Somewhat extension of: How can I ask a question that can be answered with a better approach?

In a related question there was a comment saying it was possible to ask "concretly about pros and cons".

  • It didn't get upvotes, so is this true?
  • Is there any other allowed way to ask the community for best practice?

A little off-topic:

I tried, but couldn't find any FAQ-tagged questions that covered this issue. I would be very surprised if this wasn't a common issue. If there really are none that covers it, shouldn't there be?

I would especially think it should be a necessity to have it in the How to Ask-section, or at least the What kind of questions can I ask here-section, as I've seen plenty of people trying to ask for the best way to do things as well, but not knowing how they could ask it properly on this site.

  • 9
    Do not mention "best practice", "best way" or even "best" in your question's text if you can avoid it. Best practice questions are usually at the very low end of the quality spectrum, and even if yours is not people quickly scanning it (and not actually reading it) might confuse it for yet another overly broad and / or not constructive piece of crap. Tell us what the specific actual & practical problem you are trying to solve is, the answer with the most votes will most probably be the "best practice" for that specific problem.
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 6:49
  • @YannisRizos I'm confused. So if my title doesn't have your three mentioned phrases in them, it would allow me to ask what the best way to do this is? I'm gonna use my current un-properly-answered question as an example: stackoverflow.com/questions/12195445/…. Would it be okay for me to just blatantly ask what the best way to assign that variable from ASP.NET was, but still having the "How to..." in title? I thought I had seen many questions being flagged not constructive for doing this.
    – Aske B.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 6:53
  • No, absolutely not, your question can be crap without ever mentioning "best practice" ;) What I'm saying is that "best practice" is a very common red flag, and you should avoid the phrase if possible. It won't save your question if it's not constructive, but it will protect it from people just scanning it and not really reading it (and unfortunately that's not really rare).
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 6:57
  • @YannisRizos nvm I misread your comment. My question still applies how I could ask which options I have and why to choose those.
    – Aske B.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 6:57
  • 1
    There's also the possibility that your question is not something that can be asked on SO, no matter how it's worded.
    – JJJ
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 7:09
  • @YannisRizos Even though I don't think your upvoted comment proposes any alternatives, only emphasizes that what I'm asking how to do is wrong, don't you think it is still qualified to be an answer, instead of just a comment? Or is that just not something people do here on meta?
    – Aske B.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 7:27
  • Telling you what to avoid might be a helpful nod to the right direction, but I don't think it qualifies as an answer to your question, as you are explicitly asking for what to do and not what to avoid. I'm a rep whore like everyone else ;), if I felt it was an answer I would have posted it as such, sometimes I even steal others' comments and post them as answers.
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 7:31
  • 5
    Also please ignore upvotes on comments, more often than not comments get upvoted for the wrong reasons...
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 7:32
  • @AskeB. how I could ask which options I have and why to choose those. That sounds like exactly how to do it. Instead of asking for best, ask what the alternative solutions are, and the pros/cons of each solution. Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 17:20
  • 2
    This answer is now the #1 search result for "how to ask best practice questions on stack overflow". While I genuinely appreciate the effort the author has taken to approach this, there aren't real answers here. I think it's ridiculous to assume there can't be a general consensus on best practices from a community that should strive to create them. Is there an opinion involved? Of course. But in my experience on SO, pragmatism will always prevail over baseless opinion. Best practice / A vs. B questions should be allowed to live somewhere. I don't see value in preventing the discussion.
    – rob
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 17:14
  • Maybe hacker news or reddit are better suited for this. Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 20:43

1 Answer 1


Since there's no answers to my question, I'll just try to provide my guesses on the matter, and let people comment on it:

  1. As far as I can read off Q&A is Hard, Let's Go Shopping, a proper way to do it is to ask "How do I tell which approach prioritize X?"
  • X should be replaced with a parameter that you weigh in your current situation.
  1. Ask concretely for which options there are to solve the problem, and (maybe) which widely accepted factors should be considered to make your choice.
  • It requires for the question to be worded in a way that it fits to be able to stand as a long-time valuable answer.
  • I don't think this approach will encourage very many answers without a high bounty though, it requires much detail from the answerer.
  1. To my understanding, asking "Is there a better alternative to Y" and then providing a brief and concrete solution example, is also acceptable, but I'm very uncertain about this.
  • 1
    I don't think the blog post encourages using "best" in the title, quite the opposite really, it points to questions with "best" in the title as examples of what to avoid.
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 8:32
  • @YannisRizos About 2000 pixels down the page he says: "Here’s one way to ask: Q: What’s the best low light point-and-shoot camera? A: Canon S90 and Lumix LX3."
    – Aske B.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 8:34
  • 1
    @AskeB. please pay attention, that few pixels below, the way using "best" is explained as wrong one: "The former question provides the path of least resistance: a laundry list of products I can buy without thinking about it too much. But that answer will only be valid for a year at best..."
    – gnat
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 8:37
  • True but still not really a specific encouragement of using the word in your titles. I think it just follows the whole "best" pattern of the example questions, "What’s the best low light point-and-shoot camera?" is not an ideal title or question but it's a vast improvement to the previous examples (Macbook Air vs. Macbook Pro?, etc).
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 8:38
  • @gnat Touché, you're right, it's going great for me today. I'll edit my answer.
    – Aske B.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 8:38
  • @YannisRizos I agree, but what we're discussing is essentially the hard, but vital, balance between a decent question and a vague and not-constructive one. When I ask my questions I often spend hours trying to duct-tape it together to fit inside the requirements. And then surprise: 30-50 views, no (real) answers, maybe a single question upvote. Sometimes I wish I could stick to the luxury of only being an answerer like most high-rep users. I find it much easier to judge and provide constructive solutions than to articulate my real programming problems to fit very strict rules.
    – Aske B.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 9:00
  • @AskeB. Perhaps you are just trying too hard ;) You've improved your writing style a lot since the last time we talked about it, and you've already been around for three months, it will come to you naturally after a while, don't worry. It seems that you usually hang around very populous tags like [javascript] and [asp.net], where there is a ton of new questions every hour, and perhaps that's the main reason your questions aren't getting a lot of views.
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 9:05
  • @YannisRizos Well, I currently work at a place where I am the only one who have really been taught best practices and how to design dynamic and flexible solutions. The few others we have in my profession do "yay it worked"-solutions. The only real help I've been able to get have been from Google and StackOverflow, so naturally I try my very best to be one of the few that actually gets their problems, not just solved, but solved in good way.
    – Aske B.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 9:10
  • @AskeB. note that questions like you target may benefit from tighter involvement of the asker and iterative approach (as explained here). Using your words, one better be "dynamic and flexible" when asking questions like that
    – gnat
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 9:23
  • @gnat Verbal articulation skills vs. logical problem solving skills are hardly the same thing in my world. While I have read your answer through, I don't see any points there I didn't know before. But that doesn't mean I'm able to follow it in practice - by far. E.g. KISS is a good principle, but I've found it's often used as a non-constructive argumentation for doing something smaller, and in many situations you wouldn't know how to do it the simple way before you've spent many hours/days/... trying to cut it into the bone. My point is, to me at least, it's a lot harder in practice.
    – Aske B.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 9:31
  • 1
    @gnat Ignore my last comment. I actually realize I wasn't honest; I didn't read your question completely through. It's a wall of text to me, and I can't really grasp it all without reading it through many times (I still haven't grasped it). Maybe it's just because English isn't my native language, since a lot of the words you use I have to look up, which makes it very inconvenient to try and understand a long text. What I understand from your question is what you think the goals I should keep in mind are, when writing a question. I think my problems are more practice-related than theory.
    – Aske B.
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 9:42

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