I'm not saying my question was the best in the world, or even the worded in the best way, but I don't think it deserved to be closed:


Mark Trapp, you can see, tells me in a comment that the six guidelines for subjective questions applies to objective questions, as well. In fact, he interprets the rule to mean that we're not allowed to ask any questions unless we have a real-life situation to solve. He implies that seeking knowledge out of pure curiosity is forbidden.

The answer to my question would have no opinion involved, only the satisfaction of the four criteria I laid out, so it's not subjective. It definitely has an answer in the form of a list. Do the guidelines for subjective questions really apply to objective questions, too?

Jeff Atwood seems to make the distinction in a comment on this Meta post, but maybe not all moderators are in agreement?

I'm really trying to figure out why my question was closed, here. Not necessarily just because of that one question (although I am genuinely interested in it), but for future questions, as well. I'd appreciate any help.

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    Note that two other community members thought that the question should be closed to - not just a single moderator. – ChrisF Mod Jun 1 '11 at 15:59
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    @chrisf Yes, I know that. Only one of them left a comment, though, trying to explain things to me. I wasn't trying to place the sole blame on him. – arussell84 Jun 1 '11 at 16:02
  • @arussel84 You seem to have a concrete opinion that the question should not have been closed, you should write an answer explaining your thinking and put all relevant references (JeffAtwood's post) there. This way people can upvote / downvote your answer, and not your question (which I think is valid enough to be discussed and shouldn't get downvoted). I'm only suggesting this because it seems that you've already formulated an opinion, if that's not true please ignore me. – yannis Jun 1 '11 at 17:45
  • @yannis-rizos Good point; I'll do that. – arussell84 Jun 1 '11 at 17:50

Mark, in his comment, provides a straight quote from the FAQ, actually the first paragraph of the section What kind of questions should I not ask here?, in which the highlighted

practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face

part is exactly why knowledge out of pure curiosity is forbidden. To say that he voted to close based on some personal interpretation is unfair.

The core problem of your question is that answers are only useful to you, it is highly unlikely that anyone else but you will benefit from it. Instead of asking for a list without defining a reason for it, you could edit your question and tell us why these exact features are important to you, what is the underlying challenge you are facing, so that when we face a similar challenge we too can benefit from your question and its answers.

Please read the FAQ carefully, if you have any objections by all means do use meta to raise them and let the community decide. But until the community decides differently, the FAQ stands as is.

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    You both quote that line out of context. I'm pretty sure that rule applies only to subjective questions, at least the way it's worded in the FAQ. If it's possible to edit a closed question, I'll edit it with more background information, so hopefully it will be easier for others to benefit from it, but the core reason will still be pure curiosity. – arussell84 Jun 1 '11 at 17:16
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    @arussel84 The section is titled "What kind of questions should I not ask here?" not "What subjective questions should I not ask here?", plain an simple. Furthermore it's one of the very little highlighted passages, that usually signifies that although everything in the faq is important, these particular passages are very important, and to me that tells me that it applies to all questions. – yannis Jun 1 '11 at 17:34
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    @yannis-rizos That seems to be a technicality to me. I certainly hope that I'm in violation of the "letter" of this particular segment rather than the "spirit." Otherwise, the rule seems just plain seems unreasonable to me. Regardless, this isn't the final reason given for my question's closing. If my question were closed for not being based on a real-world problem, it should say that, rather than not following enough of the six guidelines for subjective questions. – arussell84 Jun 1 '11 at 18:34
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    @arussel: It's not a technicality. Every single site has that exact same FAQ section with the exact same content - even Stack Overflow, which doesn't allow subjective questions at all. – Aaronaught Jun 1 '11 at 22:59
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    @aaronaught Ouch, how disappointing. Next time I feel the itch to learn, I'll be sure to make up an imaginary problem and be less honest. – arussell84 Jun 1 '11 at 23:18
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    @arussel: Or you could phrase the question so that it serves some clear practical purpose. The emphasis is really on "practical", not "problem". – Aaronaught Jun 1 '11 at 23:21
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    @aaronaught I see your point. I'll still have to basically lie to the reader, which is kind of ridiculous. Maybe I should edit my question anyway, just to see if the result is satisfactory, even though my true intention is a cat that's already out of the proverbial bag. – arussell84 Jun 1 '11 at 23:31
  • @arussel: No, you really don't have to lie to ask practical questions, and chances are that people will see through the lies and/or close as Too Localized anyway. There are tons of practical questions here with around 5-10 upvotes. Look to them as examples. – Aaronaught Jun 1 '11 at 23:40
  • @aaronaught Take a look at my question now. Does the rephrasing help show practical value? Any way to phrase it without lying? Or do people really see no practical value in knowing about other languages besides Java? – arussell84 Jun 1 '11 at 23:54
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    @arussel: It's plainly obvious to me that it's a put-on, because nobody starts putting together a list of languages as the first step in a serious project, they use environments they already know and understand so that productivity is reasonably high. Even if we believed it, there's still nothing whatsoever practical about the question. How is this "list" actually going to help anyone? This is why I said, don't try to lie to fix an unconstructive question; wait until you have a more practical question, then ask that instead. – Aaronaught Jun 2 '11 at 0:00
  • @aaronaught I'd say the list would help people evaluate their options. Not everyone knows everything about every language that's out there. How is a person expected to learn? Where do you ask questions, especially in a topic unfamiliar to your peers? Man, this is depressing... – arussell84 Jun 2 '11 at 0:15
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    @arussel: If you want help with evaluating your options, then ask that question, it's far more interesting and likely to survive here than just asking for a list of languages. This is analogous to the subject matter in Jeff's blog post, Q&A is Hard, Let's Go Shopping!. If you can translate your question into something that isn't directly asking for recommendations, then you'll be fine. – Aaronaught Jun 2 '11 at 0:22
  • @aaronaught I'm pretty embarrassed at how bad my communication skills are, since I don't think anyone understood at all what I'm trying to ask. Thanks for your advice. I'll try and edit my question again... – arussell84 Jun 2 '11 at 0:30
  • @aaronaught Edited. Is this better? – arussell84 Jun 2 '11 at 0:57

I don't think your question is objective. Or, for that matter, a question that fits within the Q&A framework on Stack Exchange at all.

An objective question generally has a "correct" answer. A subjective question invites answers that can be valid from different perspectives, shaped by the posters' individual experiences. Your question invites a list of answers where each one is equally valid (except perhaps those that don't fit your criteria at all) under any circumstances and from any perspective. Questions like that are also discouraged in the FAQ.

Let's take a look at the "What kind of questions should I not ask here" section:

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 ______?”

Your question fits very well into this situation, even though it's not a "what's your favourite X" kind of question.

your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”

The body of your question contained many languages that you already found that fit your criteria.

there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”

As Mark mentioned, we try to focus on helping people solve practical problems.

we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
it is a rant disguised as a question: “ ______ sucks, am I right?”

These two don't apply to your question.

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here. (You are more than welcome to have such discussions in our real time web chat.) However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain ______ to me”, then you are probably OK.

Your post certainly seems to be in the discussion category. It attracts answers that are items on a list, not answers that individually solve the question. Those kinds of posts aren't well-suited to the Q&A format of Stack Exchange and may be better asked elsewhere (for example, on Quora).

  • Thanks for the detailed response. I'll post my arguments in a bit... – arussell84 Jun 1 '11 at 19:15
  • Okay, my question may, in fact, be too open-ended, but it in no way fits the definition of being subjective, as no opinion can be involved in the response to my question. I was looking for as comprehensive of a list as possible as an answer (community wiki, maybe?). In fact, I didn't even have the initial list of languages in the body of my question itself until people started down-voting me; which I assumed was for not doing enough research beforehand. Perhaps all that needs to be done is to move that list into an answer and mark it as a community wiki? – arussell84 Jun 1 '11 at 19:39
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    @arussell84 My point isn't that your question is subjective, but that it isn't really a solvable question at all, either objective or subjective. – Adam Lear ModStaff Jun 1 '11 at 19:44
  • @anna-lear How is the question not solvable? The answer is a list of languages that fit the criteria. If that guy davidk01 would have responded whether Haskell, OCaml, and ML have properties or not, I would have had a satisfactory list compiled. I could move that list out of my question body and into an answer, and mark it as solved. – arussell84 Jun 1 '11 at 19:51
  • @anna-lear By the way, I've edited my question to remove the initial list of languages from the body of my question. I've also fabricated a scenario to help illustrate the practical value of the knowledge I seek. Is this closer to the format of the type of question you find acceptable? – arussell84 Jun 2 '11 at 0:00
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    @arussell84 It's phrased better, but at its core it still suffers from the same problems as before. It still invites answers that are items on a list that cannot be judged for correctness beyond "fits the criteria" or "doesn't fit the criteria". That's what I mean by saying the question isn't solvable. – Adam Lear ModStaff Jun 2 '11 at 0:21
  • @anna-lear Thanks. Aaronaught just advised me in another comment to just come out and ask for help in evaluating which language I want to use. Do you think that would fix the core issue with my question? – arussell84 Jun 2 '11 at 0:26
  • @anna-lear Just edited my question again based on Aaronaught's suggestion. Does this help? – arussell84 Jun 2 '11 at 0:50
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    @arussell84 It's better enough in my mind that with the two reopen votes cast for it by community members, I've reopened the question. I hope you get the answers you're looking for. Thanks. – Adam Lear ModStaff Jun 2 '11 at 1:38
  • @anna-lear Awesome, thank you for that and for your guidance! – arussell84 Jun 2 '11 at 1:53

The question was closed because it is not a subjective question. Programmers is for subjective questions.

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    According to Jeff Atwood's comment that I mentioned, that's simply not true... There's nothing in the FAQ that forbids objective questions, either. – arussell84 Jun 1 '11 at 16:08
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    Give me an example of an objective question you would consider off-topic then. If there aren't any, then we have a complete overlap with SE don't we? – Jeremy Jun 1 '11 at 16:25
  • A simple contrived example of an off-topic objective question would be "How many ounces are in a pound?" As far as overlap with Stack Overflow goes, a few SE sites do have complete overlap with Stack Overflow, e.g. SharePoint and Drupal Answers: When will Stack Overflow become irrelevant? In any case, if my question belonged on Stack Overflow, it should have been migrated rather than closed. – arussell84 Jun 1 '11 at 17:48

To put my own opinion on this into answer form (so that you can vote on my answer separately from my question):

I'm pretty sure the six guidelines for subjective questions applies to only subjective questions rather than objective ones. This is the reason that was given for why my question was closed, and yet my question was an objective one.

So now the question is whether or not objective questions in general are forbidden. Even if objective questions are forbidden, I believe my question should have been migrated to the appropriate site rather than closed. However, I read a comment from Jeff Atwood on this Meta post:

[W]e're not forcing subjective here, the difference is that subjective questions are welcomed and allowed. However, we do think that objective questions can do better on Stack Overflow in many cases...

I thought at the time that the subject matter of my question was a better fit for Programmers than Stack Overflow, so that's why I posted here rather than there.

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    All questions need to be good questions. It's just harder to make good subjective questions, which is why there's a blog post on it. – Matthew Read Jun 1 '11 at 19:53
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    as @matt said, it is much much more difficult to create a good subjective question, because there are so many common social pitfalls along the way -- and at the end of that bottomless pit is Yahoo Answers. – Jeff Atwood Jun 3 '11 at 7:54

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