Sites on SE understandably vary in their tolerance for opinion based questions (OBQ).

Although I am not a member of the Physics SE, I imagine it is very intolerant of OBQs unless they are about the frontiers of physics. (Possible example: Will the LHC discover a particle not predicted by the Standard Model?) English Language and Usage is also intolerant of purely OBQs, although because of the many dialects of English, what seems like an OBQ can elicit a scholarly answer about a rare and obsolescent usage. Interpersonal Skills has Qs with a high coefficient of Opinion Basicity. The Q of @Charlie Brumbaugh, Is it poor etiquette to ask fellow backpackers where they have been/where they are going?, would not raise an eyebrow on IPS, although it doesn't belong there because most of its members have shown no signs of being outdoorsy types.

In my opinion, the VtC on Charlie's Q was misguided. The Q is about how to avoid frightening or irritating or otherwise provoking a member of, or a small pack of, Homo sapiens encountered in the wild. Homo sapiens is a species with aggressive and predatory instincts that are well, but imperfectly, controlled by cooperative instincts and by social conditioning. It is uncool to frighten a member of this species, and sometimes dangerous. This site welcomes Qs asking how to avoid enticing, surprising or frightening Ursus americanus (black bear), who is roughly the same size as Homo sapiens. The dangers of provoking Homo sapiens, or encountering a predatory Homo sapiens beyond a trailhead, are roughly equivalent (perhaps to an order of magnitude or so ?) to provoking Ursus americanus, so this Q is well within the scope of TGO.

Also, note that an anthropologist could write an authoritative technical answer on how Homo has developed facial and body signals and greeting rituals to indicate friendly intent.

So to my Q: What makes a Q on this site an OBQ? Examples of Qs closed as OBQ on this site would be helpful.

  • Here are all the ones closed with that question google.com/… Feb 4, 2018 at 19:54
  • @Charlie Brumbaugh Thanks for the list. Some of them truly are OBQs and some of them should be reopened, including mine, which I will edit and VTR when I get time.
    – ab2
    Feb 4, 2018 at 20:20
  • Hi ab2. I'm really glad you brought this up because it greatly confuses me, and I'm really trying to learn! Can you tell me which question you're referring to that you're planning on editing and VTR? Thanks! Feb 5, 2018 at 23:10
  • @Sue outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/15183/… I'm probably going to write another question which is much simpler than this one, and just let this one stay closed.
    – ab2
    Feb 6, 2018 at 0:49

1 Answer 1


It really ought to be used for questions without definite answers where everything is subjective or where people are trying to decide what is "best" without specifying what qualities they want.

On the other hand people sometimes confuse the difference between no knowing an answer and a question being unanswerable.

For the questions in question we are farther from Stackoverflow and closer to IPS, there's not so much a a formula , just look at how rock climbs are graded for example.

There's also the difference between the answers being opinion based and the question being opinion based

  • Two of the answers here are clearly wrong and yet it is possible to find the answer.
  • This answer suggests garlic water to treat a stomach impalement with no medical references to back it up.

Just because the answers might not be the best, doesn't mean that we shouldn't answer the question.

Finally, and some users don't seem to understand this, but there is always the difference between the letter of the law and the will of the people.

After 18 answers and +18,000 views one would think that if people didn't find them on-topic it would have been shutdown much sooner.


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