Let me start with noting that I like this site and I think it fills a gap in the SE family.

not constructive

This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.

Is this really applicable here in the same sense as it is on, for instance, stackoverflow?

The audience of this site is defined as members of the workforce navigating the professional setting (as per the FAQ). As such, a lot of questions are going to be "soft" questions related to things like workplace psychology and interpersonal relations.

It seems like if we are to go strictly by the definition of the "not constructive" bazooka we will, in effect, limit the scope of this site to some very narrow questions related to the workplace or the professional setting that have definitive, objective, quantifiable fact-based answers. And most of those questions will be of a legal nature that few people are able to answer.

I've been chiming in and commenting on some other questions rolling in meta, and I'll repeat myself here as well: I believe a lot of people are being overly pedantic and zealous in their community moderation on this site. More of the discussions are about questions validity than about the subject matter. After all, all SE sites relies on an active community to stay alive, but when interesting questions keep getting closed based on perceived infractions of some narrowly interpreted guideline, that community will leave. And when the majority of comments debate these things as well, then the value of the site really plummets.

I think, based on the scope of this site, that we should either relax the Q&A format requirement or narrow the scope of the site. Maybe something like "labor law". Or just close it altogether.

For instance:

  • Instead of "questions answerable by facts" we might strive for "questions that can be related to based on personal experience".
  • 3
    +1 I'm having difficulty imagining a question that would fit the site, but that someone couldn't make a case to close. It seems to be an exercise in modturbation -- attract "crap" questions, then close/delete them and congratulate ourselves for what great Defenders of the Internet we are.
    – JohnMcG
    Apr 27, 2012 at 15:11
  • 3
    @JohnMcG There's crap and there's crap. Good questions written poorly should be getting edited/reopened where possible. If they aren't, dive in and edit, then open a meta post or mention it in chat. True Crap needs to be thrown back over the wall - and we do have some true crap.
    – voretaq7
    Apr 27, 2012 at 22:20
  • @voretaq7 I agree we definitely have some "true-crap", however I don't think that was what pap was referring to. Glad you made the distinction :)
    – Rachel
    Apr 30, 2012 at 13:12
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the question is obsolete. "Not Constructive" is no longer a close reason.
    – Jim G.
    Dec 17, 2018 at 22:07

4 Answers 4


It is probably the most important factor have to keep this site from becoming a landfill.

Questions here need to have a real issue to address. Any question that does not is not constructive and will degrade the overall quality of the site. If we become just another discussion board people will not come here for answers and we will just be another place on the internet that gets banned from firewalls.

If we degrade to that prior to going live I would expect SE to shut us down. This SE can be a great resource for those unsure how to handle a workplace situation, or it can be an eyesore that SE wants to disavow. I think most of us are committed to keeping this site a resource.

The topics here are broader and softer than many of the technical SE's. But if we keep the quality high we will attract posts that help people and make the internet a better place. And that should be our goal.

questions that can be related to based on personal experience would fall in the category of specific expertise.

  • 6
    Well stated. I'll reiterate that there are plenty of discussion forums on this subject. We are here to create something better; to solve the problems prevalent in most open discussion forums -- Not to duplicate them. If you cannot forgo the discussions covered under "Not Constructive" and Good Subjective, Bad Subjective, there's no reason to have this site. I think calls to "relax the Q&A format requirements" would be a death knell to this site. Apr 30, 2012 at 18:33
  • 1
    @RobertCartaino I wish we could put that front and center on the site. I believe in this SE And in SE in general for making the internet better. And I feel bad that important questions get closed not constructive because people are asking for what they feel instead of what they need to know to help them. Apr 30, 2012 at 19:46
  • 2
    It's a tough sell... to tell people (and have them understand) that "your question is perfectly legitimate but not necessarily a good fit for this type of Q&A." That's why education and guiding users with thoughtful comments (and meta posts) is so important. Apr 30, 2012 at 21:11

Soft questions still can (and need to be) constructive. Note the wording DOES include expertise:

We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise

That covers your "personal experience" idea but holds it to a higher standard of expertise not just "I think X so it's okay to post".

The reason for this close reason is to avoid polls ect where it's not really a question with answers, just a question with responses where everything is equally valid.

  • 1
    That quote references answers, not questions. Questions do not have to involve "facts, references, or specific expertise", providing it is clear what is being asked, and the question is on-topic for the site.
    – Rachel
    Apr 30, 2012 at 13:15
  • I agree that this close reason needs to be kept around though for things like polls and truly not-constructive questions.
    – Rachel
    Apr 30, 2012 at 13:16
  • One thing that bugs me with NC is that it's oftenly misused instead of NARQ, which better applies to overly broad and/or vague questions. Quickly glanced through our closed questions and I think there are a few that should have been closed as NARQ instead of NC.
    – yannis
    May 1, 2012 at 3:38

I think formally, i would go with the answer of @Chad and @Rarity here.

But as usual, i would try to start from your perspective and re-emphasis the point you are trying to make.

If you look at sites like Signal Processing, Quantitative finance, Cryptography, Physics - involves formal science behinds their core subjects which make sites very crisp and there is hardly any place for subjective (i.e. personal opinion based) questions or answers. Even there, personal judgement plays a role in terms of knowing right answers from wrong -but in general there are correct answers or wrong answers based on scientific view alone and not someone's personal thinking.

Sites like Workplace are many others like Parenting, OnStartups, Personal Productivity and so on, where people share their experiences and judgement. These are not based on any formal sciences like the one shown above so naturally, there is relatively higher level of subjective opinion. But to make it a great site, there still needs to have deep and great learning from both the questions and answers.

However, to maximize the value of such sites look carefully the following:

1. Chatty questions will have no value. When some one asks - "Should i do this?" and all the "Mee TOO" answer starts yelling ..NOOOOOOOOO. this makes things noisy and useless.
[example: Is it acceptable to use pirated software on the job? - beyond first couple of answer everything is noise and nothing new to learn.]

2. Personal bias or rants will not serve any good answers
I will give you two simple examples of what is NOT truly fact (i.e. figures and reference based) questions - but their content still distinguish and creates and impact on the value in terms of its constructiveness.

In the first question: Is there an effective way of dealing with nepotism at work? the OP has stated the fact that The cardinal-nephew problem is quite common in Greece
and in the second question https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/986/is-there-racism-in-software-egnineering-field OP claimed I have noticed that there is huge salary difference between a white american engineer and lets say a foreigner such as asian or Indian.

To put things in perspective 'nepotism' and 'racism' are both social phenomena and they are visible with different societies in different intensity. As far as facts and figures are concerned, neither of the question really quote any government data or UN report to conclude that such social anomaly exists really and if so, how much. So both have derived their question based on their personal experience; in this sense, it is subjective but this subjectivity is acceptable. [In physics i wouldn't be able to say "in my experience, speed of light is much less than sound!" - this is plain wrong and nothing else make sense further.]

... but irrespective of data of the context, there is a great difference in the two questions. in the first question OP simply saying that at least i have seen nepotism many places - if you have been through it, can you tell me what to do with it? This is perfect to ask, and given that great many people do go through the similar problems in life it is good service to society that there is some good answer to this. It doesn't matter that everyone's experience doesn't identically match as long as it is not a rare case. On the other hand, the second question is (horribly) biased - "I guess Americans are just abusing Indians or Asians you also think so? - well in a typical case i might just say well - 'you are right, these guys are just f## bs - we gotto do something about it!' ... so from the the second conversation there is nothing to learn from. In fact it is sympathy exchange and not even a question-answer session.

same way, when people write either questions or answers with notions like "bosses are always bad" and so on, it is very likely that your post is hardly of value. Many folks have different world view some are strong some are mild, we all have some bias of somethings; but the point is, when your bias, offensiveness, rudeness hijack your thinking, it doesn't help anyone else really. Which is why subjective post still needs to be dealt with with very very carefully.

3. Facts and figures or experiences?
As the message says

We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise;

Now as i indicated above, in sites which involves formal sciences, without actual numbers or equations nothing would make sense. But here, you need to understand what is expected.

There is a good question here: How should I properly approach my boss if I'm feeling underpaid?

This question, and all answers goes in depth as to what to judge for a 10% raise? And there are great many answers there that gives interesting insights. Please note, none of these are concluding the 10% number based on benchmark data or text book theory. They are based on experience. These are people who have their own valid judgement and more importantly answer reflects why it is that way. I can also go back and reply - "10% seems good, why you are complaining?" but that is such a terrible answer. Also, if OP wouldn't have said 10% - all answers were off the tangent. So such information is critical in making questions and answers of any use. If that 10% would have been 1% it is a complete different situation.

... so need to have facts in Q&A doesn't have to mean some kind of benchmarked universal metrics but it needs to be sound. This can be based on expertise as well, and it can come from personal experience rather than formal source, but it needs to be reasonable and of something where meaningful insight can be derived.

4. Opinions - ok or not?
This is perhaps most difficult to explain. In general, SE format says no opinions. Period. This is actually simple for formal subject sites. But sounds confusing in soft sites like this. Frankly, (may be i am wrong), every question and answer i have read here are only and only opinions. See: Is it professional to cut out a middle-man in a contract chain? - all answers are only opinions in true sense. However, the point of the answer isn't really that i am saying yes or no. It is the reasoning that is useful and anyone can learn from this. Which is why-

Questions liKe "Should I make 5 page long resume?" makes much terrible question over Why is a one to two page résumé recommended? In case of former i would only yell back saying that is a mistake, but in the later i would learn why and there can be multiple view points to it.

...it is important for all answer givers here to understand that even if it is asked for opinion it makes sense that you focus on why. Opinions differ but it is insight in the answers which is relevant makes it useful and you can learn from it.

5. Emotional outburst needs to be taken care
Many kids come home crying, "why did john hit me with his bat? How can he do that" This of course is a question, but it is much more of emotional outburst and a whole mix of questions in it. No mamma would have really answered such question well actually, and so is true for people here.

[See: Getting fired on the second day, how do I cope with it? ] this question was only an out burst.

... yet, it is an issue that should raise questions, but unless you cool down and talk fresh it becomes difficult to really answer in a meaningful way if at all it will be answerable. Most answer in case of above, were consoling and rather trying to answer "what i would do next time".

But yes, my opinion differs from others here only one respect that the fact that there is emotional content, the situation must be real. So there is a genuine problem to be solved there or something to learn from that experience. We shouldn't just slap the kid (by closing) who is already hurt from some place. We must try to get back to make OP to clean things up - may be re-write the question and help him/her crystallize the thinking to make it look good. I know for mods, it is such a painful job, but i think once users gets established, you don't have to do this always. Don't keep the tearful question in its state forever but at least be patient to improve upon it.

6. Does it have to be (my own) real problem?
Let's test the theory! Let me ask you "How was Hitlar, who was so arrogant, must have reacted when his people would have frowned for lack of raise?" I don't know if there are historians here, but even if they are, the answer to this question wont help me about what should i do during my appraisal (even if my boss is considered a hitler). The point is, hypothetical questions, even if not bad (not off topic nor a rant) are completely useless because they are so flawed because artificially created; and i would doubt any answer would make any sense if at all you can answer it.

people should understand that notion of "someone else will benefit" is wrong. as it is there are several factors that makes this site very subjective. If we ask hypothetical question (even if it doesn't start with hitler), it doesn't help because it will generate poor answers.

Is “not constructive” really applicable at workplace.SE?

Yes of course. And in the description of above, i don't think any SE guidelines are contradicted. It is just that meaning of words - subjective or opinion needs to be understood carefully.

  • 2
    "In general, SE format says no opinions. Period" The SE format was not brought down from Moses after being dictated to him by God, as some commentary on the metas suggests. This is a new site, with a community that will establish rules.
    – JohnMcG
    Apr 27, 2012 at 20:12
  • 1
    sorry. but i didn't understand the implication. Apr 27, 2012 at 20:14
  • The cardinal-nephew problem is quite common in Greece Yes you're right, I'm not providing any references, but if you remove that sentence all together the question doesn't change, does it?
    – yannis
    Apr 27, 2012 at 20:17
  • 1
    I'm challenging the notion that the SE format is some etched-in-stone sacred text that is suitable for application in all contexts.
    – JohnMcG
    Apr 27, 2012 at 20:26
  • @YannisRizos - i am making the same point as you are saying. The question is perfect because that sentence is not really biasing the question. It is a good question. Apr 27, 2012 at 20:30
  • @DipanMehta No, that part of the question is not good, I consciously put it in to get some cheap up votes (people love rhetorics) - remember we may be vigilant when we discuss the site, but that doesn't mean we aren't only human...
    – yannis
    Apr 27, 2012 at 20:35
  • @YannisRizos - you didn't quite mange to grab so many votes (unlike how i did in my answer of the piracy question!) .. but jokes apart, my point is it serves as a reasonable background and just that - so it is fine. If you would have started that as i am observing nepotism in my office would have been just equally fine. Apr 27, 2012 at 20:43
  • @DipanMehta I know, I need to ask a couple of bikeshed trivial questions and harvest the sweet rep. I think when we get our moderators I'll start trolling them immediately with populist questions, that'd be fun ;)
    – yannis
    Apr 27, 2012 at 20:47

If we assume that this site ought to exist, then I think the standards for "not constructive" should be different than the ones that govern sites like Stack Overflow.

It is difficult for me to even think of a workplace-related question that fits the criteria. Looking at the front page, I could quite easily construct an argument for every single question as "not constructive" under the SO definition.

Let me put it another way...

If I wanted to create a site that would draw a lot of content that would ultimately need to be deleted or closed, and would cause a lot of would-be contributors to leave frustrated, one of the best ways would be to create a site on a general topic a lot of people have experience on and enjoy discussing, and then have a rule in place in the FAQ that questions that lend themselves to opinion rather than factual answers are not allowed, and then be vigilant in enforcing that standard.

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