Is there any way to get feedback on why my question was considered "not constructive" as it was a genuine question, and I want to avoid getting my questions blocked in the future?

The question: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/16419741/tool-for-navigating-databases-without-sql

StackOverflow's FAQ says a question is considered non-constructive if it "will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion". I don't see how my question falls into that category, as it is a straight-forward question which has a simple answer (either there is such a tool or there isn't)?

  • 1
    I have seen this (blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping), which makes a lot of sense, but the reason for my question was because I can't find a single tool that meets my requirements, rather than wanting to choose the best tool out of a whole bunch. Can I reword my question so it will be reconsidered?
    – Tom G
    May 7, 2013 at 14:06
  • 5
    You can try asking that kind of question on Slant. May 7, 2013 at 14:27

3 Answers 3


This is, as you note in the comments, considered a shopping or recommendation question.

While that may have not been your intention, consider that all of the answers take the form "you should use tool X." These questions invariably degenerate into unconstructive "gorilla vs shark" debates, and tend to attract self-promotion and spam.

Incidentally, your claim that this is objective because "there either is such a tool or there isn't" doesn't hold up: someone could defend a question like "Is Python better than Perl" with that argument. ("Either it is or it isn't!")

  • Ah, ok. So is there any way for me to re-word my question (I do genuinely want to find such a tool) so that it won't get closed?
    – Tom G
    May 7, 2013 at 14:17
  • @TomG If you goal is just to find a tool, probably not. If you changed your goal to not just want a tool recommendation, then perhaps there is some related question in there.
    – Servy
    May 7, 2013 at 14:47
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    @TomG Often those questions can be edited so they are asking "How can I solve this problem" instead of "Is there a tool to solve this problem" or "What tool can I use to solve this problem". I've made an edit like that to your question and have voted to reopen it, however it still needs other votes to get reopened.
    – Rachel
    May 7, 2013 at 14:52
  • Uhh, existence or not is a far more objective question than whether X is "better" than Y.
    – djechlin
    May 7, 2013 at 15:16
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    @djechlin the other problem with these questions is that invariably they become outdated, much sooner than they should be. The reasons I list here work for this type of question as well. May 7, 2013 at 16:04

Does anybody know of a tool that would...

Right there. Calling for opinion.

we're using MySQL, but if you know of a tool for any other database I'd still be really interested.

Again. My opinion against yours. This will get you answers like

  • I recommend that you use this tool because, in my opinion ...
  • I think you should purchase that tool in parallel with MS Access. I prefer it because...

Such answers will generate tons of comments like

  • @SomeUser No this is not the right tool for him, he should use this one because I once used one like that...
  • Add / Show 50 more comments

A straightforward question is not like that. Shopping questions are not allowed because, quoting Pekka,

They are open-ended; there is never one perfect answer to them.

They outdate incredibly quickly. This was what turned me against shopping list questions: if you look around on Stack Overflow, you will find plenty of 2010 "what's the best xyz" questions whose answers are hideously outdated now.

They tend to attract a lot of spam and/or link only answers

Also, it's kind of explained, pretty clearly:

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.

  • @AnthonyPegram you're right. Although I didn't pay much attention to that. I was more aiming at the how the question was asked which is the flaw. But still I could change my answer. May 7, 2013 at 14:27
  • No - many constructive questions ask if "anybody knows of a tool." stackoverflow.com/search?q=%22does+anyone+know+of+a+tool%22
    – djechlin
    May 7, 2013 at 15:11
  • Point is some are constructive, which is enough to show your logic is wrong. Please elaborate more on how to tell when asking for a tool is constructive and when it isn't.
    – djechlin
    May 7, 2013 at 15:17
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    @djechlin Thanks for that. Something to spend my close votes on. </evil>.
    – Bart
    May 7, 2013 at 15:17
  • @djechlin Simple. No shopping questions on stackoverflow should be allowed. You see.. my opinion. May 7, 2013 at 15:19
  • @Bart fair. This irks me a little, it's not that different from "does anybody know of an STL algorithm that does such and such." Just some of these questions turn out to have lots of answers and are NC, some have a few and turn out to be constructive. It's kind of impossible to tell a priori which it will be. And if you stop and think of what constructive is supposed to accomplish, I've looked for tools before, found an SO question, there was just 1-3 answers, looked at the accepted one, and used that. Which is the actual workflow our "constructive" standards try to effect.
    – djechlin
    May 7, 2013 at 15:20
  • While I'm all in favour of no shopping questions, I have to take issue with your assertion that "Does anybody know of a tool that would..." is asking for an opinion. Is it a bad question? Probably. But if I do know of such a tool, saying "Yes, I know of <this tool>." isn't an opinion unless you want to argue that I only think I know of it. May 7, 2013 at 15:30
  • look at the update on my answer May 7, 2013 at 15:31
  • 3
    @djechlin I looked through the first twenty or so questions returned from that search and didn't find a single one that I felt shouldn't have been closed. Most of them are also of very low quality. Also they're mostly all 3+ years old; they were asked before the sites standards had been narrowed and haven't been noticed enough to be closed once the guidelines were changed. Would you care to choose some examples of specific questions you truly think are constructive, should be open, and why?
    – Servy
    May 7, 2013 at 16:28

Congratulations! You've found one of our "impossible to tell whether is constructive until you ask" questions.

I think these are good questions that are just asking for a tool:

Most "does anyone know of a tool" questions are probably NC but it's not just asking a tool in itself that's the problem.

What was the problem with yours? Basically just that you were asking for something basic enough that everyone knew there were many answers. Ultimately this is a real gap/problem/inconsistency in our "constructive" definition. If you don't know that, it's useful to ask, as a reference for future visitors... but there are too many answers so you're closed as not constructive.

In short: you might have researched this off of SO first and determined there were many answers and realized it's not great to ask here. But at the theoretical end, it's impossible to avoid getting NC closures on things like this when you're outside of your domain. So, don't take it too hard.

  • Took from the 2nd post you linked : Last I heard, the recommended method... Opinion givers... everywhere. I understand they were not closed but it doesn't mean they don't involve opinion. Read them carefully you'll see. Some poor quality questions often fly under the radar and get answered. May 7, 2013 at 15:17
  • @returnPhaDaPhunk see edit
    – djechlin
    May 7, 2013 at 15:25
  • No, no and no. I don't make the rules read Jeff's post on the subject. May 7, 2013 at 15:28
  • i'll edit my answer too you'll see why it's not allowed. May 7, 2013 at 15:29
  • @returnPhaDaPhunk "are usually regarded not a good fit." I'm articulating why some turn out to be and why it's hard to be sure if you don't know the domain. How is my post inconsistent with this answer?
    – djechlin
    May 7, 2013 at 15:31
  • I don't see how the answer (not the question) in the link I provided doen't answer your question. Look at my updated answer. May 7, 2013 at 15:32
  • @returnPhaDaPhunk in the links I gave the questions did not generate a lot of answers, did not generate a lot of comments, and are not likely to become outdated soon. All of the reasons in the accepted answer in the link do not apply to these three questions. The OP has no way of knowing whether his/her question will be in the minority of constructive ones or the majority of NC ones. The linked content does not give reasons the 3 linked questions in my post should be closed.
    – djechlin
    May 7, 2013 at 15:35
  • Ok so you found a few exceptions which in your opinion were acceptable shopping questions. Reopen the debate on this question with your links and we will see what the community thinks. May 7, 2013 at 15:38
  • @returnPhaDaPhunk This debate is already open - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/171732/… our close reasons are not effective. I will open a thread on the specific topic of how to deal with not knowing whether a question is constructive until you ask it (if I can't find one). It's going to come down to my answer here though - a few mistakes are okay because it's impossible.
    – djechlin
    May 7, 2013 at 15:42

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