Take this chef proposal, and note the description:

Proposed Q&A site for professional and expert amateur chefs interested in the more subjective aspects of cooking; this would be to Cooking SE as Programmers SE is to Stack Overflow

It seems like the subjective programming proposal is MASSIVELY popular (has more views per-day than any other proposal by a factor of almost 2). There's also a subjective gaming proposal.

Should we allow this trend to continue, possible resulting in things like a subjective web applications proposal? It seems like almost ANY proposal's users could benefit from having a place to ask subjective questions, seeing how much the subjective programmers proposal took off, how many good questions are asked and closed as subjective, and how many successful blogs and discussion sites there are.

But it seems like having totally different sites for this is wrong, as they would share no more official connection between them than with a gaming and skateboarding proposal. If they could be linked somehow, at the least like Stack Overflow and Server Fault are linked as part of a trilogy, they could both be more prosperous.

Another idea would be having a subjective version of every site (subjective.blah.com, like every site has a meta.blah.com). This would be a great way to link the two, and the separation would still be there as it. Heck we could even do it with the existing trilogy sites, with a 'belongs on subjective' auto-move feature like 'belongs on meta'. It's obvious that people want to ask subjective questions. The issue at hand is how (or if) we choose to enable them to do that with the Stack Exchange model. This is a much more long term issue that will need heavy discussion before any consensus can be reached.

EDIT: I see this question proposed something like this for polls. What I am proposing is a separate dominion for all questions that are valid except for being subjective. Hence every site could have a normal section, a subjective section, and a chat section. This may seem complicated, but IMHO it's a great way to divide up a topic. There would be a place to answer questions, discuss topics, and just talk. As far as I can see this covers every area users would be concerned with, leading to a one-stop site that would provide good organization for all areas of a topic.

Thoughts? (sorry for the big wall of text ;)


7 Answers 7


I don't think it makes sense to automatically have a subjective version of every site because different sites have different intrinsic levels of subjectivity.

In fact, the "Chefs" proposal is a perfect example of an unnecessary subjective site. Most of the questions proposed for that site are actually questions that we handle just fine on Cooking.SE. Cooking is an inherently more subjective topic than programming or network administration. It's more subjective than personal finance and statistical analysis. We expect a certain level of "discussion" to go on. We may walk a fine line between discussion and hard Q&A, but we've been walking it for 73 days now and have pretty much figured out where to draw the lines in the sand.

That said, of course it makes sense to create a subjective sister site when all of the following apply:

  1. The primary site is strictly focused on a meaty technical subject;

  2. The site has reached critical mass in terms of membership - the flow of new users and new questions is self-sustaining without any promotion;

  3. A significant contingent of the membership is hell-bent on talking about the fuzzy areas because they want the audience.

So whenever you see this happening - by all means, go and create a discussion proposal - but don't do it too early or without careful consideration, otherwise your proposal will end up like the Chefs proposal did. Just like their "objective" counterparts, a subjective site needs a seed membership to survive, so if we just automatically create the proposals or worse, throw it up as a separate section on every new SE, they'll just turn into permanent tumbleweed gardens. And in the case of inherently more subjective sites like Cooking or Photography, it'll create endless confusion among the new users, especially users new to the entire SE concept (i.e. not from the trilogy).

I would also expect that if and when the discussion sites succeed, they will be linked to the original sites in the form of migration paths. Technically all Stack Exchange sites are "linked", it's just a question of how linked.

Now I have to address some of the rather obnoxious pro-subjective rants that were posted as answers (quite inappropriately, I might add - that was not what this question was about).

Segregating the subjective and objective sites is important for several reasons:

  1. Reputation. Assuming we don't abuse the community wiki "workaround" (which is horrible for countless reasons that I'd prefer not to rehash here), reputation on a subjective/discussion site means something completely different from reputation on a pure Q&A site. It does still have meaning, but for a discussion site it's an indication of how interesting/entertaining you are, while on a pure Q&A site it's an indication of your actual expertise.

  2. Noise. The biggest problem with discussions on a Q&A site is precisely the reason why subjective proposals/sites like Programmers.SE are so successful; they attract a lot of attention. On a Q&A site, that means that they distract attention from non-discussion questions, questions that are actually going to help somebody get work done. This is monumentally bad for the site's health.

  3. Voting. The way voting works on discussions/polls is different from how it works in pure Q&A. In a pure Q&A site, people vote based on the quality and correctness of the answer; in a discussion/poll, people vote based on agreement or disagreement. Question votes are decided on a Q&A site based on the clarity, conciseness, and completeness of the question; on a discussion/poll site, question votes are awarded based chiefly on entertainment value / originality.

  4. Scope. Programmers.SE isn't just for subjective questions, it's also for questions that are related to programming but not actually programming. The most obvious example on Programmers.SE is development processes - there's a lot of "hard facts" on this topic but it just doesn't fit on Stack Overflow. On a pure discussion site, people are naturally freer to stray a little off topic.

It does not make sense to try to concoct clumsy workarounds for maintaining the discussion/poll questions on the hard Q&A sites. All it does is create more work and more confusion for everyone. Please, stop it - we don't need or want blatant discussion questions on Stack Overflow or any of the other SE sites.

Subjective/discussion/poll questions can do fine when segregated; they simply cannot coexist with pure Q&A without doing any damage.


I remember the old days when stackoverflow didn't have meta, and I remember when Jeff repeatedly said it wasn't needed.

Then my memories take me to when Jeff admitted he was wrong, that not having a meta was contaminating the main site, and that not implementing it sooner was the biggest mistake of his entire professional and personal life (I may be adding a little myself there).

So please, Jeff; remember that when you start status-declining this.

  • programmers.se has some deep problems, though. Not quite the same situation. (We are looking at ways to fix it, there will be a blog post on this soon) Sep 22, 2010 at 8:06


  • [stacksite].com - for the "real" Q&A
  • meta.[stacksite].com - for Q&A about the site itself
  • subjective.[stacksite].com (or discussion.[stacksite].com or forums.[stacksite].com or rainbow-unicorn-waffle-handrawn-circles.[stacksite].com) for all the subjective, discussiony, touchy-feely, soft-issue, poll-ish dreck.

Brilliant! Shove it all into an easily-ignored corner. Because no one has to visit the fuzzy-bunny site if they don't want to.

Tagging is insufficient, more effort, and more strain on the main site's database; a separate site is an excellent solution.

As for diverting google traffic, I don't think that's a realistic concern - if someone is searching for "how does it make you feel when a program compiles the first time" or "do you program better with or without an office cat" then Google has a place to go and the main site is much more focused.

It's a simple, consistent solution.

  • 1
    one teeny-tiny problem: doesn't align with our mission to make the internet better, not WORSE. Therefore, untenable. Sep 22, 2010 at 8:07
  • 4
    @Jeff: you put your kid in a sandbox when you don't want it to dig up your garden, no? Sep 22, 2010 at 11:31
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    @Jeff I contend that this would make it better, by reducing inappropriate noise while simultaneously providing a gathering place for water-cooler-ish discussions. But hey, it's your site! As a consultant, I'm not offended when people ignore my sage advice ;-) Sep 22, 2010 at 21:20
  • 2
    @Jeff - seriously, I don't see how this would make the internet worse, can you help me to understand? Sep 24, 2010 at 14:30
  • True @TobiasKienzler, but you don't give every child a sandbox of their own either
    – Ivo Flipse
    Nov 11, 2011 at 11:03
  • @IvoFlipse hell no, what would be the point of baking sand cakes if no one else is going to eat them? Nov 11, 2011 at 15:21

I loath discussion / poll questions. They really dilute what the main sites are about - questions and high-quality answers.

I would be glad to have a "subjective" site for each main site, except that I'm agraid they would attract all the Google search hits. An important part of SO and friends is the fact that if you hit the site through Google, you have a very good chance of finding a high-quality question and answers. If Google starts picking up the subjective / useless questions and answers, then people may give up before finding the main site.

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    I'm not sure I agree that "subjective" answers aren't high quality or interesting. If you google for a subjective question, you will get a subjective answer. But a good one. Sep 21, 2010 at 18:08
  • @kop: How do you google for a subjective question? If I want to learn how to do security in .net web services, I might look for "web service" security .net. If I want to learn people's opinion about security in .net web services, then I might look for "web service" security .net. Sep 21, 2010 at 18:13
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    It looks like you're talking about 3 different types of questions: subjective, high-quality, and useless. Useless questions won't even be allowed, and subjective and high-quality aren't mutually exclusive. Sep 21, 2010 at 22:58
  • @John 'people's opinion in security about .net' is not a question. Security in .net web services is an EXTREMELY broad question that you can't expect to actually get one answer for. Sep 21, 2010 at 23:00
  • @John: what do you mean how do you google for a subjective question? You google the question you have, such as "Are tabs better than spaces?". Also, for neutral queries such as "web service security .net", which is a really stupid search query which will get a lot of irrelevant results (since it's not a QUESTION a q/a engine such as stack overflow won't rank in the first results), if programmers ranks better than stack overflow it means it's more interesting to the general public, maybe just not for you. But the majority wins. Sep 21, 2010 at 23:08
  • Also, @John, this being a Q/A engine and not a discussion engine, I'm not sure why you want people looking for discussions (for example someone who googles for "web service" security .net is looking for a DISCUSSION) to land on stack overflow. Sep 21, 2010 at 23:10
  • @Kop: my point was that any Google query is as likely to turn up subjective questions as objective questions. The more subjective questions are found, the more difficult it will be to wade through the subjective questions in order to find the objective ones. Google does not have a search term that says "omit subjective questions". Sep 22, 2010 at 0:01
  • @kop: "web service security" is a search I've had much experience with. Many people have used it on MSDN, for instance, where it used to surface content about WSE, instead of content on WCF. Sep 22, 2010 at 0:03
  • @kop: "Are tabs better than spaces" only shows stackoverflow.com/questions/69998/tabs-and-spaces-in-vim from SO. Sep 22, 2010 at 0:05

I don't think subjective poll-type questions are a problem* as long as they're good and we don't drown in them.

One idea which could be used is as follows: you create a 'proposed polls' question: People answer with proposed poll-type questions, and every week (say), the proposer of the top-voted answer gets to ask their question.

I think this has several advantages:

  • caters for the reality of these poll-type questions, rather than ignoring/banishing them
  • thus limiting the amount of frustration, while giving a valid close reason ("propose your question here, if it's considered good enough, it may get through")
  • limits the number, and maintains the 'quality'
  • works with the existing system, no extra development required

(This should probably be a question/suggestion in its own right; if it gets enough support I will consider posting it as such)

*Note that I'm not talking about my 'subjective' opinion on these questions. What I'm saying is that 'objectively', a limited number of sufficiently interesting poll-type questions have been and are accepted.

  • I agree that we would definitely need a good filtering system. Sep 21, 2010 at 21:31

If so many people want to ask subjective questions, why not use the tagging system rather than wall them off?

Failing that, perhaps a fourth place needs to be something along the lines of a twitter feed or an open chat room. Not a discussion board, SE was (I suspect) designed to specifically not compete with forums.

  • A lot of people are going to forget the subjectivity, poll, and forum tags, or use the wrong one. This will produce extra work for the users, and will slow down the website by hindering it from caching search results with altered tags. There is also the issue of the pre-existing backlog, which we will have to wade though until properly tagged. Apr 22, 2013 at 9:58
  • Reading this in 2013, I have to say: What was I thinking? Subjective questions with tags like this would be a terrible idea. Would downvote my own answer if the system allowed it. Apr 22, 2013 at 12:49

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I find subjective questions perfectly fine for SO.

Having a "subjective version" of the site (eg: Programmers.SE) detracts attention from the main site, splits the community and is a generally stupid idea. I abhor the concept, and I also hate to see questions getting closed as S&A on SO.

What is wrong with having S&A question on SO, and have them appropriately tagged so - so people who "loathe" them can just have them on their "ignored" tags?

* Runs for cover *

  • But what about those users who either visit SO looking for specific anaswers, or those who use Google in order to find specific answers? Should they have their time wasted by having to wade through subjective non-answers before they can find answers to their questions? Sep 21, 2010 at 18:10
  • There's no way to simultaneously upvote and downvote an answer - I both agree and disagree with you. Also, there are SE sites where questions that are somewhat subjective are given more leeway. (Not everything is programming!) :) Sep 21, 2010 at 18:11
  • @Neil So where do you agree and disagree with me? Sep 21, 2010 at 18:12
  • @John They can find specific answers just fine, as long as they search for a specific question. If they search for a subjective question, they will obviously get subjective answers. Sep 21, 2010 at 18:13
  • @NullUserExceptionอ_อ - A bit late on my part, but having tags that don't describe the content of the question makes those tags meta-tags - currently discouraged here. But managed subjectivity is a good thing. Apr 22, 2013 at 12:51

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