I've seen a rise in the number of questions lately that don't have a single right or wrong answer. In a Q&A site, great questions have a right answer that are based on facts, or opinions that are backed up with facts. UPDATE: This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I think it's worth analyzing and looking for any patterns that could negatively affect the future sustainability of the site.

I've listed some examples below of some questions that raise some specific questions regarding the direction of the site. My question is whether or not these questions are good for the site's long term growth. I've listed reasons why they may be off topic and would like to see reasons why they are or are not on topic.

With that said, subjective questions are considered on-topic, but the answers to those questions should still be backed up with facts and meet the Six Guidelines for Good, Subjective Questions

Thus, questions that are not answerable — discussions, debates, opinions — should be closed as subjective. It seems simple enough: Fact good; opinion and discussion bad. But why?

Most forums and chat rooms have a scale problem. As in, they don’t. The more people that join the discussion, the more noise each of those connections bring. So the forums get progressively noisier and noisier, and suddenly one day … you stop learning.

Here are some examples of questions that indicate we may be in danger of becoming a discussion site (which is not the goal of Stack Exchange):

If you believe these questions are on topic, please list the reasons why they are on topic and address the reasons given beside each question. If they are not on topic for other reasons, please list the reasons they are not on topic.

Please look at the blog and StackOverflow meta to get an idea of the general guidelines for what makes a good question, and please use those references when giving your answer.

Please edit this question with more examples you find of questions that you think are off topic and address the reasons in an answer.

The goal of this question is to define more guidelines for what kinds of questions should be voted to close by our 18 users who have earned this privilege. If you're a user with 500+ reputation, I encourage you to help define when and how we should use these tools.


2 Answers 2


Actually neither of these questions seems wrong to me.

  • One about retros. Actually we know what's the OP's problem here: he's about to run a retro and want to make it fun so people are engaged. I agree there's hardly a single good answer for the question, but there are many more like that. Actually I don't really expect to get a single good answer for the question about definition of software project either.

  • One about certifications in UK. Yes, it localized, but I wouldn't say too localized. Actually I'm curious whether we have more people which are interested in specifics of UK project management market or those integrating TFS with MS Project. By the way: the question got pretty good, and not very "local" answer.

  • One about duration of meetings. Without a context it's hard to have a single good answer but if you read answers people add their own context, this way or another, so again I'd say that answers are specific and valuable, even though people could, and probably would, discuss over specific answers.

Actually project management is subjective by definition. As long as we don't ask about content of PMBOK or something there isn't a single good answers for most of the problems we have running our projects. And even if we're on method definitions - you could see a lot of discussions where Scrum ends for example, even among thought-leaders in agile community (see this and that post as a reference).

I believe, we want it or not, we have to allow more subjectivity than there is on StackOverflow for example. We don't work with the code but with the people and we don't have a compiler which tells whether our method is good or bad or the application where we can check how it actually works in a matter of minutes. To some point we always guess, and see how things and people around react. Except those of us who have silver bullet, that is, but I believe there aren't many of them.

In terms of site growth we need such questions or we're going to run out of questions which are actually allowed here. What more, it seems people rather like those more subjective questions, basing on views, votes and answers.

  • Thanks for your assessment. This is exactly what I was looking for.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 6:07

I actually posted a question "Mindmaps for project management" that doesn't have a right or wrong answer either. All answers make sense. I tried to make it more "on topic" by asking for real experience, not an imaginary list. But I won't be able to put one answer as the "right" answer (if ever one existed). Does this mean, according to the criteria, that this is not a good question? For me, all of them make sense.

"Different ways of running retrospectives" makes sense as well: there are some really good, practical ideas mentioned. Why would it be off-topic? Somebody, somewhere will find it useful.

  • 1
    I think your question meets the guidelines for Good, Subjective questions. I just went through all of the guidelines in the blog post on Good Subjective Questions and your question meets every guideline. What helps I think is that you are specifically asking for personal experiences, which is what this network is about.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 6:09

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