(In reference to question closed for being Bad Subjective.)

What examples are there of Good Subjective questions in MA.SE? Existing questions or hypothetical ones both. If the answer to Trevoke's meta-question is that we are a thoroughly subjective site, we need to have clear or at least understandable guidelines.

Evaluating my question by the six guidelines in the seminal work on this topic, I would say it is easily kosher by rules 1, 2, 3 and 6, with 4 and 5 being debatable. That 4 out of 6 minimum is why I asked it instead of leaving MA.SE a ghost town. I think it's exactly the kind of question we need to allow, since we're more of a subjective-experience Programmers.SE than a problem-solving StackOverflow.

4 Answers 4


I wasn't the one who closed it, but here's my perspective on the matter of that question:

It is very, very difficult to answer a question of the form "what standards should be enforced" constructively. It pulls too much from the domain of what is essentially pure opinion and "opinion, by itself, is noise." It's like saying "at what point should a brand new rapier fighter start competing?"

Well, that depends on the school, the tournaments, and the goals of both the individual rapier fighter and the school. It's hard to say, a priori, what would even constitute a "good" answer beyond "what are the standardized rules that you can find on the website" because you haven't identified why the official rules are in any way inadequate.

You see this in Berin Loritsch's Answer, which is a reasonable attempt at covering the factual basis, when he says:

I personally don't think that there is any way to come up with an authoritative or even useful list of techniques that are absolutely required. If you take a dozen sensei, you will have a dozen answers. Even on the commonalities, there will be disagreement on the emphasis necessary.

This goes to the heart of the matter: If you can't even standardize to the degree of "who best represents the school" or some other criteria, then there pretty much cannot be (from the nature of the question) a reasonable subjective answer. Especially since there are no real predicates there, just a general question of "what should be the criteria?" This is made more complicated by that you seem to be inquiring for general interest, rather than providing specifics of the situation that you are trying to address (this isn't always necessary, but it does help to provide context).

This isn't to say that something can't be made from the core of that question by narrowing the scope, modifying the wording, or providing additional context but it isn't obvious on the surface how an outsider could transform it.

For example, consider the following:

"I feel that my students are being hurt by competing too early because they get caught up in winning or losing the tournament rather than on improving at the art itself. I believe that the competitions are still valuable, but don't want to throw them in until I know that they are ready. What would be some good things to look for to know when they are ready?"

It would be fair for people to want additional details and it is a challenging question to answer well, but I also don't think it would get immediately closed. On the other hand, I can't exactly edit your question into that since it may not be what you are actually asking.

  • Vis-a-vis pure opinion: martialarts.stackexchange.com/questions/160/… Thoughts? May 9, 2012 at 21:03
  • 1
    There's a bit of a substantive difference between "I am trying to find a good teacher"–where the community has some idea what a "good teacher" might look like, even if they don't have specifics (it's a grain-of-sand question)–and "ignoring the already decided best practices by the international organization, what should the rules actually be?" May 9, 2012 at 21:07
  • I think there's some confusion about the best practices and rules of judo orgs. There are no rules or best practices that apply to my question, or if there are some, I am not aware of them and a description thereof would be a valid answer. May 9, 2012 at 21:23

David H. Clements has a great answer.

As the one who closed it, and as I stated in the post, it's simply because when myself and others were looking at it, there were two very apparent problems:

  1. It was difficult to tell what was being asked.
  2. It was difficult to answer without pushing into opinion.

Largely, in my view, this stemmed from your repeated use of "should". Yes, while your questions may have hit on other good qualities in the post mentioned, those guidelines still are secondary to the close reasons.

My attitude was and is this: Rephrase your question to remove opinion solicitation (as I made clear in my comments) and I'll reopen. Further, if the community wants it open, they can always overrule me.

If I were to try to answer objectively (as Berin Loritsch did appear to try to do), I could point out that there are, of course, competition entry guidelines, such as age and weight class and rank, etc. In my very limited experience in judo, it's important to compete when you're confident in your abilities, as is your sensei. But all in all, what does this do?

"Should" itself isn't an automatic disqualifying word, but you have to be able to use it in a way that makes it clear that you're asking for expertise from a place of ignorance, such as What characteristics should I look for in a sensei? did.

Your question isn't a grain of sand question, but that's okay. It's a question asking for clarification of rules or accepted practices. Short of someone digging up some obscure civil rights pretext that allows anyone to compete that led to some amazing historical event such as the first bushman from Papua New Guinea winning a world title with no prior training, it's probably not going to be one of those questions. Some questions, though, will have that "Eh, this could be too subjective" odor to them, and they lead to something astounding too.

The point is that not every question is a good fit. That's okay, and sometimes you just have to accept it. Closing questions is not personal. Deleting them? That might be (except in the case of mass cleanups).


As alluded to above, part of the problem with martial arts questions IS that there are many ways to do the same thing. I think if the community were to emphasize subjective questions that advance the knowledge of martial arts in general, they would be more acceptable than simply opinion questions.

Something along the lines of "My round kick I chamber with my leg already elevated, but my buddy is chambered with his kicking leg still down by his support leg." as a statement, but followed by "What would be the possible reasons for this?" rather than "Who is right?"

I'm not sure I'm stating it very eloquently, if elaboration is needed I can attempt to provide it.


Exemplary Good Subjectivity in MA.SE

Here are some I thought could qualify. I focused on answers instead of questions, which is a major hole that I hope to resolve soon. However, the presence of good subjective answers should point to good subjective questions, right?

"Something that happened to you personally"

"Something you can back up with a reference"

Please tell me if you disagree with any of these (or agree particularly strongly, for that matter).

  • That's a good start. Actually I was thinking earlier that we could do a quality-evaluation type of question where we pick a bunch of subjective questions and post them as answers. Vote up or down to indicate whether it is a good or bad subjective question accordingly. Each one would have its set of own comments rather than cluttering up this one answer to debate many different items.
    – user15
    Jul 25, 2012 at 2:23
  • @MattChan I think avoiding any rehashing or negativity would be swell. Picking examples we think are good, and then perhaps getting feedback, might evoke less rancor. Jul 25, 2012 at 2:36

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