Which is not the same thing at all.

E.g. "what's the best book?" - people will vote up the books they've read. This might be useful but won't answer the (possibly unanswerable) question "what's the best book".

Does this even matter?

13 Answers 13


As has been noted, "Best" is entirely too subjective to even be a good question. A better way would be to ask people to post their "Favorite" [whatever] and ask other posters to up vote rather than duplicate post. You can infer "best" based on what gets the most votes.


Yes. And yes.


I guess it doesn't really answer the question. Just the word "best" brings out the competition.

If the question was worded "list an OK book you like reading" for example, I would imagine it would die like a limp fish.

The "best" is ultimately a subjective question, and its befitting that SO leaves it formatted to form a subjective answer. ( the little votes don't mean a lot, and the question poster choosing an answer is by no means unbiased )


Stack OVerflow IS ONLY about popularity. The please don't discuss format discourages the consensus building that'd be needed to arrive at a reasonably good "best" answer to a non trivial question.

And this also happens for questions that aren't asking the "best" something...

That is why it'll probably never answer really hard questions, but that's not its aim, so it's all good.


Reputation should be at least based on the size of a community.

Say you were a c# and f# (or java and scala) developer. Your brilliant f# answers will not count as much as your lousy c# answers because there are not too many people interested in f#.

I would like to see reputation based on a tag. “This guy's reputation is x from f# and y from c#.” The answer could be a normalized value per tag: reputation from tag / max reputation for tag for all users (the best f# guy). This can answer the question if someone is the f# specialist or not independently of the size of community. There will be some obscure results for new or marginal tags so there should be some threshold.

The harder question is to normalize reputation globally. It could be sum(normalized reputation per tag). I'm not sure if this would bring enough extra value. The world is not fair why should stackoverflow be fair? (Chances are that you know Britney Spears but never heart of Maria Callas.)

  • Go to your user profile (or anyone else's) and then click on any of the tags down the bottom. The results page of that will show you the questions tagged and the votes they received. Excludes non-repful wiki answers/questions.
    – random
    Commented Sep 13, 2009 at 7:48
  • That's nice I did not know that. I thought this is just a list of tags and would lead me to all tag related answers. (But then the view is not consistent. Question, answer, tag are with user context. Badges links are without. Votes lead nowhere.) But how do I find out the reputation of a user for this tag with this view? Commented Sep 13, 2009 at 7:57
  • If you want to see what the top users score in various tags do this: Click on a tag, Click the stats tab. Like this: stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged?tagnames=sql&sort=stats But right now, you can't view an easy breakdown of which tags got the user the rep.
    – random
    Commented Sep 13, 2009 at 8:14
  • That would be nice in the user view (reputation source) and in the question view (reputation for the tags of the question). You could then show the percentile the user is in for a tag. A whole bunch of new badges could be added then: Star (top 1% of tag), Tiger (top 10% of tag), Master (top 50%), Journeyman (top 80%) (the two last could be stolen pragprog.com/the-pragmatic-programmer). Commented Sep 13, 2009 at 12:40

Poll questions aren't even officially supported. They are always a popularity contest and should be regarded as such.

I wouldn't worry about it.


Well, whenever you have a question that is subjective that will happen. You will then find the most popular x based on what people individually think the best x is.


Those questions are not encouraged... let's hope the site will stabilize in the future... it's brand new


There is definitely a correlation between "best" and "most popular", even if it's not as strong as we would like.

As with Google, sometimes you need to look beyond the topmost answer.


I think that's why subjective posts keep getting voted down, but they make for a fun read and you get to spout off every now and then... who does it hurt?


Code Complete is very popular answer to "what's the best book" question. That does not mean that people didn't read other books. They did, and they choose CC. In some degree, such opinion can be valuable. If someone who didn't read CC sees that so many people chosen it as a best book, he could take interest in this book.


I agree that it should be "favorite" instead of "best". I'm also one of those who believes that developers want to know what other developers are thinking, what their likes and dislikes are, what their opinions are, etc.

This site was designed to provide definitive answers to definitive questions. Questions about "favorites" are too subjective to have a definitive answer. Some people on SO think that such questions should be disallowed. They go about and close such questions, often commenting that they are "subjective and argumentative". I call these people grannies, and I think they're missing the boat.

I think the immense popularity of subjective questions shows that it would be a terrible mistake to disallow them. Instead, StackOverflow must adapt to subjective questions by allowing them to be formally marked as such, and altering the reputation system to reflect that. (I think subjective questions should provide rep, particularly if they engender a lot of discussion, but I think the system should be a bit different for them. Exactly how I don't know.)


Well yes, but generally people have a reason for picking one over an other option. And if 90% of people prefer x to y, then generally x is better for y, at least for 90% of users.

Sometimes people cry "popularity contest" when really there are actually good reasons (speed, amount of features, learning curve) for the choices made

  • What I'm criticizing is that comments would be needed to clarify that, just up/down voting will not make it clear why an option is better than an alternative, which is most certainly needed in any complex question
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Commented Sep 17, 2008 at 21:44

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