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Consider two example questions:

On first read, one's impulse might be that these questions should be closed, because they are too broad or based on opinions. However, both questions do have answers that are of the form "it depends / there isn't a definitive choice."

When, if ever, should we consider it appropriate to answer these questions as above instead of closing them? Further, how should we guide other answerers towards posting those sorts of answers instead of saying "well, one opinion would be..." or similar?

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I think that if you can say with objectivity that a question has no single answer, then that is an answer and should be posted. Opinions and subjective experiences should be left out of the answer, or added as a footnote or comment on the post. Answers that do otherwise, and suggest one of many possible options, should be voted down or flagged (because they are wrong).

If the question seems particularly likely to generate a lot of such answers (i.e., is popular) even though it could be answered with "it depends," the question should be flagged for moderators who can put a notice on the question demanding answers based on facts.

However, I would move that we apply this policy after first considering if the question should be edited to better clarify the asker's intent or mold the question into something like likely to require this kind of judgment call.

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    \$\begingroup\$ But what do you include in your answer other than "It depends?" My gut tells me that to justify your "It depends" answer you are going to need to include details based on opinion and subjective experiences which without these details I don't think an "It depends" answer is actually useful and as such we should probably just close the question. If comments are the only thing that are useful to someone looking for an answer to the question then is this actually a good approach? My gut also tells me you've got a decent response to this so I've only posted a comment and not an answer for now. \$\endgroup\$ – SpartanDonut Feb 25 '14 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess the trouble comes from I don't know what saying it depends or that there is no single answer with objectivity looks like \$\endgroup\$ – SpartanDonut Feb 25 '14 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it depends what you say after "it depends." In the education question above, it can be objectively asserted that different studios use different hiring practices and guidelines. Similarly for terminology questions where the term being asking about has no agreed-upon definition, you can show examples of two differing, competing definitions. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Feb 25 '14 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't necessarily think there is a large number of questions covered by this topic; in fact I think it's rather small. But every useful question we can keep open helps improve the site, and I think particularly early beginners can benefit from answers to questions about definitions (especially those where the answer is "there is no agreed-upon term/definition for that" because so many beginners seem to struggle endlessly over those things). \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Feb 25 '14 at 17:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Based on the clarification received in chat I can be on board with this \$\endgroup\$ – SpartanDonut Feb 25 '14 at 17:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ As stated multiple times today on stackoverflow there are is a common practice to answer questions about software development and issues with your own solution, which may be one out of thousands. How is this bad? There are other solutions and such but this one works. You could add pros and cons of your solution or state that there are others too but why shouldn't you tell one solution for a question? \$\endgroup\$ – Coretek Mar 8 '14 at 23:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ You seem to be asking about a different topic, the fact that some questions are closed as "too broad." The help has a page that explains the rationale (which is network wide) behind the "too broad" close reason. If you would like further clarification, please post an actual meta topic about it. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Mar 8 '14 at 23:13
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I would say... it depends.

If the presumption is: "the answers that can be given branch out too much from a concise option" then we can call it too broad and close it like normal. However, if there is a general standard or a few options that can be given in an answer (see example) then question can produce answers that are not too opinionated or dependent on other variables.


Example

The Masters degree example:

If I continue my degree will it help or if I go obtain an internship will that help more?

Continue Degree

  • Option A: Take it - it helps because of:
    • Definitive Point 1
  • Option B: Don't do it - it doesn't help because of:
    • Definitive Point 2
    • Definitive Point 3

Go for Internship

  • Option A: Take it - it helps because of:
    • Definitive Point 1
    • Definitive Point 2
  • Option B: Don't do it - it doesn't help because of:
    • Definitive Point 3

If the structure of the answer can be concise without giving opinions on the definitive points that make up the options then it is not too broad to answer. If however it was like this:

Continue Degree

  • Option A: Take it - it helps because of:
    • Definitive Point 1
      • Dependent on Point 1.1
        • Dependent on Point 1.1.1
        • Dependent on Point 1.1.2
      • Dependent on Point 1.2
  • Option B: Don't do it - it doesn't help because of:
    • Definitive Point 2
      • Dependent on Point 2.1
        • Dependent on Point 2.1.1
          • ...
        • Dependent on Point 2.1.2
          • Dependent on Point 2.1.2.1
            • ...
    • Definitive Point 3
      • Dependent on Point 3.1
      • Dependent on Point 3.2
      • Dependent on Point 3.3

Then there is clearly a broad answer (most likely due to the format of the question) and so the question does not fit our standards.

To sum up

If you can't answer an "it depends" question with a selection of few definitive answer points then it is too broad. If you have a small selection of concise options with no dependency on opinion or situation (beyond the scope of the question) then it is a good question-answer combination.

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