Recently there have been a number of questions asked, and closed (some by me), as not constructive because there's an element of discussion/debate to the question.

Some examples are:

When to use Views vs. a hardcoded query?

When should I not use Views for listing content?

Deploying Drupal with Git

Non-Constructive questions are defined as

[...] not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. [...]

and this definition is the same for all Stack Exchange sites.

Going strictly by the rules, this type of question is explicitly off-topic. But some of these questions are well thought out, interesting, real-life problems that would apply to a large section of developers/themers/site-builders in the Drupal community.

I find myself a little disappointed to have had to close some of these questions (some of them I would personally like to have seen good answers to), but I guess I feel it's my duty to uphold the rules as I understand them.

So I put it to the community:

  • Are we (the mods) enforcing the rules too rigidly?
  • Is there some sort of extra compromise that needs to be reached on this site in particular, that's different from the rest of the sites in the SE network, because of the unique nature of Drupal?
  • If you feel that's the case; how do we do it, and where do we draw the line?

UPDATE

Just to be clear following answers/comments: I'm not talking about applying this sort of leniency across the board, or about pro-active moderator behaviour in this area. I'm talking about defining 'types' of questions that mods will see, and instead of casting a deciding close vote immediately, will leave up to the community to decide.

If 5 members of the community feel a question should be closed, whether there's a perception that it falls within the hypothetical boundaries of 'ok' or not, it will stay closed until organically re-opened, again by the community. Mods will (and should) not get involved in that unless there are extenuating circumstances.

The bottom line is that there's compromise to be had here, from both sides of the equation.

I think we have to accept that there are some rare exceptions to the 'Not Constructive' rule on Drupal Answers. Some subjective questions are going to have to get through, or we risk alienating valuable people.

But the other side is that people need to accept not every type of question, whether they find it interesting or not, is going to be allowed here. This question exists to discuss where that line is crossed.

UPDATE AGAIN

I feel I need to clear this up more vehemently, we seem to be getting a bit off topic in the answers...

This question is not about applying relaxed rules to every question on the site, or in any way inviting in discursive/open-ended questions.

It is about moderators applying extra discretion when closing discursive questions that might have more benefit to the Drupal Answers website, and its users, than harm they would cause. This type of question is very rare, but there have been a couple of good examples in recent memory (hence this discussion).

We cannot be a replacement for the Drupal.org support forums, because Stack Exchange sites are explicitly NOT support forums.

There, done :)

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I want to see what others say, but my worry is the "solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion". That is precisely why finding information on drupal.org can be so hard. –  MPD Feb 25 '13 at 20:44
    
@MPD Totally agree. My hope is this question will get all of the for/against arguments out in the open and perhaps there's a compromise. But even if there isn't, we might be able to use that information to make it a bit clearer what types of questions are going to fall foul of the rules –  Clive Feb 25 '13 at 20:48
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I think we all need to read blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective keeping in mind that the subjective close reason has morphed into not-constructive. –  MPD Feb 25 '13 at 23:57
    
@MPD relevant stuff, even if that was written for stackoverflow. I share some of the same points in my answer, a pity that I did not read it before. I would like to point that IMHO we don't need a programmers.stackexchange.com for Drupal stuff, DA could host this less strict types of questions –  Pere Feb 26 '13 at 6:31
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@Pere Nope; it is about all the Stack Exchange network, not only Stack Overflow. Don't get confused from the domain name; the same article is available on blog.stackexchange.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective. –  kiamlaluno Feb 26 '13 at 10:50
    
I would also like to draw people's attention to Drupal on IRC. If people are worried about questions getting closed due to being perceived as not constructive, try asking someone on IRC! If you post on IRC you could also perhaps come back here with your findings and post a canonical "tutorial" :) –  Chapabu Feb 28 '13 at 15:57
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Example: #drupal-support is for long or deep support discussions. While quick questions are okay in #drupal, some discussions are just too long for that channel, or need a quieter venue -- that's when they go in #drupal-support. –  Chapabu Feb 28 '13 at 16:02
    
Do you have a few examples of valuable discussion-type questions that are closed but you think should not be? –  Anna Lear Mar 6 '13 at 22:51
    
@Anna MPD kindly edited some into the question –  Clive Mar 7 '13 at 8:56
    
Yes, please relax the rules so questions like this aren't closed without debate: drupal.stackexchange.com/questions/65020/… –  jhedstrom Mar 10 '13 at 6:46
    
@jhedstrom I fear that question is too broad to be considered in this discussion. There's very little to go on and it's unlikely to help a good number of future users in the future, which is the main criteria for one of these rare cases that I'm talking about. I'd suggest that particular one is more appropriate for SuperUser or Webmasters than here –  Clive Mar 10 '13 at 10:57
    
Somewhat related discussion going on on Meta.SO: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/171732/… –  MPD Mar 14 '13 at 20:03

7 Answers 7

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I'm Grace Note, I'm a Community Manager for Stack Exchange. I'm also very much not a Drupal user, so I won't have close familiarity with the exact nuances of particular subjects within Drupal.

One thing that was mentioned in the comments that I'd like to make sure doesn't get missed is a blog article written long ago about "Good" subjective versus "Bad" subjective. Another relevant article would be Gorilla vs. Shark, which talks about how to approach comparisons. The main point of both of these articles is how to extract constructive solutions from otherwise discussive problems. People can disagree, that's why we have the possibility for multiple answers after all. As long as they're providing constructive solutions to a constructive problem, there isn't an issue here.

I'm looking over the example questions you gave, and they don't actually seem all that bad. Some work might be needed on the questions to help shape them, but ultimately still not change the underlying intent that the original author is attempting to solve.

  • The first one mentions two strategies meant to accomplish a certain goal. I imagine there are benefits and concerns for each path. An ideal answer thus identifies what the major pros and cons of each are, and then uses the hard data from that to identify what situations each are suited for. On Stack Overflow, I have a question comparing two strategies to solve a goal, identifying some known differences on my end and the answer provides other differences that I hadn't yet known. If the Drupal example here can't operate because the amount of use cases between the two strategies is so large that a lot of the answer is "It depends on what you're trying to do", then that scope size is the issue, not the "discussive nature".
  • The second one has a very weak answer, but how can it be strengthened so that it's not so subjective? Back it up! Speed issue, UI accessibility, and performance hits are all things that can be explained as to why Views introduces these differences. This post of mine on Stack Overflow is a similar concept asking about some strategy and what problems may exist to be aware of. In addition to an earful from Eric Lippert, I got an answer that identifies core points and also explains why each may be impacted. This doesn't tell me "Use in X situation but not in Y situation", but instead tells me what the effects are and lets me use it as a method to gauge when to and when not to act. The Drupal question can be approached the same way - it'll satisfy the author and also provide a nice solid resource.
  • The third one is a lot harder because the question itself is pretty minimalistic and pretty poor as a result. In this case, what we would have to do is fix the question to better shape its answer. "Best practices" exist either because of mechanical impact, which is valuable, or because of dictated standard, which is not so valuable. If we focus on the former, we can identify actual solid reasons to be looking at one thing versus another, and thus the answers would be less of a shopping list, and more of an identification of what the author should be looking to do. Deployment systems would be more of frosting added to an answer. The ideal goal is to transform this beast into something that has a problem that gets a solution, not something that solicits a bunch of options that can be used.

Not every discussive question is salvageable to a state where it identifies a solid problem with a concluding solution, but some are, and some don't even need so much a sense of salvation as much as a better grasp of what problem is being identified. Like the phrase "list question", it's easy to get overzealous on the matter of "Kill all subjective" without seeing that there's a difference between "A constructive problem with multiple perspectives that can get constructive responses" and "A problem where everyone tosses their opinions without potential to weigh against each other". It is important to avoid questions where anyone can chime in with their own opinion because the differences are user-dependant. But when there are perspectives and they are based on hard data, then it's no different than people bringing in their expertise to solve less divisive issues.

So... "Yes", running around closing all of these things under discussion is being too strict. "No", special compromises aren't needed because the desired state is rather in-line with actual Stack Exchange policy. No, moderators shouldn't need to absolve themselves of ever touching these kinds of questions. It is a good idea to encourage discussion here on Meta, or perhaps to revive your chat rooms, when these come up. Think about what problem the asker is facing, how it can be realized into a solid question, and most of all try to work with the asker to come to an agreeable solution together.


To address a point in the highest voted answer. Community Wiki isn't the answer. Nevermind that the purpose of applying Community Wiki is not to stop reputation gain, if you think a question is valuable enough that it should stay on the site and open, then it should be valuable enough to reward its contributors.

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Thanks for taking the time to write this up. –  MPD Mar 15 '13 at 2:02

I think perhaps the rules should be relaxed. HOWEVER seeing as how there is not likely to be a definitive right or wrong answer for questions such as these perhaps we should require them to be answered as a Community Wiki?

At least that way if there is incorrect information (that has a source to back up the correction) then it'll be easier for other to correct.

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Would it be a problem to just let the person asking the question to designate the best answer according to them as correct? Even now, with regular Drupal questions, there isn't always a definitive correct answer because there are so many different ways to accomplish a given task. Sometimes folks just ask about what module is best to use, and choose the answer that best fits their specific circumstance. It wouldn't be much different, right? –  Boriana Feb 28 '13 at 15:08
    
The best answer to the person asking the question might not actually be the best answer. That is the issue with these open ended (non-constructive) questions. –  Chapabu Feb 28 '13 at 15:59
    
Right, of course! But I mean, would it be that different than how many questions are already? I'm only bringing it up, because I think many think these questions would be soooo different than current questions, and I actually don't think they would be that different. I understand, of course, that there is an aspect of subjectivity when the person asking the question checks off the answer they accept. I just think that already happens! So there isn't a need to be as worried about it... –  Boriana Feb 28 '13 at 16:04

Are we (the mods) enforcing the rules too rigidly?

There is a thin line between a good non-constructive question and a bad one. I understand that in the beginning of a SE site the Rules can be relaxed, as I see it, this is not the case for this site, so I don't think relaxing the rules will help this site grow quality content but the other way around.

If you feel that's the case; how do we do it, and where do we draw the line?

That's obviously up to every moderator but in my opinion there are some red lines :

  • A lack of research by the OP, that's questions that can be answered by a (simple) google search or SE search. This could often show a lack of interest or a lack of knowledge by the OP. When I say a lack of knowledge I really mean that the answer is obvious but the poster is making (too many) wrong assumptions or omitting (too much) critical information from the question.
  • A please do the work for me, as I don't have the time/skills to do it.

IMO the rules should not be relaxed on this kind of questions (and others that I am missing) since this will only encourage this kind of questions which would be bad for this site.

As I see it, the rules are there to enforce a minimum quality for the site and that's what we should aim for, quality .

My 2 cents :)

EDITED :

As a starting point the most important quality aspects for a question would be:

  • The question shows the understanding of the problem by the OP. It is unlikely that someone can get help here without first understanding the problem they are facing, and some questions do not show that.
  • Completeness of the question. The question doesn't lack too much information to be answered or doesn't contain too much assumptions or even wrong assumptions. These questions may fall under the too broad label.

Grammar and format would not be in the (absolutely incomplete) list above since it could be edited and doesn't have to do with the quality of the content.

Strictly applying this would encourage people to improve their questions and discourage others to post low quality questions.

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Very well put. But just to be the spanner-in-the-works...how do we define quality in this context? We all have a fairly intangible idea of what that means, but I think our inability to explicitly define what we mean by "quality" is what gets new users' backs up –  Clive Feb 26 '13 at 10:02
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Nice point @Clive see my edit. –  drcelus Feb 26 '13 at 10:18
    
This is exactly the point: Information is what defines the context of the question; without context, the question is difficult to be answered, and to be read from future readers. –  kiamlaluno Feb 26 '13 at 11:03

One reason to consider relaxing the rules a little, is simply that there is no great alternative place to ask such questions. I wanted to ask a general question that required more of an opinion on best practices rather than a clear answer some time ago. I knew that it would be closed as off-topic here, and as I considered what my alternatives are and where I could go to ask such a question, I realized there just wasn't any online drupal community that is as active, thoughtful and prompt as this one where one could discuss more general things like 'best practices'.

I actually disagree that the reason Drupal.org is difficult to navigate in terms of answers is that it allows more general discussions (somebody said so in a comment). There are many, many other reasons that it is more difficult to navigate, and I don't think that's its downfall! In fact, on the contrary, I think we can agree that many of us have seen insightful, valuable opinions on there that weren't just "here's a piece of code that will help your problem," but were thoughtful guidance on larger, messier Drupal topics. Perhaps we're missing out by not having those here.

Finally, if there is still talk of this site replacing Drupal forums in the long term, questions like this would be even more important to think through... At that point, should we really continue being a source for only small programming-like questions or would it be better to represent a wider range of Drupal knowledge, how-tos and experiences? I vote for the latter.

Of course, we can take baby-steps to see how a small change to the rules would affect the site, and then evaluate the long-term direction again... I'm not saying scrap the whole clause at once. :-)

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I'd vote for the wider range of Drupal knowledge too –  Pere Feb 28 '13 at 2:26
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This makes perfect sense, of course, but you must remember this isn't Drupal's site...we also have an obligation to uphold the standards of the Stack Exchange network as a whole. This site can never be a replacement for Drupal's support forums, as SE sites are categorically, explicitly, fiercely even, not to be used as such. You have to understand it's not SE's fault that there's "no great alternative place to ask such questions". And just because that's true, it doesn't automatically mean that this is the correct place for those questions...(99% of the time it definitely isn't) –  Clive Feb 28 '13 at 14:20
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@Pere Unfortunately that will never happen to the degree that you want it to. Even long standing users/moderators don't have that 'vote'...we're bound by the rules of the Stack Exchange network. This question is getting far broader than I ever intended it too. As I mentioned in the original post, the outcome of this question will not be applied across the board, but in rare, individual cases, where the benefits of a discursive question will outweigh the perceived harm. –  Clive Feb 28 '13 at 14:28
    
Oh, of course I know this site, nor any other one, has an obligation to provide a service just because there is no alternative. It's interesting though that there is such a problem with 'discussions' here. I may have even made some a little uncomfortable now by bringing in a broader idea. Not to worry. I think it's useful that you've gotten a sense of different opinions in the community even if you don't act on them! Most importantly, I wanted you to think about the fact that there is a lot of good info on Drupal because it's more permissive that we miss out on here. –  Boriana Feb 28 '13 at 14:39
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@Boriana Yes that's exactly the point I'm trying to make - Drupal Answers isn't supposed to contain every bit of information about Drupal - that's not what we're here for. There's a chat room for discussions (which no-one uses), but the main site is a Q+A site, and I can't stress that enough. Q+A can't include discussion, by definition, as 99.9% of the time a discussion cannot (again by definition) have a single answer that will be useful to future visitors. And that's the cornerstone of all sites in the SE network –  Clive Feb 28 '13 at 14:49
    
@Boriana My judgment is (as I'm sure you can tell) fairly clouded here, though. I've been using the SE network for a couple of years and I like that wishy-washy, discursive questions are discouraged to the point of being actively removed by the community. Your opinions (as well as everyone else's) are extremely valuable and thank you for sharing them. I'm in a tricky position here because I obviously have to respect the wishes of the community with the outcome of this, but I'm also just a bloke who has as strong an opinion as everyone else :) –  Clive Feb 28 '13 at 14:52
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I hear and understand you. I've seen discussions like this over and over in the community. It's not that I don't understand that particular definition of Q&A or why SE sites implement it. I simply wish, selfishly, that it would be more relaxed because I would benefit by being able to get more knowledge with more relaxed rules. That's the bottom line. I'd win as a user here! I don't actually expect that will happen, but purposefully wanted to state my opinion anyway. But, really, I do know where you're coming from. –  Boriana Feb 28 '13 at 15:00

This reminds me of the tagging discussion... namely, that you tag based on the question itself, not on the answers you imagine it will garner. (Used to justify removing the form-api tag from questions about things that would most likely be accomplished using the form API but that are not about the form API directly).

It is not so much a matter of how strict the rules are or even how faithfully they are applied, as it is a matter of whether the rules are being applied to the actual questions, or to the imagined answers, or answers to past questions that were somehow similar.

The rule refers specifically to what types of answers the question is likely to garner, so the rule itself is blurring the line between evaluating the quality of the question and the quality of the answers it receives or that the mod prognosticates it may receive. Recently it seems we've been erring on the side of prognoticating.

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Hmmm that's an extremely good point I never even noticed that contradiction in the text –  Clive Mar 1 '13 at 19:57

I think that every answer is in part subjective, there's nothing 100% objective.

Personally, I would drop the Non-constructive words. Something that has an element of discussion/debate or expects an answer that is not 100% objective can be constructive, and can be useful. Another thing is if the question is more or less appropriate for Drupal Answers. But even that (being or not appropriate to D.A.) may be a little subjective.

I don't know if these rules were first thought for StackOverflow, but Drupal is obviously a lot more than just programming. Maybe it's for that reason that we could expect more questions and answers to be a little less objective, because programming, like maths, tends to be 2 + 2 = 4. In Drupal we have a lot of options that may be or not be better depending on the subject.

Are we (the mods) enforcing the rules too rigidly?

Yes in my opinion.

Is there some sort of extra compromise that needs to be reached on this site in particular, that's different from the rest of the sites in the SE network, because of the unique nature of Drupal?

I would like to think that Drupal is not unique in this, some of the others SE projects may have similar issues. WordPress Answers for example? But yes, a Drupal question may not fit in StackOverflow, it would make sense if this was the reason why Drupal Answers was created.

If you feel that's the case; how do we do it, and where do we draw the line?

Idea:

  • If it harms the community and/or the question cannot contribute knowledge, then the question is not constructive.
  • If the question can be improved, don't close it, just improve it.
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Thanks for your thoughts. I just want to point out that closing isn't the end of life for a question. It can always be edited, and flagged for re-opening. –  MPD Feb 25 '13 at 23:55
    
Yes, Clingo already told me that. I'm happy with the idea, but if for some reasons re-opening is not happening for most of the questions (95%?), then closing questions ends up being the end of life of them. –  Pere Feb 26 '13 at 6:41
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@Pere We're reliant on the OP/other members of the community flagging questions to let us know they need review. That itself happens very, very rarely, so there's not much we can do about that. Just to address If the question can be improved, don't close it, just improve it. ...that's not what moderators are here for. It's up to the poster of a question to make sure enough details are in there, that it conforms to the rules etc. Perhaps we just need to define what those rules are a little better. But people still won't read the FAQ. People are lazy unfortunately, they just want to come... –  Clive Feb 26 '13 at 9:13
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...here and get people to do their work for them. Not everyone obviously, but enough. For those of us that actually do care and take the time and effort, it's very disconcerting to see people showing such blatant disregard for the rules of the community. It's a different dynamic here - we don't operate a support forum, so questions have to be architected in a certain way. We might be being overly rigid in one or two rare cases but I'm not suggesting that this is in any way the 'norm'. 95% of those questions deserve to be closed, my question is really to address the edge cases –  Clive Feb 26 '13 at 9:14
    
ok, understood. –  Pere Feb 26 '13 at 9:30
    
@Pere But please don't take my tone to be harsh in any way, that's not my intention. It's extremely valuable to have the kind of feedback you're providing at the moment, and we're very grateful for it. If more new users cared enough to have their say and try to improve the community we'd all be in a better position :) –  Clive Feb 26 '13 at 9:35

I think there definitely are types of questions that merit to stay there and have answers. For example people comparing two possibilities, trying to find the one that would fit their scenario. When you are new to something, you often ask these questions, google them and then see that stackoverflow in general doesnt like them :)
Example from SO : angularjs vs backbone. Yes, the question is extremely short and doesnt add any value. But - it is a question many people look ask and there is some very interesting content in the answers ...
At the end of the day, the visitor wont get a "cookbook" for her decision, but will leave happy, because she got some valuable information to be able to decide herself.

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But that just proves that closing questions is fine - the question you linked to is closed, but is still seen as valuable to the community so isn't deleted. As you say, it's not a good question, so closing is the appropriate action. However it has a good answer, and is allowed to stay on the site. In my opinion that proves that the current system works –  Clive Mar 10 '13 at 10:55
    
from that POV its all OK. But imagine someone who is not yet a member (they exist :), googles a question, comes to DA, finds an answer but sees that the question was "punished" - i am afraid that such visitor would be tempted to leave quickly ... –  mojzis Mar 10 '13 at 11:08
    
@mozjs Yes I couldn't agree more, the real issue is quickly becoming that closing has a bad stigma attached to it. So the real question in that case, I guess, is "how do we educate users that closing is not the 'end of life' for a question?", and make sure we encourage them to bring it up to standard in the right way. The ability to close and re-open questions is fundamental to any successful Stack Exchange site and that definitely wont change, but we do need to find ways to soften the blow for new users IMO –  Clive Mar 10 '13 at 11:14

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