I'm basically asking about questions which do have short, objective answers, but it may be subjective to determine which is the best answer.

Like suppose mankind now has xyz technology, which industry is going to benefit the most out of it? Or why would three eyes evolve in a species? Or what is the best use of abc spells?

If enough details are provided, it will be possible to separate good answers and bad ones, however, there may not be a singular best answer.

Consequently the better and/or more creative answers will get upvoted.

My understanding is that this is off-topic because it violates SE's single answer requirement. But sites like code golf do violate this principle to some extent, where multiple answers are accepted.

I've seen some interesting questions get closed simply because there is no objective way of validating a single answer.

Could someone let me know why sticking to policy and keeping big-list questions off-topic is better?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ to comment on your code golf example: Code golf answers are rated by the amount of bytes the code takes. Less bytes = better $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 16:33
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ "Different answers possible" does not necessarily imply, nor necessarily follow from, "no objective way of validating a single answer". Not even on Stack Overflow; there are typically multiple ways of solving any given programming problem, some of which may be objectively better or worse than others, but some of which are more of a matter of taste. What we typically don't want is questions with no way to objectively judge how well the answer actually answers the question, which is pretty much the definition of a "primarily opinion-based" question. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ See my position. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjorling Oh. That makes sense. I'll keep that in mind in the future. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 4:42

2 Answers 2


Questions with multiple answers are not inherently off-topic

We are getting into The problem with opinion based questions here. The main problem from my point of view is that this is a big, blurry region where on-topicness and off-topicness are close to each other and everyone has a different understanding of "where to draw the line" and where everyone has different tags where he may be more or less lenient.

There should be a way to somewhat objectively compare answers to each other.

This can be about internal consistency, about how well it fits to the setting described in the question and about any number of things. We don't need exactly one correct answer for every question - but there needs to be a way to find the best answer, even if all answers would fit the bill.

What we don't want is a question where every answer is exactly equally valid. If there is no way to say that one answer is better than any other answer, not even because "it fits better to the setting described in the question" or similar things, then the question is "primarily opinion based" and should be closed as such.

This site is more opinion based than many other sites on the network. We have to live with this and have discussions about on-topic/off-topic, especially with a focus on "pimarily opinion based", from time to time, because the network is not exactly made for opinion based questions. That's why we need to help whenever we can to make a question somewhat objectively answerable. This, in turn, is opinion based - which makes this whole topic very, very difficult. What is somehwat objectively answerable?

We can't give completely general guidelines that are always applicable - we can only try to give some rules and every once in a while there will be a discussion. The community will then decide on the fate of the question on a case-by-case basis. How the community exactly votes will shift again and again and again - what has been on-topic a year or two ago might not be on-topic anymore. And what is off-topic right now might be on-topic again in a year or two. Nobody knows.

The current guideline is that questions are not "primarily opinion based", just because there are multiple valid answers - questions are "primarily opinion based" if every possible somewhat reasonable answer is exactly equally valid.

  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "every possible answer" - since even terrible questions will have some invalid answers (gobeldy-goop, spam, abuse etc.). $\endgroup$
    – user42528
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 8:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Ben I discussed exactly that problem here. In this answer I left out an important word that I normally use: "Every reasonable answer" Spam is spam and should be nuked with spam flags. Not-an-answer posts should be flagged and consequently deleted as such. Obviously reasonable gets into the territory of depending on the opinion of the person reviewing the question/answers - which makes this topic difficult. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 8:31

Secespitus has provided an excellent answer, as a supplement I'd like to add that without a way to evaluate answers people have no idea where to focus their time.

Here is a perfect example from the early days of the site which would without question be closed now: https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/2626/49

Without even trying I came up with 7 different answers to the question, if I'd kept going I could have come up with 7 more.

How do I know which of those is better than any of the others?

Which ones should I write down or leave out?

Which ones do I expand on to flesh out into a "proper" answer?

Without some way to rate answers the people writing answers have no idea what to write, and people voting for answers have no way to know what to vote for.

  • $\begingroup$ Okay. I'd personally prefer such big-list kind of questions also to be on-topic, but okay that's not how it is right now. One tiny doubt, that question you linked to, shouldn't it be closed or marked as a legacy question or something? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ And p.s. Nobody did answer why the policy is the way it is. Is it really not worth deviating from SE policy on this one? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ @ghosts_in_the_code Yes, that's a good point. Questions generally only get locked if something draws attention to them but I guess I just did that :) I've locked it. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ @ghosts_in_the_code My answer explains why it is. If you ask something so broad I as the person writing an answer have no way to focus my efforts or to know whether I can add anything better than is already there. The existing answer may be perfect (in which case my time can be spent better elsewhere) or my proposed answer may be useless (ditto). I've no way to know. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ Yes okay sorry. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 9:34

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