The stackoverflow FAQ says all questions should be:

Programming questions, of course! As long as your question is:

  • detailed and specific written
  • clearly and simply of interest to at
  • least one other programmer somewhere

... it is welcome here. No question is too trivial or too "newbie". Oh yes, and it should be about programming. You know, with a computer.

But later it constrains that with:

Avoid asking questions that are subjective, argumentative, or require extended discussion. This is a place for questions that can be answered!

And even later in a deeper discussion under why questions should be closed, one reason is:

Not a real question: Real questions expect facts and not opinions as answers.

Thus, the site's mandate appears to be to answer all programming questions if and only if the answer to those questions can be entirely composed of facts and not opinion. This type of fact-based approach is designed to avoid those common repetitive opinionated (silly) arguments, but does it not also stifle legitimate questions as well?

  • There are many legitimate questions that can't be asked on StackOverflow. I think that chat will fix this.
    – Casebash
    Commented Aug 4, 2010 at 7:27

6 Answers 6


What it's attempting to require is that a problem/question can be looked at objectively and the solutions can be measured and compared to each other.

In other words, you may have an opinion on a programming topic, but if you can't back it up with good, relevant, objective reasons, then it's really a second class answer to those who can back them up.

So it's a mandate that tries to steer questions away from subjects that can't be measured and objectively evaluated.



I think thats legalese for "Don't be a tool and start Holy Wars"

Which web dev framework is best?

Why can't linux devs write intuitive interfaces?

Is Coke or Mountain Dew better for coding at 3AM?

A newb can't be expect to always KNOW what can be answered factually.

What is the correct way to prevent a link from processing after an onclick event?

There is no "correct," there are best practices, but not everyone knows them. Answering with what you think is correct is the best you can do.

With any luck, if there is a better answer someone will post it and you'll get to learn something too.

  • +1 But one of your "holy war" examples is different from the others. "Which web dev framework is best?" The correct answer is not "there is no answer, subjective" but "it depends". Most of all it depends on the people who will do the project. Joel posted about this long ago. It's actually an important insight and therefore "it depends" with some explanation is a helpful answer.
    – MarkJ
    Commented Aug 4, 2010 at 10:18
  • If framed the way Joel did "Which X is better for Z, and why?" then it (probably) becomes a valid and valuable question... I didn't frame it that way... but that is what I was saying in my second point, that you can validly ask those questions as someone who doesn't know better, and it isn't trolling.
    – OhkaBaka
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 17:22

It does seem a little strange because, if it was enforced as you stated then yes it would stifle legitimate questions. However, subjective questions are allowed and are usually tagged with 'subjective', just as this question is :)

New ideas often require debate and an expression of opinions before they can become accepted by the masses. Take the debate on checked and unchecked exceptions in Java as an example.


There are a lot of questions on here that aren't necessarily fact-based, but more along the lines of best practices or process/organization questions.

I'd say they are legitimate questions that lead to legitimate (and often interesting) discussions.


FAQ stands for "Frequently Asked Questions", not "Rigidly Enforced Guidelines"; take it with a block of salt


I recently wrote a paper on "The art of teaching" where i actually take up a some programming and how it is to be spoon feed with answers.

Even if we are not talking about programming you should never give just an answer to a simple or not so simple question, always provide a good solution and a lot of information with it. Even if it's just a google link, might help to the asker how to use it.

You can read what i wrote on fekberg.wordpress.com

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