This has been bothering me for quite a long time, but I've had some trouble articulating it. We have already had quite a lot of discussion about list questions, and have historically been fairly aggressive about closing them. However, (and, if we ever created such a tag, ) are inherently list questions, but their value is both obvious and lasting. (Here is an example of a question that I've just asked to illustrate what I mean.)

I also believe that they naturally follow the good-list criteria:

  • inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”
  • tend to have long, not short, answers
  • have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone
  • invite sharing experiences over opinions
  • insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references
  • are more than just mindless social fun

It seems clear to me, then, that questions (and any other [*-ideas] cousins that eventually pop up) should not be closed as list questions. What do others think?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ In a nutshell - yeah, I agree =) $\endgroup$
    – auden
    Dec 15, 2017 at 0:09

3 Answers 3


Actually, I think there are quite a large variety of questions, not just lesson ideas, that have many, equally valuable and essentially independent valid answers. Two answers, in fact, could say quite opposite things and be equally valuable, if only in different contexts. I've argued before that context is everything in education. One size does definitely fit all, or even most. Many answers express the germ of an idea that can be adapted to the individual teacher's environment, even if not usable precisely as stated in the question.

I would prefer to have things closed only when clearly off topic, abusive, or potentially dangerous. I suspect there are a few exceptions to that rule and the list might arguably be expanded (opinion based questions), but I'd argue for leaving most things open.

Also, I rarely down vote a post unless I think it has one of those characteristics, even when I think the advice is relatively poor.


From https://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/92460/computer-science-educators

Answer ratio = 4.8 Excellent — 2.5 answers per question is good, only 1 answer per question needs some work. On a healthy site, questions receive multiple answers and the best answer is voted to the top.

So lots of answers is good, though there can be a problem with answering which is the best, or which to accept.


Most of my experience comes from Software Engineering Stack Exchange. Bear that in mind while I try to frame this issue in a more useful way.

I love answering questionable questions. I firmly believe a good answer can redeem a poor question. I've managed to take questions that were about to die and by answering in a way that rejected the premise of the question I reframed the whole issue into a more useful and acceptable form. And I've done this with list questions.

The way I know this has been done is the answer crowds out other answers. There is no room left for "me too" answers that tack on and try to rise with the question as it makes its way to the "hot network questions list".

Therefore, a bad list question is a question that, even if you reframe it, reject it's premise, and give it a phenomenal comprehensive answer it will still attract "me too" answers that don't duplicate the best answer yet still don't really add anything better.

We hate that precisely because the votes for the answers to such a question tell you nothing more then which answer got here first. That makes our system look stupid.

So long as the policy stops that result you don't have to dogmatically apply it. But it would be nice if those who ask questions didn't push their luck.


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