This meta question was inspired by a recent site question (https://crafts.stackexchange.com/q/78/30) but I believe it may be likely to come up relatively often.

Arts & Crafts can be a moderately subjective topic. Subjective content isn't necessarily bad for our site, but there's often a wide gray area of "opinion-based" that may be worth discussing, and delineating policies. Sometimes the artist prefers a particular tool or style because of how they use it (I find that smudging is easier with This instead of That), sometimes the decision comes down simply to aesthetic judgment (I think This produces prettier results than That).

What are some ways to tell when a question is too subjective to really be answerable by a community of artists and crafters?

In addition, what suggestions or guidelines can we make to help turn a very opinion-based question into something that's more answerable and aligned with StackExchange principles?

  • I will consider forming that question in a better way tomorrow. Hence deleted it. Apr 27 '16 at 16:55
  • 1
    Please don't misunderstand -- I didn't mean to attack your question specifically :) I do think that there's a lot of subjectivity possible with StackExchange sites (heck, I moderate Parenting) and just hope to establish some guiding principles.
    – Erica Mod
    Apr 27 '16 at 16:56
  • Have seen you on parenting. I am a regular there. No offense taken. Will reform that question tomorrow. Apr 27 '16 at 17:09

I'd start by qualifying this statement:

Subjective content isn't necessarily bad for our site


Subjective content isn't necessarily bad for our site, if it supplements or coexists with concrete, objective content.

That being said, I think subjective material tends to be a warning sign in a question, and usually indicates clarification and/or editing is in order.

If you're asking which of two or more different tools to use when trying to accomplish a task, the question needs to identify what trait that differs between the tools concerns you, and what specific goal you seek to accomplish you believe this will impact.

If I ask if it is better to use a canvas pad with cerium oxide, or a leather pad with diamond paste, to polish opal, that's too subjective. If I indicate that I'm concerned about which will generate more friction, because I don't want the stone to overheat, that's objective enough to answer.

So, if the question is asking for advice on which tool to choose (and "tool" is a fairly loose term that could easily apply to technique, style or other aspect of the process), the question should:

  • Identify what tools they are considering, and why
  • Indicate what concerns they have that make them unsure which tool is better
  • Provide a clear definition of what the goal is, so answers can address specifically why the recommended tool(s) is superior for that goal

Avoid questions asking for judgement.

  • Which is the best airbrush?
  • Is it better to teach my child to paint or draw?
  • Is Michael's a better craft store than Hobby Lobby?

There is no good answer to these question. They are pure opinion that can be backed up but serve no good purpose, and can just as easy cause an argument as help the OP.

However questions like:

  • Why is the Grex TC3 Airbrush considered the best?

Should be clearly on topic.

But when if you were to add:

  • And do I need one that expensive for my amateur Modeling?

to the previous question it bends into a grey area. This is where community moderation comes into play. If the question starts going off the rails either edit out the bad subjective part or close the question. If it stays constructive leave it alone. The problem with setting hard and fast rules is these types of questions that have the potential to get good information out, can end up in the round file because they may violate some rule. Lets avoid creating a rule about bridges before we have the need for a bridge.

  • I'm not looking for rules, just general guidelines that we can refer back to when closing or editing questions (and explaining to new users why that closure/edit happened). Definitely don't want to ban all sorts of possible questions only on day 2 :)
    – Erica Mod
    Apr 27 '16 at 21:07

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