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A recent question illustrates what I consider to be a bad direction for questions.

I interpret a question of the form "is X good?" or "is Y bad" as inherently subjective, although it could potentially be developed into a stronger question, e.g. by contexts or specific examples.

Should we encourage posters away from this form, and toward asking questions with more straightforward answers?

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Yes.

There are a whole class of "generalized questions" appearing on this site that are not well-suited to this type of Q&A site. They are those discussion-class questions where the users doesn't have a specific problem but only wishes to open a dialog to discuss generalizations and relative merits of some broad issue.

Questions like:

  • Is [X] bad?
  • What are the (dis)advantages of … ?
  • What is the best … ? What is your favorite … ?

There's nothing inherently wrong with those questions — they have been asked hundreds of times on every other forum on the subject — but in the context of a Q&A system like Stack Exchange, they should be closed as [not a real question].

There has been a lot of speculation that Stack Exchange is not well suited to an inherently subjective topic like parenting. I do not believe that is correct… assuming the type of questions asked are reigned in properly.

The premise of a Q&A system like this is that you can ask a specific question about a problem you actually have and expect to receive an authoritative answer. Compare that to traditional forums where these types of "social questions" are the norm — Everyone kicks in their thoughts on the subject until the topic has completely exhausted all possible interest from the participants. What is left behind (for those who come after) is a lot of good information, only it is buried in noise and the random opinions of the conversation. Eventually, even the questions themselves start to degrade as people become entertained in the discussion process and chat becomes disguised as questions posed just for entertainment.

That is why Stack Exchange is specifically designed NOT to handle these overly discussion-y questions very well. Keeping each question focused on a specific problem at hand will keep the content highly relevant and it will continue to to solves people's problems. That's what makes the collection of knowledge you build here worthwhile. It has a certain longevity not found in other discussion forums.

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This is supposed to be a place to get expert answers. That requires qualified questions, and any question that can be answered with a simple YES or NO is not a high-quality question.

Instead, questions should force the respondent to answer using a full sentence, which automatically prevents this kind of questions.

Putting a WHY in front of it makes it a different story. Now you're asking for reasons, facts, background information. It also takes away the yes/no component because the question itself already implies that part.

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    I agree, but I'd like to add that in at least half of such cases, one can figure out what the OP was originally getting at, and edit the question to make it more concrete. That's a better choice, when we can figure it out, than voting to close. – HedgeMage Apr 6 '11 at 21:16

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