Stuff like polls, recommendations based on subjective constraints, puzzles, webcomics etc. do not belong on the serious main SE sites, where professionals should be considered at work and having just a few spare minutes ("code's compiling") to answer questions, so they should not be distracted by such things. However, I'd also like to have a home for these things still using the SE engine. For the reason I mentioned before, this needs to be a separate place though. Let's call it four.[sitename-here].com.

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    Hey, while we're at it we could implement listofx.stackoverflow.com, toolocalized.stackoverflow.com and notarealquestion.stackoverflow.com! All problems solved!
    – Andy E
    Commented Jul 16, 2010 at 10:08
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    @Andy E's head: one place for all should really suffice. Just a "dump the too subjectives here" Commented Jul 16, 2010 at 10:10
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    @Tobias: Approaching it from a "dump" perspective isn't going to gain any traction. These posts need a place to live rather than one in which to be thrown away. Personally, I'm not sure why some are trying to force that into the SE engine.
    – Gnome
    Commented Oct 4, 2010 at 9:07
  • @Roger: I have tuned this feature-request since I wrote that comment. I agree creating a dump is the wrong approach, but for some sites (e.g. gaming) this would really be helpful. Commented Oct 5, 2010 at 7:11
  • Would there be enough polls? Commented Nov 3, 2010 at 5:40
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    @muntoo: no, and that's why extended this proposal to include recommendations and maybe also puzzles and fun-stuff that would distract when posted on the main SE while it were still nice to have around... Commented Nov 3, 2010 at 6:10
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    @Tobias As long as there's free cheese along with the puzzles, I vote "YES!" Commented Nov 3, 2010 at 22:45
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    I agree...and it would actually be the 5th place, Chat was the 4th - I believe. Regardless, I would like to have another SE area, the 5th dimension or 4th...where more subjective materials can be placed, Polling, comics, and something really big - team recruitment for projects, open source, game work, etc. The sites that have been doing this are changing formats and appear to be dropping the Help Wanted section. This is different than CV job recruitment.
    – IAbstract
    Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 16:14
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    @IAbstract Chat was built on the principle of the third place. What did you consider to have been the 3rd place?
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 18:15
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    @Grace: I think I was miscounting...
    – IAbstract
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 18:37
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    @gnat Not really, I'm specifically asking about using the SE format even for the subjective part Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 8:23
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    @TobiasKienzler feature to retract CV is implemented since Jul 15 '13
    – gnat
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 10:57
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    Some alternatives: opinions.[sitename].com, discussion.[sitename].com, subjective.[sitename].com, extended.[sitename].com, alternative.[sitename].com, broader.[sitename].com, relaxed.[sitename].com. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 10:11
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    Why "four" / "fourth place"? Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 17:35
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    @GeoffreyHale Back then chat was introduced as "the third place" (see also this comment, so my logical conclusion was that the suggested site would be the fourth, and lacking a better idea for a name (subjective-polling-recomendation-stuff.[site] sounded stupid...) Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 17:17

8 Answers 8


I couldn't agree more. In particular, asking for product recommendations, rather than asking about specific products, is a recurring theme in many SE-2.0 sites, and controversial in many of them. Having a dedicated fourth place can be the perfect solution to satisfy both the fiercest opposers and the most ardent supporters for these questions.

Jeff's answer hints that his proposed solution is basically to create a parallel website for each of the existing ones. programmers.se is stackoverflow.com's parallel, and indeed there's also an area51 suggestion for a gaming.se's parallel.

One of the nicest things with creating a parallel site is that questions can be automatically migrated with the off-topic migration option; but on the other hand I think this trend is bad for the community at large, at the very least because it creates a different SE-2.0 site which addresses precisely the same crowd, and that can needlessly fracture the community. I've discussed this at length in a meta answer on gaming.se.

Do we really want to see a semi-subjective parallel SE created for each SE that becomes popular enough? Seems to me that having a specialized 4th place is a far more elegant and healthy solution. It does have its own problems, I admit, at the very least meaning that Google results will start showing semi-subjective questions under the ostensibly-objective stackexchange.com domain; but on the other hand that's exactly what is going on now with programmers.se.

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    as programmers shows us, even that solution is awkward because we still have rules about what a constructive subjective question is, and the people who support this seem to want a "no rules anything goes" philosophy that we don't believe in. Commented Jan 15, 2011 at 8:21
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    @Jeff I don't believe in "anything goes" either, and I don't claim that stackexchange should simply contain anything - there are other websites out there. I understand that some questions are purged from programmers.se as well. But you can't deny that in general programmers is far more subjective than SO. I think that this mythical 4th place should try to be similar to programmers.se - i.e. a place for questions that in essence lack an objective answer, such as requests for recommendations, but still a Q&A site rejecting general discussions, and rejecting "bad subjective" questions.
    – Oak
    Commented Jan 15, 2011 at 8:31
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    See also slant.co which is highly relevant Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 20:22
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    @JeffAtwood the slant resource is helpful. I do, however, keep finding myself turning to SO and other SEs for highly specific recommendations. It doesn't seem outrageous to ask for recommendations that are long-tailish: discussion on how to integrate system X with system Y on platform Z. Usually I am in this position because there are many resources on systems X,Y,Z, and I don't yet know enough about them to effectively root through the possible results. A response that says google term A, would, in this case, be useful!
    – Ben
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 21:18
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    I think the real problem with this is that by closing the questions it actually makes them more worthless. Honestly, I don't see why "debatable" is so awful. The whole point of voting on answers is to take something debatable and let the community decide what is correct. What I would like to see is another site that doesn't allow answers to be accepted, since the questions are subjective and often time-sensitive.
    – twiz
    Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 6:10
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    @twiz letting the community decide what is correct may actually yield unpleasant results such as creationism and anti vaccine Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 4:44
  • Leave them merged into the main exchange. Mandate a tag of "Opinion-sought" show them shaded in pink on search results so that people's eyes can slide past them. Add search capabilities for not tagged X e.g. -opinion-sought. Mandate requiremets for questions: miminum length, what tried, what really looking for. Mandate requirements for answers: Must compare at least 2 products, must justify answers. A thoughtful opinion is valuable. Commented Nov 25, 2016 at 14:56
  • for the languages SE pools are really important !!! languages have rules but in the end they are modified by communities so sharing opinions about it can help other people out !, like please kill the inclusive language !
    – Mike
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 13:28
  • I notice that SE considers a poll to be a low quality question. And yet, within any community, learning what the consensus is on the way that members view an idea or how they use a product may be very insightful. Here is one example: In order to learn the makeup of a community I might wish to know how many people use off-the-shelf commercial parts or products compared to the percentage of those who create their own, or contract for unique custom parts or entire products. This would be especially true in a group that is often discussing theory and practice within a discipline. Commented May 28, 2020 at 18:57

This is a very bad idea, let me explain why...

Story Time

In the beginning people had questions and were looking for answers. So these people went to forums and mailing lists to find these answers from the experts. The system was imperfect though, some might say broken; questions were frequently repeated, it was difficult to know what the answer to a question was, and no one knew who to trust. Now moderators and Karma systems worked hard to correct these problems, but the people cried out: We want a better system!

So a man named Jeff teamed up with a man named Joel and they designed a new system. Where forums had been designed for people having a conversation, Jeff and Joel designed a system for Q&A. Drawing on their knowledge of of Q&A's, search engines and human behavior on the internet, the worked hard to create a system where people could find the answers to their questions. They emphasized good answers "floating," reputation and distinguishing between questions, comments and answers.

And all was good... until some people wanted to start using this software for something other than Q&A.

The Problem

My endearing story aside, the StackExchange Engine is a very bad tool to use for things like: Recommendations and Polling (I'm ignoring comics and chatting for the moment). It suffers from a very large number of problems which have been enumerated before. A well designed recommendation system would profile characteristics and similarities and try to determine the relationships between them. This is very much at odds with a system designed to solve "needle in the hay stack" style problem. Instead of selecting the "right" answer, a recommendation wants to absorb "what" the relationship between A and B is, not the strength. While many people seem to think that the voting system will float the "best" recommendation, the reality is that it will float the "most popular" recommendation, not the one most related. What's worse, all those other recommendations don't gain the knowledge of "how" they are related, only the magnitude of that relationship.

If I were to design a recommendation engine based on crowd sourcing, I wouldn't index based on people looking for recommendations, I'd index based on discrete things (for example, in a video game recommendation engine I'd index on Video Games). From there I'd want users to assign characteristics that the games share: Metal Gear Solid is like Arkham Asylum because both are Stealth games. This way people don't see one and think they're both games about Batman. Finally, I wouldn't want to assign reputation to people based on agreement, but rather have a metric of how close one user's "taste" is to another user. Since the quality of a given person's taste isn't an objective value, similarity in taste is more important than correctness.

Ultimately the StackExchange Engine lacks the qualities of a good Recommendation Engine. It is designed to find the "correct" answer, a meaningless term when considering Recommendations have more than one correct answer and that they are correct in differing ways. Using SE for these things is like using Forums for Q&A, or using Microsoft Word to do a Spreadsheet: Just Plain Wrong.

So let's not repeat the same mistake our predecessors did, and try to abuse the engine into handling this content. I realize when you have a good hammer, how everything looks like nails, but let's try and use the right tool for the job here.

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    – badp
    Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 14:52
  • @badp I upvoted him initially, but I feel this deserves a more fully explanation than just: No.
    – tzenes
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 1:12
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    You make some very good points there. I guess you're right - Jeff&Joel made such a good hammer that it'd easily be able to drive screws... It's just, this hammer seems better than all screwdrivers I've seen so far Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 10:37
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    Interesting point about recommendation engines, but while not ideal, StackExchange still works very well for a lot of those poll questions that are supposedly "low value"
    – Casebash
    Commented Apr 7, 2012 at 1:06
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    @Casebash as we've learned that's only true for very small values of "well." The truth is, it's pretty bad for poll questions where the number of answers exceeds a handful (or maybe 2). The answers are too large, and people don't scroll very far; the highest voted answers tend to received the most vote; constant edits can change an answer from what a voter supports to something else; there are no summaries so you can see percentages. It's actually a pretty poor engine for polling questions...
    – tzenes
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 1:04
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    Very good points. Your sentence about having a metric of how close one user's "taste" is to another's reminds me of Netflix movie recommendations, which seem to be surprisingly accurate. They include an "average rating" for the movie, and also their best guess for what your rating will be when you see the movie. But yes, recommendation engines should be custom built according to what is being recommended. I could see a market for a general "recommendations engine" website, community-based like stackexchange...but that's far from the purpose of this site.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 3:45

Stuff like polls, recommendations based on subjective constraints, puzzles, webcomics etc

If this is really what you want, you need to do it on another engine. Ours simply cannot support these kinds of frivolous, pure entertainment based content.

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    +1 because I believe there should be some limit. Puzzles and webcomics are not exactly Q&A. Asking for recommendations based on personal experience, however, are questions - just subjective ones.
    – Oak
    Commented Jan 15, 2011 at 8:50
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    I guess you and @Oak are right, there must be a limit. So what about only recommendations? E.g. hardware.superuser.com and [email protected]. I mean the game recommendation proposal would basically be such a thing, it's just a question of domain naming... Commented Jan 16, 2011 at 9:07
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    I agree about puzzles and webcomics being off-scope, but many of the polls are far from entertainment based questions and rather some of the most popular and useful questions on the whole site.
    – Casebash
    Commented Apr 7, 2012 at 1:07
  • I agree that sometimes poll-based questions are some of the most useful on the site. I'd prefer not to see puzzles and webcomics anywhere. Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 1:21
  • I don't see how recommendations are inherently frivolous or purely of entertainment value. Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 23:28
  • I don't see how recommendations are out of the scope of this engine. There are already recommendation sites. There were a lot of recommendation polls in SO and they had a lot of upvotes. Users found them useful. Deleting them, instead of just migrating them or enabling such sites (when there were users who found them useful) is opposed to the spirit of a community-driven... community. Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 3:48
  • I, um, don't think recommendations are "pure entertainment based", but they certainly do need a different structure, and therefore engine.
    – SamB
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 20:59
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    Interestingly enough, we now have SEs for puzzles and recommendations.
    – NPN328
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 6:54

Within the Stack Exchange network there have been some recommendations sites proposed, one in beta and one graduated:

If they had all survived, they would be the places to ask many of the recommendation questions that we see users try to ask on other sites. However it now looks like software and hardware are likely to be the only recommendation sites for the foreseeable future.

I think encouraging users to use the appropriate SE recommendation sites for those questions, and closing recommendation questions on all non Recommendation sites is the correct action. When their askers request migration to the recommendation sites, from the sites that I moderate, I do that too.

The Software Recommendations site works because its users are very strict about how questions can be asked (and answered). Non-recommendations sites struggle to have the patience to propose and apply guidelines that can shape recommendations into a form where they are not routinely closed for being too broad or unclear.

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    I've used the Software recommendations site. The problem is that it is too broad. If I want recommendations on command line graphics programs, I want to ask people who do graphics. Most of them don't read SR. If I want web log analysis I want to ask webmasters. Most of them don't read SR. If I'm looking for a Mac program, I want to ask on askdifferent. Etc. My signal is your noise. Even on the sites I use on a frequent basis, only a few percent of the posts are relevant. Without that tight focus SR is too noisy to browse. Commented Nov 25, 2016 at 15:02
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    @Ðаn If you think that, then just try to convince your communit(y/ies) to adopt that as a site-specific protocol. I suspect that you will see questions with such tags attract a lot of downvotes and votes for closing as too broad or unclear, whereas as the same question asked on Software Recommendations or Hardware Recommendations is likely to attract a lot of upvotes (and answers).
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 22:16
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    @Ðаn If a community does not want recommendations questions to be in scope (as defined by its Meta) then I think you will have an uphill battle getting them to stay open there. I think it is far better to go with the flow and post them at the site(s) that want them and have designed their scope and guidelines to accommodate them.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 22:27
  • @Ðаn You should take that up with Jeff, which I can see you are trying to do. For SE's current attitude to recommendation sites see discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/24050/… which explains why Software (and to a lesser degree Hardware) Recommendations can be considered an exception. If I really wanted a software recommendation, and had sought one unsuccessfully at Software Recommendations, then I would follow my advice at meta.stackexchange.com/a/291573/215590.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 22:43

Wouldn't Reddit be the perfect place for things like this? Stack Exchange is for Q&A, not just some other forum.

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    Reddit has things like this. What I'm missing there are the things that make SE so awesome, e.g. edit( suggestion)s such that formerly great answers can be updated by others Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 7:42
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    @TobiasKienzler If these alternative sites are really for subjective stuff, wouldn't it be sort of rude to edit someone's opinion into something else?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 13:56
  • @ColleenV That's why I said subjective-ish ;) I still wouldn't want to see whole essays for example, where indeed an edit would rather be rude. But it's difficult to draw a line, and I wouldn't say I'm as convinced of such a "fourth place" as I was seven years ago. I still think it'd have its benefits, though... Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 14:51
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    @TobiasKienzler I get that this is coming back to haunt you a bit, but it's new to me :) I think that it needs to be made more clear in the original post how the SE model would provide a better way to discuss these things than other sites like Reddit. Frankly, I like SE and wouldn't mind if they started up alternatives to YouTube, Twitch, Reddit, et. al. so I could spend almost all of my Internet time here, but it seems like a lot to ask lol.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 16:17
  • @ColleenV Now we're talking - don't forget a (finally) viable alternative to Facebook 😁 Hm, I'll think about it a bit. But please feel free to add your own suggestions as answer. Actually it's quite interesting to be reminded of my own opinions from years ago Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 20:01

I think Chat, the third place, would work fine for this. There just needs to be a way to persist threads and draw people's attention to them. You could use an individual room for each thread, but I think this would get cumbersome. Maybe they could create a way for someone to start a thread, label it with a question, and then have a list on the side of questions that are out there, and a way to filter to the question. Of course, this would be a little complicated and take some work to implement.

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    Chat? I'd really prefer something more organized and less time-sensitive. Plus I like being able to vote and view sorted by votes... Your modifications suggest part of it, but how different would it then be from the basic SE principle? Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 8:05
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    @Tobias, the problem is that the basic SE principles don't work well for subjectivy stuff. Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 16:00
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    true, but something like hardware recommendation has one answer that the OP will have decided on and yet it is subjective. Same goes for "What game shall I play on my LAN party (+details of course)?" etc. And the votes give a nice indication of the communities preferences despite the fact that there may be not one single correct answer Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 8:37
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    That happens even for technical questions. Imagine this: How can I solve passing non-sensitive Django settings data to my AngularJS config calls? After banging some time my head to figure how to create a good component for that, and failing several times, I could have posted the question in SO (in fact I was about to post that and, instead, I could narrow the problem a bit more). I figured several different ways to do that, and chose one of them. Imagine if users gave me the different possible answers I figured to my problem. I'd choose one of them: that choice would be subjecive. Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 22:55

"stupidquestion.stackexchange.com" to add your own "dumb question"-tag to well-answered precise questions to make search engines more powerfull. And there will be a massive need for merging questions (might be difficult though).

Loosely couple questions and answers. The best voted question is the "top question" for an answer and has a special icon or something...

The "privileged" people on Stack Exchange would then be able to merge questions based on their fields of interest, when a question is voted down in order to "save" the question.

In reverse, you can also have different qualities of answers, so the best answer wins. You can search by question or answers, so you can untangle the search engine, but somehow link them together... Oh I got it, it would be a many-to-many relationship in a relational database...

... So you could give the "Match" a separate rating then...


SO is not the place for puzzles or commics. At least SE is not. Maybe 4 would be a good place. Making a separate site for subjective questions seems to be too much. Some subjectivity is not a bad thing.

@Jeff is right, SE sites are not designed for polls or recommendations. However, although imperfect, some subjective questions provide great value. Calling subjective questions frivolous seems a bit harsh.

On StackExchange, any question dealing with pros and cons of different IDEs is squashed with a fury, but they often have tens of thousands of views. Someone apparently thinks that they are helpful. Isn't that the point?

Go ahead and vote me down for thinking that subjective has a place.


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