I recently had one question put on "Hold" on Stack Overflow and was really sad, shocked and confused. It turns out that I modified my question, another user also improved it a lot and it was reopened.

But I'm still amazed and disturbed by the fact that I cannot ask question like "What is the best...".

This type of question has some negatives:

  • Create emotional reactions
  • Attracts spams
  • Attracts non objective answers, sometimes by creators of products/software
  • Could lead to inappropriate exchange/words
  • Generate lots of unnecessary information
  • It is subjective

But these kinds of questions also have their positives:

  • It create debate where lots of useful information came out
  • Brings new information that could lead to change some minds / a new vision to readers
  • In most case, those questions lead to a solution that will save a lot more time than any other kind of question
  • In most case, those questions lead to a solution that will save a lot more of money than any other kind of question (usually related to products)
  • Brings creator reaction that would bring additional useful information on the product, reason of certain design decision, ...

In summary:

Considering the negatives and the positives, and also considering that Stack Overflow has a really good system for rewarding/penalizing users, I think that the acceptance of this type of questions would be a lot more beneficial for users than anything else. It is only because Stack Overflow has this rewarding system that it could support those type of questions easily whithout too much drawbacks. Also, Stack Overflow has the best reputation and is recognized as the best question/answer system now for programmers (it is subjective I know, but don't be blind, be honest and admit it), then I think that it returns to Stack Exchange to offer that type of question for the benefits of everyone.

If Stack Overflow does not support this type of question, what can we do? Where can we go to have lots and good reactions to this type of questions? Who will do it?

  • 10
    "Debates" are not part of the positives, as far as these sites are concerned.
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 14:38
  • Debates would be better suited to a forum not a Q&A Site as a long lengthy debate might cloud and hide useful information. Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 14:43
  • Note that once upon a time these types of questions were allowed. They are no longer allowed precisely because, in actual practice, the vast majority of the questions didn't generate most of the positives you've listed, and generated lots of the negatives you did list. They simply created far too little useful content proportional to the crap that was generated, so they're no longer allowed.
    – Servy
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 14:45
  • Stack Overflow is not the place for shopping questions. If those are the kinds of questions that you want to ask, then go elsewhere. It's that simple.
    – user164207
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 15:11

4 Answers 4


SO isn't a debate platform, it's a Q&A platform.

"Best" questions don't work because SO has a Q&A model, not a "let's discuss pros and cons" model. Gamedev has a BEST BEST BESSSST thread you might want to read. Because of the voting system, it'd quickly become a popularity (or familiarity) war, comparisons of existing xyz usually exist on Wikipedia (e.g. comparison of ftp clients)

The diminutive nature of comments shows you what comments are meant to be, followups, or "to ask for clarification or add more information".

  • Wikipedia is nice. The problem is that Wikipedia has only few comparisons chart, rarely the one you want. It is by asking the question that you can get an answer. You need a really popular site to get answers to something really specific. Forums are not. As explain, you also need rewarding system to reward or auto censor bad answers (indirectly people) Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 15:08
  • who says it's not a debate forum?? I'd like to debate you on that!! ;)
    – user310756
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 17:06
  • For an example of how it looks at its best, see Best Diff Tool? (web archive link, since deleted). Now see the wiki page on File Comparison Tools. The information on the SO page is good, (I wouldn't have deleted that q) but the entire thing would best be summed as a blog post really.
    – bobobobo
    Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 16:26

Check this Stack Overflow Blog post: Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. Specifically, this quote:

We never claimed that subjective questions were horrible abominations that should never be asked. We simply choose to forego those subjective discussions, as there were dozens upon dozens of forums which already catered to them.

Another relevant blog post: Real Questions Have Answers.

  • The problem is there. Forums don't solve that problem. Only the StackOveflow reward system could lead to an appropriate of "Best of " questions Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 14:56
  • @ creepy eyed user with no name.. I agree.. how on earth do you get pinged with that user name??
    – user310756
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 17:07
  • 2
    @Skippy If you have a webcam, and you make a disapproving look at the camera, Stack Exchange automatically tags me.
    – ಠ_ಠ
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 17:08
  • @ಠ_ಠ creepy eyed user with no name.... I don't need a web cam, I produce gravatars like that with my comments hahahahhaha ps I love yr username --- you do realise the name creepy eyed user with no name is my new nickname for you ??? :)
    – user310756
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 17:11

"What is Best" questions are pretty subjective, and would get out of date pretty quickly. Other questions on SO aren't date-dependent, an answer that is correct yesterday will still be correct in 5 years time.

To take a very simple scenario example - if a question were asked "What is the best browser?" someone could say "Internet Explorer 10 is the best because it does such-and-such". That may well be true today, but what if someone searches Google for that same question in 3 years time, finds that answer that IE10 is the best browser and goes and installs that, without realizing that times have moved on since then and what was 'best' back then isn't 'best' any more?

A question about how to do something, or how to solve an actual problem can be answered correctly today, and that answer will still be the correct answer in 10 years time. Yes, the technology may have moved on, it might be obsolete by then, but it'll still be the correct answer.

It is also not the responsibility of people on Stack Exchange to say where is a suitable place for such questions - we can only tell what is and isn't suitable for here. OK, some sites may be better placed that we are aware of (slant.co, Quora, Yahoo Answers*) but if the question asker couldn't be bothered checking out the rules of the SE site they post on, why should we feel obliged to go and do the research for them?

*Note: this is never the correct place

  • 2
    I can't upvote this answer because of "Internet Explorer 10 is the best." Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 14:50
  • @mikeTheLiar I did cringe a bit when I wrote it, but wanted the most obvious example I could think of. However it might be a valid recommendation if the question were "which is the best version of IE?" ;)
    – JonW
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 14:53
  • 1
    +1 because of "IE10 is the best" Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 14:54
  • Totally disagree. Any language question could has a better answer overtime. Everything evolve and it is to people to consider the original date of questions and answers. They can judge according to credibility of people (points) and by their points to support their decisions. Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 14:54
  • @EricOuellet Well most answers can be improved, or there could be 'better' ones in future, but that's not really my point. If an answer is marked as 'correct' it is because it accurately solved the problem outlined in the question, and to follow the answer again for that same situation would again solve the problem. However for recommendation questions that just isn't the case. An answer saying 'X is the best' is not an answer that can be improved, it will just become wrong over time.
    – JonW
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 14:57

I disagree that the following are true in most cases:

  • In most case, those questions lead to a solution that will save a lot more time than any other king of question

  • In most case, those questions lead to a solution that will save a lot more of money than any other king of question (usually related to products)

  • Brings creator reaction that would bring additional useful information on the product, reason of certain design decision

If the above were true in most cases, then the benefits of "What is the best...?" questions might outweigh the negatives. What you normally get from these types of questions, though, is everyone submitting and voting for their favorite, which is not necessarily the best for the OP or even anyone who finds the question through search. You end up with the most popular option at the top, which probably could have been found through a Google search, or by looking at Amazon product reviews.

If you just want to make a quick decision on a "What is the best...?" style question, Slant was built with exactly that sort of thing in mind. (I am not affiliated with Slant.)

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