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One of the fundamental premises behind the SE platform is simply this: Ask a question, get an expert answer. Questions that cannot be answered are off-topic and not allowed. This can include questions as inane as "which is the best color?" or "Is C++ a better programming language than VB?"

This site is about delivering solid, actionable information; not about venting opinions. When it comes to parenting, there are fewer and fewer black and white answers to any question. For example, some people feel it's right to breastfeed a child to the age of four or beyond, while others wean at nine months or earlier. Both points of view are deeply personal, tapping in to the most basic human instinct; raising a child. Because it is so personal, both sides will vehemently advocate their own position. The question is subjective and argumentative. In short, to the question "How long should I breastfeed my child," there is no answer which is correct according to how SE works.

In general, parenting questions are counter to the basic premise and functionality of a stackoverflow site. When these deeply personal and hard-fought topics can be voted upon, it becomes reduced to a popularity contest, a waste of participants' time and SE resources.

A perfect example of this is all the discussions about gun choices, corporal punishment and stroller selections.

I recommend that SE closes the parenting site. While the intention was good, and I myself was excited to see this site come live, the subject matter is simply not compatible wit the SE platform.

Parenthetically, I can see how this post will get a million downvotes, which is totally ironic and yet an excellent example of my point.

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    +1 because the question itself is valid! I've also had the thought that SE might not be a good match for a highly subjective topic. However, my doubts don't make me want to close it down; on the contrary! Let's give it a chance and a serious try, and see how we can make it work best. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 9 '11 at 19:22
  • I tend to agree. I like parenting questions, I love the entire SE philosophy and implementation, and actually don't mind somewhat subjective conversations on topics, but Parenting is, at its core, almost a 'gut feeling' process for most folks and, as such, the subjectivity on here will likely always out-weight the objectivity. – DA01 Dec 28 '11 at 17:21
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To answer the question in your title: no, the SE platform isn't appropriate for a parenting discussion site. It's actually pretty lousy for any discussion site. It's a Q&A platform - discussion isn't just poorly-supported - it's actively discouraged!

As cabbey notes, this is a bit of an experiment. The continuation of an experiment, really...

Turns out, there are a lot of people who really do want to ask/answer all those subjective programming questions you reference in your first paragraph. And so they proposed and supported the creation of a site for that specific purpose. This created a bit of a problem for the SE team, since we didn't really have any good criteria for avoiding the sort of problems that inevitably arise from such questions...

But wait! There was already a site, built around an early version of the SE platform, and dedicated to one of the most subjective topics imaginable...

Moms4mom was an early Stack Exchange 1.0 case study in subjectivity. The owners knew from the outset that the topic of parenting was inherently and deeply subjective, a fundamentally bad fit to our engine. Parenting is one of the most subjective subjects I can imagine; every child is different, every parent is different, and whole cultures are wildly different in how they approach child rearing...

-- Robert Cartaino, Good Subjective, Bad Subjective

So began the experiment with subjective questions on SE. Following a rocky start, Programmers has done well... Whether or not this site will follow remains to be seen. In a big way, it comes down to you, the initial users of the site: do you have what it takes to make Q&A on a subjective topic work? Can you put aside your differences, and work together on producing subjectively-good subjective answers to subjectively-good subjective questions?

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    You can also count a large part of photos.SE in the 'subjective' area as well, that site seems to be doing quite well. – cabbey Apr 10 '11 at 19:18
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We don't know yet.

The experiment needs some time to run in order to figure that out. It's rather premature to already be calling it a failure and asking for it to be shut down.

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You are correct. There is a definite paradigm shift between this site and the typical SE format.

However, just because subjective questions may be more frequent here does not mean the system can't or won't work. It just may require a bit of re-visioning.

Using your example "How long should I breastfeed my child," you are correct. There is no "right" answer, since it is wholly subjective. However, if the person asking the question has no expectation of receiving an objective answer, and truly has an open mind on the subject, then a subjective answer, or, better yet, a variety of subjective answers, can be very informative and helpful.

Assuming the person asking receives a variety of answers, respectfully phrased yet providing reasoned support for the subjective answers given, they can evaluate the arguments presented to select the answer they think is "right" (read: "best").

Up-voting and down-voting subjective answers should, ideally, represent how well they think the answer addresses the issues raised in the question, and not necessarily how much the voter agrees/disagrees with that particular response, but even voting based upon agreement isn't a horrible failure of the system.

It would be nice, though, if there was a way of flagging a question as subjective (or possibly as some variation of a wiki, if there is good, constructive discussion) in such a way as to reduce reputation loss from down-votes (and up-votes) to minimize the "risk" of answering a subjective question with a well-phrased, constructive answer that happens to represent a minority opinion (or conversely getting a ton of rep by posting a poorly constructed, argumentative or inflammatory rhetoric piece that happens to support the most popular opinion).

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There have been numerable sites recently which different from the traditional SE platform, that have been successful. Gaming, Sci-fi, photography, skeptics, among others, all have been relatively successful, even though they don't fit the objective answer. I think this site can work, and it's already starting to, but it will be an interesting experiment to see how it ends up in the end. Let's not knock it before it's had a good run.

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Seems that much of this discussion happened in April. It's now December and I tend to have the same feeling as many here.

At first I felt the problem with Parenting as a SE topic was that it's simply too subjective. But the more that I think about it, that's only part of the problem (as other's have shown, there are other subjective topics for SE sites...UX tends to be a topic with plenty of subjective questions, for example)

I think the bigger issue with this topic is simply that it's so intensely personal. Right or wrong, the reality is that people have very personal opinions on all ranges of topics when it comes to parenting...feeding, sleeping, education, religion, socialization, media, ethics, cultural background, region on the planet, language, social norms, medicine, etc.

Lately, several questions have popped up that are not only subjective, but often based on a premise that many would find faulty. To answer the question properly, one must first get past the faulty premise and to get past that involves often challenging the OP's personal beliefs on a topic. This only leads to confrontation rather than answers.

I applaud the efforts of everyone in this SE site. It's a great topic. I hope it succeeds, but based on recent questions, I'm not seeing a good ratio of quality, objectively answerable questions and I'm not sure if there really are enough of those to be found on the topic of parenting.

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"How long should I breast feed my child" is a brilliant example question.

There are personal opinions about what is best - these are not good answers.

But there are also research based opinions about what is best. "The WHO recommends ..." is a better answer.

The problem is when someone asks "I want to wean at 4 months, are the benefits of breast feeding real?"

The factual answer is too blunt and could cause offence or hurt or anxiety. "Yes, the benefits of breast feeding are real. By not breast feeding until 6 months, and by weaning early, you are missing health benefits, your child is missing health benefits, and you are risking your child's health".

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    I don't think that factual answers are too blunt just because they are opposite of the asker's wish. Any answer written in a respectful manner can be useful, even when completely contrary and well-founded. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 8 '11 at 15:49
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I disagree with your assertion; most parenting questions do have right answers and it really isn't that subjective. Questions along the lines of "What's a good activity for an n year old?" are subjective, but the majority of the questions I see relate to health or behavioral issues. Those are well researched and have objective answers (which may not be complete or perfect in some cases). For instance, the questions of if one should breastfeed or vaccinate can be controversial personally, but they do have an objective correct answer in relation to the parenting of one's child. The only reason to not do either is some personal/religious reason, which is nothing to do with parenting.

A closer examination of most "controversial" issues reveals most of them to be people making a choice that is not as good for their children because of other competing obligations. While I do have opinions on this subject, understand I'm not judging anyone in this answer, I'm simply suggesting that the subject of parenting has objective answers in most cases.

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I recommend that SE closes the parenting site. While the intention was good, and I myself was excited to see this site come live, the subject matter is simply not compatible wit the SE platform.

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    Just because it's here, doesn't mean you have to participate in the experiment. This is a chance to experiment with the SE platform in a different direction... some of us are going to give it a shot, you're welcome to join, or watch from the sidelines or walk away... it's your choice. If SE.com didn't want to see this experiment go and see where it ends up, they had the chance to pull the plug on it several times in the area-51 proposal stage and didn't. – cabbey Apr 9 '11 at 18:46
  • Please elaborate on the' different direction' intended. – John Dibling Apr 9 '11 at 19:22
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    @cabbey: He isn't participating. This is a recommendation to close the site from somebody who has submitted the total of one (1) answer to it. – Lennart Regebro Apr 10 '11 at 6:34
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    @Lennart: Nonsense. I have been heavily participating in the entire SE site for years. I have committed to a few betas and done my best to help them in my limited spare time. Since I found this site just a week or so ago, I have read virtually every post on both the main site and the meta site. I'm a new step-father, so I came here mostly to learn and might have less to contribute in the way of actual answers. But I am very experienced in the SE platform as a whole, and can & have been participating in the meta site for parenting. – John Dibling Apr 10 '11 at 18:00
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    I was excited to discover this site. I wanted to participate in in and help it grow. It is only after much deliberation and evaluation that I conclude that this site can't continue in an open, non-judgmental way. It is a clique of like-minded insiders who shun and try to shut out the opinions and viewpoints not like their own. I'm afraid that if this site continues on this path, it will compromise the integrity of the rest of the SE network and lower the bar for all the SE sites. – John Dibling Apr 10 '11 at 18:07
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    @John: And on this site you have provided one answer and zero questions. You are not participating. And that would be the end, unless it was also for the fact that you are completely incorrect in your categorization of the site and the people on it. – Lennart Regebro Apr 10 '11 at 19:49
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    @Lennart: You won. The sooner you stop arguing with me, the sooner I will be gone. I wish you and the site the best of luck. – John Dibling Apr 10 '11 at 20:02

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