It seems to me there is a difference of opinion about how to handle questions that would be considered overly broad, and that is leading to inconsistent handling of questions.

For your consideration, here are two questions...

The first that came along is "What are good resources for design patterns?", which is a two-liner, general, question asking for resources about design patterns.

The second, and most recent, is "design pattern for unit testing", which was, originally, a two-liner, general, question asking for resources about design patterns as they relate to unit testing.

It was brought up in the comments that the second question was too broad, and there was a close vote to that. But arguably the second question had more context because it was asking about design patterns as they pertain to unit testing and not just design patterns in general. I have no idea if there were any close votes on the first question as I don't have those privileges (yet). This question on Meta was raised which touches upon the topic of overly broad questions, but doesn't really discuss them in real detail and seems more focused on duplicate questions (which is quickly turning into an uncontrollable problem in the sites I frequent). Strictly speaking, neither of these question violate the guidelines of subjective questions which appears to be the gold standard for assessing the quality of a question.

I won't debate the point that either question is broad, but both questions have brought some useful answers (particularly the first). The broad questions of these types seem to be logical ones to ask, I'm sure everyone here has asked them at one point or another, but there are few places to ask them outside of the SE family of websites. Alternatives have yet to be presented by the objector(s) of the second question.

If the P.SE community does decide to close questions that are broad, that it should at least wait to see the quality of the answers before submitting the close vote. Or, better still, simply mark it as community wiki and let it fly. These are really not that much different than the "favorite tool/application/technique" questions that exist now and will always be asked.

The subjective guidelines are great—and people need to remember they are just guidelines and not strict rules—and judging something as being "overly broad" is just as subjective a topic. I think the community would benefit from a clear definition of "overly broad" and a consistent implementation that would result.

UPDATE: What I am proposing is that the definition of "broad", its existence as a reason to close, and the policy of closing for broad context should be revisited. While this isn't nearly as important as past issues, it is one that I think hasn't been hashed out enough and some questions (and possibly potential contributors) are suffering as a result. What one may consider a simple, basic question, another may consider a bad one. Is voting to close it really the best way to handle it, particularly if the topic would yield solid, basic answers? It's not as though the SE sites, SO and P.SE in particular, make any clearly stated assumptions and qualifications of the skill level of people who post questions. Until that happens, these types of questions are going to come up again and again, and I think there ought to be a better way of managing them.

1 Answer 1


There are already policies in place for questions that are too broad: edit them to limit their scope or close them. That's what the not a real question close reason is for.

Community Wiki is a tool for allowing the community to take ownership of a question or answer, it's to say "Hey, I got the ball rolling, can you help me fill out the rest?", it's not a tool to be used to allow borderline-to-bad questions to exist.

As to the question you're using as an example of something that you feel is just as broad as the one that got a single close vote, it was asked before the Great Redisiplining and hasn't had much activity since. Two wrongs don't make a right: just because a similar question stayed open doesn't mean a bad question gets a free pass. However, it's good to point out questions that slip through the cracks so others can take the appropriate action, like closing, on them.

But I emphasize single close vote because you're taking one single, solitary close vote far too personally. It takes 5 regular users with 3,000+ rep or a moderator to close a question. The moderation of this site is done by real people who make real choices and real interpretations of what the policies are. Many times people agree, perhaps just as often they don't. That's why it takes 5 people to close.

But the question, as it stands now, looks to be fine, although borderline with the quality of the answers it's getting.

And honestly, Programmers.SE is in no dire straits when it comes to people asking questions. There are tons of questions being asked, beyond the two you're focusing on, that aren't too broad; we don't need to make a special exception for overly broad questions.

  • 2
    @Mark: I get what you're saying, but you're still not answering my questions; you keep rallying against broad questions but you're not offering alternatives to those that feel they have no other choice. Again, how was the second a bad one compared to the first before the editing? It was a simple question, but if it isn't acceptable to your standards, then where can someone ask that type of question if they don't know enough about the topic to give more context to it? Yes, it was only one vote, but it was unfair vote when held up to other questions of the examples' ilk. Simple != bad here. Commented Dec 30, 2010 at 20:24
  • @Philip It's far more cut & dry then you're making it out to be. Keep 2 things in mind: 1) use common sense. A broad question, by definition, is a question without sufficient detail. Can someone reasonably infer the scope of the question and provide an answer that fully addresses the question? If so, it has the makings of a decent question. If not, it's too broad. 2) Realize that real live people are voting to close, upvote, and downvote. They make mistakes and they miss things. Just because one question stayed open doesn't mean it's unassailably good and an exemplar for all future questions.
    – user8
    Commented Dec 30, 2010 at 20:42
  • @Mark: I think the definition of "broad" (and its existence as a reason to close) and the policy of closing for broad context should be revisited. While this isn't nearly as important as past issues, it is one that I think hasn't been hashed out enough and some questions are suffering as a result. What you considered a bad question I (and others) considered a good basic one. Commented Dec 30, 2010 at 21:09
  • @Mark: And you still haven't answered my questions. Commented Dec 30, 2010 at 21:10
  • 2
    @Philip don't be obtuse. I've answered your questions: you just don't like the answer you've been given. The question, as it was originally asked, was bad because it was too broad. What's mind-boggling to me is that you're getting riled up over a question that's remained open and even I'm saying is a decent question in its current form. Are you now arguing that there should be a policy against editing questions to make them clearer?
    – user8
    Commented Dec 30, 2010 at 21:14
  • @Mark: As far as I see it, the question didn't need editing and the vote to close was unfair. I've always felt that the notion of closing a question as being too broad as being too blunt an instrument, that it leads to pigeonholing decisions on questions that could yield good answers. Broad does not always equal bad or unanswerable; it could end up being a question that leads to the basics of a particular topic that is then qualified by the community. That benefits everyone, including the mass of newbies that hit the site every day (casual observation there)... Commented Dec 30, 2010 at 21:22
  • ...Since questions like that could be used as reputation farms of a sort, that's why I suggested to slap 'em community wiki and move on. To help aid the discussion, I have posted an update to my question that I think better explains my intentions here. Commented Dec 30, 2010 at 21:23

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