Virtually every question from this site that I see on the 'hot questions' list strikes me as a pure exercise in eliciting conflicting opinions. They may be expert opinions, or they may not, but they do not come close to some sort of objective standard. The most recent example I've seen: "Is readability a reason not to use const parameters.". If the standards of this site are going to continue to encourage this sort of thing, I'll continue to give it a miss. If you are aiming to squeeze this stuff out in favor of questions that are less opinionated, I might start showing up and answering some things.

Another example of interest to me: Let's Debate Two Buzzwords. This one is currently protected, but open.

  • By "Hot list," do you mean this? programmers.stackexchange.com/questions?sort=votes Or do you mean the Hot Network Questions in the right sidebar? Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 22:40
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    The right-hand sidebar, the bane of all sites trying to improve anything.
    – bmargulies
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 22:56
  • 4
    Gnat would probably assert that the "Hot Questions" sidebar is fundamentally broken. Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 22:58
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    As would I. I believe that he and I tilted at this windmill on the mother-of-all metas and ended up with headaches.
    – bmargulies
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 22:58
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    @MasonWheeler you like that your worst questions are displayed across all sites, encouraging more people to drive by and deposit more useless opinionated answers?
    – bmargulies
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 14:07
  • @bmargulies Not everyone agrees with your (purely subjective) standard of what makes questions "good," "bad," or "worst." The Hot Network Questions functionality exists for a reason, and it serves a useful purpose in building up our community. Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 14:08
  • Opinionated questions are unfortunately always very popular but also not very useful. I guess they only exist because no-one can produce better questions about these subjects. Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 9:34

3 Answers 3


Software Design is not mathematics - for lots of questions in this area, there is not objective "right" or "wrong", only opinions about "better" or "worse" based on certain experience. So I would not expect any change for questions which are opinionated to a certain degree. On the other hand, purely opinionated questions were closed very quickly by the community in the past, and I expect this to happen the same way in the future, with or without the name change. Note the goal of the site's rebranding is not to change the current scope, only to make it more transparent.

However, the two linked examples your question mentions will probably not be closed as too opinionated. That is because they do - as far as I can see - not encourage opionated answers, quite the opposite:

  • the first one makes the wrong assumption that the use of "const" in C++ is only a matter of readability. It is objectively true that this assumption is wrong (see second answer). And it is objectively true that readability increases by the tabular parameter formatting presented in the topmost answer

  • the second question asks if the usage of TDD makes Defensive Programming redundant. The answers explain well that this is objectively not the case, because they address different types of failures

So what I see in your question above are at least 3 wrong assumptions:

  • "purely opinionated questions seem to be welcome here" (they are not, and I saw a lot of people complaining about the opposite in the past - that their opinionated question was closed overhastily)

  • "when a question is about readability, it will cause opinionated answers" (readability can surely be based on personal opinion, but a question like "is XYZ just a matter of readability, or is there more behind it" can typically be answered by facts)

  • "TDD and Defensive Programming are just buzzwords, and a comparison of them will be purely subjective" (see above why this is wrong)

Though all of these assumptions are plain wrong, I gave your question an upvote, either, since it is at least a good occasion to explain the difference between "good" and "bad" subjective questions.


Nothing has changed. Purely "subjective" questions are still closed here as "Primarily Opinion-Based," and always have been.

Subjectivity hasn't defined our subject-matter scope since the "Not Programming Related" days. We're no longer a haven for "the subjective questions that Stack Overflow doesn't want." Since the first site rebranding, questions asked here are subject to the same standards for clarity and depth that Stack Overflow questions are measured against, irrespective of their subject matter.

To be fair, the question you cited is not fundamentally subjective; it's fundamentally misguided, and the answer is clear and unambiguous: nobody expects readability to trump functionality.

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    My perception, FWIW, is that you get a lot of questions that are in the same general area as 'what indentation is the correct indentation,' and they not only aren't closed, they are upvoted and show up as 'network hot questions'.
    – bmargulies
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 22:57
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    Unfortunately there are still a lot of participants on Programmers that want to bikeshed such questions. It's currently up to a small contingent of veteran users to keep such questions at bay (that one is "primarily opinion-based"). We're hoping that such questions will diminish after the name change. Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 22:59
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    Another angle here is this: to me, the question of 'readability' is so wildly subjective that any question that mentions it makes me twitch, even, if in this case, there is an answer that does not turn on the bikeshed aspect.
    – bmargulies
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 23:01
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    Sure. Sometimes restraint is the best policy. Someone asked the other day why the caret was chosen to represent XOR in some programming language. I strongly asserted that such questions were off-topic here, until he said "I'm creating a programming language." My reply: "Why didn't you just say so in the first place?" Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 23:09
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    Your second example that you just added is not "let's debate two buzzwords." It is, in fact, in the same category as the first: fundamentally misguided, and the correct answer is readily apparent. Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 23:10
  • @RobertHarvey: if the one who asked that question would have been "fundamentally misguided", he would not have asked this question, I guess? It seems he is on the right track, only looking for some factual arguments against his colleague.
    – Doc Brown
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 6:10
  • @DocBrown: People ask questions that have a flawed premise all the time. Sometimes that's why they ask, because they simply don't understand. Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 6:15
  • @RobertHarvey: indeed, best example for this is this meta question ;-)
    – Doc Brown
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 6:21

Since you seem to be mostly active at Stack Overflow, the main (and essentially the only) difference you will probably observe at Programmers is absence of debugging help questions.

Moderators at this site were given a guidance to quickly delete such questions and as far as I can tell they happily follow this recommendation. Also, community over here is quite unwelcoming towards debugging questions so you may notice many of them quickly closed at score -3 and lower and deleted by 20K users even before moderators intervene.

As for bikeshedding / beat the strawman kind questions, there is not really much difference. I spend quite a bit of time in SO close queue and it looks like such questions are posted to SO at about the same rate as here and standards of both sites have nothing to do with this.

What looks to you like more encouragement here is misleading impression.

The only reason why more of Programmers questions of this kind get and stick in hot questions is that system has special adjustment 1 that pushes Stack Overflow questions out of HNQ list after few hours while Programmers questions, just like all other sites, stick in the list for days.

For the sake of completeness you may also notice that Programmers get a bit more of project management questions than Stack Overflow. But as far as I can tell there is not much of a difference really, probably because these questions tend to be better handled at other site (PM.SE).

See also: What goes on Software Engineering (previously known as Programmers)? A guide for Stack Overflow

1 If you're interested, special adjustment mentioned above is explained in more details here. Official reason for this adjustment is to prevent SO questions dominating hot list but this is nonsense, ignore it. If they wanted just to avoid SO domination, they would implement the adjustment differently.

There is a parameter in hotness formula that controls just how to limit amount of questions from single site and tweaking this parameter would guarantee desired limit for questions that can enter the list. Instead of simply changing this parameter they picked an indirect way that makes SO questions leave hot list faster which apparently was the main purpose of this adjustment. The reason they wanted that was to avoid too loud meta complaints when SO questions stick in the list ("croissants" probably scared them).

Programmers also complain about HNQ and we even delete worst of such questions but this site is too small and SE management doesn't give a damn. About 2-3 months ago Shog told me that they are perfectly happy with the way how hot questions work and they don't plan for any changes in that (indeed why would they now that they shut down complaints from the only site that was big enough to force them change).

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