Stack Exchange generates a lot of controversy about which questions should be on topic on a particular site. Quora recently introduced limited distribution for certain tags which prevents questions from showing up in the main feed (and search too) unless a user explicitly decides to follow the topic.

Limited distribution tags on Quora:

  • Needs attention - questions marked by the automated system as needing improvement
  • Quora community - they don't have a meta
  • Describe X in N words
  • Joke questions
  • Survey questions
  • Test questions

I'm not suggesting we use these tags for topics like joke questions that the community has completely rejected. Rather, I think this could be useful for some of the survey questions, that were extremely popular and had a lot of good content but are now considered off-topic:

We could also prevents users from gaining reputation from these kinds of questions.

What about Programmers SE?

My example questions were from StackOverflow, but this feature is actually more important for other sites. StackOverflow has a sister site programmers SE that provides a home for many of the subjective questions that were pushed off StackOverflow. Most of the other sites are nowhere near the same scale, so this isn't a viable option. An example of the demand for this kind of solution is the request on Cooking SE for a separate recipes meta site. The problem with a separate meta site is that it requires the user to participate in yet another site.

Would this be useful for some of the more controversial areas within StackExchange?

  • 1
    Which areas are controversial exactly? – user7116 Mar 21 '12 at 13:12
  • possible duplicate of What can we learn from Quora? – Cody Gray Mar 21 '12 at 21:33
  • 1
    @CodyGray: The close reason description is "exact duplicate" and this isn't an exact or even almost exact duplicate. The focus is completely different – Casebash Mar 21 '12 at 23:03
  • @sixlettervariables: Some of the most popular questions that have been closed: stackoverflow.com/questions/388242/…, stackoverflow.com/questions/2628672/…, stackoverflow.com/questions/871405/… – Casebash Mar 21 '12 at 23:11
  • That is an example of a technique that allows a site to be everything to everyone. "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" – Pollyanna Mar 22 '12 at 0:08
  • @AdamDavis: I'm definitely not suggesting opening the site up completely, rather loosening the restrictions slightly – Casebash Mar 22 '12 at 0:16
  • @Casebash: those are examples of bad questions which become outdated easily, are Google replacements, or are far too subjective to do anybody any real good. The only controversy was over whether people should retain their reputation received. (i.e. the complaints over deletion began when rep was stripped away). – user7116 Mar 22 '12 at 0:21
  • No, strictly speaking this question is not a duplicate of the linked question. The implication is that that that question would subsume all possible answers to this question, and that this question should probably have been posted as an answer to that question in the first place. Those are two common applications of the "exact duplicate" close reason on Meta. – Cody Gray Mar 22 '12 at 0:27
  • @CodyGray: Have a look at this blog post: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/…. I think you are going to far with the deduplication. – Casebash Mar 22 '12 at 1:15
  • @sixlettervariables: Many people (not just me) find those questions far more useful than a Google search. Hence the huge upvotes. The reason the exclusionists won is largely due to programmers SE. The inclusionists found it easier to move their questions over than to constantly argue all the time – Casebash Mar 22 '12 at 1:25
  • 1
    This has nothing to do with Programmers. Very few of the old questions have been moved there because they don't want them, and those that have ended up there have generally been deleted with more prejudice than they have been on SO. But we've already solved the historical questions problem, the inclusionists won because they screamed louder and were able to cite more actual harms. No one yet has made a case for allowing these questions going forward, and those arguments are unlikely to carry any weight with anyone who has decision-making power. – Cody Gray Mar 22 '12 at 1:34
  • @Casebash: I'm not a proponent of Programmers, but it certainly isn't for SO's garbage. – user7116 Mar 22 '12 at 1:58

No, it wouldn't. We work in the opposite way: we create sites for each particular larger topic, and then allow users to hide sub-topic (tags) which they don't want to see by ignoring them.

This system works very well. Do you have a reason to change it?

As far as "which questions should be on topic on a particular site", we already have a system for that, too. While it's very possible we could improve the current system (see discussion on "The Assembly") it does work reasonably well and I think it's not worth throwing it out and starting over. It's a semi-democratic process used to decide if a question is on-topic on a given site ("semi" because a moderator vote is binding) and I haven't seen too much controversy. Not saying there's none, not saying we can't improve here, just saying I'm not sure how your idea helps.

I'm not even clear how a Stack Exchange site would look under your idea...

| improve this answer | |
  • I added a few example questions into the example description. These questions had very good content, were very popular and actually worked quite well within the StackExchange format (much better than forums). Unfortunately, the problem with these broad survey questions is that they tend to proliferate and overwhelm the rest of the site. The proposal for limiting distribution of these tags to people who opt in (and removing reputation) would resolve these issues. I don't believe that these questions would languish out of site either – Casebash Mar 22 '12 at 0:21
  • The two Eclipse questions you mentioned are list questions and are not a good fit for the SE Q&A format. – The Unhandled Exception Mar 22 '12 at 14:53
  • Actually none of those questions are a good fit. The consensus from SE staff and many moderators is that list-type questions are not constructive. If you disagree with this there's plenty of discent topics here on Meta, but it's not "controversial content" at the moment. The current policy is that lists are "not constructive" content, even if some users disagree with that policy. – The Unhandled Exception Mar 22 '12 at 15:29
  • It is true that SE isn't designed for those questions, but that doesn't mean that they don't work well within the SE format. Also, there is a consensus to mark these as "Not constructive", but this does not mean that everyone who does so agrees that they are not valuable. Rather, they recognise that the current community policy is to disallow such questions and that "not constructive" in this sense really means, not the kind of question that the rules allow – Casebash Mar 22 '12 at 22:14
  • Right. I'm one of the people who would like to see "list-type" questions allowed in a limited sense. But I'm very cunfused now as to how this helps your argument? I still am not sure what the "controversial areas within StackExchange" you're talking about are. – The Unhandled Exception Mar 23 '12 at 13:10
  • I'd like to see interesting list questions (not the poor quality ones) eventually allowed in some form and this seems like the simplest mechanism. I'd also like to see the rules on subjectivity ease up a bit (exactly how to handle this is something I am unsure of) – Casebash Mar 23 '12 at 22:09

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