A recent question was posted about coding for charity and finding organizations that help coordinate those activities.

Currently, it's closed as off-topic. An attempt has been made (by me) to make the question more on-topic and trigger a reopen.

This question is to spark a discussion on whether or not the question can be salvaged and made on-topic.

There is a fair degree of agreement that the question is a list style question. To help focus additional answers and comments, I'm adding the following questions.

Is it possible to define a narrow set of circumstances where list style questions may be appropriate? If so, what would those conditions need to be?

  • I'm curious how this will end :) Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 14:45
  • my conscience here is clear - if memory serves I voted to close this list / recommendation type question as not constructive, not as off-topic :)
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 14:46
  • @gnat - yes, you're listed as the first of the five who voted to close. Ryathal, MainMa, Graham Lee, and ratchet freak were the others. FWIW, I don't see this as an issue of conscience. It's really about what is right for our community.
    – user53019
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 14:50
  • I'm sure if we change the question to something like "Is there an organization which sucessfully gathers devs for charity-coding?" it's a totally legit question which will result in an equal set of answers. It's about the willingness of the community to change and reopen it together. Didn't want to cause that much trouble.. Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 14:52
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    @GlenH7 It'd probably help your cause if you listed some reasons why you think it should be on-topic/reopened.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 15:05
  • @AnnaLear - Just did. I'm not sure if the Q should be moved to community wiki as well or not. I'm not familiar with how community wiki is supposed to be used.
    – user53019
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 15:09
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    @atamanroman "looking for something" and "is there something" questions were indistinguishable in my experience so far. You likely would have better luck attempting "Atwood's transform" of recommendation type questions. How do I find organizations that help coordinate etc...? What factors to consider when looking for (what do I need to learn to tell) organizations...? That would lead to generic answer(s) capable of standing test of time, optionally ;-) with supplied examples of organizations you look for
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 16:41
  • here is a (maybe stupid) idea. We move the question and its content to a permalinkable chatroom (does something like that exist ?) and create an ad for it utilizing meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/2635/…. What do you think ?
    – user59460
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 7:32

5 Answers 5


I locked the post pending the outcome of this discussion here on Meta.

I don't see how this question can be a good subjective question, as identified in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and Real Questions Have Answers. Of the six guidelines, I can only make the case for this question having a constructive tone, invite sharing experiences over opinions, and being more than mindless social fun. Ultimately, this question is just asking for a list of resources. There is little indication of a "why or how" emphasis, the answers appear to be shorter, facts and references can only be provided and verified by people who have used the particular service or attended the particular event. Given this, I rate it as a 50% on the "good subjective question" guidelines.

Although the question does have uses, it's still a list question and list questions go against the nature of Stack Exchange sites, where people are supposed to ask practical and answerable questions. Questions where every answer is equally valid is not answerable and therefore not appropriate for a Stack Exchange site. If we open a useful question that clearly doesn't meet the guidelines for remaining open, that leaves opportunities for people to point to it and say if it can stay open, their question should also stay open.

Even though the question can be useful, given that I scored it low on the guidelines for constructive questions and the need for consistency across questions (and, to some extent, sites), I don't see how the reopening can be justified.

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    If we stick to the guidelines, you're plain right (+). Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 18:07
  • Looks like activity on this Q has died down. Based upon the up / down votes, the community appears pretty evenly split. However, your answer of "stand firm!" is the only one that has a consistent, positive vote.
    – user53019
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 17:56

Any and all new list questions should be terminated with extreme prejudice. This is a list question and its best case scenario is to make a it a slightly better list question.

  • I dislike the word "terminated" here - it sounds too final. Sure list questions should be closed right away because they don't match the SE Q&A format, but if there is a decent question there, first re-evaluate the question and see if it can be reworded to be something good for the site. Blindly "terminating" questions just because they don't meet some set of magical guidelines is not good advice.
    – Rachel
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 15:35
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    @Rachel I doubt existence of decent question in a list question
    – Ryathal
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 15:59

This is me stepping in. While I appreciate and support the idea of keeping the quality of questions high, I don't think this is always necessary. If I do ask for a list of good X, I do not want to know how to identify the best X. Maybe it's freakin easy to see if something is good. The hard part may be finding it (which is the case with active charity coding clubs/organizations).

I do agree that list style answers indicate bad questions. However, many of the coolest pages on SO are list style answers and it would have helped nothing if they were transformed to good questions. Two things may happen to this questions: If they are worth it they are made CW (a resource for the community) or they're closed. Have a look:






There are many examples of list style questions around on SO which are such a great resource but where closed because of a FAQ entry. They should have been made CW instead. Now they die slowly. But a few did in fact survive because someone did value the gathered content.

If I was googling for charity coding sites and the first hit was my question with a few links to start I would be more than happy. Mission accomplished!

I understand if the question stays closed. However, changing it so that the answers stay the same (because they are fine!) but the question applies to some random FAQ entry is dogmatic. I wouldn't like the question anymore ;)

  • By the way, I got rewarded the "Good Question" Badge for my question. Deal with it ;) Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 18:00
  • I'm sure one of the helpful moderators can fix that problem with your "Good Question" badge... ;-) In all seriousness, your question is a good one as it helps the community to discuss what shape and form the community will take.
    – user53019
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 18:04
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    Personally I agree with you. I love the list questions because they give me so many different solutions to a problem, in one central location, and I can browse them and pick the best that works for me. Sadly, SE doesn't see it that way, and they do not like using their framework for questions where there is no one-right-answer.
    – Rachel
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 18:14
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    @atamanroman badges for slippery questions at SE are nothing new, dealt with long time ago in The Trouble With Popularity article. "...Popularity is a tough thing... I hope you can understand why our community moderators are obliged to step in and protect the community from, well … itself."
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 19:11
  • @gnat that was a joke. That's the reason I put that emoticon thingy next to it. Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 19:28
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    Most of the examples you linked to on Stack Overflow are locked. Locked questions are only kept around for historical significance and to prevent existing knowledge and contributions from being lost. They tend to be off-topic or bad questions that were previously acceptable to the community. They should not be used to build a case as to why a new question should be allowed.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 19:36
  • @ThomasOwens that's exactly my point. Why are most of the highest voted answers list style and locked? Shouldn't they be CW? It's not just because they're old.. Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 20:07
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    @ThomasOwens I do not get it. You admit that there is (I suppose valuable) knowledge in the questions (=> keep them) but since they do not comply with the rules, we have to close them. In the sense of consistency I'd expect them to be deleted. I cannot get rid of the feeling that the current behavior states "We do like the content provided, but we despise the questions surrounding them". Sorry, wtf ?
    – user59460
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 7:23
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    @steffen They aren't deleted because when they were posted, they were acceptable to be posted. Three things can happen to a closed question. If it was posted after a change to the community standards, it can either be reopened after significant edits or deleted if it can't be saved. If it's from before a change to community standards, it can be edited and reopened, deleted if it adds no value, or locked if it contains useful information but shouldn't be used to represent a good question.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 9:08
  • @ThomasOwens Thank you very much for the explanation :). It is exactly the last case we are talking about here. It contains useful information, but it is not a good question. The information is useful, but shall not be edited / extended to increase its usefulness. I understand the motivation behind all this, but I still don't like it.
    – user59460
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 11:12
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    @steffen That case doesn't apply to this question, since this is a new question. The guidelines for good subjective questions came out in September 2010. This question was posted in July 2012. Because it's a new question, I don't feel comfortable locking it for historical reasons. If it was asked in late 2010 or before and had valuable answers, I'd lock it. But now, the only choices that I see are closed for being too subjective (and likely deleted if it can't be salvaged) or reopened because it's a good and appropriate question by all measurable standards.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 11:45
  • @ThomasOwens Again, thank you very much for clarification. Let's say that I have assumed that this question has been asked before the upcoming change of community standards cough,I see that this does not apply. However, hope never dies :). Thank you very much again.
    – user59460
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 6:32

I think the question should be rephrased from

What are some good open source projects, code-a-thons, or organizations which create software used for charity purposes or to help out charities?


How can I find open source projects, code-a-thons, or organizations which create software used for charity purposes or to help out charities?

The first form is asking for a list of items. The second form is asking for a way to find and identify the list of items for yourself.

To quote from the blog post Q&A is Hard, Let’s Go Shopping!, and I think the last paragraph sums it up nicely.

However, there is a way to ask these questions that avoids the inherent problems with shopping recommendations. For example, let’s say you wanted — as I did — to buy a point-and-shoot camera that takes good low light photos. So we’re going to ask on photo.stackexchange.com, naturally!

Here’s one way to ask:

Q: What’s the best low light point-and-shoot camera?

A: Canon S90 and Lumix LX3.

Here’s another way to ask:

Q: How do I tell which point-and-shoot cameras take good low light photos?

A: I strongly recommend looking for something with

  • a fast lens (2.0 at least)
  • reasonable ISO handling (at least 400, but preferably 800)
  • the biggest sensor available

The sum of these factors are really critical for low light situations.

The former question provides the path of least resistance: a laundry list of products I can buy without thinking about it too much. But that answer will only be valid for a year at best. The latter question may take some thinking, but its answer will be valid forever … or at least until camera technology somehow shifts beyond lenses and sensors as we know them today. Thus, when it comes to shopping questions, don’t ask us what you should buy — ask us what you need to learn to tell what you should buy.

  • 2
    I'd upvote this twice if I could (great minds think alike :)
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 16:44
  • "How can I find..." will just result in a different list. How is that any better? Instead of a list of projects you'll end up with a list of how to get the lists...
    – Walter
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 17:49
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    @Walter The last paragraph sums it up. One list provides a laundry list of items that you can use without thinking at all and that will get outdated with time, while the second version of the question should generate answers teaching you how to find such organizations. The answer will be one that "teaches a man to fish" instead of just "giving him the fish", and it will be "timeless". Sure you might get more than one answer, but you should not get a list of answers with everyone posting their own experience or favorite charity.
    – Rachel
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 17:57
  • "Great minds think alike" may be true. Thinking alike, however, does indicate nothing at all. No offense :P Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 18:03
  • @atamanroman alike... does indicate nothing at all that's generally true. Specifics worth paying attention though is that in this case, "alike" comes from both of us building upon the same authoritative reference. With this in mind, consider a possibility that such kind "likeness" may indicate certain level community consensus
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 22:17
  • So great minds cite alike? =) Sorry but we all can read. Stating the obvious doesn't help in this case. Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 7:33
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    @atamanroman what do you call obvious? Atwood's transform? if yes, I can only envy you. It took me at least 3 re-reads plus writing and polishing my own summary of it just to figure how it is supposed to work and start believing that it really gives a chance to salvage list questions. And still, I think it'd take me at least 2-3 hours to transform a question like yours go figure
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 13:21

I would agree that the question is a list style question, which are generally discouraged. But I feel it is an exception-case, list-type question that is on-topic.

There are some notable exception cases on SO where list questions are allowed, such as the Definitive C++ book guide.

The scope of the question is fairly broad since Coding for charity is a subject that could apply to all programmers and the answers are a resource that all could consider.

I think that it falls into the category of "good subjective" since the OP wasn't asking for opinions on this one versus that one, but was simply looking for a listing of organizations to consider. That approach effectively removed the potential for rants and counter-productive dialogue.

Finally, when googling related terms, I ran into difficulty in coming up with good results. That kind of anchored the need for the question in my mind.

So because of the applicability to all programmers, I think the question is on topic and should be reopened.

Counter and supporting opinions welcome!

I think it's worth pointing out that a list of answers can be the answer to a particular question.
The challenge is that the SE experience is oriented towards finding just one answer. While I'm tempted to call that a remnant of darker times , I recall that SO was the first site and there are many cases where there is more than one answer. SO was created to draw out the subjective best answer when there was more than one possible.

I'm still struggling with where to draw a line on what types of list questions to allow, if they are to be allowed at all. It's not a hard stretch to see allowing canonical book reference lists with a similar justification. From there the slope starts getting slippier.

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    I don't see how asking for a list makes this question "good subjective" since list questions are considered as "bad subjective". The part of list questions that is bad is that no one answer can be "the answer" and that's the point of SE.
    – Walter
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 15:34
  • (+1) for exception case. Can me make an exception to drive more programmers to utilize their skills for charity ? "No", many state here, "We must obey the FAQ".
    – user59460
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 7:29
  • @steffen doing evil to create a potential good is still doing evil.
    – Ryathal
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 22:29
  • @Ryathal So making an exception to rules, which have NOT been created to protect humans from being damaged, in order to drive more gifted to help those which may be damaged without aid, is evil ? This is too much, I'm outta here.
    – user59460
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 6:30

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