The rationale behind closing questions as "too broad" is that:

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.

What if we adopt a more specific solution to this problem instead of closing the question?

Just as SE sites display only the first several and most upvoted comments under a question or answer, we could display the first most upvoted answers if indeed there are too many answers to questions deemed broad (the rest of the answers would be hidden underneath a "Show more" heading - Quora does this and it works very well). It also may be the case that question won't actually generate too many answers, which suggests that the decision to close might have been suboptimal.

In both cases, everyone wins: the asker gets to have their question answered, answerers can contribute, nobody feels censored, and the site stays clean.

SO can already grey out answers with many downvotes - example.

UPDATE: at 13+ downvotes and no on-topic answers, I'd be curious to learn what the counter-arguments for this proposal are.

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    I don't understand how you're solving "It really depends too much on the actual problem, use case, available tools, business constraints, programming environment, architecture and so on" by saying "Just allow solutions that use an arbitrary combination of any of those and limit the number of them". Too broad means someone looking for an answer when reading such a question would almost never get a good answer for their problem and even when they do, they would almost never understand it because they read it nor the underlying issues. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Feb 23 '14 at 22:38
  • There are rules, and then there is the reality. I've seem many, many highly upvoted questions closed on SO with the top-voted comment being "Why was this closed?". With all due respect - in some cases those who enforce the rules seem to be disconnected from the reality that numerous users find answers of closed questions useful nevertheless, as evidenced by the upvote counts. How can I convey this better than by linking to specific examples, which will be attacked individually on some flaw or other? – Dan Dascalescu Feb 23 '14 at 23:35
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    By finding a specific example that doesn't have some flaw or another to illustrate this is a positive change that the community should consider. If every closed question you find has such a big flaw maybe the system works after all? – Benjamin Gruenbaum Feb 23 '14 at 23:38
  • @BenjaminGruenbaum: Question deletions are getting out of hand lists plenty of examples. – Dan Dascalescu Feb 24 '14 at 0:26
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    Re edit; it's difficult to argue against it because it somewhat misses the point; we don't want a random selection of parts of a single huge answer. We either want a complete answer or no answer at all – Richard Tingle Feb 24 '14 at 0:40

The whole point of the Too Broad close reason is to cut through the noise. I'm not sure how that's applied across SO, but at Arqade, we use it when questions are so general, that we'd need to write an entire book to answer the question.

What StackExchange tries to do is help the internet at large. Forums don't work so well because there's so much side discussion, hijacking, and generally just beating around the bush. The help gets lost among the noise.

We have a laser focus on the problem, and how to solve it. The point is to help people, clearly and concisely. Questions that are so broad as to require a large block to text to answer it tend to limit the help that can be given. Yes, they can be answered, but anyone looking at the problem after the asker will have trouble gleaning an answer, since they'll have to dig through the large answer to find it. By narrowing the question to a specific problem, it's much easier for future visitors to be helped. Less noise, much greater signal.

  • Agree regarding very long answers. I was talking about "too many possible answers", in which case emphasizing only the top most valuable answers I believe would provide value. – Dan Dascalescu Feb 24 '14 at 2:37
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    That's part of the problem; too many answers is noise. How are we helping people by having so many answers that future visitors don't know which will help them? By narrowing it to a specific scenario, you can ensure that the answer will help you. – fbueckert Feb 24 '14 at 2:39
  • By bubbling the most opvoted X answers to the top (which SE already does) and not showing the rest by default (unless the viewer clicks a "Show more" link). That's what I'm trying to explain in my proposal. Edits to make it clearer would be appreciated. – Dan Dascalescu Feb 24 '14 at 2:41
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    General questions have several different answers, only one of which will help any single person. Just because it's upvoted doesn't mean it's going to help future users at all. That's the problem forums have; they provide suggestions of something that might work. So you trudge through possible solutions instead of the solution. – fbueckert Feb 24 '14 at 2:43

Your Proposed Solution

"Too many possible answers" is not equivalent to "too many answer posts are possible". Whether it's multiple individuals each giving a separate answer in their response, or one individual giving a complete response that contains multiple answers, does not matter. The "... or good answers would be too long for this format" part that you discounted is equally important, as well.

Limiting the response count does not affect this, it is only marginally related; just because the question itself has too many answers doesn't mean it must necessarily have too many responses, it just means that a complete response is potentially long and difficult to write. Your proposal is not really a direct solution to the stated problem you are intending to solve.

Additionally, if a question had many mediocre answers, and you arrived a little later and posted a complete, killer answer, the fact that your answer would not be displayed would be a loss. Your proposal creates an opportunity for damage but does not have a possibility for a helpful impact.

Current Options

In any case, as it stands, SO limits the number of posts displayed on each page. Additionally, you can already choose to sort by top voted. This essentially gives the same effect as what you are proposing, except it allows users to view other pages and also gives the option to view newest posts first. The "page 2" button is equivalent to your "show more" button. It is a superset of your proposed change.

Also, if an answer is accepted, it is displayed at the top.

Root Problem

Your stated root problem is extraneous noise due to poor answers. I personally don't see this and I think it would help if you included a few good examples of where you see this.

For the most part, over time, vote counts on answers will naturally sort them by quality (roughly). I believe you are forgetting that most people have the ability to read through the answers until they find an appropriate one -- when they do, if they upvote it, it will move the answer up in the ranks.


The real best solution is for you to continue making good use of the voting system. If you see a good answer, upvote it. If you see an incorrect answer, leave a comment on it and possibly downvote it. If you see an answer that breaks the site rules, flag it. Consider it part of your responsibility to vote and comment on existing answers in order to improve the overall quality of information for the community as a whole by helping to move "noise" further into the background. If you use the tools that already exist, then it benefits everybody.


Counter-argument: status quo. Affirmative proposal has the burden to provide significance and advantages.

When something is tagged as a "feature-request" downvotes indicate disagreement with the suggested feature (that is just the convention on meta). Although I didn't downvote, I guess the downvotes would indicate there was not any clear advantage described nor a clear proposal of how to implement this.

There is an interesting point to be made about collapsing answers, but doesn't that already happen in the form of pagination? As a result I do not find it too useful to collapse them. Answers which do not answer the question are generally removed.

On the topic of the too broad closure reason, "too many possible answers" can mean many things. This close reason in some ways covers questions which ask for a large variety of answers or for a very large solution. Part of that coverage includes closing help vampire questions.

@Robert Harvey says it very well

"In general, any question which the OP has not demonstrated that they would fully understand the answer without giving them a lengthy tutorial is too broad."

As an answerer, it should not be a requirement to explain every subtopic up to the current topic to the question asker. When that is required, the question is too broad, and there is no reason to post every explanation to every subtopic leading up to the question as that would result in a very large amount of duplication of information, and also a very large amount of noise for those who already understood the subtopics.

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