If one reads the description of this site, one finds that it's purpose is:

Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professionals and students in software development and related fields who are interested in getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development. (emphasis mine).

To my mind, conceptual questions are ones that will almost always require opinion-based answers. Yet, reading further down the site description, there are the statements:

Focus on questions about an actual problem you have faced. Include details about what you have tried and exactly what you are trying to do.


Not all questions work well in our format. Avoid questions that are primarily opinion-based, or that are likely to generate discussion rather than answers.

These two statements appear to be directly copied from Stack Overflow, which isn't a place for conceptual questions; it's focused on specific questions about specific issues. These two statements also seem to run counter to the stated purpose of the Programmers site itself.

Recently, I answered Why is it inappropriate to use UML diagrams to plan how your code will be organized?, which seemed an almost perfect fit question for this site. Yet this question was closed as "primarily opinion-based". Whilst it has subsequently been re-opened, it's worth looking here at the words behind this close reason (taken from Stack Overflow, but I assume they are the same for this site):

primarily opinion-based Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

It clearly states that "Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience", which I believe was the case with this question. This raises the obvious question: why did those that voted to close it feel it was too opinion-based?

Clearly a question such as "Should I use spaces or tabs for whitespace in my code" will be purely opinion-based and such edge-case questions deserve to be closed. However, as mentioned earlier, I feel answers to conceptual questions will almost always be opinion-based. Thus my question, should this site even be using this close reason, except for these rare occasions?

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    The reason for my close vote on the original revision of the mentioned question was based on what is discussed in Discuss this ${blog}. After the changes, the question became objectively answerable. Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 10:52
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    @BartvanIngenSchenau, whilst the edit improves the question, I don't feel it fundamentally changed it. My answer was to the original question. So the original question clearly was already answerable. The main point of my question though, is that that question didn't generate lots of opinionated answers, so surely it was wrong to have closed it as opinion-based in the first place?
    – David Arno
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 11:11
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    Do you wait for edits before voting to close a question? "...fast closure here serves the primary need to make reopening easier and protect the poorly worded good question from getting bad answers."
    – gnat
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 11:29
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    see also Can we eliminate the close reason “Primarily Opinion Based”? at TWP meta
    – gnat
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 11:43
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    When I made the edit that led to reopening, my thought process was: "This question contains an objective-ish-ly answerable part, and that's the part David answered, and the OP accepted his answer, so it's fairly safe to assume that part really is what the OP was interested in, so I might as well edit the question to be just that objectively answerable part" (that, and David's comment about it being wrongfully closed made me think it could be a useful case study; the fact that it got reopened so quickly probably tells us something).
    – Ixrec
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 14:26
  • @Ixrec, I'm intrigued to know what you you plan to do about programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/306098/…. It's yet another excellent question, with excellent answers, yet you voted to close it. Why?
    – David Arno
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 23:17
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    @DavidArno Although it didn't have excellent answers at the time, in retrospect I agree that question is answerable and didn't need to be closed. I can't retract my vote anymore, but it looks like I was the only one who voted to close it, so I'd write that off as simply a bad call on my part.
    – Ixrec
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 12:17

1 Answer 1


Subjective questions are allowed, in fact there is a meta questions somewhere about "good subjective" v. "bad subjective" (I can't find it, could someone please edit it in here?). Good questions will often involve some measure of opinion.

  • Questions that are completely objective with zero wiggle room for opinion tend to be uninteresting and bland, and answerable via searching for facts on Google. If there is only one correct answer to a question, it takes little effort to answer it and it provides little value in the Stack Exchange format.

  • Questions that have some room for opinion tend to invite the depth and breadth of experience of software development professionals. These are the whiteboard questions that we like: "given this set of constraints and these specific goals, how do I design the system?" or "does UML provide a benefit given how this software project is run, its goals, timelines, etc." could be a "good subjective" as well.

  • Questions that are immediately recognizable as pure opinion with no correct answer (e.g. "spaces or tabs?") are "bad subjective."

The first category should be closed as off-topic because a quick web search will answer them: we expect that an asker performs at least minimal research, which should have answered that type of question.

The second category should remain open. An on-topic question might attract up or down votes, may or may not be answered, and may be put on hold as "unclear" or "too broad" and edited into shape to reopen. But it should not be closed as off-topic or primarily opinion-based.

The third category should be closed as primarily opinion-based and deleted. Not even voted as duplicate, these are bad questions and we do not want the signposts hanging around.

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    @Snowman: How does a person know if this is pure opinion based until he/she gets the answers? I'll give an example. programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/305487/… I've been suggested that this is an opinion based question and it's wrong this way. But standardization of code style is something that industry pursuades. Maybe they just don't know the answer.
    – doker
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 7:27
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    @doker that question is borderline, but I did not vote to close it. The wording in the final paragraph ("What are pros and cons of both solutions?") is a bit broad and invites discussion (opinion), but the core of the question looks to me to be not primarily opinion-based. They key is you have two approaches and are looking for the best one: you could improve the question by providing objective success criteria instead of asking us to pick an option. That is why I did not VTC: it can be easily improved and the core of the question is not an opinion poll.
    – user22815
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 18:27
  • @Snowman: my understanding is that there is one good practice and both cannot be good. If majority thinks they are both ok then it would be great if that was peoples' answer.
    – doker
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 21:51
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    @doker please read this meta question I asked a while back along with the responses. I think it helps put "opinion-based" into perspective: meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/q/6851
    – user22815
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 21:57

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