From time to time I run across a question like this one1 where it appears the OP hasn't taken the time to think about what kind of answer he/she is looking for.

It's not uncommon for these questions to take the form of "How would I change X, which we don't understand today, to achieve Y?" The answers seem to fall into one of two categories. Either (a) they're all over the map, suggesting the question is intrinsically primarily opinion-based (POB) or (b) they reflect common Sci-Fi tropes (inevitably genetic engineering, nanites, or cybernetics) because nobody actually knows how "X" works and so we're providing glossed-over, regularly predictable answers for "Y."

It could be said that the questions are simply poorly scoped — but that's reflected in what appears to me that the OP doesn't actually know what it is they're looking for. I'm certain they want an answer to their question, I'm simply not convinced they understand their own question.

Consequently, I consider questions like this "what do you expect?" poor questions because I believe the answers will be trite and the results of asking the question of low quality. In other words, the OP didn't think through their question well enough to realize what would happen wouldn't line up with what they were expecting.

What does the community recommend for answering or dealing with questions like these? Is it enough to declare them POB (which might be the case) or "unclear" (which is often the case)? Or is there some clear direction we can offer OPs to help them realize they've asked a question that won't get them the results they were expecting?

1This is merely an example.2 This post is not about just that question.

2I haven't taken the time to hunt down more examples because these don't fit an obvious, searchable pattern, other than to lead me to ask the question, "you want to know what?" I'll hunt and peck to find some more, there have been several in the last few weeks, but it'll take time.


2 Answers 2


Generally speaking, I would say that the what are you expecting types of questions are indeed opinion based. Essentially, this kind of question boils down to a brainstorming session where the OP is soliciting ideas because she, as you say, doesn't know what she's looking for.

This kind of question is also very broad. Without a narrow scope, without a specific issue or problem to be addressed, responses are likely to be all over the board.

As for what to actually do, I would treat this kind of question as I would any other with similar issues. I'm not usually one to get in a twist over queries being opinion based. Everything we do here is, in some way, opinion based. I tend to raise more red flags when a query is too broad or not well defined. But even so, I recognise both as potential errors in question formulation.

That said, I'd follow the usual procedures:

  1. If the OP is new, issue the standard welcome message: she probably is not aware of what SE is all about, nor how WB.SE functions within that umbrella. The POB & BROAD errors most likely stem from easy to treat ignorance. Offer suggestions as to how one might improve the query.
  2. If the OP is experienced, consider that the errors most likely stem from insecurity as regards subject matter. I'd note in the comments that the query appears to be POB a/o BROAD; then request some tightening of scope or narrowing of focus.

Using the single linked question as a basis, this seems to be mostly an issue of taste.

I see where you are coming from, but, at least in the case of the linked question(s), these questions are perfectly fine - if of questionable use though.

Personally I don't like this style of question as it does not show even the slightest pointer to how or even if the information is being used for anything more than mere amusement/pastime...

But the community has shown over the past years that these are perfectly fine, and my own record of questions is somewhat questionable as well.

TC;WDIJR Question is perfectly valid, I agree on the quality, the community seems to accept these questions or they wouldn't be answering & voting so fast

  • $\begingroup$ This is the place where this could happen, I'm not sure why you brought it up. And yes, that was your doing. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2019 at 14:54
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles "...and my own record of questions is somewhat questionable as well." - People change with time $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Apr 8, 2019 at 16:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You are correct that the linked question is fine as to its format and presentation. But, similarly, the question "what is 1+1?" is valid by the rules, but a worst-case example of the issue. The answer appears trivial because we have no idea what the fictitious OP's expectations for the question were. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Apr 8, 2019 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ What is TC;WDIJR? $\endgroup$
    – kepe
    Apr 17, 2019 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ @FireCubez Too Confusing ; What Did I Just Read $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Apr 17, 2019 at 21:22

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