The concept of stackoverflow is nice. It is great Q&A site on programming where anyone can answer. The main problem I see is that certain questions are looking for subjective answers and are being accepted while others are not.

For example, why would this question be better than this question? One is still open and has nothing to do with programming while the other does and both are classified has being subjective.

In a sense, can a question really have objective answers? I believe that there can be a best possible subjective answer for a question.

If I have this particular problem and someone answers a solution A, another with solution B and so on.. which is better? The community answers that by voting on the solution that it believes it is best for the problem. In a way this is subjective.

One last note, is there a stackoverflow affiliated site that is there for the sole purpose of asking and answering subjectively to programming related questions? If not could there be a need for such a site?

In a way, having a subjective stackoverflow would probably help improving the quality of stackoverflow by having only clear questions with specific answer but that is just my opinion.

With what I understand with the answers below, a question can be subjective as long as it can have really specific answers...


7 Answers 7


In a sense, can a question really have objective answers? I believe that there can be a best possible subjective answer for a question.

Of course. Indeed, every answer can presumably be a best possible answer for someone.

But there are questions designed to limit the total number of answers, and questions designed to maximize them. That book question is a good example of the latter: 188 people may think that Carnegie book is worth reading, but that number is dwarfed by the total number of answers on that page.

IMHO, that question is largely worthless. Book recommendations make good answers to questions looking for information on a specific topic, and are excellent fodder for discussion... But SO isn't a discussion site. If you want to see how well the SO engine works for discussion, poke around here on Meta for a bit - see how many in-depth discussions you can find, and consider how easily they can be followed.

As for that other question you linked to... I don't know what the author was trying to pull, but Stu nailed it - SO is not the place for trolling and fanboism.

  • Agreed that SO is not there for that either.
    – user135501
    Commented Sep 8, 2009 at 5:13
  • This: stackoverflow.com/questions/2203093/… is about as subjective as you can get. Of course this is going to draw in the rep hounds faster than sharks to chum. Isn't there a way to flag subjective threads so they can be quickly evaluated for Community Wiki???
    – IAbstract
    Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 22:05
  • @dboarman: yes! Flag for moderator attention, and enter "should be Community Wiki" (or something to that effect) in the text box.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 5, 2010 at 0:56
  • thx... ;) Of course, this should be done with extreme infrequency as we don't want to inundate the mods with too much work.. :)
    – IAbstract
    Commented Feb 5, 2010 at 1:17

SO is a community driven site. Let's get a little meta here: what is considered subjective is really decided by the community, and thus subjective.

You are right. A complex field like programming usually does not have objective answers to questions. More like answer viewed most fitting or best somewhat democratically by majority.

There is no site for the soul ;-) or for the sole purpose of asking and answering subjective questions. As long as they are programming related (which the community decides upom), there is community wiki (CW) to mark questions as more of a discussion type.

  • Thanks for the typo check there :)
    – user135501
    Commented Sep 8, 2009 at 4:52
  • Is there a need for a subjective.stackoverflow.com?
    – user135501
    Commented Sep 8, 2009 at 4:56
  • @Partial - No there is not. Commented Sep 8, 2009 at 5:51
  • @Diago: I've browsed around on meta.SO and there are a lot of people suggesting the same thing that I did.. sorry if this is a duplicate in any way.
    – user135501
    Commented Sep 9, 2009 at 3:09

Questions are closed for being "subject and argumentative", not merely subjective alone.

Your examples back this up:

Have a look at the answers to these two questions. There is a distinct difference in quality and seriousness with them.

  • But you will have an infinity of answers in any of them and not one that will be better than the other unless it is subjectively decided by someone.
    – user135501
    Commented Sep 8, 2009 at 4:49
  • 1
    And? SO is not expected to reach a final, deterministic state. Questions do not have to have a single, definitive answer. Commented Sep 8, 2009 at 5:12
  • +1 for comment: I thought it needed to be a single definitive answer.
    – user135501
    Commented Sep 8, 2009 at 5:34

I agree with the others regarding properly asked and structured subjective questions.

The unfortunate reality is that subjective questions is the reason most forums fail as it draws the wrong group of users. Subjective and argumentative questions cause major headaches with regards to the type of discussion it generates. Specifically you find that younger less experienced members will get involved in endless this is better then the other arguments, and almost religiously defend there point of view.

This is something especially on SU and SF that we watch for due to the nature of the content.

I don't think there is a need for subjective.stackoverflow.com. It will draw the wrong crowd, and I would be scared to be a moderator on such a site. Leave these type of questions to IRC and other forums where it has been dealt with for the last century.


"In a sense, can a question really have objective answers? I believe that there can be a best possible subjective answer for a question."

That's a good remark. I have posted the following question to SuperUser: What is the lifetime of a typical hard disk?. I don't think that there is an absolute answer to this question. However, I am very interested in the opinion of people who are better informed than me.


Not enough reputation to leave a comment so...

While I agree that this is not a good format for a subjective discussion (what is, really?), there are people on SO who's opinion I value.

However I don't think I'm likely to find many of the users with 50K+ reputation frequenting those forums.

  • 1
    You only need 1 rep on Meta to leave a comment.
    – random
    Commented Apr 8, 2010 at 1:07
  • Doh! Need to use a larger font.
    – user145242
    Commented Apr 8, 2010 at 1:51

There is a gray area. The gray area is defined by the community. Therefore it will move -sometimes significantly - day to day and hour to hour.

Some subjective questions will make it, others won't.

The eternal battle rages on, and all is as it should be.

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