I'm wondering what the general opinion on "list" questions in the trilogy - example:

List of freely available programming books

Are these good questions? I certainly think so, as they help Stack Overflow and the like become central repositories of information. They're also very Googleable.

On a slightly related note, is it OK to edit answers to these questions into the question itself, as in the example? Or should answers be answer and have it left at that.


4 Answers 4


I think they're okay, although they're likely to become outdated pretty rapidly. As you say, they're pretty handy in terms of findability from search engines.

I don't think I'd put the answers into the question, but you could create a CW answer containing all the best bits of answers.

  • 4
    how times have changed... Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 3:24

First off, see: what about a multi-answer question?

Second, everything dmckee said.

In the last week, at least 9 "common mistakes for language" questions have been asked, most of them by the same person. A few look to have picked up good answers, but others were clearly asked just for something to ask, with little or no previous connection to the language being asked about.

And that's the problem. I can ask for book recommendations, common mistakes, best blogs, reference websites... without needing any actual interest in the target topic. These are the ultimate newbie questions.

Unfortunately, without someone actively seeking out a solution to a real need, there's a good chance they'll quickly devolve into idle popularity contests... And you get the top mistake for SQL developers voted to be user-input escaping.


I have mixed feelings about these. They lie at or beyond the strict margins of appropriateness, but they are none-the-less helpful. If they were a rare event they wouldn't bother me at all.

But some new users, in their laudable enthusiasm to participate, thrash about for something, anything to post. And we get a steady stream of Best-Foo-with-lots-of-adjectives-to-distinguish-this-question-from-the-other-twenty-best-Foo-questions questions.

And if we close those as duplicates we get called names and accused of being mean to the newbies, and, and, and... Not a lot of fun, and not conducive to keeping up that wonderful enthusiasm.


I find these types of questions quite useful and am often disappointed to see them closed as not appropriate. I think the biggest issue here has to do with reputation. Answering a programming question concisely takes some amount of effort and there are generally only a few (at most) correct answers. Anyone can tell you what their favorite "X" is.

I'd suggest that SO needs a whole new type of question to address this. Answers would get the same score as an up-vote on a comment. Maybe there would be a maximum rep to be earned by asking the question (that maximum might be zero to dissuade them).

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