9

Our SE is based on asking how to deal with workplace situations. There is no one right answer and many times the questions that are more complex and require more thought are just being closed for being opinion based.

This close reason does not fit here well, or this site does not fit SE. But either way we need to address the fact that many questions that are suitable for the site are being closed because they are asking for solutions that do not have one right answer.

How can we address this problem?

  • 3
    I think the key word in that close reason is "primarily". Many answers involve opinions and may even be opinion-based, but a question is only useful if it can attract supported, reasoned answers -- which is more than just some random guy on the internet's opinion. – Monica Cellio Nov 26 '13 at 17:05
  • 2
    @MonicaCellio - The point of SE is that we have experts, and not just some random guy on the internet to answer questions. That some random guy could answer with a bad answer is not supposed to preclude the questions from being asked. It is the nature of this SE that basically all of the questions that are asked here will be opinion based. I think we need to change the close reason to make it easier to identify the bad questions and harder to close the good subjective questions. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 26 '13 at 17:10
  • @MonicaCellio: The point of SE is that we have experts. I'm afraid Chad is right. Only experts should answer questions on TWP. Everyone else should get off of the field. – Jim G. Nov 27 '13 at 3:43
  • 1
    The idea of 'expert' here is rather peculiar. We could have someone who is stuck with an issue after working for a total of two weeks, and someone who solved it and has therefore managed to keep their job for a month and a half is the 'expert'. Expertise is closely coupled to circumstances. HR people are not going to tell you how to schedule 'fairness' in making fresh pots of coffee in the company kitchen - this depends on all kinds of stuff. Similarly, someone from India asking a question about employment contracts is out of luck with a North American audience. – Meredith Poor Nov 27 '13 at 7:23
  • 3
    I agree. Due to the nature of Workplace, this close reason is clearly confusing to voters and questioners alike. – Joe Strazzere Nov 27 '13 at 14:45
7

Executive Summary

13.3% of the questions asked on this site since the 'primarily opinion-based' close reason was introduced on June 26th, 2013 have been put on hold for that reason.

Despite that (rather large) number, I do not advocate eliminating the close reason as it does have a place.

I do advocate aggressively editing questions to try to keep them open.

Keeping the Reason

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but some questions will tend to get answers almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

(okay, that was tongue-in-cheek, but accurate)

Take some of these questions:

These questions are simply impossible to answer because there isn't a general answer. They are all value judgments that will be different for each person, each company, each background. These questions aren't a good fit for TW, and should be closed. How else would they be closed currently?

  • Perfectly clear what is being asked
  • Definitely not too broad
  • Not asking what job to take/how to do your job/legal advice

We need a way to close these questions, and 'primarily opinion-based' seems to capture them well from where I sit. The primary issue is that the person isn't asking to solve a problem, they are asking for confirmation of something they already believe. Basically, they are trawling for agreement rather than resources.

I believe this is part of the reason "Joel says [The Workplace is] a self-help group for commiserating".

The questions should not be asking for us to provide a bullet list of answers, but rather a way to think about the problem in order to come to our own conclusion. Telling someone what programming languages are the most popular right now (or most likely to get you hired) won't be of much value to someone in a year, it will just be a bullet list of little value. We want to discourage that, and focus on Good Subjective questions.

Aggressive Edits

What these questions do have is the core of a good question. It doesn't take much to turn What programming languages are most 'hire-able'? in to a productive question like, "Should I decide what skills to study over the next 4 years based on the current job market for those skills?"

By changing the direction of the question (but not the core concept of how to decide what skills to learn), the asker will get helpful advice they can apply to decide on their own, and they have a broader base of experience to choose from (since how to decide which skills to learn is something far more broadly applicable than just to software languages).

If we don't change it, then we should close it, because to be perfectly honest, these questions rarely get good answers to be worth keeping the questions open for.

Data Collection Method

I ran this query to get all the closed questions on TW since the close reasons changed on June 26th, 2013.

Out of the 705 questions asked, there were 322 questions closed with the new and improved close reasons (percentages are of closed questions/of asked questions):

  • 94 (29.2%/13.3%): primarily opinion-based
  • 88 (27.3%/12.5%): off-topic (can't separate more)
  • 57 (17.7%/8.1%): duplicate
  • 46 (14.3%/6.5%): unclear what you're asking
  • 37 (11.5%/5.2%): too broad

Data Dump

Here are the 300+ closed questions:

11-25, primarily opinion-based, Underpaid and overworked, how should I approach my boss?
11-25, primarily opinion-based, When is it okay to consult others on work I'm doing (after being told I take up too much of their time)?
11-22, primarily opinion-based, Happiness and joy in the workplace?
11-22, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/16861/
11-19, primarily opinion-based, Are spelling errors in my rejection letter an HR trap or an act of negligence?
11-19, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/16800/
11-19, primarily opinion-based, Self-arranged trial contracting job (permatemp-like) unethical?
11-19, primarily opinion-based, Asking for more deterministic and easily measured work assignments in new job
11-18, primarily opinion-based, Been requested that we work overtime in order to get the project delivered, would that let the team down?
11-18, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/16758/
11-18, primarily opinion-based, Does an ultimatum require two weeks notice?
11-18, primarily opinion-based, Is it ethical to exclude terminally ill employees from end-of-year layoffs?
11-15, primarily opinion-based, How long is too long to wait for a response after a final interview?
11-11, primarily opinion-based, Fast learning cycle, how to keep up with it?
11-10, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/16601/
11-09, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/15553/
11-05, primarily opinion-based, How to list remote contract/freelance work on a resume?
11-05, primarily opinion-based, To what extent is it common practice to inform others of who is going to be at a meeting?
10-30, primarily opinion-based, How to be constructive and solve problems in an unconstructive environment?
10-30, primarily opinion-based, Job screen asked for a questionnaire but rejected my responses as inadequate
10-29, primarily opinion-based, What are differences between quantitative analyst and data scientist in IT companies?
10-29, primarily opinion-based, Is a complex test which benefits the company an ethical practice?
10-29, primarily opinion-based, Should I dress sloppy for an interview to see if they really mean it?
10-28, primarily opinion-based, What months/seasons in each year are there more openings and less openings?
10-26, primarily opinion-based, Why do companies disregard investing in productivity equipment?
10-24, primarily opinion-based, How do I avoid volunteering for weekend on-call support?
10-22, primarily opinion-based, How can I climb the corporate ladder while being disabled and having other life commitments?
10-22, primarily opinion-based, "Skills didn't meet the requirements for this position"
10-21, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/15156/
10-21, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/15155/
10-21, primarily opinion-based, Is it not right to write/blog something useful whilst working?
10-20, primarily opinion-based, Appearing in Skype interview wearing undershirt
10-18, primarily opinion-based, Why would they interview if they would never meet my minimum salary?
10-10, primarily opinion-based, Who would be laid off first?
10-09, primarily opinion-based, Dealing with jealous and overcontrolling ex-boss
10-07, primarily opinion-based, Is it rude to ask recruiter for same day appointment?
10-07, primarily opinion-based, How Can I Convince My Boss That Traveling for Work Is Non Productive?
10-01, primarily opinion-based, How does the number of masters degrees matter?
09-30, primarily opinion-based, Is this harassment or discrimination or nothing?
09-26, primarily opinion-based, Should titles be included in LinkedIn names?
09-17, primarily opinion-based, Use Adjectives to describe yourself
09-13, primarily opinion-based, Should I list by project or by accomplishment on my resume?
09-11, primarily opinion-based, Is it a good practice to ask candidates to read or write code in a programmer interview?
09-05, primarily opinion-based, Is it appropriate to do a follow-up email when not applying for a specific position?
09-03, primarily opinion-based, Is it inappropriate to ask the CEO for his salary/job description?
09-02, primarily opinion-based, How do I prevent myself from leaning too close to the monitor?
08-30, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/14175/
08-30, primarily opinion-based, How much information should I give my former boss when I lost a company key?
08-29, primarily opinion-based, How long do I wait before sending a follow up email?
08-28, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/14037/
08-28, primarily opinion-based, Ethics in negotiations
08-28, primarily opinion-based, Listening in in a negotiations
08-27, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/14010/
08-27, primarily opinion-based, Is it reasonable to turn down an onsite interview due to length?
08-26, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/13963/
08-25, primarily opinion-based, How to Rate Job Interview Process
08-21, primarily opinion-based, Frequent job switches
08-21, primarily opinion-based, Should I ask my new employer for an extra laptop charger?
08-19, primarily opinion-based, Front End Developer Screening Preparation
08-19, primarily opinion-based, Is hiring a single software engineer common or reasonable for smaller companies?
08-17, primarily opinion-based, What factors do I need to take into account when considering ban of eating at desk?
08-16, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/13815/
08-16, primarily opinion-based, Should I put enrollment into but not starting study in resume?
08-13, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/13771/
08-09, primarily opinion-based, How a status email should look like?
08-08, primarily opinion-based, Boss making me do inappropriate punishments at work
08-08, primarily opinion-based, Internet Monitoring Report spotted job searching
08-02, primarily opinion-based, Is it acceptable to take the cell phone number when leaving?
08-02, primarily opinion-based, What should a software engineer's personal web page look like?
07-31, primarily opinion-based, How can I use my leverage at my current employer to help create an environment with less, direct hands on management of my work?
07-30, primarily opinion-based, Is a job with a flaky employer worth pursuing?
07-30, primarily opinion-based, Should follow-up be promised in a cover letter?
07-30, primarily opinion-based, Should I still follow up when I'd planned to even though the application deadline was extended?
07-27, primarily opinion-based, Is it a good management style to degrade oneself so others feel comfortable approaching?
07-24, primarily opinion-based, What I should do when I don't like to buy a take away for my colleague daily after my lunch outside of office?
07-24, primarily opinion-based, Internet usage after-work hours
07-22, primarily opinion-based, Can I use secret information when asking for a payrise?
07-18, primarily opinion-based, My office has finally unfrozen salaries
07-18, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/13240/
07-18, primarily opinion-based, Question about benefits coverage responsibilities
07-16, primarily opinion-based, Salary discussion while I'm actively searching for a new job
07-15, primarily opinion-based, Incoming splitting gone wrong
07-14, primarily opinion-based, Director not directing senior managers, should we confront them?
07-11, primarily opinion-based, Is insomnia a valid reason to file for a sick leave?
07-10, primarily opinion-based, What does a very small raise that is equal to the inflation rate mean?
07-10, primarily opinion-based, I've handed in my resignation letter. My manager texts me asking for salary details
07-09, primarily opinion-based, How to approach getting rid of geese from workplace?
07-07, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/12907/
07-03, primarily opinion-based, What programming languages are most 'hire-able'?
07-02, primarily opinion-based, Good question to ask a potential employer at a job interview?
06-29, primarily opinion-based, When and how to fire a unproductive engineer?
06-28, primarily opinion-based, What is considered a big raise?
06-26, primarily opinion-based, Overpaid on a low position
06-26, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/12631/

  • +1: Great answer. Thanks. – Jim G. Nov 26 '13 at 12:53
  • 1
    The problem is questions that make you think and do not have an easy answer seem to be the ones that are more likely to attract close votes and not get reopened. I do not want to see this site become a waste land of easy my job sucks am I right questions that seem to be pervading the site these days. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 26 '13 at 16:10
  • 1
    @Chad, could you give some more concrete examples? I don't necessarily disagree, but the questions I perused while tallying the close reason numbers were almost universally bad questions. I've added a dump to the post so you can browse each individually. – jmac Nov 26 '13 at 23:32
  • @jmac this one seems a bit silly to have "primarily opinion based" as a close reason ;) – enderland Nov 27 '13 at 14:00
  • "its answers are much less factual than most other sites… and yet it’s still successful." I guess that can be interpreted as "don't change anything - keep on doing what you are doing". The whole opinion-based thing confuses me. I try to read the questions and apply that logic - I see very, very few questions here which don't have primarily opinion-based answers. Although others will do what they choose, I'm probably going to stop using that reason entirely myself. – Joe Strazzere Nov 27 '13 at 14:43
  • @Joe, I read (heard?) 'it's still successful' as, "Despite being a den of evil opinion, lots of people still seem to go there." Different strokes, and all that. – jmac Nov 27 '13 at 14:45
  • @jmac - LOL! Den of Evil makes it sound more fun that it really is, IMHO. I guess it all depends on how you define "success". As in almost everything here, "it depends..." – Joe Strazzere Nov 27 '13 at 14:47
  • Most of those closed for Opinion based that need to be closed should probably be off topic. The rest are either wrongly closed imo or fit some other close category. Opinion based here has become "I am to lazy to think about what the real problem with the question is." – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 27 '13 at 14:51
1

I agree completely with this suggestion, because:

  1. All questions here are primarily opinion based
  2. This close reason seems to get used incorrectly from my anecdotal experience
  3. "Primarily opinion based" means something different for SE than it does in standard English - this is super confusing to most people I suspect
  • I don't know about "most people" (can Workplace support a poll question about that?). I do know it super confuses me. – Joe Strazzere Nov 27 '13 at 14:47
  • I think its more number 4 that Opinion based is the easy choice so people do not have to think about the question... but i guess we can give them the benefit of the doubt about being confused. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 27 '13 at 14:54
  • All the choices are similarly easy – Joe Strazzere Nov 27 '13 at 19:31
  • 1
    @JoeStrazzere - I just mean its the easy choice because everything fits in that bucket. You do not have to think about is one of the other close reasons more appropriate. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 28 '13 at 17:57
  • 1
    @Chad - good point. I agree that due to the nature of workplace.stackexchange, virtually every answer is "Primarily Opinion Based". I think it's confusing to people to try and conjure up a reason why any particular answer here isn't primarily opinion based. – Joe Strazzere Nov 29 '13 at 11:32
  • @JoeStrazzere that's exactly why I dislike the close reason. It's more "oh I don't like this question guess this one is more opinion based" rather than anything meaningful. – enderland Nov 29 '13 at 15:45
  • If I had to guess, I'd say that most voters simply follow the vote of whoever started. No more thought than that. – Joe Strazzere Nov 29 '13 at 16:28
  • @JoeStrazzere that's probably true too... – enderland Nov 29 '13 at 16:28
-3

This is a response to the answer by Jmac

Primarily opinion based is too easy and tells our users nothing that will help them improve. Maybe we could have a close reason of question needs to be refined to replace the opinion based.

Here are the the top closed questions from jmacs list and what I feel they should be closed as or if they should not be closed at all. I did not include all of them but there is enough sample here to show what I mean. Many of these questions that are wrongly closed are questions that are not necessarily good questions, but they are on topic and 5 people not liking the question should not be enough to close them. There should be good valid reasons and opinion based has become our go-to for getting around that. Please note that I am as guilty as anyone else as half of the ones I marked wrongly closed I am listed on.

11-25, primarily opinion-based, Underpaid and overworked, how should I approach my boss? , No question being asked (Off topic)
11-25, primarily opinion-based, When is it okay to consult others on work I'm doing (after being told I take up too much of their time)? , wrongly closed
11-22, primarily opinion-based, Happiness and joy in the workplace? , Off topic - Not about navigating the workplace
11-22, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/16861/ , Not enough information to answer... but on topic
11-19, primarily opinion-based, Are spelling errors in my rejection letter an HR trap or an act of negligence? , wrongly closed
11-19, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/16800/ , Too Broad
11-19, primarily opinion-based, Self-arranged trial contracting job (permatemp-like) unethical? , Off topic ethical judgement
11-19, primarily opinion-based, Asking for more deterministic and easily measured work assignments in new job , wrongly closed
11-18, primarily opinion-based, Been requested that we work overtime in order to get the project delivered, would that let the team down? , wrongly closed
11-18, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/16758/ , Off Topic
11-18, primarily opinion-based, Does an ultimatum require two weeks notice? , wrongly closed
11-18, primarily opinion-based, Is it ethical to exclude terminally ill employees from end-of-year layoffs? , off topic
11-15, primarily opinion-based, How long is too long to wait for a response after a final interview? , wrongly closed
11-11, primarily opinion-based, Fast learning cycle, how to keep up with it? , off topic
11-10, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/16601/ , off topic job function
11-09, primarily opinion-based, https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/15553/ , too broad
11-05, primarily opinion-based, How to list remote contract/freelance work on a resume? , wrongly closed (could be unclear what you are asking)
11-05, primarily opinion-based, To what extent is it common practice to inform others of who is going to be at a meeting? , wrongly closed (though I could see off topic job function)
10-30, primarily opinion-based, How to be constructive and solve problems in an unconstructive environment? , off topic job function
10-30, primarily opinion-based, Job screen asked for a questionnaire but rejected my responses as inadequate , wrongly closed
10-29, primarily opinion-based, What are differences between quantitative analyst and data scientist in IT companies? , off topic (though I think it should be on topic that is for a different question)
10-29, primarily opinion-based, Is a complex test which benefits the company an ethical practice? , off topic
10-29, primarily opinion-based, Should I dress sloppy for an interview to see if they really mean it? , wrongly closed
10-28, primarily opinion-based, What months/seasons in each year are there more openings and less openings? , off topic
10-26, primarily opinion-based, Why do companies disregard investing in productivity equipment? , off topic (or wrongly closed)
10-24, primarily opinion-based, How do I avoid volunteering for weekend on-call support? , wrongly closed
10-22, primarily opinion-based, How can I climb the corporate ladder while being disabled and having other life commitments? , wrongly closed or Too broad

  • If the questions should be closed for a different reason, then I don't see that much of an issue (the question should have been closed, and all the reason that it ends up as meant is that it was the most voted for reason, not the sole reason). For the ones that are wrongly closed, cast a reopen vote, I know that several of us regularly review the queue. For reference, I agreed with about 20% of the 'wrongly closed' reasons on there, and I think others could be saved with an edit, but I don't see any huge mistakes on there. – jmac Nov 27 '13 at 23:45
  • 1
    My point is the the close for opinion is being misused alot! Not that all the questions are savable. Misusing the close reason makes it hard to get the questions edited well and reopened – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 28 '13 at 17:51

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