I just stumbled across this when trying to compare CodeIgniter with CakePHP.

I'd argue a site like Stack Overflow is absolutely the best place for these kinds of questions, somewhere where people can give their opinions and experiences for other people to easily and quickly see at a glance, and view the best rated ones.

When searching that exact question on Google, the sites I came up with were just blogs, the opinion of a single person. Personally I'd value the opinion of an entire community, especially this community, much higher than that.

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    You won't get the exposure, but the communities are usually quite happy to answer such questions on the relevant chat channels.
    – Ben Brocka
    Nov 14, 2011 at 12:54
  • @BenBrocka: That would have been a valid answer to post - chat is the intended medium for this type of discussion.
    – Aarobot
    Nov 14, 2011 at 13:28
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    I now have -18 karma, welcome to the site! Shame, since I didn't think my question was particularly unreasonable, and I appreciate (and can understand) the reasoning in the answers given below. So thanks to those who answered.
    – Nick
    Nov 14, 2011 at 14:14
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    @Nick Your reputation can't go below 1, so you don't have -18. And downvotes on meta mean disagreement, so it looks like 9 people simply disagree with the idea that SO should allow opinion questions. Don't take it personally.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Nov 14, 2011 at 14:21
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    +1 for wanting to be able to ask for - and vote for - opinions.
    – psoft
    Jul 7, 2013 at 2:21

3 Answers 3


Jeff actually addressed exactly this in his recent Øredev 2011 keynote. I hope that it'll be available to view soon (pretty sure it was recorded), but main points:

  • there are other places on the internet for opinions (vs actual questions)
  • if a question has an infinite number of answers - is it actually a question? or is it something else?
  • it leads to the "broken windows" effect; the signal-to-noise ratio is good because such isn't allowed; if users see you asking your discussion question, they'll ask theirs, and so on, until gradually the site content devolves to just:

enter image description here

So! Let's keep the content of value by asking actual questions, with actual answers.

  • Had the site actually devolved when opinion questions, some of which became extremely popular, were allowed? Is it really evolving now, when rampant closing and deletion riles up users? Mar 9, 2014 at 1:48

The canonical answer to that is probably the Gorrila vs. Shark blog post from Jeff Atwood:

But let’s go deeper. What, specifically, is wrong with asking Gorilla vs. Shark?

Nobody needs to know the answer to this question. Do you own a gorilla? Do you own a shark? When was the last time you even saw a gorilla and shark going at it hand to fin? In other words, what is your skin in this particular game? What specific problem, other than idle curiosity, would answering this question satisfy or solve for you … or anyone else?

It’s not nearly specific enough. Where will the fight be, in what location? Underwater, or on land? What are the rules of the fight so we can determine a victor? Will it be to the death, or under some type of points system? Can they be trained specifically to fight by trainers, or are they completely on their own? Without any kind of scope, every answer can make any assumptions they like — and there will assuredly be hundreds, all different.

It is difficult to learn from these questions. Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, we had animaltrainers.stackexchange.com, a site full of people who have hands-on experience with both gorillas and sharks. And they were, hypothetically speaking, willing to answer such a question to the best of their expert knowledge. In the process, you might learn a few interesting things about both animals, such as that an adult gorilla’s upper body strength is six times more powerful than that of an adult human. Or that shark skin is so tough and hard that before the invention of sandpaper, shark skin was used to polish wood. But this sort of learning is largely accidental at best, like a random walk through an encyclopedia. It might be entertaining as a speculative diversion to compare and contrast these two very different animals in broad terms. But even under ideal circumstances there really can be no absolute answer to this question other than “it depends; both animals are adapted to their particular environment and have certain strengths and weaknesses.” This is a good answer, maybe even the correct answer, but it’s just not that useful.

It drives away experts. What serious, expert animal trainer would give Gorilla vs. Shark the time of day? This kind of question attracts the opposite of experts: people who aren’t serious animal trainers, but are willing to engage in idle speculation and discussiony generalities — rather than focusing on the real world, specific, honest-to-goodness questions they face in their day to day work. Any true expert who came to animaltrainers.stackexchange.com would be appalled to see a question like Gorilla vs. Shark appear on the homepage.


It’s not perfect, but it is a potentially salvageable question. The asker must contribute a bit more work beyond the title, too. We expect questions to do some basic research before even asking. Did you spend time with both features on both sites? Did you compare and contrast them yourself? What are others saying? Share your research! And most critically, give us context. Explain why you’re looking at this, and what you mean by “better” — clicks to share, discoverability, design, and so forth. Put yourself in the shoes of the people you hope will answer. Have you given them enough guidance and specifics so they know how to reasonably answer your question in, say, 15 minutes?

Perhaps this is a red herring. I honestly feel a lot of the “this v. that” questions would be better expressed as examinations of the underlying concepts without all the mock conflict. But if you must compare and contrast two things in a Stack Exchange question — and don’t want your question to get instantly closed as Not Constructive — try to keep Gorilla vs. Shark in mind.

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    Sorry but I don't think this question is even close to the one being referenced in the original post. What harm does it cause to pose a question to the community, and them giving constructive feedback with regards to that question? And with regards to the last line, I'd be amazed if any of the experts here would be 'appalled' at someone asking for some opinions from people who have used CodeIgniter/CakePHP.
    – Nick
    Nov 14, 2011 at 12:45
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    Er, let's turn that into "CodeIgnitor vs CakePHP". Have you ever used CodeIgnitor? Yes. Have you ever used CakePHP? Yes. What problem would this solve for other people? Using extremely common PHP frameworks. That was a cute blog post, but it has nothing to do with the issue at hand. I honestly don't think it ever did. This IS a question many of us face in our day to day work, as were the questions Jeff belittles in that post. I don't agree they belong on SO, but saying they're irrelevant is absurd.
    – Ben Brocka
    Nov 14, 2011 at 12:57
  • I've quoted a bit more from the blog post to make clear how you can improve this kind of question to be allowed on SE. Nov 14, 2011 at 13:07
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    @BenBrocka: You're partially right, it is a problem that a lot of PHP coders face regularly. However, the choice is, to a significant degree, a matter of personal preference, and having a bunch of people rattle off one or two of their pet features and vote for their favourites doesn't really help solve that problem. A better question would either be at the conceptual level ("what features are important in a web app framework?") or focus on one specific technology ("what do I need to know about CodeIgniter before starting a project with it?"). Those both demand thorough answers.
    – Aarobot
    Nov 14, 2011 at 13:37
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    @BenBrocka: CodeIgnitor is much better. Its existence is due to the fact that CakePHP does not solve the questions that it answers.
    – user1228
    Nov 14, 2011 at 14:48
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    @BenBrocka: CakePHP is much better. It has a much longer development track record than CodeIgnitor, and therefore is more stable. Its user base is also larger, so therefore there are more articles detailing solutions to common patterns.
    – user1228
    Nov 14, 2011 at 14:50

Programmers.SE accepts subjective questions like these as long as they're constructive, which I would say that example is.

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    See their faq, though, and [the question] is not about… ... - what language you should learn next, including which technology is better
    – jonsca
    Nov 14, 2011 at 12:34
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    Yes, I linked to the FAQ. Read further down about subjective questions.
    – Vicky
    Nov 14, 2011 at 12:37
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    The which technology is better text links to the same blog post that Fabian has cited above, I don't think the OP's question fits in with the "good subjective" criterion on that site either.
    – jonsca
    Nov 14, 2011 at 12:39
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    – ChrisF Mod
    Nov 14, 2011 at 13:07
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    @ChrisF: Your FAQ says you do accept subjective questions as long as they're constructive. If you disagree that that particular example was constructive then fair enough, but you can't say you don't accept them at all.
    – Vicky
    Nov 14, 2011 at 14:20
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    @Vicky - the presumption should be that it's not constructive and you need to make a very good argument for it being allowed. However, very few (if any) of these questions are.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Nov 14, 2011 at 14:27
  • @ChrisF - OK, fair enough. I think the FAQ could make that clearer, though!
    – Vicky
    Nov 14, 2011 at 17:30
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    @Vicky - it was simplified a few weeks ago. I'll take a look to see if we oversimplified this section. There's a danger of information overload if we're not careful with the FAQ.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Nov 14, 2011 at 17:32

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