(My title is a bit facetious, since the answer is probably "it depends".)

I'm seeing a lot of questions like this:

etc (48 answers contains "depends")

I love this site already. Some have asked great, specific questions. But, I'm seeing a lot of these where many different answers are given, each with a different approach to the unknowns involved.

A while ago, Josh K on Programmers posted this answer to my concern about the 15-post CW conversion. My concerns were a bit out of place. I realized Josh was right, attracting that many answers is a sign that something isn't right about the question.

Are questions that leave open a lot of "it depends" unknowns bad? And, if they are bad, how do we define what is wrong with them and what do we do about it?

3 Answers 3


It depends.

Really, there are two potential problems here:

  1. The question was asked in such a way that what "it depends" on isn't clear.
  2. Questions which are asking "What does 'it depend' on?" where the question is clearly asking where X is applicable ect

Questions from Category 1 are Bad Subjective, it means the question isn't framed in such a way that we can answer. Take Is it acceptable to use pirated software on the job? for example. Acceptable to who? Legal where? What are the risks for whom? It's not answerable unless we know these things.

On User Experience we have lots of questions from Category 2 exist, and they're good questions. The problem isn't that "it depends", it's that we all know it depends, just get to your explanation of what matters.

The big difference between the two is one is asking what "it depends" on; answers should explain the important factors, when to do X and why and so forth. The other one has a question where the answers can only guess what's important.

Category 1 questions should be closed and improved, Category 2 questions sometimes benefit from better wording, but are answerable. People answering "It Depends" to Category 2 are sort of annoying/redundant I'll admit.

  • 2
    +1 I was just going to bring up "it depends" questions on UX as an example.
    – jcmeloni
    Apr 19, 2012 at 20:57

Many "It Depends" questions are overly broad, or require those answering to make assumptions that may run counter to the intent of the question.

For these three in particular:

How can I reduce the size of a long resume without hiding all my skills and experience? - This should say if this is being handed to a recruiter prior to an interview or not. I answered with the assumption that it was the initial resume submission (which seems to be the poster's intent), but the question could probably be rephrased along the lines of

The generally accepted wisdom in most areas seems to be that a resume should be no longer than one sheet of paper. Is this still the case, and if so why?

and be a bit better.

Does putting LaTeX as a skill on my resume make me look too academic? - I'm one of the "it depends" answers. This question seems like a very narrow/specific version of the general question How do I decide which skills to list on my resume?.
I think the general question should be asked, and this one should probably be closed...

Is loyalty (depth) or diverse experience (breadth) more important to a hiring manager? -- I'm not sure about this one honestly. Maybe someone else can answer and knock me off the fence?


In general yes. Even though some questions with only a few options could be answered many times there is one option that is usually right, but a few corner cases that muddy the issue. This can create chatty answers and discussion, something we need to work hard to avoid.

I think we need to get moderators on here aggressively closing to broad questions. Lets take the approach of Skeptics and close first and ask for the question to be fixed and reopen. I think if we are on the ball and get bad questions closed quickly act on both closing and reopening then we will get good response.

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