Going over my answers on the election questionnaire, I noticed a contradiction between the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective page and Worldbuilding Too Broad close reason:

too broad
There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.

Guidelines for Great Subjective Questions
2. Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers.

It may be helpful to users to clarify this point, as I've seen that close vote definition argued as a reason to put questions on hold, when it's clearly at odds with SE policy.

I also believe that "There are either too many possible answers" is also at odds with the subjective question guidelines.

Moms4mom was an early Stack Exchange 1.0 case study in subjectivity. The owners knew from the outset that the topic of parenting was inherently and deeply subjective, a fundamentally bad fit to our engine. Parenting is one of the most subjective subjects I can imagine; every child is different, every parent is different, and whole cultures are wildly different in how they approach child rearing. After all, who can say for certain what order one should watch the Star Wars (saga) with your children for the first time?

Worldbuilding is a lot closer to Moms4mom than it is to Physics on the subjective scale, and possibly even surpasses it.

It is possible for a good, well defined subjective question to have multiple deep and well supported answers that are very different from each other.

This is not a bad thing either, since SE strives to be a repository for ideas, and an answer that works well for one world may not fit in another. More points of view can help out future world builders as the top answer may not be the one they need.

Solution? (first draft)

too broad
Answers would not have enough depth. Good subjective questions encourage answers that are deep and well supported. Bad subjective questions encourage answers that need to cover a lot of different points. Please add details to narrow the question down to a single point. Multiple questions may be needed to cover all points.


1 Answer 1


That does seem worth clarifying, yes.

A post (question or answer) has a length limit of 30,000 characters, so we can support fairly long answers here. And we've gotten some good ones that are quite long. We can't support open-ended tomes, though.

So what's the difference? This is my personal understanding: A good answer to a good subjective question will be thorough and well-supported. This is more about depth, though probably with some breadth too. On the other hand, a too-broad question might ask for a survey of many options, or be so open-ended that there are bunches of options -- which would require a good answer to provide that thorough coverage of many options. At that point, (1) you're probably hitting the character limit and (2) that's really a lot to ask of answerers.

We want depth more than breadth. Answers that are 20 miles wide and an inch deep don't work well here, and questions that can only be answered with those kinds of answers should be narrowed some before people start trying to answer.

There's nothing wrong with a question having multiple deep and well-supported answers; in fact, it's great when we get good answers from different perspectives. But if a question lends itself to terse incomplete answers that's at risk of being "bad subjective", and if it would require writing a book to answer the question at all then it's too broad.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I am of the opinion that a lot of answers isn't always a bad thing, especially when dealing with subjects that are beyond the realm of possibility. It CAN be a warning sign, but it doesn't have to be, especially if each answer is able to be self supporting and deep enough while answering the question. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Feb 7, 2017 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ A short answer to a subjective question is often worse than a long answer, because it can be hard to support an idea in only a few paragraphs unless there is a lot of real world outside information. This seems to be what you are saying too, and goes against the close reason text. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Feb 7, 2017 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 I don't understand your first comment. I'm not talking about numerous answers but a single answer. A question should be answerable by one answer, not by taking the union of all answers, and it should be possible to write that answer. Open-ended brainstorming questions where any of the 30+ different answers are equally valid are a poor fit for the Q&A framework. And I agree that a short answer to a subjective question is worse than a long one that explains and shows its work; do you think I disagree with that? If so, I'd like to correct whatever gave you that impression. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2017 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ I apologize, those were two separate thoughts, and the first one was more in relation to "There are either too many possible answers" in the VTC def. There's more than one way to skin a cat, and a subjective question by definition may have more than one relevant good answer, which is also mentioned on the subjective question page. As to the second point, I wasn't disagreeing with you, as evidenced by my last sentence. I should have been clearer. I was attempting to point out other ways that I believe the VTC text is flawed in hopes of coming to consensus on how it can be clarified and fixed. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Feb 7, 2017 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the clarifications! Looks like I partially misunderstood you too, so sorry about that. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2017 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ I'm looking at some stats, if anyone's curious: The 30,000 character limit has been hit three times on Worldbuilding, and only 22 answers have beaten 20,000 characters. Also, it's mainly only a small group of users who are responsible for such long answers (myself possibly among them). $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Feb 7, 2017 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ Updated with a wording proposal. Thoughts? $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Feb 7, 2017 at 19:12

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