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In the spirit of being more welcoming, I'd like to revisit our use of close votes for questions that are "primarily opinion-based."

I'm specifically thinking of the recent question Street food spots in Hong Kong, which is teetering on the edge of closure right now without so much as a single comment. Yes, the question does call for "must visit street food spots," and yes, that is a matter of opinion. But I see no reason to close it.

If you see a question like that, can we consider taking a moment to try to make it work rather than voting to close? The question could be rephrased as "where are the popular street food spots" or "commonly recommended street food spots" or something similar if the "must visit" terminology bothers you.

That doesn't mean opening the floodgates to completely broad questions like "where should I go in Europe?" But many questions call for some degree of judgement and opinion, and we should try to apply sensible defaults when deciding what we can answer. If a question can be reasonably saved from closure with a simple edit, what if we consider giving that a try instead of closing it? If a question could involve some degree of opinion but isn't primarily opinion-based, consider not voting to close.

I've been trying more often to ask myself "what's the purpose of closing this question?" when I consider close votes or do reviews. There often is a purpose (e.g. to keep the site from becoming a travel agency or because a question could have an infinite number of equally valid answers or because the question is incomprehensible or unanswerable or missing key details). But if I can't articulate some purpose for closure, rather than looking for an argument why a question could be argued to break the rules, I'm leaving it open.

  • If you disagree, it would be great if you said why instead of just downvoting. I'm entirely open to the belief that I'm wrong, but would be curious to know how. – Zach Lipton May 17 '18 at 0:52
  • "But all questions call for some degree of judgement and opinion" No; many questions call for objective, verifiable facts. – fkraiem May 18 '18 at 7:08
  • @fkraiem I should have said that many questions call for objective facts, but I'd argue there's still a degree of judgement involved in writing good answers to most factual questions. For example, "what are the hours of the NYC subway?" calls for an objective answer, but answering it with good judgement might involve mentioning frequent nighttime construction and describing how to learn about it and plan journeys as a result. Every question requires us to apply a degree of subjectivity in interpreting it (is it an XY problem?) and deciding what to tell the OP. – Zach Lipton May 18 '18 at 7:46
  • Similarly, you could answer this question purely factually by saying "there is no such requirement," but there's a subjective judgement involved in deciding whether to warn about romance scams even though the question didn't call for that at all. And that's a good thing. – Zach Lipton May 18 '18 at 7:55
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I've personally been giving the benefit of the doubt on opinion-based questions. We certainly don't want to be telling people "this is the best way" or "this is the best thing"... but that doesn't preclude us from giving people nudges in the best direction.

For example, "what is the best way to get from London to Paris" can really be treated as a question about what the options are, and a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of them are. We can help someone figure out what is best for them without necessarily telling them what is best. In fact, if we play our cards right, multiple readers will be able to pull different "best" results out of our answers, precisely because we've given them the information to do so.

There are certainly going to be questions where some rewriting is necessary ("What is the best U.S. city to go to for barbecue?") but even then, changing it to "What are some excellent U.S. cities to visit to experience barbecue culture?" would fit within our mandate.

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    I've tried to do the same thing on "what's the best way from X to Y" questions too. There's been a historical practice of closing those questions until the OP comes back to clarify what "best" means to them (speed, cost, comfort, etc...), but most can be answered by supplying some sensible defaults (they probably don't want to travel by yak caravan from London to Paris) and providing pros/cons of a few typical options. As you say, that makes the answer more useful to future readers rather than being specific just for one. – Zach Lipton May 17 '18 at 17:10
  • I somewhat disagree with giving the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as best. There is only better. And better for me is not better for you. Similarly, Chicago might be an excellent city for me but it might be an abysmal one for you. Although we al want to chime in and give Traveller OP our advice on how to navigate this and that other Travel issue, advice is unfortunately a matter of opinion. – JoErNanO May 18 '18 at 2:42
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    @JoErNanO The problem is that being rigid on subjective questions is exactly against the recent movement to try to be friendlier to users - hence my wanting to give the benefit of the doubt. – Jim MacKenzie May 18 '18 at 2:46
  • I'd say the majority of questions here involve some matter of opinion. That's why the close reason has "primarily" in it. Giving the benefit of the doubt doesn't mean keeping every question open; it means trying to accommodate questions where there's a reasonable way to approach them with some objectivity rather than simply closing them because you could argue they involve opinion. Choosing the best restaurant is very subjective. Identifying neighborhoods or cities commonly known (e.g. appearing in published sources) for street food or a particular cuisine is less so. – Zach Lipton May 18 '18 at 4:44
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I disagree a little, but didn't downvote (I upvoted).

Sometimes editing removes the original intent of the author, if we misunderstand what they wanted. The text that appears after it's closed tends to explain 'opinion based' pretty well. However I've added two comments to the question at hand.

  • Thanks. That's fair. My personal preference is generally to try to assume reasonable intent to try to fix the question where that's possible without completely changing things. It's often hard for new users to know how to frame questions within the site's guidelines, and closing the question isn't particularly helpful to them, so I believe trying to fix the question (with an explanatory comment) is a better choice where that's practical than closing and trying to ask the OP to fix it. – Zach Lipton May 17 '18 at 1:14

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