Some questions are put on hold for this reason "..they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam".

How about treating users like mature responsible users FIRST and IF AND WHEN the question starts to get spam or opinionated THEN put the question on hold?

Who gets to decide if an answer is opinionated? Seems like a very subjective decision. If I post a link to some resource, it should be treated first as a resource. Let users decide later if it's a good one or not.

I am never in the camp of letting some moderator or high rep user take decisions in their own hand very early in the process.

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    Mature? Responsible? Ha...haha...hahahaha. – Bart Jun 28 '13 at 17:26
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    But in all seriousness, we tend to have a pretty decent idea of the answers a question will attract. I'd rather close early than to create a climate in which users just ask any question they wish because they'll get away with it for at least a while. (Even when that climate is already in existence to some extent). – Bart Jun 28 '13 at 17:29
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    @Bart I guess you're not one of them! – anon Jun 28 '13 at 17:34
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    I kid, @tony_henrich, even though we hate fun. – Bart Jun 28 '13 at 17:40

IF AND WHEN the question starts to get spam or opinionated THEN put the question on hold.

This is not realistic. Stack Overflow gets 7,000 new questions every day. Judging individually and after the fact which ones attract good answers, and which don't, just isn't doable.

Also, you would effectively destroy the "rule of law" that currently exists. Every closing decision can be discussed and appealed on Meta, or by raising a moderator flag. There is a clear set of rules that any community decision can be tested against. Reopenings happen frequently when the closers have decided wrongly, against the existing rules.

Your suggestion would make a question's survival completely depend on the users' subjective opinions who happen to be there at the time, which is arbitrary and almost impossible to objectively appeal. Users would see their questions closed when they just started out receiving answers, because the community thinks the answers aren't of a good enough quality - something the OP can not influence. The experience would be devastatingly bad.

  • Then don't. When bad signs show up then take action. – Tony_Henrich Jun 28 '13 at 17:34
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    @Tony I updated my last paragraph. You would make the process entirely subject to the whim of people with the right to close. Great, well-asked questions would get closed because they happen to attract bad answers. How would that be fair? – Pekka Jun 28 '13 at 17:35
  • Do you know how much work it takes to reopen a question? Lots. By the time this can happen (days after the questions was posted), I either got my answer or I lost interest. I was NEVER able to reopen a question.. mostly because I gave up. Not worth the effort needed. My question was put on hold 2 minutes after being posted. I am not sure what On Hold status means (means more resources for future updates) but all on all there's no shortage of resources. – Tony_Henrich Jun 28 '13 at 18:09
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    @Tony maybe the issue is that you're looking at this only from your perspective, not the broader community's. The policy change you suggest would result in more unfairness overall, because people's questions would get closed for reasons they can't control. The way it is now, it's strict, but it's fair. No point changing that really. – Pekka Jun 28 '13 at 18:13

If I ask (on Travel, let's say)

WHich is the best mountain to climb in Europe?

The answers will be of the form

  • Mont Blanc is my favourite
  • I like Mont ABC
  • Everyone knows DEF is the best

Chances are, there will be little or no facts in these answers. If there are facts, they will speak to whatever criteria the answerer thinks is important (height, view, ease of climb, difficulty of climb, how pleasant the nearby villages are and so on.)

In contrast if the question is

I would like to climb a European mountain and enjoy an amazing view. I will need to stay in a nearby hotel and get to the base of the mountain by public transport. [More details about constraints and what the questioner values in addition to the view.] Is there a European mountain that will meet my needs?

The answers may still start with an opinion, but are pretty much guaranteed to contain facts that are relevant.

Experienced users can see the difference from the question alone. We can put the question on hold and show the asker how to change the question to attract answers that will be genuinely useful.

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    It's worth noting that different sites have different allowable degrees of subjectivity. A question like that might be fine on Travel (I'm not a member there) but on Stack Overflow asking, "Is there a library that meets [some list of detailed criteria] still isn't an appropriate question". Different sites have simply defined their scopes differently in that regard. – Servy Jun 28 '13 at 17:41
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    @Servy, agree, the point of the example is to show that you can read a question and see it will attract opinions and spam, or read a question and see it will probably attract factual answers and certainly provide clear criteria to evaluate answers against. Questions in the former category go on hold, and the community (through edits and comments) tries to help the asker get them into the latter category. – Kate Gregory Jun 28 '13 at 17:43

Because cleaning up a big giant mess after it has already become a problem is hard.

You need to sort through all of the content to see what is and isn't valuable to see what should or shouldn't be deleted, you need to potentially take further action against users to have been spamming content and deal with the users who's "discussions" have devolved into flamewars containing offensive material (which does happen with many of these kinds of questions often enough to be an issue).

Then you need to deal with the complaints of all of the people who had some content that they feel is legitimate, who will be mad that it was deleted or the question closed, or for people who can no longer access the deleted content who think that it's valuable.

It's much, much easier for everyone involved to simply require the question to be fixed before it is allowed to be opened than to try to fix it after it has become a mess. If it can't be fixed up into something that's not likely to generate garbage then it's going to cause more harm than good; we don't want it here.


Yes, it's all very subjective, and in the case of spam this works in the spammers' favor since it's hard to get a consensus on whether a given answer is legitimately helpful or not. Frankly, it's a huge amount of drama for little gain in handling what are at best XY problems.

State the problem you're trying to solve, describe what you've done in detail and why/how it hasn't worked. If someone wants to recommend a product/service/whatever that'll fix your problem, the onus is then on them to demonstrate how it will do so.

  • @Tony_Henrich: Shog9's answer linked above (and Kate Gregory's answer posted here) contain some very good advice about how you can reform the original question you asked on Stack Overflow. – user102937 Jun 28 '13 at 17:41
  • I don't have a problem to solve. Maybe that's the problem! My problem is not finding sites or examples for it. Why can't this be the problem I am trying to solve. – Tony_Henrich Jun 28 '13 at 17:53
  • Because we don't want to be a link farm. As I was hinting in your original question, why not try to make it work and ask about the practical problems you face in doing so? – Bart Jun 28 '13 at 17:55
  • Why are you looking for sites or examples? You must have some reason! Just state it - there are so many ways you could ask that question in a way that could prompt a specific answer, but you need to be a least a bit candid as to what you're looking to do... @Tony – Shog9 Jun 28 '13 at 17:56
  • @Shog9 I don't have a specific problem. Why is this hard for you to believe? I want to see what the sites look like and learn how they were built. You say there are so many ways to ask. Well... mention one. I asked this in the comment and I asked this in another question on meta. – Tony_Henrich Jun 28 '13 at 18:01
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    So... I checked. Examples are included in the download. @Tony. You could start by elaborating on why they're inadequate for your purposes. – Shog9 Jun 28 '13 at 18:27

Questions asking us to recommend a tool, library or favorite off-site resource are off-topic for Stack Overflow as they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam. Instead, describe the problem and what has been done so far to solve it.

It's a policy against library/resource recommendation questions, not against questions likely to attract spam. It's a bit fetched explanation, but it's not primarily about spam, it's primarily about the recommendation questions.

Personally I don't agree with new off-topic reason, because there are situations where you know that you need a library to do something, and you are almost sure there is one, but you can't find it (Java libraries, jQuery plugins. See my question: A borderline between on-topic questions and questions about library recommendation?

The solution is not to directly ask about library/plugin, but present your problem, asking how to solve it, and suggesting that recommending library would be welcomed. If the question will be closed, write to meta presenting your arguments for validity of the quesiton.

  • One of the primary reasons recommendation questions aren't allowed is precisely because they do generate a lot of spam and link-only answers. It's not the only reason, but it's a big one. – Servy Jun 28 '13 at 18:16

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