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We're over 250 days into beta, and I thought it'd be good to take a step back and see how Writers.SE is doing. The beta is an attempt to see whether a SE Q&A site for writers is workable; we might be ready to answer some questions from experience now.

So, one of the key concerns for the site was that writing is a highly individual, subjective business, and the Q&A format might be a poor fit for such discussions. See also "Where do we draw the line on Subjective?" and the oft-referenced Good Subjective, Bad Subjective.

Now that we've seen a range of questions: Has the subjective nature of writing been a problem for you on the site? Do you feel you're seeing too many questions which are answered "it all depends, do whatever works for you?". Do you feel "bad-subjective" questions make up an unreasonable portion of the site? Do you feel "good-subjective" questions are arising and being answered well?

Note that I'm not asking whether this issue can be improved, I'm asking whether in your experience, it has been.

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I have a problem when people answer "Whatever works for you" without further detail, but I think that answer can come from one of two possible sources:

  1. The question is poorly worded or provides too little detail to encourage follow-on information such as "Here is the pro of doing way A and here is the con, versus the pros and cons of doing way B. Here is why you should try both."
  2. The particular person giving a short "Just try it out" isn't at their best that day and doesn't deserve any up-votes, even though the answer may be technically correct.

Sometimes you might see a simple answer that doesn't really meet the criteria for a good answer to a subjective question because of 1, sometimes 2, sometimes a mix of both.

For example I think we on Writers.SE will get questions that deserve the equivalent of "Did you try writing the code, compiling it, and running it to see what happened before you asked this?" on StackOverflow and it is hard not to want to make a snarky answer like that sometimes. Those questions aren't great, but subjectivity isn't at fault, laziness is. Laziness is why some sort of "Too simple" close reason has been bandied about on the SE network before. The right response to those, though, isn't a flippant answer. It's editing, downvoting (downvotes on questions are free these days!), closure, or turning the question around by giving a great answer to a poor question.

As a note, if you've fallen into the short answer to a poorly phrased question, I am not sitting here blaming you.

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Ironically the question itself is probably subjective. That being said it is true that writing is a high subjective issue but if anything I think that the Q&A format works because of that.

For myself, this hasn't caused a problem for using the site and in fact I've gotten a lot of good advice just by reading other peoples answers and questions. The real trick is that there is a lot of subjective things both questions and answers need to be writing in a non-subjective way.

As Justkt motioned, an answer that is just "Do what works for you" isn't a very good one, and I think the community represents this with their voting. You really need to explain why you do something and why it works for you that way other people can have all the information they need judge if it will work for them.

Do we need an extra set of rules or FAQ questions to try and clear this up? I don't think so. The community here at Writers.SE is a strong one and know what a subjective question or answer is. Subjective questions don't get votes, and usually have comments trying to clear up the question. Subjective answers also don't get votes and usually fall down to the bottom of the pile.

So, to answer your original question, no the subjective nature of writing hasn't been a problem for me on the site, I feel the community as a whole has a good grip on how to manage subjectivity.

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