On Programmers.SE, the subjective and argumentative close reason has been replaced with not constructive:

Not constructive

This question does not meet enough of our six guidelines for constructive subjective questions.

It's clear, links to a resource describing what constructive means in the context of Stack Exchange, and fits the evolving nature of Stack Exchange which allows for very specific kinds of subjective questions.

Compare to the current subjective and argumentative close reason on all other Stack Exchange sites:

Subjective and argumentative

It's impossible to objectively answer this question; questions of this type are too open ended and usually lead to confrontation and argument.

Objectiveness isn't the bar that needs to be reached: most Stack Exchange sites (including Stack Overflow) allow for some measure of a subjective question as long as it roughly conforms to the guidelines in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. And open-endedness and leads to confrontation and argument are only two ways a subjective question can be bad.

So for clarity's sake, can the not constructive close reason replace subjective and argumentative on all sites?

  • 6
    Some SE sites don't want subjective/argumentative questions, though.
    – Charles
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 3:59
  • It seems to me that the good subjective questions on SO are the ones that should be migrated to PSE. The bad subjective questions (i.e., those that don't meet those guidelines) are the ones that should be closed with prejudice, on either site. Commented May 1, 2011 at 5:04
  • @Cody Even if one concedes that all subjective questions should be banned on SO because Programmers.SE exists (which I wouldn't, as the difference between SO and Programmers.SE isn't merely an objective/subjective distinction), there are 40+ other SE sites this change would affect.
    – user149432
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 5:43
  • 2
    Indeed, I'd say that probably most SE sites would probably allow subjective questions.
    – Gabe
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 12:47
  • 2
    Honestly if I'm considering either of those two close reasons, I don't care what the reasons called as long as it ends up closed
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 17:30
  • @Charles - No site wants argumentative questions. But some sites do want subjective questions that are asked objectively and that meet the 6 guidelines for good subjective questions.
    – jmort253
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 17:59

6 Answers 6


Done, but the reason differs slightly on Programmers:

not constructive

This question does not meet enough of our six guidelines for constructive subjective questions. All questions should be practical, answerable, and of some educational value to the greater community. Chatty, open-ended discussion questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

Everywhere else it is …

not constructive

This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.


I disagree. I have no idea what “not constructive” means — in my experience, it usually means whatever the person saying it dislikes. While reading the treatise on constructive subjective questions helps, it requires clicking on a link, reading a whole blog post (I click on the list, and start reading, and by the time I get to those promised six guidelines, assuming I haven't given up already, I've forgotten what I was looking for), and understanding what it all means in the context of closing that question.

On the other hand, “subjective and argumentative” is something I understand straight away, and the subtitle emphasizes what's bad about subjective and argumentative: leading to “confrontation and argument”.

Ok, at that point there are people who stop reading at “subjective” and close good subjective questions. But in my experience this is rare, and the ones who do are often aware of all that good/bad subjective stuff and clamping down on all subjective questions. Changing the wording would do nothing for this case, and hurt the majority of users.

Please do not replace a clear close reason by an incomprehensible one.

Seriously, as a moderator, I don't want to have to explain a squillion times “oh, that constructive close reason? It just means we don't want questions that lead to arguments.”.

I'll try to express myself differently, since I'm clearly not getting across. I find the current wording of the close dialog for that reason sufficient, I don't need any external reference to understand it. If the close reason was changed to “not constructive”, I would need to have the whole blog post included in the close dialog. Not linked to, but included, because it's necessary reading. Therefore: if you make “not constructive” a close reason, include the whole blog post in the close dialog as well.

  • 2
    This is so disingenuous it borders on willful ignorance. As a moderator, you don't understand anything about what's discussed in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective? Really?
    – user149432
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 17:18
  • @MarkTrapp: I understand it, as you well know. I don't want to have to explain it again and again, to people who would have understood “subjective and argumentative” just fine. The blog posts are just for the 1% percent of cases where that's not enough. Commented May 1, 2011 at 17:22
  • @Gilles How is that any different than linking to the FAQ regarding off-topic reasons? The FAQ links to the six guidelines as well.
    – user149432
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 17:26
  • Just to provide a little bit of context, as you might not be aware of how little a problem this would be on SciFi.SE: there have been 7 closed questions in the last 30 days, only one of which was closed as subjective and argumentative. That sole S&A question was closed by members of the community, not moderators. It doesn't seem like you, as a moderator, would have to explain it very often (or at all).
    – user149432
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 17:43
  • @Mark: You know, I have absolutely no idea whether [Which of the sci-fi right prediction was “most” ahead of its time? [closed]](scifi.stackexchange.com/q/2884) is a “constructive” question. Whereas I agree with characterizing it as “subjective and argumentative”: whether a work predicted something is subjective, and trying to answer that question is likely to lead to arguments as to whether such or such an example meets the requirement. Commented May 1, 2011 at 17:51
  • 2
    As a moderator I content myself with "Real questions have answers, not items or ideas or opinions.", which is a pretty damn objective guideline; it also matches a great lot of bad subjective questions. The remainder can be handled by the community.
    – badp
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 18:18
  • @badp: In my experience on scifi.SE, “real questions have answers, not items” has not helped at all against questions asking for lists of works (which are our biggest close fodder). Askers say they just want to know whether an example exist, or expect an answer with links to lists — but what happens in practice is one-example-per-answer, so the problem isn't directly with the question but with the way people answer. Commented May 1, 2011 at 19:11

Yes. Please.

Warning: the following two paragraphs from the perspective of the distracted bystander. I might be off on details, or on the whole, or on both. Somehow what follows still holds. :P

When Programmers was announced as the "toilet bowl" of Stack Exchange I really thought the site had no future. In the first week the site looked really bleak, like a pressure valve being opened allowing people to ask all the not so great question they always wanted to ask but couldn't.

Then, the "six guideline" blog post was published and enforced and Programmers began to really work. The site launched and still gives answers to subjective questions inside the Stack Exchange engine.

And the universe failed to end.

So — Stack Exchange can house good subjective questions and do so successfully. The question, then, becomes — should it?

Well, why should it not? What's wrong with good subjective questions? They fit in the model: they're questions that can be answered; they're not lists to be filled in with items to vote on; they're not polls asking your favourite color of databases*; etc.

If Stack Overflow wants to continue disallowing subjective questions, that's its community's decision and I'm not here to discuss it. For the health of the remainder of the network however, I think it's necessary to embrace subjective questions.

Do we need a -ers version of every site for subjective questions? I think not; I think having (say) Gaming and Gamers competing for traffic, users and attention is just plain dumb. The Area51 precedent supports this idea.

I've always assumed the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and Real Questions Have Answers blog posts were a network-wide green light for subjective questions, but just in case they weren't:

Yes — Stack Exchange should allow good subjective questions by default. Please have the "Not constructive" close reason replace "Subjective and argumentative". Although I feel it then becomes a full subset of "Not A Real Question".

* Although this one has one obviously correct answer.

  • You know, I read your answer, and I understand that “subjective and argumentative” is a good wording for the close reason — subjective is fine, argumentative is the problem. And then I read your first word, and I don't see the connection with the rest of the post. Commented May 1, 2011 at 18:27
  • @Gilles The problem is too many people read "subjective and argumentative" as "This is the close reason for subjective questions and argumentative questions" given the Stack Overflow legacy of disallowing good subjective questions. I don't care what's the wording of the close reason; I care about making it extra clear that good subjective questions are allowed and encouraged. The Not Constructive one links to the guidelines, and is thus superior.
    – badp
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 18:29

Instead of changing the reason from subjective and argumentative, why not change it to:

argumentative or not constructive

Now you've taken care of the people that want to use the not constructive close reason as well as the people who won't understand what that means by also adding argumentative.

After all, this is really what we're trying to prevent. We're trying to prevent dealing with the questions that lead to short, unhelpful answers, or the types of questions that ignite arguments in the community.

So if we're worried about people not understanding the close reason, let's use wordings that's easy to understand by using the KISS principle.

  • I can live with that (and then if someone asks me what “not constructive” means, I'd just tell them to ignore that part). Commented May 1, 2011 at 18:28
  • The set of questions that are not constructive is a super-set of the questions that are argumentative. It places undue weight on one aspect of bad subjective questions. Honestly, every little minute detail doesn't need to be in the close reason: the FAQ talks about it, the close reason links to a whole blog post talking about it, and the community can use their best judgement.
    – user149432
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 18:49

I agree. At first I was going to say that I'd rather add "not constructive" to "subjective and argumentative" instead of replacing the latter, but then it occurred to me that questions that'd be confrontational and argumentative would likely at least fail guideline #3: "Great subjective questions have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.", if not others as well.


Great, more subjective reasons for abruptly closing questions! I fully disagree. Moderation needs to be transparent and based on clear rules, not subjective concepts like "constructiveness".

  • 1
    It's not a subjective concept. The close reason links to clearly defined guidelines.
    – user149432
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 17:24
  • 1
    @Mark: Include the guidelines in the close dialog instead of merely linking to them, and I'll withdraw my objection on clarity. Commented May 1, 2011 at 17:58
  • I think it's very easy to tell if something is constructive or not. There are certain keywords that you see in questions that give it away, like "Do you agree?". That's a dead ringer for a not constructive question, plain and simple.
    – jmort253
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 18:07

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