There used to be a very popular question on Stack Overflow called Surprise for a programmer on Birthday, but it got deleted. It had a bunch of suggestions for humorous code snippets and other jokes to put on a programmer's birthday cake, and I was planning to post pictures of the cake I just made with inspiration from some of those suggestions. It seems obvious to me that posting something on Stack Overflow is just going to get deleted, but would it be welcome on this site?

I'm hoping that it is close enough to a programming puzzle and far enough from mindless social fun that it would be tolerated here.

Just to be clear, I want to create a page with a question like, "What are some fun ideas for decorating a programmer's birthday cake?"

If you want to see the content of the old page, it's available on Stack Printer. I also asked a slightly more general version of this question on the main meta site.

  • Just for my education, what are the down votes on this meta question intended to mean? Was the question unclear or inappropriate? Or perhaps rather than answer the meta question with a "no" people chose to just vote it down.
    – Don Kirkby
    May 14, 2011 at 20:16

1 Answer 1


Hi Don. No, a question like that would not be a good fit for Programmers.

More specifically, while it would be technically on topic, it wouldn't be constructive. We try to avoid "list of X" questions that ask for and attract lots of short, equally valid answers.

Let's take a closer look at the guidelines for good subjective questions:

1) inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.

Probably not, but I could see some answers explaining what they're about. I'd expect those to be exceptions, though.

2) tend to have long, not short, answers.

Highly unlikely.

3) have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.

Sure, in the sense that it's hard to argue about cake.

4) invite sharing experiences over opinions.

You could invite others to only suggest cakes they've seen or eaten themselves, but that's neither enforceable nor practical, all things considered.

5) insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.

There are no facts or references that could back up an opinion along the lines of "I think this would make a great cake for a programmer".

6) are more than just mindless social fun.

It may not be mindless, but the proposed question is the very definition of social fun.

So out of 6 guidelines, this question would only fit #3 for sure.

Relevant FAQ sections:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page. To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite __?”


If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about __”, then you should not be asking here.

  • 1
    +1 Great answer. I am bookmarking this one.
    – jmort253
    May 14, 2011 at 7:06
  • 1
    I don't like cake. Prefer pie. Would argue.
    – Shog9
    May 14, 2011 at 15:00
  • Thanks for the thoughtful answer.
    – Don Kirkby
    May 14, 2011 at 20:11
  • To add on to Anna's answer, a good guideline to answer questions like these yourself is found on the "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective" blog post (see main site's faq). Basically, if the question cannot be unique to the site users' profession, it's not a good question. Example: "What is a favorite food 'for programmers'?", "What is the 'programmer's' average workday length?" If you removed the "programmer" from the question, it would no longer be unique to the profession.
    – Jared
    May 17, 2011 at 0:43

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