Seems like there is 100% correlation between people asking, "Isn't XXX...?" and "Closed as Not Constructive".

I wonder if it could make it into a guideline. Or as a question that comes up as a 'similar title', communicating to question authors a more inclusive way of asking the question they have in mind--or not asking.

  • There's a high correlation between adding "favorite" or "your favorite" to a question title and the question being closed as not constructive, as well. – user8 Sep 15 '11 at 15:35
  • What about questions like Isn't XYZ supposed to do ABC? Sure it's a bad way to phrase a question, but it doesn't guarentee that the question is subjective or not constructive. It just needs a better title. – Rachel Sep 15 '11 at 16:05
  • If there's a question that starts with Isn't (or Is), you can rewrite it to start with Is (or Isn't). I tend to agree with @Rachel, although I think it's a sign of the wrong approach to asking useful, value-added questions. – Thomas Owens Sep 15 '11 at 16:36
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    @Thomas, I disagree. "Isn't" is asking for confirmation of a position, and excludes disagreement. It's very hard to answer "no" to. "Is" is ask for input, not confirmation. Logically equivalent modulo a negation--but very different connotations. – Alex Feinman Sep 15 '11 at 18:14
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    I see where you're coming from. Yeah. It's not necessarily about the logical meaning, but the connotation. Either way, I think "why", "how", "what", "which", and "where" questions are superior to "is" and "isn't" questions, in terms of the purpose of a Stack Exchange. – Thomas Owens Sep 15 '11 at 18:28
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    Isn't this a question that starts with "Isn't"? – StuperUser Sep 16 '11 at 9:32
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    @StuperUser: I'm guessing (hoping) that was on purpose. – Steven Jeuris Sep 16 '11 at 10:10
  • @Steven as was my comment :) – StuperUser Sep 16 '11 at 10:15

We have this

    /// <summary>
    /// returns true if title contains subjective words like "best", "favorite", etc
    /// </summary>
    public bool ContainsSubjectiveWords(string s)
        if (!Current.Site.Settings.Questions.SubjectiveQuestionTitleWarning) return false;
        return Regex.IsMatch(s, @"\bbest\b|\bworst\b|\bhardest\b|\byour?\b|\bfavou?rite\b", RegexOptions.IgnoreCase);

Which results in a warning on the /ask page if triggered in the title, but it is not enabled for Programmers.

  • 2
    Are there any stats kept on how many questions trigger that warning? I think it'd be interesting to enable it for a while on Programmers and see if it results in higher quality questions making it through. – Adam Lear Sep 16 '11 at 18:58
  • ok I enabled it. I think I disabled it early on when people complained.. meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/53/… – Jeff Atwood Sep 17 '11 at 8:33

I agree with Alex Feinman that "isn't" asks for confirmation, but disagree that it excludes disagreement. It's not hard to disagree at all if the question can be answered objectively:

Isn't strcpy() the right function to use to copy a string?

It's true that purpose of strcpy() is to copy strings, but that function has been deprecated for quite some time due to the risk of buffer overruns, which in turn are a major security risk. You should instead use one of the modern replacements, such as strlcpy() or strncpy(). You can read about the differences here...

It's harder to answer subjective questions that start with "isn't". The author has already stated an opinion and is usually looking for support more than an answer. Such questions are likely to be closed as "not a real question" or "not constructive."

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