I had asked a question some time ago and noticed that it has been closed. I was rather (VERY) surprised that it had been closed as it seems pretty darn legit. A programmer asking other programmers a question related to programming with a new framework...


Is this question highly subjective? You bet. Could a spammer or someone looking to make money on this type of thing ask this question? You bet. Could these types of questions theoretically impact the positive experience of Stack Overflow users? Maybe...

I know I'm way late to this game and there are probably 1002 threads here on meta about this topic already. But, what the heck is going on here? Seriously?

Stack Exchange is a business that charges us absolutely nothing to come and use their Q&A platform. They make their money through advertisements and sponsorships, not through us. This particular question received 8 upvotes and 0 downvotes since it was asked in June of 2009. The question has also been viewed over 6300 times since then with the vast majority likely coming from search engines.

I thought the purpose of the Q&A platform being a Wiki format was to allow living questions that have answers that change over time. I actually pulled this question up to start tweaking it now that MVC3 is out and 4 is well along the way.

Can someone please explain why questions like this that are obviously NOT SPAM yet are very helpful have been getting closed?


5 answers to this question, the most helpful are voted down like no other. This is simply disgusting. While I did answer that question with the use of the Telerik controls, things have changed. More controls exist today. The question should be edited, new answers given. This question is very helpful to anyone looking to use grids in MVC. Just because some users on StackOverflow seem to have an issue with this, the entire community gets punished. I'm completely disgusted. It feels to me that Spolsky and others have given the keys to the prisoners.

  • Further... I simply asked for clarification... Not sure why a clarification is met with 8 downvotes and counting... Just highlighting part of the problem! Thanks for that. – RSolberg Mar 22 '12 at 21:34
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    It feels to me that Spolsky and others have given the keys to the prisoners. well, how else would you run a community-run web site? I respect your opinion, but this "some SO users wo seem to have an issue" stuff is bullcrap IMO. The narrow focus is the result of years of heavy discussion and fighting here on Meta. – Pekka Mar 22 '12 at 21:35
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    @Pekka - The community is only partially represented by the folks on meta. There are 10000s more stakeholders than there are meta users. Meta is a place for discussion, clarification, requests, bug reports, blah blah blah... The users here seem to think they own the damn thing... They are simply a part of the community whom uses a tool provided for free by a business... – RSolberg Mar 22 '12 at 21:51
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    as said in chat, the way the site is run has to be discussed and shaped somewhere, and Meta is open to every SO user to vote, comment, and contribute on. I realize not everyone wants to participate in these processes, and not everyone likes Meta, but what is Meta to do about that? Stop discussing things and let things stagnate because there might be a nameless majority out there disagreeing with the outcome? Also make no mistake, no actual decisions here are made without the owners' consent. They have no problems resisting the community if they feel it's not the way to go. – Pekka Mar 22 '12 at 21:55
  • The users on Meta don't think we "own the damn thing". We're contributing our input to the thing. All those tens of thousands of other users could do the same if they don't like things, but they choose not to. You don't have much right to complain about the government if you never go out and vote. – gnostradamus Mar 22 '12 at 21:55
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    @RSolberg: "5 answers to this question, the most helpful are voted down like no other." By "most helpful" of course, you mean "the ones that agree with me"; this is a common rhetorical device. The problem is that I don't see you as discussing in good faith. Those who agree with you are "helpful." Those who don't "disgust" you. That's not the way to actually achieve something in a discussion. That's how a person rants. – Nicol Bolas Mar 22 '12 at 21:57
  • No, the highest voted ones do nothing to add to the clarification of said policy, when it changed, etc.... That is what I freaking mean. – RSolberg Mar 22 '12 at 21:58
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    @RSolberg this is not a request for clarification, this is a rant. Post a question containing a rant, people will address the rant. – Pekka Mar 22 '12 at 22:13
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    There are answers to it... Unfortunately this is just part of the STFU mentality that comes from meta users... Its ok... – RSolberg Mar 22 '12 at 22:14
  • As a side note, Stack Overflow very much make their money through us users. Without professional developers to actually write answers, there would be no Stack Overflow. – Pekka Mar 22 '12 at 22:20
  • @RSolberg: Your question was "Can someone please explain why questions like this that are obviously NOT SPAM yet are very helpful have been getting closed?" We explained that. You did not ask "when did this policy change?" You asked for clarification of the policy, and it was provided. If you wanted to know about the policy's history, you should have mentioned that. – Nicol Bolas Mar 22 '12 at 22:21
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    I'd just like to add that these questions have been getting closed for years now...only after the rep change did people start complaining. I kinda wished rep stayed "cached". – user7116 Mar 22 '12 at 22:51
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    StackOverflow is not the internet equivalent of Hoarders. – user7116 Mar 22 '12 at 23:54
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    Note that you can ask questions on similar topics without making them into a poll. See: Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and Gorilla vs Shark. We're not trying to censor content or useful information, we're trying to optimize it and make it even more useful. That involves filtering out the noise found on traditional forums and inherent in polls. I can empathize with your frustration here, but I can't consent to opening up the floodgates, either. – Cody Gray Mar 23 '12 at 2:05
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    @atconway Why? A goal of SO is to have a high signal:noise ratio – the people asking questions should contribute to that just as much as the people answering them. (Ignoring for now the fact these sets overlap.) What benefit is it to the community to accept members that are not unable, but stubbornly unwilling to put effort into this and go "just do it for me" instead? – millimoose Mar 26 '12 at 15:42

Stack Overflow was founded because the founders were fed up with forums. The typical way a forum works is like this. People come to a forum, and experts intercourse freely with low-skilled persons, and a good time is had by all. Help vampires and other beasts descend, asking "questions" that aren't really questions and basically making a nuisance of themselves. The experts see fewer and fewer good questions, and have to spend more and more of their time with people who can't put forth the effort to learn stuff. They eventually get fed up and leave, having better things to do with their time.

Lacking real input from people who know stuff, the forum then descends into chaos.

Stack Overflow was created to combat this. This is built into the site's design: it is a place for asking questions and getting answers. The means to actually discuss something are few and highly restricted.

Stack Overflow is not a place for any question. Stack Overflow is not the place for any question that might prove useful. It is a place for constructive questions. Questions that have (more or less) a single, practical, definitive answer.

The boundary for what gets closed is not what could be useful. It's what is constructive for the purposes of Stack Overflow.

Your question is not a question; it is a poll. It is a "tell me all of the things that have X features, so that I can pick among them." That is useful information. But it isn't a question, and the answers are not definitive answers. There is no single, practical, definitive answer possible. You accepted one answer based on... nothing that you state. You simply say, "Telerik is the best." That's not good enough; that's subjective, when what we want is objectivity. It doesn't help anyone but you.

To allow your question to remain open would invite other similar questions. Which graphics card should I use for graphics development? What language should I use for this kind of program? What is the most user-friendly GUI toolkit out there?

They provide useful information, perhaps. But they're part of a problem that Stack Overflow was created to stop.

SO is for Q&A. Practical questions, objective answers. That's what the site is for. It's not for anything that isn't spam. It's not for "everyone list their favorite X" topics. And so on. While the information itself is useful, it simply does not belong here.

Besides; it hasn't been deleted. The information is still there. It's simply not an active question, due to being non-constructive.

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    "The boundary for what gets closed is not what could be useful." - +1 for this sentence right here. – millimoose Mar 22 '12 at 19:22
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    Stack Overflow was founded because the founders were fed up with forums. I +1'd after reading that alone. – Adam Rackis Mar 22 '12 at 19:27

You answered your Meta question inadvertently with a green checkmark and a comment of yours on the question you linked:

At the time of the post, I hadn't used Telerik's MVC controls. Now that I have, there is no other answer. Telerik is the best. – RSolberg Oct 26 '11 at 21:42

Poll questions rarely end up serving the entire community and exist as astroturf in the long run.

Astroturf you say? Where's the proof! Profile of the user (who gave full disclosure to their credit):

I'm the President of the North Houston .NET User Group, an active .NET community member, an O'Reilly author, a Microsoft MVP, and the Chief Evangelist at Telerik. And now, a contributing member to StackOverflow. Did I miss anything?


Besides, I'm sure for every N users who enjoy Poll Answer X you can find another M users who do not (in this instance, I'm one of those M users).


The reason I vote to close polls is because of the "answerability" criterium: it must be possible to give an answer to the question that can be accepted, and that on its own merit, not because you ended up liking what was recommended.

Also, it should be possible to accept the answer in a reasonable timeframe; questions that will never have a definitive (-ish) answer also aren't good. The reason for answers being editable is so they can be improved, not replaced with substantially different content.

I am of the opinion that while subjective questions have a place on Stack Overflow, they need to put extra emphasis on being "good subjective" questions. For instance the question you linked to should be specific about what "user-friendly" means, what other constraints should be fulfilled, and what you aim to find out that just trying out several grid controls wouldn't tell you already. In general, a subjective question should go out of its way to ask "why do you think I should use X for Y", instead of "which X is the best?"

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    "The reason for answers being editable is so they can be improved, not replaced with substantially different content." I partially disagree. Technology moves on, so sometimes, the definitively correct answer is no longer the right way to do it. Idioms change, new language features appear, etc. Those answers aren't wrong, but they're not correct either. It's often better to alter the accepted answer than to make a new answer and hope it gets accepted. Especially for a question where the asker is no longer on SO. – Nicol Bolas Mar 22 '12 at 19:32
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    @NicolBolas: I'm not going to disagree with you as long as "alter" doesn't mean to "remove" the old answer. For example, an answer was for .Net 3.5 and used String.Join(",", x.ToArray()), remained accepted for a year and then with the release of .Net 4.0 some kind soul updates it to String.Join(",", x). At this point users who needed the old answer are potentially stuck without one. – user7116 Mar 22 '12 at 19:59
  • @sixlettervariables: Agreed; the old data should still be there. – Nicol Bolas Mar 22 '12 at 20:00
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    In other words, the question wasn't bad, but more explanation about what I was looking for would make it ok? So if that is the case, then why the votes to close it and lock it? It is a freaking WIKI, edit the dang thing!!!! – RSolberg Mar 22 '12 at 21:25
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    @RSolberg: The question, as is, was bad, in that it was a straight poll. You're solely responsible for asking good questions, /especially/ a subjective one – nobody else knows what you're looking for, which is the kind of specificity needed to improve them. Just because I have the option of salvaging someone's question doesn't mean I consider it a good use of my time – I prefer answering questions that are already good. The SO "wiki" features don't really serve the same purpose as on Wikipedia; questions and answers are primarily the work of their original author, not a collaborative effort. – millimoose Mar 22 '12 at 23:05
  • @RSolberg: Last, but not least, I don't really think that particular question is salvageable. A good answer for it I can imagine would be someone going through several of the options and giving a list of factual pros and cons, relevant to your requirements, based on his experience with them. Thing is, this requires a person with said experience finding your question, and then going through the effort to write up an answer, which is not so likely. So the reality is, polls are massively more likely than not to only attract bad answers, and said bad answers are likely to get accepted. – millimoose Mar 22 '12 at 23:16
  • It helped me years ago, was useful today as I was rehashing it and has been viewed over 6,000 times... I'd say it's better than what you give it credit for... – RSolberg Mar 22 '12 at 23:43
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    @RSolberg I'm not disputing that. But "helpful to the OP" is not sufficient to make a question desirable on SO, neither is any measure of popularity – in fact the point of SO is to avoid pandering to both of those. As an analogy, people who are given placebo in pharmaceutic trials are helped by it, but it doesn't mean it's a good cure. – millimoose Mar 23 '12 at 15:26
  • Really? You have got to be kidding me... If it wasn't helpful to the OP then the whole site wouldn't exist in the first place... LMAO. – RSolberg Mar 23 '12 at 15:45
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    @RSolberg You do understand the difference between "necessary" and "sufficient", right? – millimoose Mar 23 '12 at 18:09

Those types of poll questions are no longer considered constructive on Stack Overflow.

Some of the policies have changed since you asked the question.

You could flag for a historical lock if you think it may need it. but as of right now, that question is not deleted, therefore might not be subject to that lock just yet.

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    -1: Your post is saying less than Will has already said in the comments on the Question. This isn't helpful to RSolberg. – Jeremy Mar 22 '12 at 18:04
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    @JeremyBanks it is helpful to the Community at large. and Will made no mention of the lock – Naftali aka Neal Mar 22 '12 at 18:06
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    Those types of poll questions are no longer considered constructive on Stack Overflow. Yet I have no clue why. Makes no sense. – RSolberg Mar 22 '12 at 18:10
  • @RSolberg I agree with you. See some of my recent posts to see some of the retaliations I have been trying. See here: meta.stackexchange.com/q/114908/155556 meta.stackexchange.com/q/125762/155556 among some of them. – Naftali aka Neal Mar 22 '12 at 18:13

@RSolberg - I am 100% with you on this. My frustration for having questions downvoted or deleted that are legitimate on a site with so much potential drives me bananas. I constantly think "Wow I would love to ask about... wait that will be closed". They keep adding other SE sites like 'Programmers' but that is just as difficult to ask question, if not the hardest.

So here is where I think the answer lies -> All what is occuring here in SO, seems to go against the grain of traditional thinking. But that's just it - from the podcasts I listened to from Jeff Atwood and those associated with SO, they want something radically different than the all the other open forums out there where anything can be asked (and asked in duplicate over and over).

From my perception they want an evolving wiki type site of definitive facts related to the topic of the SE site being used. Subjective questions unfortunately seem to have no place in this world and hence your question (which was a good one IMO) was closed.

I think the SE sites are going to go through a 'rubber-band' phase of evolution. The moderators and creators seem to want this 'euphoria' of a site with the exact narrow set of usage to create this perfect vision of what they want. However a lot of good folks such as yourself and me get frustrated with this philosophy. But hey who are we? In this SE world only the folks with the diamonds next to their name have the real say so, and those of us out there that have our own wants and care for how this site evolves have very little say in the big picture. Sure there are the 'meta' sites which is supposedly the red carpet invitation for suggestions, but go ahead and suggest something. Odds are 3-1 you will have 5 downvotes or a closed question within an hour. Ouch.

And then new SE sites keep getting spawned off because too many questions are closed on 1 site, so up pops a new one. I thought that’s what different 'forum categories' within a single forum were for, not needing to actually participate in half a dozen different forums to get questions answered all around the same topic: 'Programming and Software Engineering'.

I think how this rubber band has stretched to add 'rules' on usage and the almighty F-A-Q commandment list, will need to retract or this site could eventually become a cult of moderators all bouncing ideas around among themselves while the rest of us are closed off from the site. What a shame too, because this suite of sites could be something even more magnificent if the general community was truly listened to.

  • +1 --> I agree fullheartedly with you :-) – Naftali aka Neal Mar 22 '12 at 18:38
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    "In this SE world only the folks with the diamonds next to their name have the real say so" - Really? "The mods are evil" is your answer? The community has a huge say in what happens around here. More so than most other online communities. – Josh Darnell Mar 22 '12 at 19:04
  • No, not evil at all. Those are your words not mine. Careful in your accusations. And thank you for proving a point of mine. – atconway Mar 22 '12 at 19:52
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    The site is really anal about its rules - most of the people active on it believe that's why it's still working well, and didn't turn into a second Yahoo! Answers. As a non-Moderator, I wholeheartedly stand behind this, even though it often limits what one can ask - I know that from experience. But then, it's not the only site on the Internet, and there are many other places to go with questions. (btw - jadarnel is not a moderator either....) – Pekka Mar 22 '12 at 21:25
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    You clearly pissed somebody off, attaboy! – RSolberg Mar 22 '12 at 21:25
  • +1 Yep I did. I was already kicked off this site once & I had to grovel to come back. I really do like the SE suite of sites, overall use, & community. However going against the grain or disagreeing with anyone is not well accepted. But hey, that's everyones right and I respect it. (btw @Pekka - I know he is not a mod -> no sweet diamond next to his name). Funny thing paragrah 2&3 of my comments aren't that much different than the heavily upvoted question -> I stated this site is being very specific about it's rules and use. I exapnded on the why & its reprocussions IMO and that hurt me – atconway Mar 22 '12 at 21:32
  • "Sure there are the 'meta' sites which is supposedly the red carpet invitation for suggestions, but go ahead and suggest something. Odds are 3-1 you will have 5 downvotes or a closed question within an hour." If you suggest something that actively damages the purpose of the site, then yes, your question will be downvoted and/or closed. As it should be, because it is not helping the site. You believe SO should be open to subjective questions, when SO was created specifically to banish subjective questions. You're not helping SO do what SO was made for. – Nicol Bolas Mar 22 '12 at 22:00
  • @atconway: "Funny thing paragrah 2&3 of my comments aren't that much different than the heavily upvoted question" You're being downvoted because of the rest of the stuff. New SE sites are not being opened because of closed questions. They're being opened to deal with different topics. Most new SE site proposal aren't programming related. Also, there's your comments on the moderators, which probably earned you a downvote or two. – Nicol Bolas Mar 22 '12 at 22:03
  • Points noted, thank you. I accept your comments and it has been a good conversation. Everyone can (and has) for the most part disagreed with me. That's OK - it's the way this works. It's just my opinion, but that doesn't mean it's right in the mind of others (also OK). But I am still entitled to it regardless of how much people disagree with me. Thank you again for the good feedback. – atconway Mar 22 '12 at 22:09
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    My apologies, I was not trying to put words in your mouth with the "mods are evil" thing. That's just the sentiment I got from your post - that a group of mods and high rep users run the site how they want, disregarding the wants of the community. A position with which I disagree, because I don't see any solid evidence of it. I do respect your opinion, you have every right to think the way you do about this. – Josh Darnell Mar 22 '12 at 22:42

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