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I'm confused as to why my recent question on naming conventions in JavaScript was closed as "not constructive." The best explanation I can find in the closed notice and FAQ is that "this question will likely solicit debate [or] arguments," which I'm guessing has something to do with the fact that people might have many different opinions on the "proper" way to name JavaScript files. I understand that naming conventions can be a subjective topic, since a convention is by definition an opinion, but I only asked this question after searching around the site and finding that there are plenty of other questions on naming conventions that have been upvoted and answered. Can someone please explain why my question is not constructive but other questions about naming conventions are?

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    Have you got links to the other questions? – ChrisF Aug 1 '12 at 21:40
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    @ChrisF: programmers.stackexchange.com/search?q=naming+conventions - At least among the ones I looked at in the search results, all of the closed ones were only closed for being exact duplicates. – Sean U Aug 1 '12 at 23:06
  • @SeanU your search appears way too hard to use ("not constructive" if you wish): it shows 925 questions total to me, including those not apparently relevant, like "How have languages influenced CPU design?" – gnat Aug 2 '12 at 13:21
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    @gnat Unless the search shows different results for different people, it doesn't seem likely that you should have such a hard time finding examples using those search terms. Stack Exchange's search engine is really very good. Perhaps you chose to order the search results by date rather than relevance? Regardless, when I search the first 10 results follow: here, here, – Sean U Aug 2 '12 at 15:00
  • here, here, here, here, here, here, – Sean U Aug 2 '12 at 15:01
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    here and here. All of which are good examples. Many of them are more "open-ended" than Edward's question. All of them, including Edward's, have a constructive purpose. – Sean U Aug 2 '12 at 15:01
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    @SeanU The ability to find examples of open questions similar to a closed question is not justification for said question to be re-opened. – Ryathal Aug 2 '12 at 15:44
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    @Ryathal Well, if that's the only explanation for why this question is closed and the others aren't, then think of me as having helpfully provided the moderators with a nice list of 10 more questions that need to be closed as "Not Constructive." Though I might reserve the right to ask another Meta question for clarification on why wanting to conform to established conventions isn't constructive. – Sean U Aug 2 '12 at 15:58
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    @SeanU the question about JavaScript naming conventions - programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/139528/… - does have some validity. The size of the file being sent to the client can be important. – ChrisF Aug 2 '12 at 17:04
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Questions on StackExchange sites need to be presented in such a way that there can be an answer that is "the answer". As I read the question, every possible answer to it would be equally valid.

The question asks:

how should I represent the separate words in the filename?

I don't see how this can be answered where there aren't 15 different answers, giving 15 different opinions, all equally valid.

As for other naming convention questions being valid, thanks for bringing them up, we'll go through them and clean up those that slipped through the cracks. The fact that they exist on the site, doesn't make this one or any future questions more constructive.

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    I can see a valid answer in this because the most predominate naming conventions will get voted to the top, and typically you want to use the a common naming convention instead of some obscure one. It makes it easier to introduce new employees to your code base and to maintain the standard. There may not be "one right one", but there is "most commonly used" which is generally what you want. – Rachel Aug 2 '12 at 14:22
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    Most languages have an established convention. It's reasonable to assume Javascript does too. The questioner was clearly trying to figure out what that preferred convention is. He even talked about (unsuccessfully) trying to figure it out on his own. – Sean U Aug 2 '12 at 14:52
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    @Rachel "predominate naming conventions will get voted to the top" wouldn't this approach make question a poll? – gnat Aug 2 '12 at 16:30
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    @gnat The reason poll questions are considered "not-constructive" for SE is because the end result is a list of everyone's favorite X, with no clear answer being the correct answer, so the answers are of very little use to future visitors. Naming conventions for coding are different, because there is a correct answer, and that is whatever is the current standard or most commonly used. "Whats your favorite naming convention" would get closed because there is no correct answer, however "What's the standard naming convention for X" should be left open. – Rachel Aug 2 '12 at 16:40
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    @gnat The SE guidelines exist and are called guidelines instead of rules for a reason. Don't lose site of that reason and follow them blindly. – Rachel Aug 2 '12 at 16:41
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    @Rachel sounds like you expect polling at Programmers to somehow make top-voted choice a standard - do I understand that correctly? – gnat Aug 2 '12 at 16:56
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    @Rachel - I just want to make sure I understand your point, so bear with me. If there are 2 answers which contradict eachother and one has 15 votes and the other has 16, the 16 votes make that answer "the answer"? – Walter Aug 2 '12 at 16:59
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    @Walter In that case, the answer is there are two methods that are equally valid, and pick the one that works best for you. If the two answers are complete and total opposites, then it suggests the question is a "holy war" question and should not exist. I can't think of any case where two answers on a naming convention question would be total complete opposites, so this would not be the case. – Rachel Aug 2 '12 at 17:03
  • @gnat, I was speaking only in terms on naming conventions, where the naming convention you should use if possible is either the industry standard, or the predominate naming convention for that language. – Rachel Aug 2 '12 at 17:03
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    @gnat You've got it backwards. It's that the standard should (and will) be voted to the top because it's the best answer. – Sean U Aug 2 '12 at 17:09
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    @SeanU what if there's no "best" standard - no convention that is universally agreed / proven to be the right one? what would one expect from polling in case like this? – gnat Aug 2 '12 at 17:38
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    @gnat - What if there is no single best solution to a specific programming problem? SO handles questions like that all the time without going to the wolves. The best answers still rise to the top so anyone viewing the question can see them. Maybe that leaves some ambiguity about which answer should be accepted, but we don't have to be slaves to the green checkbox. Questions can still be edifying even when it doesn't work exactly as planned. – Sean U Aug 2 '12 at 17:46
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Reading through the relevant piece of FAQ, constructive subjective questions:

  • inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.
  • tend to have long, not short, answers.
  • have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.
  • invite sharing experiences over opinions.
  • insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.
  • are more than just mindless social fun.

So I think (if correctly worded) questions on naming conventions should be on topic here. They are very relevant to programmers, there are often very practical considerations and experiences that form the basis for answers, and it's easy to leave out opinions using votes, comments, downvotes, and moderation.


Note / disclosure: I personally asked this question on CSS naming conventions, and the accepted answer was (in my opinion) of the good subjective kind: substantial, based on experience, explaining the "why", backed up by references, and with a constructive, fair and impartial tone.


Note 2: I do understand why naming conventions might be considered "not constructive", as it's indeed hard (if not: impossible) to have one correct answer. But then again, looking at the top questions by votes, there are several great questions that (sh/w)ould be closed by that same standard (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) - which is probably why we now have the "Good Subjective / Bad Subjective" distinction.

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    Your question on CSS naming conventions is a good one, and the accepted answer is great (imho), and it even points out why the question is NC: Bounty or not, to some extent the choice will always be a "matter of preference". Now, the main problem with NC questions is that they are extremely risky, in the sense that 9 out of 10 times they turn into an unmaintainable crapfest. They are not inherently bad questions, just questions that we haven't found a good way to support in a Q&A format. – yannis Sep 26 '12 at 5:55
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    If you look at the revision history of our top voted question on the site, you'll see that it has been closed, re-opened, locked, closed again and re-opened again, recently. It's a horrible mess, and the question and its stellar answer doesn't deserve to be in that mess. Other than the top answer, every other answer is either obsolete (if it's already included in the top answer) or irrelevant, either way most of them need to be removed. But they are still there, all 80something of them. – yannis Sep 26 '12 at 6:00
  • The community does a good job keeping the top answer in shape and updated, but not so much with the rest of the thread. That's good enough I guess, but my point is: If the community doesn't really show much interest in curating not constructive Q&A threads unless they have a stellar answer (and then we only care for that answer), how can we hope to support not constructive questions that aren't that interesting or haven't attracted stellar answers? – yannis Sep 26 '12 at 6:02
  • NC questions can be salvaged, but it takes a lot of work. I completely disagree that it's easy to leave out opinions using votes, comments, downvotes, and moderation, it's hard, frustrating and sometimes a couple of trolls may kill the fun for everyone (I'm thinking of language comparisons, our canonical trollfests). I'd love it if it was easy, I'd love it even more if people didn't care that it's hard and put the effort anyway, but I must say for a moderator's standpoint it's a lot easier to just close NC questions and let the community re-open them if people actually cared about them. – yannis Sep 26 '12 at 6:09
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    "the choice will always be a matter of preference" ... isn't that why we have the "Good/Bad Subjective" rule here, as opposed to "there must be one clear winning answer possible"? – Jeroen Sep 26 '12 at 6:10
  • Either way, I think it's a shame NC Q's are considered 'NC', especially in light of other Q's that are allowed. – Jeroen Sep 26 '12 at 6:12
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    We are not looking for a winning answer, we are looking for a limited set of good answers where it's obvious (to software developers at least) why they are good and useful (and not just popular, or interesting). Of course it's almost always a judgement call, and sometimes we may make the wrong call. Or sometimes the question might sit right on the fence and can go either way (in which case I'd personally opt to err in the side of letting it open). – yannis Sep 26 '12 at 6:17
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    I realize it's extremely frustrating seeing other, perhaps even sub par, questions open while yours is closed, but we can't be everywhere, some questions just slip through the cracks. Two important things to keep in mind: 1) Every closed question can be re-opened if improved, closure is a temporary state and 2) Although closed questions are on a path to deletion, we typically don't delete heavily upvoted questions with upvoted answers. I can't think any reason why we'd delete your CSS question, for example, and I've deleted more questions than all the other mods combined. – yannis Sep 26 '12 at 6:22
  • I can't promise the community won't vote to delete it at some point, obviously, but right now it's closure has one main purpose, to prevent further answers. Do you think it would benefit from further answers? – yannis Sep 26 '12 at 6:24

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