Greetings All,

It's time to officially vote on some of proposed solutions we discussed to handling Subjective questions here. Whatever YOU, the community, decides on this matter is how we will proceed henceforth (at least until we decide to readdress the issue in the future, should our opinions change and/or community grow).

I would like to keep the vote open a few weeks or so to get the most votes, and I'm hoping we have a lot of votes and thus a clear winner (close ties will have to be discussed further to figure out why the community is so split and hopefully to find a compromise).

Treat all my answers to this question as vote options. Any other people's answers will be removed. If you want a different vote option here, you should post in the Subjective Questions: Deciding what we want as a community thread.

A quick overview of the "problem" and why we're here voting today


This site was designed by someone. That person had a vision, a goal they wanted to achieve, to create a database of factual knowledge on the web, and to create communities where people could get factual answers to real questions they faced. To that end, this person put in place guidelines for how users should operate in order to achieve that goal. As has been made clear:

Stack Exchange is about questions with objective, factual answers. We’ve been crystal clear about this for as long as I can remember, even back to the earliest, pre-beta days of Stack Overflow... Thus, questions that are not answerable — discussions, debates, opinions — should be closed as subjective. It seems simple enough: Fact good; opinion and discussion bad.

The Problem

The issue is (as is pointed out later in article linked above), some sub-sites, especially philosophy, aren't always as clear-cut and dry as other sciences like Math and Physics. Clarity often cannot simply be expressed in a mathematical formula, and ideas and concepts are often difficult to understand. This isn't inherently an issue for a Philosophy Stack — indeed it is quite possible to have a question/answer that has a high degree of focus and is lucid and accessible to people — it just a bit trickier, especially (we've found) for many new users who aren't used to really developing their ideas and explaining them in such a manner.

Why This Is Bad

Consequently, we have to close a lot of questions on this site which generate only opinion-based answers. Why does this happen? Generally, it happens because they don't follow these principles:

Guidelines for Great Subjective Questions

  1. Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.

  2. Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers.

  3. Great subjective questions have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.

  4. Great subjective questions invite sharing experiences over opinions.

  5. Great subjective questions insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.

  6. Great subjective questions are more than just mindless social fun.

I have tried to draw the reasonable options from the discussion we had in the other thread, and put them into clear options to vote on below.

You can vote on more than one answer, if you prefer multiple answers equally (especially as opposed to the other answers).

  • It's unfortunate that it's exactly a tie.... will wait a bit more.
    – stoicfury
    May 22, 2015 at 8:13
  • The up/downvotes counts are not the same, so you could base yourself on that... although I'm not sure what should be the outcome then.
    – user2953
    May 22, 2015 at 10:18
  • I think this Question precludes, or at least discourages, the use of Logically Framed responses, and encourages the exclusive use of citations. I do not think that Answers to Subjective Questions, should exclude valid, Logical Syllogisms. May 30, 2015 at 23:43
  • @e.s.kohen people who think they answer questions that are typically considered unanswerable / subjective, with pure logic, tend to use premises that are not generally accepted, and are as such not really useful to anyone.
    – user2953
    Jun 2, 2015 at 19:17

3 Answers 3


Option 1: Continue what we do now
Let's continue to edit the subjective questions we can to make them work for our site, continue to use the tag, and do not require answers to have citations. Questions which do not meet our Subjective Questions guideline will be closed.


  • No change from what we do now
  • No strict citation requirement allows more room for personal opinion which might otherwise be valuable even if not directly supported by references
  • Potentially less of a deviation from SE vision than other options


  • Lots of review work/editing needs to be done, increasing with growth
  • Many potentially good questions will be closed, even if they could have been fixed appropriately because of lack of review/edit support or OP cooperation
  • Good answers get drowned out in the bad because citations are not required
  • Difficult for newer users; may tend to slow site growth

Option 2: Continue what we do now, but focus on answers
Let's continue to edit the subjective questions we can to make them work for our site and continue to use the tag. Questions which do not meet our Subjective Questions guideline will be closed. In addition, answers without sources, references, or citations will be challenged and potentially removed.


  • Should net the highest quality questions and answers of all the options
  • Closest to SE vision


  • Highest workload of all the options with regard to reviewing/editing questions and answers to meet specific standards
  • Many potentially good questions will be closed, even if they could have been fixed appropriately because of lack of review/edit support or OP cooperation
  • Difficult for new users; may retard growth the most of all options
  • 1
    As someone who very seldom actually gives references or citations, because you can verify most of what I say by plowing through Wikipedia nowadays, I am not sure what you mean by 'challenged'. If I will be challenged to quote Nietzsche to back up my understanding of his work from twenty years ago, I just would not post. The things I do reference are recent, nonacademic, and generally contentious or on unresolved issues -- because the others are readily accessible. They generally get complained about. Basically, I get a lot more points when I don't cite, so someone values these answers.
    – user9166
    Apr 21, 2015 at 15:54
  • 2
    @jobermark That's fine, saying "Neitzsche says X" without knowing exactly where is basically a citation anyways. Saying "X is true" isn't cited and is bad. That's what we're trying to avoid here. And obviously you wouldn't says "Kant says X" without a citation on a question asking what work he says it in. But that's obvious. Apr 22, 2015 at 19:24
  • I'm a little torn. Remember that in part, the SE site is designed to attract answers from ''experts'' in a subject. Now clearly there's a problem with just allowing anyone to perform as an expert and answer without citation– but some answers are straightforward and hardly seem to need one (such as some q's about simple logic). Maybe a point- or badge-threshold would be a good reason to stop requiring citations so strictly?
    – Ryder
    Apr 26, 2015 at 8:09
  • 1
    @Ryder - that's an interesting thought on the min. rep. idea. I am always torn about phil.se. I want it to succeed as an SE, but it's very different from technology SEs in that for most of those, you can quite easily test an answer and see if it fixes something whereas philosophy (outside of logic questions) lacks such an easy test.
    – virmaior
    May 2, 2015 at 14:03
  • I am always reluctant to edit someone else's question or answer. Since my own understanding in general is kind of quirky, that risks my inserting bias in someone else's name. But if this becomes a requirement, many of my comments in defense of a weak position would become edits. If that would be an acceptable potential outcome, I would move to this camp.
    – user9166
    Jun 12, 2015 at 18:43
  • @jobermark if you're unsure whether to make an edit or not, you could also a) do the edit and leave a comment explaining that the poster can rollback if he wants, or b) first clarify what you want in the comments and discuss it there, and edit when the poster agrees - which one would depend on how sure you are your edit would be a good one.
    – user2953
    Jun 17, 2015 at 5:57
  • 1
    Looks like it is pretty much decided!
    – stoicfury
    Jun 18, 2015 at 12:10
  • It may be decided, but the whole thing seems flawed to me. This vote is clearly running together what we expect from questions (good subjective), and what we expect from answers (quotation?). We were voting on subjective questions, and "in addition" enforcing a policy about answers? These should have been separate votes, or at least have 6 options, definitely not just 3.
    – n.r.
    Jan 27, 2017 at 14:47
  • I would be surprised if even a quarter of the things posted on a technology Q&A ever get tested. Between the duplicate answers, and people just posting code from memory or copying and pasting things from documentation, I think most of it goes untested. So, not that different from purely abstract questions of logic that you can't test objectively. Sep 8, 2019 at 5:01

Option 3: Continue what we do now, but use a "subjective" tag
Let's continue to edit the subjective questions we can to make them work for our site, continue to use the tag, and do not require answers to have citations. Clearly subjective questions, including those which we otherwise would have closed (bad subjective), we will be kept open but tagged as , which can be filtered out or not based on personal preferences.


  • Easier for new users to ask questions and get answers that may help them, even if not posed in a way that fits this site perfectly
  • Vastly reduces workload associated with getting question authors to clean up their questions to meet subjectivity guidelines, as well as the workload associated with flag-handling and reviews/editing questions and answers


  • Could potentially reduce the quantity and quality of good subjective questions on the site as people shirk editing/improving borderline posts and simply flag them as subjective
  • Good answers may get drowned out with no strict citation requirement
  • Potentially a greater deviation from the SE vision than other options

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