – Pops May 19 '10 at 20:06

That question is not completely subjective, that's why I'd let it live, but

  • it's a duplicate
  • will likely need to be community wiki so the accepted answer can get enough input to be useful by itself, and not requiring someone looking for the reasons for/against var to search all answers.

I'm impressed at that comment thread, as it was said:

  1. close the question, it's too subjective!
  2. telling me that it's subjective is rude!
  3. I was taught by SO that asking anything that can not be answered in a single way is punished.
  4. this should be CW, tends to appease the gods of subjectivity a little bit
  5. Subjective questions are welcome on the site, they can be incredibly useful to people. Instead of closing, tag a question as subjective and add subjective questions to your ignore list so you never have to see them again
  6. this is duplicate!
  7. this is flamebait, -1

I don't even know where to start.

  1. From the FAQ:

    Avoid asking questions that are subjective, argumentative, or require extended discussion. This is not a discussion board, this is a place for questions that can be answered!

    This question can be answered, given the caveat that both arguments for and against are given.

  2. Why is it rude? It is a bit subjective.

  3. We don't punish subjective posts here, we discourage them because SO is not intended to be a discussion forum.

  4. Reposting a subjective question as CW doesn't mean that you get a free pass and it won't be closed.

  5. What? The subjective tag shouldn't even exist.

  6. Yes, indeed it is.

  7. It's not flamebait, it's a real question: What are the pros and cons of var in C#?

share|improve this answer
Re #5: the advantage of the subjective tag is being able to add it to your ignore list. So if you really want a pure experience with few if any "soft" questions, you can have it. If you didn't want to see C++ questions, you ignore the tag too, you wouldn't close people's questions. I think the real problem is people interpreting "subjective and argumentative" with "subjective or argumentative", which is why I've suggested updating the language in the close reasons here:… – Juliet May 19 '10 at 19:01
Actually it went 6. "this is a duplicate" --earlz 7. Flamebait.. :) – Earlz May 19 '10 at 19:04
Re #5: The meaning of [subjective] as it is used on SO is pretty well understood. The question you linked to is just so much navelgazing. A tag is what it is; it's a filter, nothing more. To ascribe any other meaning to it is pointless; this kind of redefining meaning is what made the CW flag such a morass. – Robert Harvey May 19 '10 at 19:23
@Robert Harvey I don't care about the tag. If there's a class of question that the preponderance of us can agree should live (with or without cwiki) with that tag, no problem here. – Rosinante May 19 '10 at 20:13
@Juliet: The FAQ say 'or', the close reason says 'and', so, for better or worse, there's room for both interpretations. @voyager offers an interesting compromise under point 1 by using the second sentence to modify the first. My objection to your comments is that they simply flatly deny any validity to people on the other side of the argument, and the many discussions here on meta that establish the cwiki gray area. – Rosinante May 19 '10 at 20:15

In both these particular cases, Juliet is commenting (emphasis mine):

You don't have to wiki this question if you don't want to. Wiki means you want questions and answers to be editable by anyone, it does not mean "subjective" or "no single answer". We already have tags to classify posts as subjective and we can filter them out if we don't want to see them.

Which I think is false information.

These things have already been discussed at length here (see linked and related column on the right). I'm sure what Juliet claims is not the consensus of the community. CW is also a means to suppress rep-whoring, amongst other things.

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The effect of Community Wiki that works well here is the detachment of votes from rep. It means that you can't garner tons of rep by being the first to voice a popular opinion, and it means that people can upvote and downvote answers without worrying about effects on people's rep. That's all I can see that CW changes; few people edit answers anyway, CW or no, so that aspect of it doesn't seem to be working.

There's also different sorts of subjective questions. Some questions cannot get a definitive answer, but can get objective arguments. It's possible to list advantages and disadvantages of Linux vs. openSolaris, say, in a reasonably objective manner, but it isn't possible to say one is better without being either subjective or far too specific in the circumstances. On the other hand, what sort of depiction unicorns should be, or what ice cream programmers should eat, is purely subjective. (Of course, I tend to close those as "off topic" or "not a real question", rather than "subjective and argumentative".)

My personal policy: subjective questions are okay, as long as they don't start or turn argumentative, and as long as objective things can be said about them, and as long as they belong in all other ways.

However, I haven't the faintest idea of how to achieve a consensus here.

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This is 'the missouri compromise.' You trade in the rep farming of the popularity contest, I keep my finger off the close link. Some people (including mods) hate it because it's not the official purpose of cwiki, others hate it because they think these questions should be allowed without any concession. – Rosinante May 20 '10 at 16:59
@Rosinante: Thing is, I don't see CW being used for its ostensible purpose. People don't generally treat these answers as wikis, as far as I've been able to tell. Therefore, the only significant feature is with the rep. (Of course, I may just be unobservant here.) – David Thornley May 21 '10 at 13:40
@David absolutely. That's where much of the trouble comes from. Some people are really steamed that cwiki is 'misused' to create a category of 'no-rep fun', and other people see this as a good compromise. – Rosinante May 21 '10 at 14:33
In early discussions about community wiki, the decision to separate it from rep was a consequence of considering rep calculation. If 15 people edit a CW question, and it gets an upvote, who gets the points? Do we reward the other authors? If so, how do we stop people from making trivial edits to CW posts just to collect rep. Do we reward the original author? Well that wouldn't be fair to everyone else who made it a great answer in the first place. Same with downvotes: should I take a downvote if I've just correct grammar on a CW question? Its just easier to separate it from rep altogether. – Juliet May 21 '10 at 21:09
I think when people say "wiki is intended to prevent rep whoring" or "wiki is intended to lower the standard of acceptable content, so I keep my finger off the close button", it indicates that used as a tool to police user content instead of --- as originally intended --- users to collectively edit and improve content. The users who insist that subjective questions don't belong are also the same ones who insist they have they have the original intention of the site in mind; incidentally these are the same people most likely to use write "should be community wiki" in order to police content. – Juliet May 21 '10 at 21:16
@Juliet: Except that, as far as I can tell, users in general do not collectively edit and improve CW content. Most of the Trilogy features work very well, but my observation is that CW is a failure at its originally intended role. The "no-rep" feature is useful, and used, in other contexts. – David Thornley May 24 '10 at 13:55

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