This is a draft, feel free to edit it!
The question will later be edited to:
- When is a post closed as "not constructive"?
- Why are such questions not allowed?
- Is there any way to fix such questions?
When is a post closed as "not constructive"?
A post is closed as not constructive whenever the post is open ended and can have many different yet equally valid answers. This goes for:
- Questions asking for opinions and other subjective questions. Not all such questions are bad; the guidelines here help distinguish a good subjective question from a bad subjective question.
- Questions asking for a big list, especially questions asking for recommendations (book recommendations, product recommendations, etc)
- Questions comparing two very different things.
Why are such questions not allowed?
Firstly, many of these questions are interesting but, in the end, useless. Opinion-poll type questions asking for opinions are rarely useful; they tell you what the general public feels about an issue, but have no practical use.
Some questions, like recommendation questions, are quite useful. However, they have a few issues. Many such questions, especially product recommendation questions, get outdated fast. New products come in all the time, and these lists either become obsolete or need constant maintenance.
Recommendation questions tend to be insanely popular as well. This has many ill effects:
- They attract a lot of votes, skewing the reputation system. One can get a sizeable amount of reputation quite fast by asking/answering such questions before the community wikification kicks in.
- They clutter up the "hot questions" lists
- Their popularity gives outsiders an impression that recommendation questions are great on the site, which leads to more recommendation questions, and amplifying the problem. The sites should not give the impression that they are for getting recommendations; they should give the impression that they are for getting definite answers to closed-ended questions.
Finally, certain broad comparison questions out of idle curiosity are bad, since they (again) aren't really that useful. Sure, there may be accidental learning accompanied with reading the answer, but this information won't be easy for others to find. Accidental learning is good, only accidental learning means that the learning will never reach those who are looking for it. Also, such questions have a tendency to drive away experts.
Is there any way to fix such questions?
Sure, many such questions can be tailored to a better, acceptable form.
- Product recommendations: A lot of this is outlined in this blog post. Basically, see if you can convert a "what is the best X" into a "what should I look for while choosing an X". Try to make it more specific as well; explain what you need the product for.
- Book recommendations: These generally cannot be fixed. What one can do is ask in the chat room associated with the site, and edit the recommendations into the tag wiki of that topic. Some sites allow book recommendations, as long as the topic isn't too broad, and the level of understanding is specified.
- A vs B questions: Make sure that A and B are comparable entities. If not, choose a specific aspect/portion of A and B, and compare those. There are more details on this in this blog post
- Subjective questions (Opinion polls, etc): Guidelines on subjective questions have been outlined in this blog post, and try to tailor the question to fit these guidelines. Basically, the question should invite answers that back up the opinion with facts, explanations, and/or experiences. And, as always, the question should attract useful answers.