Something that has been concerning me the past few days as I've watch The Great Outdoors take off is the sprouting up of all kinds of questions asking for recommendations of "the best knife" or "the most effective way to rappel" (unspecific examples), and this is not in line with Stack Exchange's policy of asking questions that have a clear and concrete answer.

Other sites in the Stack Exchange network, for example Super User gets many questions in a similar format, asking for the best software to convert videos, etc. We are very strict there to keep those questions in check.

See our definition of Not Constructive:

This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.

This is why we don't allow questions asking for the best of something on Stack Exchange. Rather, it is better to rephrase the question to make it more concrete and less vague.

For example, instead of "What is the best knife for gutting a deer?", it should be "What should I look for in a gutting knife?"

Some recent examples:

Granted, a lot of these can be edited to make them more constructive. So use your editing powers. Also vote to close on questions that can't be saved or edited to be constructive.

So...what are your thoughts?


I'll actually bite the bullet and say that I think such questions on outdoors are less of a problem than on, say SO or SU.

OK, before just downvoting and moving on, stay with me - I still think they can be a problem, I just don't think we need to rush to edit / close every question that's in the above format as ruthlessly on some of the other sites in the SE network.

Questions like "what is the best way to pack a backpack" can be pretty subjective - I've edited that one now accordingly. But questions like "what are the most effective ways to start a fire in the cold" are less opinionated, if nothing else because the question is phrased in terms of the plural ("ways", not "way"). But also because it's based on fact, not purely personal preference - if a method isn't very good at getting a fire going in the cold, then you can't sensibly claim it is. Superuser isn't the same here - if I ask for, say, the best word processing package then this could be down to personal preference on all manner of things - appearance, ease of use, layout, available fonts, reliability - the list goes on. While that could come into play a bit here with certain questions, I don't feel it'll be as much of a problem for the reason stated above.

I'm not claiming that broad, subjective questions should be allowed and I still think they should be worded as best and specifically as they can - I just wonder whether a slightly less heavy handed approach might be more beneficial.

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    I agree. Questions like these are normally borderline at best, but on this site they may have more merit than usual. Provided the answers are up to par (that is, provide an explanation not just state an unsubstantiated opinion), it should all work out in the end. – Adam Lear Jan 30 '12 at 2:09
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    I agree. For instance, "Best way to purify water". There is an objectively correct answer. It's equivalent to "Fastest way to sort a list in C#" on SO. Just because somehting opens with "The best way to..." should not be a sole criteria for deciding if it's too subjective. – Russell Steen Feb 1 '12 at 22:18

Should posters try to reword questions as: "How can I do XYZ?" I would personally go the route of "How can I do XYZ" and then also in the actual question list things that have already been tried/ things you already know about, and ask if people have knowledge from that point forward. I'm not saying we should eliminate the "best/fastest" questions, just that there are alternatives in some cases.

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