It seems that there are many good questions that end up being closed as "not constructive" because they are open ended or end up being never-ending lists of small answers. Examples are "best hidden Eclipse features" or "good questions to ask during interviews." Similarly, questions like "what's the best or most popular tool/language to solve a certain problem" can have real value to programmers.

I think it would be nice if there were a Stack Exchange-like interface to support questions and answers like this. I could see it working sort of like Area 51's site suggestion mechanism, only much leaner.

Maybe there could be a way to specify that a question needs open-ended list of answers. These types of questions couldn't choose an "answer." Users could submit "micro-answers" that would show up in a more list-like format, and the answers with the most votes would float to the top of the list. Duplicate answers could be flagged as such. You'd also need a way to split up single answers into multiple ones when users put too much in a single "answer."

  • Not so sure it should become a feature or effect changes to functionality, but I do think that somehow the negative reputation that list questions default to, can be reversed---intelligently. I do agree with ways that list questions can go bad: for example, causing extended opinion-based arguments---but from what I've seen (at least among the useful list questions, so my perspective's biased), SO'ers seem rather respectful and supportive of others' contributions to lists, often disclaiming, "I've never used/tried that, but I know about this, and I like it because ___." Oct 31 '13 at 4:24

The reason these questions are closed network-wide across all Stack Exchange sites is that questions that attract/demand a "big list" of answers are not a good fit for the Q&A format that we follow.

Thus, it's hard to imagine how we could utilize a "Stack Exchange-like interface" to support these types of questions and answers. Trying to fit everything within the constraints of the existing interface is precisely why these questions don't work and are subject to being closed.

I don't really understand what "micro-answers" are for and what problem they're solving. If you had a bunch of micro-answers that are all independently valid and correct, how would you (the asker) ever select one that is "correct", or even "most useful"? What good would it do to sort those with the highest vote counts at the top by default if all of the answers are equally valid?

Yes, we could create another site where "anything goes", but eventually the people who visit that site will get tired of the crap and want to start moderating the content. They'll start to come up with community rules about what works and what doesn't, and in the end, they won't look all that different from what we have now on Stack Overflow and the other established sites. (Those of you who follow history may recognize that I just summarized the development and evolution of the Programmers.SE site.)

  • 1
    @glenviewjeff: Then you missed the whole point of the Stack Exchange Q&A model. What you described sounds more like Twitter. This would not be an "enhancement" of the interface, it would be an abandonment.
    – Cody Gray
    Feb 23 '12 at 18:41
  • You asked how one would select the "correct" answer, but you must have missed in my suggestion that I said: These types of questions couldn't choose an "answer." I was suggesting that the interface be enhanced to support questions that need lists of responses, each of which could be voted up or down. You could make the same argument about SO answers--what if all the answers are equally valid? What good does sorting them do? I disagree that it would devolve the site. It wouldn't be "anything goes," it would be that questions that don't fit the model of a single answer would be allowed. Feb 23 '12 at 18:45
  • This is why we don't have CW any more. Not every question is valid here. This isn't a forum.
    – simchona
    Feb 23 '12 at 18:51
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    Reposting the same comment doesn't change the fact that the model of a single answer is the primary model of the SE sites. Occasionally you get questions with multiple valid answers, but there's still a clear *best" answer, and that is the one that should be chosen. Users that have been around for a while will customarily remove their own answers to a question if it's a duplicate of or inferior to an answer posted by someone else. Occasionally, it even makes sense to improve an existing top-rated answer, rather than add your own. What you describe just doesn't fit in the existing model.
    – Cody Gray
    Feb 23 '12 at 18:52

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