By this I mean:

  1. Subjective and discussion questions are, perhaps not encouraged, but tolerated, and indeed draw the most views, answers and votes.
  2. Users recognizes that these type of questions are the shortest path to accumulating rep, and we get a glut of them.
  3. Moderator/dev crackdown on these questions, strict definition of what type of questions are and are not answered (e.g. https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/128548/what-stack-overflow-is-not). Subjective and discussion questions are closed immediately. It is made clear that this is not a dumping ground for subjective questions from other SE sites.
  4. Conflict about what to with the questions left over from phase 1. Should they be deleted? Should they remain on the site with a scarlet letter indicating that they are no longer appropriate? What about the rep earned by those questions?

I ask because my tolerance for subjective and discussion questions is a bit higher than what I think is the prevailing sentiment in the SE community. If I ask or answer subjective or discussion type questions now, am I going to be encouraged to feel dirty about it later? Will my posts be later cited as an example of the kind of thing the site doesn't want anymore? Am I setting myself up to be part of a conflict where I will cast as someone happy to leave crap on the internet and who doesn't care about quality?

The good news is that, as the deletionist sentiment is now more established, we will probably move through these phases faster than we did before, so our commitment will be somewhat limited before the locks come on.

  • yes. this is a relatively normal lifecycle for SE sites with a subjective scope.
    – wax eagle
    Apr 19, 2012 at 17:27
  • 5
    @waxeagle But it doesn't really have to be... No reason to tolerate what we already know won't work, especially all the bikeshed crap.
    – yannis
    Apr 19, 2012 at 17:30
  • @yannis It's true, but that requires strong moderation either from moderators or the community, something rarely (if ever) present in early beta periods.
    – wax eagle
    Apr 19, 2012 at 17:33
  • @waxeagle Why do you think I stick around ;P
    – yannis
    Apr 19, 2012 at 17:34
  • @waxeagle we've shown we have close voters to reliably close questions without mods AFTER the public beta, which is very rare for a site so early in public beta. If we coordinate via meta and The Workplace Chat we have a chance to make this work.
    – Rarity
    Apr 20, 2012 at 12:42

5 Answers 5


The only ways to avoid this problem would be to:

  1. Stop the quality problem early so there's no phase 2
  2. Never care about quality so there's no phase 4

Option 2 is a great way to end up with a useless site, so I strongly recommend discussing and enforcing quality standards immediately. We need to be closing and downvoting bad posts and actively encouraging improvement.

This site is at particular risk because several other SE sites have a large body of users hoping to ask off-topic subjective questions here. Now those questions are on-topic, but our standards need to remain high.

  • 3
    +1 for actively encouraging improvement, which to my mind includes the constant reminder -- and Yannis does this on Programmers -- that closure does not have to be a death knell. Improved questions can be reopened.
    – jcmeloni
    Apr 19, 2012 at 21:03
  • 1
    @jcmeloni I do it all the time on UX, I see relatively few people take up on the offer but I still think it's worth posting
    – Rarity
    Apr 19, 2012 at 22:24

I have said it else where and I will say it here. I think we need to take an aggressive close early stance for bad questions. It is better to close the question early (before it gets answers) and require the question be brought in scope to reopen. Then once brought in scope we need to reopen quickly as well. If we have a vigilant moderator crew we should be able to keep the subjective on the Good side of the line. If we close and never revisit questions that have been edited this will not work. We need to build a culture of closed means for now, rather than forever.

Where questions are not edited in a timely fashion(No activity in 72 hours would be my suggestion) I think we need to prune(delete) them. Allowing them to hang around collecting up votes or reopen votes when they have not been edited is not good for the site. Any questions worth saving will probably be edited within 24 hours. If one falls through the cracks but is worth saving we should post a meta question to get it fixed. At 72 hours we should feel comfortable removing questions that have not been edited, and there is not activity trying to save it. Of course if there are still efforts to save the question we should not be pruning. I would also be considerate of a question closed on friday that had not been edited on monday morning. It would probably be best to allow for an extra day for questions closed on Friday.

  • +1 for diligent pruning
    – jcmeloni
    Apr 19, 2012 at 22:36
  • @Chad I wouldn't worry much about setting a specific timeframe, 72 hours might be a bit unreasonable for a low traffic site (OP may not return to the site for 72 hours). Everything else I agree with, and would add that we've already been warned once.
    – yannis
    Apr 19, 2012 at 23:14
  • @YannisRizos - I am saying that most of the questions that get closed and don't get fixed are not worth fixing. There could surely be some that are not then I would hope someone would post on meta asking for help to fix. Apr 20, 2012 at 13:41
  • @YannisRizos - I understand that. But we should never have that where we need to delete 100 questions. We should stay on top of them and not let them get stale. Would a week be long enough? I would be against anything much longer as the minimum wait time. Apr 20, 2012 at 13:57
  • @YannisRizos - We should have firm guidelines for the basic rules though. There will always be outliers, questions that hangaround hoping to get fixed and questions that need to go away NOW. This is for the handling of the everyday is it good to do X questions. We are a softer site so we run a greater risk of attracting bad subjective questions. We need to be diligent about cleaning them up and not letting people pile on them. The best way to avoid the people just wanting attention is to let them know they arent going to get it here. Apr 20, 2012 at 14:08
  • @YannisRizos - I am suggesting that we should firm it up for this site. Apr 20, 2012 at 14:12

I think the most important thing to prevent that is to teach the community early on about what is acceptable and what is not. Don't try to do all the moderation yourself.

Most people I know want to do stuff "the right way", and are happy to do so provided someone takes the time to show them how things should be done.

I think to avoid the cycle you mention, you have to make it very clear to users early on what quality of questions are acceptable, what workplace topics are allowed, and (just as important) what workplace topics are not allowed.

Perhaps a meta question titled something like New User? Click here, which would outline (or contain links to) the exact definition of the site (faq), how to identify good/bad questions, and how to moderate the site yourself.

Teach users how to identify good and bad questions, and how to moderate themselves, and they'll be happy to help maintain a high-quality site. Try to do it all yourself, or with only a small group of people, and you'll either just encounter the same cycle you mentioned, or drive people away from the site who simply don't understand

Oh, and as for subjective questions which bring in views/votes but are really bad for the site, take the time to edit them and make them on-topic. Don't just tolerate them or close them. It's time-consuming, but the end result is something that brings users to the site, and that is on-topic for the site and won't get closed later on. Who said you can't have your cake and eat it too :)

  • 2
    I kind of stopped reading after "I'm going to use myself and programmers.SE as an example..." Is it possible for you to answer a question on any Stack Exchange site without trying to loop your misguided crusade about P.SE into it?
    – casperOne
    Apr 20, 2012 at 14:19
  • @casperOne Try and look at the answer objectively, without your own misguided assumptions about my reasons for answering a question. I would like to prevent the cycle the OP described, which happened on P.SE
    – Rachel
    Apr 20, 2012 at 14:54
  • 1
    If you could answer a question and stay on-topic it would be much easier. Unfortunately, for those that have interacted with you on other Stack Exchange networks, it's become quite the norm for you to relate everything back to your issues with P.SE. When you do this, it degrades the quality of everything else that you're trying to say. You could effectively remove the third paragraph and the answer would still stand on it's own. So why have it there in the first place? You've used this tactic, and been called out before on it. It's nothing new.
    – casperOne
    Apr 20, 2012 at 14:59
  • @casperOne I am trying to explain the reason behind my answer, and I think personal experience is one of the best reasons you can give to back up an answer. If the answer would be better without personal experience to back it up, then please feel free to remove it.
    – Rachel
    Apr 20, 2012 at 15:01
  • Casper requested the edit (doesn't have privs yet)
    – Rarity
    Apr 20, 2012 at 15:07
  • I don't have edit privileges, but I've gotten it edited. Thank you.
    – casperOne
    Apr 20, 2012 at 15:07

Partly more as a regular user rather than as a moderator i am more inclined to think in the lines towards @Rachel.

While, i won't really want to point this site vs. that site - i fundamentally believe that there is fundamental confusion Subjectivity vs. Quality?

try to read HBR blog and they are good; but almost every now and then i find myself disagree with some author and i feel may be thats fine in some US company culture but might be very bad in the context i am in.

There are many subjects which are inherently judgement driven and they will be subjective. But subjective answers don't have to be Bad quality answers.

I have nothing against mods who do a fine job against bad questions but once it turns into a primary school headmaster approach you just keep fighting for definition.

We must encourage good content. And definitely remove reps (similar to community wiki situation) when we see so much non-sense OR de-activate the question (question will not feature much on top active list when too many comments goes beyond quality answers. Reps becomes primary motivation for people to keep pumping posts and comments actually keep questions active inviting more people to it.

As far as long term quality goal is concerned it cann't be generated out of pruning alone. Overall, we won't be able to stop people by being watch dog as much as we will achieve by extending the education in a positive way!


Having experienced several beta sites I can say that unless we take definitive action this will happen.

Each community is determined that it will be the one that manages subjective questions and discussions because they are "different" to the other communities on the network - despite sharing a large number of the same users.

I think the only thing that can vary is the duration of this phase. Keeping a close eye on the site and leading by example in editing, down-voting and voting to close these questions as appropriate is vital.

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