In response to my question being placed on hold I would like to add:

My question exhibits many of the relevant qualities of a good subjective question , including: A, B, D, E ...

"Some subjective questions are allowed, but “subjective” does not mean “anything goes”. All subjective questions are expected to be constructive. What does that mean? Constructive subjective questions:

[a.] inspire answers that explain “why” and “how” [b.] tend to have long, not short, answers [c.] have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone [d.] invite sharing experiences over opinions [e.] insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references [f.] are more than just mindless social fun For more detail, read about our guidelines for great subjective questions and blog post about how real questions have answers."


In the spirit of  this maxim: 

"even a subjective Stack Overflow is better than the alternatives"

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective/ )

I would like the question reopened.

Respondants, please review before posting:

The Programmers site is constantly subjected to unreasonably subjective questions.  In this same scenario, when the forum topic tends towards this entropy, the clear minds of the Moms group came up with some simple , VERY simple guidelines for answering such questions.

"The folks at Moms4mom owned up to the subjective issue and came up with a set of principles to create useful subjective discussions on parenting: the Back It Up! Principle. Back It Up! means that your answers must be based on either:

Something that happened to you personally Something you can back up with a reference"

Please try to follow this guideline before shooting off rapid fire replies.

And remember the goal is to move forward with this maxim:

"even a subjective Stack Overflow is better than the alternatives"

it is why we are all here!

  • 1
    Please don't post meta commentary in your question. If you don't roll the edits back I will
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 13:43
  • 2
    If users are not going to read the question thoroughly or read the FAQ as a prerequisite I'm not sure how we can address this kind of important, yet subjective, question in this forum. period. I am trying to make it slightly easier for users to understand HOW they need to anawer the question, in this particular case, and in the future, for all subjective questions. Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 13:49
  • 1
    Adding information and background to the question is good, however, what you have done is add a discussion about the question - which should be done here.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 14:31
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    If improved by removing extraneous discussion about the question itself, can the question be reopened? Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 14:38
  • It will be on the reopen queue so if 5 community members agree it will get reopened.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 14:41
  • 4
    I would propose you should keep one simple rule in mind when asking a question: If you need to instruct people on how to answer, it's likely the core of the question is lacking the qualitative attributes that would attract good answers; and no amount of instructions on answering can really correct the fact that you're asking a question that fails to meet the quality standards of the site. Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 16:24
  • possible duplicate of On discussions and why they don't make good questions
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 21:03

5 Answers 5


The question I cast the first close vote on was revision 1 which reads:

Do programmers need quiet? If they do why do so many places not have quiet and still seem to get something done?

Do programmers get quiet? If no, WHY not.

PLEASE, references and substantive answers based on notable sources please!

Even with references, this can be the domain of opinion.

Consider the following hypothetical answers:

Answer #1:

No programmers do not need quiet. We run an agile shop and have found that it is necessary that programmers are able to interact with each other at all times as described by many Agile consultants (1 2 3) and can be seen in this blog post demonstrating a typical agile work environment. Pair programing does not work if the pair isn't talking, and the open plan requires that there is a constant level of communication and talk. Some programmers even prefer to have music going on and we have a community driven local 'radio' station of streaming mp3s over the intercom system.

Answer #2:

The environment of programmers needs to be that of a library. We expect the workplace to be quiet. The only way to get the noise level to 'ok' as suggested in peopleware is to have silence as different programmers expect different levels of noise (see Peopleware Chapter 8 - Effects of Workplace Table 8-1). Those that want noise can use headphones. Furthermore, we've abolished telephones in the work area so programmers aren't distracted by other phones ringing or people talking on them (see Peopleware Chapter 11 - The Telephone). If you need to talk to someone on the phone, you go to a sound proof phone cube off in the corner.

There are countless more possible answers - each right and each fits within the constraint of the first question.

The second question is asking about the multitude of reasons that people don't get quiet. Why not?

  • Programmers aren't valued where I work, we're on the second floor of a loading dock.
  • Programmers are mixed in with support people to encourage interaction, the phones are always going off
  • We have too many juniors for each senior and there are always 'tutoring' sessions going in in cubes.
  • When doing agile spikes I get distracted by other noises of people working

Again, countless why answers.

The answers are opinions even if you ask them not to be.

A few other factors to consider in this is that asking for refrences is not something that is on topic for P.SE. I would suggest reading Are requests for a specific reference material off-topic?, Why are “reference request” questions off topic?, and “Scientific Evidence” versions of each question

If you really want the studies aspect, it could get closed as a dup of Studies on how noise affects productivity of programmers [closed] and Is there any scholarly research on the detrimental effects of a noisy workplace on productivity? [closed]. If I need to point out again, the top answer in each of those two questions is essentially "Read Peopleware".

There is also a question on skeptics.SE - What study showed that using headphones to drown out office noise is detrimental? which has one answer that starts out:

The study was described in Tom DeMarco's excellent book "Peopleware." I think it was said to be done at Cornell University.

  • Your hypothetical examples don't contain any references. The hypothetical answers are at best 'educated experienced opinion'. If we reopen the question perhaps we could determine whether someone has knowledge of and interpretation of scientific evidence or studies that answer the question Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 15:15
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    @AndyzSmith I've added some references (I wrote that rather quickly before and really didn't care to go into answering things in detail). I would strongly suggest that you look into Peopleware as that is probably the best resource for the studies to go from.
    – user40980
    Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 22:52
  • My question is broad, and broad questions have generally been maligned in the relevant FAQ's you refer to, and for good reason. I agree, questions can be too broad and generate massive amounts of background, and are therefore inappropriate, as the resulting answers would likely be the entire contents of Peopleware. However, I suggest that such broad questions can be tempered by both the asker and answerer, into substantive, yet narrower conclusions of fact, based on data, highly relavant to the original question. The exact extent of the narrowing cannot be predicted by the asker. Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 23:32
  • As to do so would unnecessarily restrict the innovative and creative process that goes into creating a proper subject of interest for a practical study. I have tried in my question wording to narrow and restrict the topic of interest by using clues about what I think the answer is, and by 'leading' potential answerers down what I believe is a practical and valuable investigation/Q-A into this topic. As much as I have narrowed by scope of inquiry and tried to refine the intent of the question to reduce book-like responses it is still .quite broad. But, I suggest, still a tenable question Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 23:40
  • A question that the participants of StackOverflow should be able to intelligently refine, using their knowledge of expert sources relavant to the broader question and their own interpretative skills to bring a fact-based, relavant example to light. Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 23:41
  • Reallly. A 25 year old book is the best resource out there? Billions of dollars are spent on this 'programming' and nobody has any idea if they need or do not need certain equipment to do their work? No wonder we had dot com bust. Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 3:34
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    I would encourage you to read the book before making any judgements on it based upon its age (and hope that you don't think that the Mythical Man Month is similarly worthless). The suggestions made in it are akin to the Bible - "Everyone quotes it, some people read it, and a few people go by it." (from Quoted Often, Followed Rarely). We've been building buildings and bridges for thousands of years - 50 years of programming is still in its infancy and people are trying to figure out how things work.
    – user40980
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 5:01
  • 2
    From that Quoted Often link above, I believe the same can be said of Peopleware: The technology has changed immensely, so some of the old chapters are totally out of sync. On the other hand, people haven't changed much. That's why Homer and Shakespeare and the Bible are still relevant, because they're all dealing with human nature. I think that's part of the explanation for this book: The problems of managing people in teams have not changed, though the medium in which people are designing and the tools they are using have.
    – user40980
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 5:03
  • Well. I guess I'm looking for people who have nascent ideas ( and maybe a data point or two ) for the "New PeopleWare: After Pets.Com" Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 11:55
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    Specifically, polling for opinions and resources is off topic. No matter how you spin it, this question won't fit.
    – user40980
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 14:00
  • Well, I still have to conclude this is because nobody can answer the question. It is clearly not a bad-subjective question, nor a request for a list of citations. It seems like an opinion based question because nobody knows. I am trying to find out if anybody knows. I guess not. Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 14:10
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    I'm a programmer, I don't need quiet to do my job. I work in a noisy office with people talking and interacting around me and phones going off all day. I still get my work done. I sometimes put headphones in and listen to music. Still get work done. Even if you link a "study" that says that programmers must have quiet, it won't apply to me (remember, I'm a programmer). It's not that nobody can answer the question it's that the question is too subjective and will be based on opinion. My answer would be "No, programmers don't need quiet" yet it would be wrong according to the study, right?
    – Deco
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 3:41

You could have asked, "How do you determine the optimum work environment for programmers?" When there is contradictory or limited research, professional opinions are the next best thing and I don't consider that as purely subjective. Having research is great, but will those finding generalize to other programmers, but more importantly, how does it help me/my team?

How does this only apply to programming? In many ways, it doesn't. What about those that use agile methods? How many other jobs are given a set of tasks, that they're suppose to complete in a short period of time (one to three weeks) with as little distraction as possible (because their Scrum Master doesn't let anyone give them something more/else to do) on a continuous basis? Their time is more structured and everyone should know when they are available and when they are not. Most other professions that require creativity either interupt people on an ad hoc basis or they're something like a writer who is usually left along for long periods of time. Some programming teams have formalized this process.

Of course, if anyone takes the attitude that programming is a "team sport" so we need lots of open and continuous verbal communication, the research on independent programmers doesn't generalize. The ones who prefer to take their best person and put her on a tough problem would benefit from a private office.

The ideal solution would be able to provide the environment for your programmer(s) that works best for them. There are those who will claim they can't stand too much quiet just like the student who studies better with the TV on, but if given the chance to work without distraction, may actually improve their productivity, but this assumes increasing productivity is more important than the TV show, music, or chatting.

Some programmers work for comapanies in non-software industries and are forced to deal with those norms. Companies with hierarchical organizational structures are not going to give the programmers the corner office. Sales people who are on the phone a lot may not need quiet around them, but can be a huge distractor to everyone else. Maybe the best thing here is to take the lesser of two evils and put the programmer with somewhat noisy people (and hinder their productivity) instead of making everyone suffer the loud and continuous phone conversations.


As written, the question doesn't seem relevant to the site.

A better wording might be, "Do studies show that programmers program better when it is quiet than when it is not? Have managements acted accordingly?"

Now, you are putting "quiet" in the category of "best practices," an objective goal, as opposed to a subjective "need" by programmers. And by asking for "studies," you are soliciting expert opinion (good subjective), not ordinary opinion (bad subjective).


This is the kind of thing I was looking for.  Does anyone have expert commentary or directly related (by the same researcher perhaps) newer or more recent studies or references? And if so, can You offer your expert opinion, interpretation, and analysis on that?

[Gloria] Mark ... ... had been so constantly distracted that she would have accomplished only a fraction of what she set out to do. "Madness," she thought.  ... [Mark] studies how high-tech devices affect our behavior, so she was able to do more than complain: she set out to measure precisely how nuts we've all become. 



My question was deleted.

I was looking for knowledgable, educated opinion backed up references, studies and facts. I'm still not clear how that is a bad subjective question.

However, I will draw one conclusion from this process, one that others might take note of.

If it appears that nobody can answer the question then the question will be deemed subjective and removed.

Whether the question is subjective or not.

  • 3
    I think you're on the wrong track. You've been given several good reasons why your question is not on-topic on Programmers. You should rethink it too, programmers aren't such a different breed of humans that there should be specific studies on whether they need "quiet", same applies for all roles that require concentration/attention to detail/focus. You should look at other sites for questions like these, maybe Cognitive Sciences (e.g. this question.)
    – Mat
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 11:30
  • Programmers use a kind of skill that intuitively should require some special structure. I'm asking about programmers and not philosophers because it is a modern, relevant ( to business, the economy, and science ) subject that is seemingly likely to have a wide body of knowledge tightly associated to the question at hand. I suppose there is no body of knowlege on these 10 million workers and their performance. I predict that like Henry Ford and the assembly line, one day someone will come along and revolutionize this system. May later than sooner, as no one seems to know. Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 11:48
  • In short, the current flood of programmers in industry should generate a mass of usable data about knowledge workers in general, but apparently, not. Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 11:57
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    So you think programmers have unique needs in this regard, but then that data should be applicable to all "knowledge workers"? I see a contradiction there. The point I tried to make - "knowledge workers" is larger that programmers, and this site is for issues that are specific to programmers only.
    – Mat
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 12:01
  • So many money-holders are interested in programmer productivity that it should serve as an excellent test bed for investigating the question,as opposed to trying to find contemporary, quality data on, say, librarians. We having a revolution here, one where the world is realizing the 'knowledge is power', and similar to other paradigm changing revolutions in the history of the world, is going to generate all kinds of by products. Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 12:21
  • One of those by products, produced because the money makers care about quadrupling productivity in a trade they don't grok, ought to be an answer to the question does quiet have anything to do with productivity of programmers, and by extension, knowledge workers. Because programmers are on the front lines of this revolution and are currently the weapon of choice for business, I'm asking about programmers. On the programmers board. About programmers needs. Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 12:23
  • @Andyz Smith, I'm with you. A lot of the questions that get closed as subjective just aren't well-understood by the people voting to close. I've raised this issue before (meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/2136/…). Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 20:22

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