Alright, we all know polls are bad, evil, no good, rotten garbage and they have no place on the Stack Exchange network. And yet...

...it seems to be working pretty darn well over at TeX Meta. Brief summary for the click-through impaired: a single CW question, where the polls are answers and the responses are comments.

The way I see it, this could be a good thing. No, it wouldn't stop people from asking "What is the best {thing}" questions on Stack Overflow, but it would provide an outlet for those questions and might at least be marginally interesting. Additionally, it would mean that when people inevitably come here to ask "Why was my question closed, where can I ask it?" we could say something other than "Somewhere else, now go away."

So what do you guy and gals think? Is this something that might work on MSO, or are polls still verboten?

  • 4
    So what is the value of that poll? I'm not seeing how it's making the site better. The raw stats of how many people like this or that option doesn't seem particularly useful information.
    – Servy
    Oct 25, 2013 at 20:00
  • 3
    ...especially when it would rely on only the portion of the community that happened to see it, and the portion of those that decided to answer. You can conduct polls all over the place, facebook, SurveyMonkey, etc. Why not use one of those venues instead of trying to change Stack Overflow? If you wanted to promote to this audience, you could always buy banner ads...
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Oct 25, 2013 at 20:04
  • FWIW, WebApps tried this too at one point. It didn't really work all that well for them.
    – Shog9
    Oct 25, 2013 at 20:06
  • 4
    Our definitions of "pretty darn well" must differ significantly. That whole thing looks terrible.
    – Bart
    Oct 25, 2013 at 20:06
  • @Bart and how, I agree 100%
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Oct 25, 2013 at 20:07
  • 3
    Anyway, what I kinda liked about the Tex poll is that it allowed for people to learn about new tools/resources. For example, the first answer (favorite editor): if there's a useful/alternative editor that I've never heard of but got a lot of votes, I'd definitely check it out and it might change everything. Just an example. Oct 25, 2013 at 20:20
  • @mikeTheLiar Looking at that question, I kinda hear a site like slant.co snicker and think "Ah look, how cute. They awkwardly try what we're doing well".
    – Bart
    Oct 25, 2013 at 20:21
  • I feel a strange sense of pride in that this my most downvoted post across the network. I feel like I've somehow achieved something. Oct 25, 2013 at 20:36
  • There are vastly better formats for polls, like multiple choice boxes that auto-collate the data for example; they would be much better for polling than a stack exchange question Oct 25, 2013 at 23:28
  • @Rich yes, that is true. I mainly brought this up as an outlet for the large number of people who insist on asking polling questions here. Oct 25, 2013 at 23:35
  • The duplicate says "do not belong on the serious main SE sites". Is the proposal here Main or Meta? ..... Oh, is there such a thing as non-serious main site?
    – brasofilo
    Oct 26, 2013 at 12:27
  • @braso meta. A single post on MSO. Oct 26, 2013 at 12:29
  • @Bart here's the difference: I've never heard of slant.co. I (obviously) have heard of stack overflow. Oct 26, 2013 at 12:30
  • Just because I don't know about the car mechanic having a shop around the corner, doesn't mean I should ask my butcher for advice.
    – Bart
    Oct 26, 2013 at 12:31
  • Mike, IMO, this should focus on All Metas. It is something that TeX folks have already done, with Moderation support. Is this an acceptable format on other Metas? Here, MSO, it obviously have been already shot down...
    – brasofilo
    Oct 26, 2013 at 12:33

3 Answers 3


I think this question is...

  • 5
    ... Oscillating Oct 25, 2013 at 20:31
  • 1
    @Bart this answer is supposed to act as a poll. So upvote the comments that you agree with. Oct 25, 2013 at 20:32
  • 1
    @mikeTheLiar Way to abuse the poll by just posting actual comments in the comment section. (FYI, the irony here is intentional)
    – Servy
    Oct 25, 2013 at 20:36
  • 3
    ...likely to solicit unclear debate or spam and should be CW'd to superuser due to a lack of expert experience and too many possible good answers within the scope defined in the help center.
    – user159834
    Oct 25, 2013 at 20:37
  • 1
    This is not constructive... Oct 27, 2013 at 13:16
  • ...at all, anyhow Dec 29, 2015 at 21:47

Why do we need this? SE is the wrong place for polls, and the fact that someone made it work doesn't make it right.

Even if it might "work" that doesn't make it a good thing. Polls are opinion based, have no right answer, and mostly serve as a distraction. I'm surprised that TeX's mods haven't removed that thread already.

As @Servy said, it doesn't improve the site, and it doesn't give anyone a concrete answer.

  • 1
    If you look at the question history it was actually suggested by one off their mods and discussed before it was implemented. meta.tex.stackexchange.com/revisions/1564/1 Oct 25, 2013 at 20:25
  • There were many questions which were polls and I (and the lot of people who voted them up) found them useful. I don't see the problem at all with intentional polls. Dec 29, 2015 at 21:44

I think it's an extreme clever hack for using the software for another purpose of what it was intended. And as I'm reading it, this would be a Meta Tool for some inner statistics that the community wants to make. It is not like we're opening the gates of Shopping Questions on the main sites.

If the specific community agrees it's a valid tool, then why not? Or are the the TeX people doing something illegal for Stack Exchange standards?

PS: seeing the first manifestation of disagreement, I'd like to reinforce that my premises are:

  • it is clever
  • it is valid (as a Meta tool)

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