Is there a guidance about that?

In particular can 3 comments discussing a single answer already qualify a debate?

This is useful to know, because some questions are closed as not-constructive when they are likely to be dabated, even if (to my untrained eye) they look fine: very few answers, very few comments, on topic, no more.

So I'm trying to understand the measures (or the logic) used to define (or to forecast) a "debate", in the hope to avoid it at stackoverflow.

  • 8
    Where did you get "debated" from, i.e. what is the reason that you believe that a definition of "debated" is required? Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 8:54
  • @benisuǝqbackwards Here talking about this debate, but I care about the general rule, for future reference. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 8:56
  • this question have lots of comments but its not closed as not-constructive!!! Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 12:03
  • -1 because it's a broken question, shouldn't you be asking why it was closed as NC?
    – djechlin
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 13:14
  • I have absolutely no idea what you're trying to ask.
    – user164207
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 20:01

4 Answers 4


A "debate" isn't some property that's measured by a certain number of something. A "debate" is simply a discussion of differing and/or opposing views about a certain topic, which on our site typically happens in the comments for some reason.

You have to read the comments in order to determine if the commentators are debating or not. You can't use the number of comments posted to figure out if there's a debate going on.

For what it's worth, the comments under your question or my answer may or may not be an example of a debate. It depends largely on how you interpret it.

  • and sometimes in chat.. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 8:59
  • What makes you think debate typically happens in the comments? ;) Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:00
  • So if someone gives a wrong answer, nobody should comment it, right? Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:00
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    @Giacomo Tesio: Wait, what? What does that have to do with anything? Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:00
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    @Frédéric Hamidi: What is this, meta? :) Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:01
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    This is now a debated answer. Can we make it a much debated one?
    – Pekka
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:01
  • @BoltClock'saUnicorn I mean: if I answer to a question wrongly, and somebody complains, it already qualify as a debate? I mean something like this, for example. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:07
  • @GiacomoTesio Why does it matter? If I were to say "yes, that's a debate", what do you do with that information?
    – Bart
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:08
  • @Bart I will not comment wrong answers, in the future. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:10
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    @GiacomoTesio, if an answer is incorrect a comment explaining why and/or a downvote is extremely helpful, it indicates that the answer is wrong. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:11
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    @GiacomoTesio what's so horrible about "debate"? As long as it's relevant to the post, having lots of comments is totally fine. Worst case moderator will step in to clean up at some point but it does NOT mean you shouldn't post the comments in the first place. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:13
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    @GiacomoTesio Given that update it seems you're not understanding what the "not constructive" closure means. It has nothing to do with "this question has X number of comments". Not commenting does not make a question more constructive.
    – Bart
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:28
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    @Giacomo you can't use the number of comments to determine the quality of a question or answer. There may be a general correlation, but it's useless as a metric.
    – Pekka
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 9:29
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    I'm not sure what you need the guidance for? The only way to recognize a "non constructive" question is to read it, IMO.
    – Pekka
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 10:00
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    @AndrewBarber 18 (assuming I can count) comments? Definitely debated! Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 10:47

There seems to be some confusion about when questions will be closed as "not constructive" and whether debate over certain things (such as the validity of an answer) would qualify a question for closure as not constructive.

The full text when voting to close as "not constructive" is this:

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, see the FAQ for guidance.

Voting for closure as "not constructive" happens, among other reasons, when a question is asking a question that doesn't have a single, verifiable correct answer (usually such questions are asking for opinions). If I was to ask "Is C++ better than Java?" then that's going to solicit debate; people who prefer Java are going to post that Java is better, people who prefer C++ are going to post that C++ is better. Then they're (probably) going to go back and forth in a (vain) attempt to prove to the other people that they're correct.

That debate may never happen. In fact the point of closing the question as "not constructive" is to prevent it from happening.

However, it's possible for debate about a question to happen without the question itself being considered "not constructive"; I've seen questions about certain aspects of web development trigger a debate about whether they'd be considered "front end" or "back end". I also regularly "debate" with other users about the validity of answers to questions. Neither of those debates have any bearing on whether the question itself is "not constructive", though.

To sum up: There isn't a useful metric to determine whether a debate is occurring, and debate doesn't necessarily mean that a question is "not constructive".

  • Thanks. So forcasting a debate is a guess, matter of experience? And to close a question becouse it's likely to be debated, you should have enough knowledge about that specific topic to know that it will result in a debate, right? Have I understood correctly? Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 10:41
  • @GiacomoTesio You have to make a case-by-case judgement about questions. Subject knowledge is useful, but not necessarily required if a question is clearly asking for opinions. There are some key phrases that usually indicate that a question should be closed as "not constructive", such as "which is better?", "what do you guys think?", "should I choose X or Y?", but you still need to read the question and apply some judgement. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 10:43
  • Ok. Thanks. This is a valid answer (can you edit the answer itself, to include this subjectivity) Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 10:49
  • @GiacomoTesio: He didn't add any subjectivity. "Anti-pattern" is subjective, and therefore likely to cause debate. End of story; the question should be closed. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 11:44
  • @NicolBolas take a look at here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AntiPatterns Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 12:30
  • As for "subjectivity" I was asking to add to the answer what he said in the comments: "you still need to read the question and apply some judgement." Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 12:32

It's not about whether a debate will happen; it's about whether the subject of the question is debatable. And that's not particularly subjective.

What is an anti-pattern is a matter of debate. People argue these all the time. Some people think X is an anti-pattern, others think Y is one. And even if most programmers agree that Z is one, it's still a matter of debate. It's still subjective.

Also, your question is a list question. So it's double not-constructive.

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    "So it's double not-constructive." Insert obtuse double-negation joke here. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 11:47

Closing posts as not constructive is not based on an actual count of comments, but on the way the question is phrased.

As is already answered in your question - and as Andrew Barber says in one of the not-accepted answers, the question is not whether it has resulted in a debate. The question is whether it is likely to result in a debate.

  • I understood what Andrew means, but he didn't explain how you can know that such question is "likely to result in a debate", if you don't know enough about functional programming to provide a single answer. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 10:46
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    @GiacomoTesio: Sure you do. All programming style questions are "likely to result in a debate". That's because the answers are debatable; they are based on opinion, not facts. No question about "anti-patterns" can be answered objectively (whether for functional programming or any other programming style), because everyone has their own set of those. Furthermore, your question is a list question, which is also not constructive. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 11:34
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    +1 for referencing one of the foremost authorities on this site! ;) Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 16:13

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