I'm going to risk asking this question again. Existing questions went in a different direction (language grammer, no support, or were arguing for their own question).

:Plea: If you agree with this question please up-vote it. I put in significant effort to make better arguments than those in the past, yet I received an onslaught of down votes early on. However, I have been getting several upvotes every month. I'm hoping if it gets into positive territory, then people will at least be willing to have the discussion (which is what I thought meta.so was for). I believe there are good questions on SO which are incorrectly being reduced to somebody not being able to choose between two different brands of dishwashers. :/Plea:

It would seem that if there is even the possibility of the question being subjective, it is closed. These days there must be a dozen ways to code something, yet those questions are allowed to stand. Yet the instant somebody asks a "what is a library that will do 'X' it is closed. The irony is that these questions, even in their closed and decaying state, are often the most valuable to me. Sometimes I'll test three or four third party components before I commit to one. This is a time consuming process that I would gladly augment with the vote-validated answers that others might have.

Examples include:

I'll concede that the last one is too general but I left it on there because even if it was free control that does 'X' it still would have been closed.

If these questions cannot be asked on stackoverflow proper, which subsite should be considered (keeping in mind that the other sides hardly get any where close to the SERP rankings that SO gets).

Does the asker need to explicitly ask the "subjective" guidance questions to avoid getting closed?:

  • Please explain “why” and “how”
  • Please elaborate
  • Please only share items that you have personal experience with.
  • Please post any data you have relating to your experience

Isn't that a mess? Shouldn't we be able to rely on the answerers to follow the guidelines instead and if they violate them make effective use of the down vote button beyond simply being wrong? Why does all the burdon fall on the asker when it's the answerers that should know the rules and how they can best serve the asker without turning them away?

Are these questions even subjective? It is a fact if a component meets a need. "Best" is subjective, but isn't that inherent anyway? Is anybody going to list the item they've already discarded for themselves? Are we really going to let a single adjective decide a questions fate? Isn't this easily cleaned up with comments?

I understand we're trying to avoid the wild west of a forum, but we're not debating politics here. Many of these questions could be answered with "here's what I did and here's why". We could restrict answers to things that are pulled directly from the examples on MSDN, but why exactly do we want to do that?

What is the guiding principle here? If we want to help programmers save time and create better software, then things that stop them from getting to page 17 on a SERP should be included.


For those that chose to dismiss my examples as "shopping" questions please explain the difference between asking "How do I create an excel file from .net" (which there are dozens of un-closed examples of and "What is the best component for creating an excel file". Doesn't one question simply acknowledge that the best candidate for an answer is likely going to be a component? I assert that the examples found in Q&A is Hard, Let’s Go Shopping! do not apply here. These are well established products. I'm sure there are very few questions asking how to read a pdf file. Imagine it's 1900 and somebody's asking about taking a picture. People are going to talk about daguerreotype and dry plates. It's not a simple as saying "camera." These are the questions that people are asking and they certainly follow a Q&A format.

If there is no place for subjectivity in SO, what is the point of the voting mechanism?

I'd also like the question reopened. The referenced question is the same in spirit but does not contain any of the arguments or assertions that I have made and would like to discuss.

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    Every one of those you linked is a shopping/opinion question. Aug 6, 2013 at 2:15
  • 2
    Excuse my ignorance, I'm just a lowly software engineer...but what in the world is "SERP"?
    – user7116
    Aug 6, 2013 at 2:23
  • 7
    Why does all the burdon fall on the asker when it's the answerers that should know the rules... nope, the asker should absolutely know the rules too. Aug 6, 2013 at 2:31
  • 6
    Hmmm...misread "burdon" as "bourbon", which suggest both a wee bit of dyslexia and a way to make the site much more interesting. Aug 6, 2013 at 3:02
  • 2
    We should have bourbon waffles. Aug 6, 2013 at 3:11
  • 1
    @DavidRobinson - I never said there was NO burdon on the asker.
    – b_levitt
    Aug 6, 2013 at 14:05
  • @b_levitt I'll reply to your revision. It is true that questions such as "What's the best Windows program to calculate 1 + 2?" are always closed as a shopping list question, since it is down to the answerer's personal preference at the end of the day; and these types of questions tend to attract spammy answers ([sic] buy my awesome calcultorz!). Take rewording the question as "How can I calculate 1 + 2 on Windows?" as an opportunity to reword the question to illicit unbiased replies that scream CALC.EXE! ...I hope you understood this through all of the lunacy :p Aug 6, 2013 at 14:28
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    @DannyBeckett - Thanks. But lets say your answer was a programming question - how to programmatically calculate your age. Some will pipe up with an equation that's 100% System.dll, others might say I use 3rdParty.AgeCalculator because it's faster. Is this second answer invalid because we had to go "shopping"? Why don't we simply let the voting mechanism take care of that? Why not let a better answer come along years later and let the voting mechanism move it to the top? Why are we letting a human element make decisions that can be decided by the community all by itself?
    – b_levitt
    Aug 6, 2013 at 14:58
  • @b_levitt My point is that the former type of question, by nature, tends to attract spammy answers. I've seen it. You mightn't have yet, but you probably will do if you stick around. Aug 6, 2013 at 15:04
  • 1
    @DannyBeckett - I agree, but generally those answers will go straight to the bottom with the voting mechanism. This is no different than any other question. I don't think spammy answers are limited to these types of questions.
    – b_levitt
    Aug 6, 2013 at 15:34
  • see also: The fourth place: Polling, Recommendations and subjective-ish stuff. As for asker explicitly asking the "subjective" guidance questions - "Don't do that..."
    – gnat
    Jan 2, 2014 at 20:19

2 Answers 2


So...here's the thing.

Each question you've linked to was asked years ago. These questions are not good examples of questions that should be asked in this day and age, but are around because of their value to the community.

There's really no site that's suitable to field those questions in the network; they're all shopping questions which are open for interpretation, debatable, and will become rapidly obsolete.

You also mention that you could provide "for-instance", or "here's what I did" types of answers to these sorts of questions. That, in its very nature, is subjective - we don't all have the same work environment or work conditions that would prompt us to believe an answer is authoritative, and many could have counter examples that would weaken the position that one or two people had taken.

Discussion isn't what's being facilitated; facts are.

If you would like more context on this type of question, check out Q&A is Hard, Let's Go Shopping.

  • 1
    Ran out of edit time:This is dramatically different than asking about a product you can buy at Big Buy. If longevity is the problem then virtually EVERY question on SO is going to have an issue. Furthermore, all of those examples are simply asking somebody else to compare standardized specs - that's why those answers are trivial. But imagine it's 1900 and somebody asks what device do I need to take a picture - that is the REAL equivalent to these prematurely closed questions.
    – b_levitt
    Aug 6, 2013 at 14:02
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    If age is an issue, that that should be the reason that it's closed. Longevity is a guiding principle here and the voting mechanism will promote new solutions.
    – b_levitt
    Aug 6, 2013 at 15:01

If these questions cannot be asked on stackoverflow proper, which subsite should be considered

Why is it that you assume every possible question must necessarily have a SE site where the question is on-topic? Some question are simply not well suited to the SE Q&A format. It is the relatively narrow focus on objective Q&A that makes Stack Overflow and the other SE network sites worthwhile. If you want open-ended opinion-based questions, there are other sites for that.

  • 1
    question: how do I create an excel document from code. Answer: use x component. How is this not Q & A?
    – b_levitt
    Aug 6, 2013 at 14:03
  • 1
    @b_levitt That isn't the question that was asked in the question you linked to.
    – user229044
    Aug 6, 2013 at 14:19
  • I'm asserting that it IS the same question, but it is worded in a way that declares the likely answer is a component. In either case, why is the guidance to "close" rather than simply asking the asker to rephrase as a how-to?
    – b_levitt
    Aug 8, 2017 at 22:26

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