The entire idea of a "Top 3" question seems to scream "Idea Generation" and "Too Broad" when first looked at, and if it isn't worded carefully it will almost certainly end up being "too opinionated".

For an extreme example:

What would be the top 3 traits of an "evil" alien species?

There are no constraints in that question to narrow down what we are looking for, and with the way the question is asked it seems like a popularity contest. It wouldn't take long for that question to be closed, though it would be fun for the 3 seconds it lasted.

Instead, what if we asked a more question:

What are the 3 most important engineering rules to take into account when considering the effects of gravity on architecture, (such as when you wish to construct a new house)?

and then constrained the answers, as well as provided a way to grade them

Keep each of your 3 points to a eighty-word maximum (maximum of 240 total) - longer is not always better. Links are encouraged but should add more detailed information rather than containing your answer.

The "best" 3 are those which are capable of covering the most, while also being the most concise and explanatory within the word limit.

Is this still too opinionated? Encompass "Idea Generation"? Too Broad? Do you see improvements that would make it better?

In a more general sense, would it be possible to have well-asked "list" questions if they constrain themselves?

I could see these questions being used for "where to start" on extremely broad worldbuilding topics such as Architecture or Language and I think they would very useful - yet I could also see how, since the topics are so broad, we might prefer that we just don't ask those questions here - and that people go and do their broad research elsewhere.

  • $\begingroup$ It might just be me, but I really don't like questions that try to avoid being closed by providing custom grading criteria. It makes the whole thing feel like more of a contest than a search for the one true answer. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2015 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh I generally agree. There is always a grading criteria, even though the default is generally more loose - allowing people to upvote any number of possibilities rather than just the one "best" answer. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2015 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ I'd be very happy if I could just ask, "What major engineering factors should I take into account when considering the effects of gravity on architecture?" - but it is so broad, I don't think an answer at that level would be useful - so I'm trying to get the top 3, more specific and detailed pieces, of that question. But what is the "top" 3? The "most important" 3? That is going to be opinion. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2015 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ Alternatively, if I asked "What engineering factor is the most important that I should take into account when considering the effects of gravity on architecture?" I could end up with several options (getting my "top" 3 via voting) but again it comes into opinion based. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2015 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ I would suggest that the 'best' answer is one that considers all aspects of a question. Asking people to 'pick n', where n is any number, is almost axiomatically going to lead to poorer answers. N is most certainly not equal to the number of points the answerer wants to give, so they either have to throw out good points or make up new ones. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2015 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh That is why broad questions get closed isn't it? We are unable to consider all aspects of the question in one answer. Making people choose which aspects will have the most impact seemed like a good way to constrain a normally "too broad" question at first. I do see what you're saying though. I should probably give up this approach and take a different one. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2015 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ I feel like most 'top 3' questions are, in some sense, idea generation. They ask for a list of deas meeting a criteria, rather than seeking to answer a specific question $\endgroup$
    – ckersch
    Oct 15, 2015 at 3:23
  • $\begingroup$ Cross-linking to a relevant question $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jun 15, 2020 at 19:22

1 Answer 1


A Top 3 something tends to be opinion-based. So you need to provide an objective metric to rank the objects you are interested in.


Top 3 guitarists of all time

is opnion-based, whereas

Top 3 richest guitarists of all time

isn't. But then it's too broad. So you need to consider a limited number of pool of objects to be compared. There are and have been thousands and thousands of guitarists in the world. So with something like

Top 3 richest Jazz guitarists, which played on at least 3 CDs released in the 1970s, selling a minimum of 100,000 copies with an Australian nationality.

There you get to something. But then it's off-topic because it's not about worldbuilding.

So a top3 question might be possible, but it isn't easy. And by the time you get it to fit the format, you probably found the answer yourself.

And to your specific question, reducing the size of the answer does not narrow down the scope of a question. So, it is still too broad and opinion-based.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ And of course -- not sure if this was deliberate or not -- not a lot of music was released on CDs in the 1970s. :-) $\endgroup$
    – user
    Oct 13, 2015 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ "because it's not about worldbuilding" — but we can fix that by changing it to "What would have been the top 3 richest guitarist which played on at least 3 CDs released in the 1970s etc., if the CD had already been invented in the 50s." Of course that again would be opinion-based. :-) $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Oct 14, 2015 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ @celtschk, not necessarily. You could still add in that the released albums were the same as the LPs, but they would receive twice as much money for each album. $\endgroup$ Oct 15, 2015 at 5:34
  • $\begingroup$ AND use it as a percentage of population, since you will not get your across-the-board 'most popular,' if there were half the world's population and distribution of music in the 70s as there is now. :) $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Oct 16, 2015 at 3:15

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