So this question :

Why do we still have programming languages that rely on indentation / white space?

put on hold a opinion based, when we have this question:

Why should a language prefer indentation over explicit markers for blocks?

Right there with a cleary good, interesting and factual answer.

I suggest we clean up the rules about what's on topic to discourage this kind of reactive voting

  • 2
    Being the first one casting a close vote: If I had been aware of the other question, I would have voted as a duplicate, not as primarily opinion based. To me, the question came across so much as a rant against mandatory whitespace that I could not see a non-opinion based answer being given. Apr 30 '19 at 10:55
  • so if the rule was changed to something like "opinionated questions are allowed for code usability questions" would you have not voted to close?
    – Ewan
    Apr 30 '19 at 14:56
  • 1
    If the close reason "primarily opinion based" didn't exist, I might have written an answer instead. That answer would have been based entirely on my opinion without any supporting facts or experiences. And voting would become a popularity contest. Apr 30 '19 at 15:29
  • one might argue that in cases of this nature a popular way of writing code is by definition easy to understand
    – Ewan
    Apr 30 '19 at 15:34

I think there's a fundamental difference in "why do" and "why should" answers. We don't know for sure why something does or doesn't exist since we aren't the people making the decisions. At best, we are searching and providing links and summaries. However, should questions can be based on best or good practices that either support or oppose the perspective.

I don't think that "why do" or "why should" should be treated as trigger words. That is, a question shouldn't be closed just because it contains one of these words. However, a question that seems to be worded more in a direction of fishing for opinions should be slanted toward answers based on practices. If there are already a lot of answers, either the answers should be cleared up to remove ones that rely on personal opinion without support from good practices or personal experiences or the questions should be closed as primarily opinion based until it can be cleaned up, if it can. Some things can't be fixed - they are not supported by practice and are entirely preferential, so these should be closed.

In this particular case, I would close the "why do" question as a duplicate of the "why should" question instead of primarily opinion based. I'd also encourage questions about programming language design to go to the Computer Science Stack Exchange, where there are more likely to be experts in the design and design history of programming languages, since that's a particular field of Computer Science. Part of programming language design is about usability of the language for development. I'd want to defer to the true experts on the subject, rather than on my (or other) personal preferences, but I wouldn't necessarily say that questions about the design and usability are off-topic here on Software Engineering.

  • it's all very well saying it should be moved to another group, but if we continue to narrow our focus with these vague guidelines you end up chucking the baby out with the bath water.
    – Ewan
    Apr 30 '19 at 10:09
  • 1
    @Ewan I'm not proposing a change in scope. These questions are on topic here. However, they may be better answered by a group of experts that exist somewhere else, but that doesn't mean they are off topic or unanswerable here assuming they meet the other criteria, which they do. The only change is that I'd close the newer one as a duplicate and not primarily opinion based.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Apr 30 '19 at 10:18

There are two main differences between these two questions:

  • the first (newer) one sounds a lot more like a rant against Python or Haskell than the second (older) one. It does not look like something which could be answered objectively, more like "indentation for blocks is obviously bullsh##, so why the heck is Python still so popular". The second one, however, is way more carefully worded, and focusses mainly on the auto-formatting aspect.

  • the second one got an excellent answer (before the downvote-trigger-happy part of our community was getting a chance to devour it), so it proved itself to be answerable.

So I think closing the first one and keeping the second one open is ok. If the close reason for the first should be "primarily opinion based" or "duplicate" is debatable.

  • yes i agree, since the question has a duplicate its somewhat academic what happens to it. Yes it does sound a bit ranty, but if it really comes down to whether a good answer is posted in the first hour and the phrasing of the question. I think we need to change something
    – Ewan
    Apr 30 '19 at 10:04
  • 2
    @Ewan: honestly, we can only speculate of what would have happened to the second question if noone had written a good answer so quickly. But to get such kind of answer can definitely help to prove the quality of a question, and that is IMHO fine. I sometimes see questions for which I initially think they are too broad or too opionated for this site. But then someone comes up with a good answer, and gives me a different perspective and may change my mind on this.
    – Doc Brown
    Apr 30 '19 at 10:37

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