I've noticed a recent uptick in questions fitting this format in the past few days. Most have been closed (one I can't find), and the others are on their way to closure.





Some have implied in the comments that it is OK if it's CW, but I don't think they even make good CW questions. I don't feel these are quality questions that should be accepted based on the following:

  • They are polls. Although some provide criteria in an attempt to narrow their focus, I think that just makes them more focused polls. The answers will still just be things like; "a candy bar", "fruit", "a banana", "anything small and high in protein", etc.

  • They are subjective. These are thinly veiled "What's your favorite _____?" questions.

  • They are significantly health/nutrition focused.

  • They don't have anything to do with cooking.

I'd like to elaborate on this last point a little. The title of this stackexchange is currently "Food & Cooking". I think we as a community should be putting a lot more emphasis on the Cooking aspect of this. (I almost wish the initial proposer didn't use the word Food in the title). This has been discussed here, but doesn't seem to have received much feedback (+4 each for both yay and nay). However, even the answer supporting that topic has the caveat that it should be on the curriculum of a culinary school. This type of question doesn't meet that measure.

This just isn't the type of question I want to see on this site. I simply don't think it's relevant what snack is good for your desk, car, swing set, crib, or backpack while hiking Mt. Everest.

What are your thoughts?

  • Weird, I don't remember checking the CW box.
    – hobodave
    Jul 29, 2010 at 18:10

3 Answers 3


I completely agree, however, it sends the wrong message when you use the Subjective and Argumentative close reason, and I want to formally request that people not use this for polls.

Many questions on this site are going to be subjective, and these questions aren't really that much more subjective, and they certainly aren't argumentative. They are off-topic (this site is about making food, not eating it), and Not A Real Question would also be valid (polls are not really questions).

For "general discussion" questions that could be answered equally well on any site or forum by any audience - which probably includes just about any question with the word "snack" in the title - I will vote to close as Off Topic and request that other people do the same, to drive the point home that we're called "Food & Cooking" and not just "Food" for a reason. I will be using the following boilerplate from now on, until the list of close reasons is updated with something more descriptive:

Questions on this site are expected to relate in some way to cooking, preparing, or serving food. I voted to close as Off-Topic because this appears to be a general question aimed at a general audience. If you feel that this does not apply to your question, please feel free to open a discussion at http://meta.cooking.stackexchange.com.

For any other polls that are on-topic but wide open, I will vote to close as Not A Real Question and, again, request that other people do the same. Here is the text I plan to use from now on:

This appears to be a poll with no objective criteria for evaluating the quality or correctness of answers. Although it is written in the form of a question, questions phrased similar to What is your favourite [something]? do not fit the definition of a question as commonly accepted by the community, and I have voted to close as Not A Real Question. If you feel that this does not apply to your question, please feel free to open a discussion at http://meta.cooking.stackexchange.com.

Obviously I'm not asking or expecting anybody to use the exact same text that I do, but I'm putting this out there as a sort of template. More important is selecting the most relevant close reason and explaining your rationale (usually, if a question gets closed without any comments, the author interprets it as a personal attack).

Thanks for bringing this up!

  • I like the templates, I'll be using them.
    – hobodave
    Jul 29, 2010 at 19:20
  • I like the suggestion but don't make the same assumption about the '&' in our site's title. You take it as an intersection, as in only food if it's going to be cooked. I don't think that's obvious or necessarily best. I'd prefer food questions, food & cooking questions, and just chefy questions not directly about food.
    – Ocaasi
    Jul 30, 2010 at 18:44
  • @Ocaasi: I think it's been generally accepted that it's not just cooking, which is why I tailored the specific wording as cooking, preparing, or serving food. That said... if you can make a case for any given question that it's clearly targeted toward experts in the field, then I'll vote to reopen.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 30, 2010 at 20:23
  • Fair enough. Chefs aren't usually desperate for "a snack". I just think questions like these are basically harmless: they're easily consolidated (all three of the above questions should have been in the same thread); I don't think it's worth the somewhat off-putting effect of closing them down; and, there are some surprisingly good and relevant ideas that readers might find amongst the answers of a seemingly common or off-topic question.
    – Ocaasi
    Jul 30, 2010 at 22:04
  • @Ocaasi: They seem harmless in small quantities, when you view them all as isolated occurrences, but even at this early stage with only moderate activity, you must agree that there seems to have been an inordinate number of them. Closing a question is sort of like issuing a parking ticket; it's not done because of the harm that a single person did, it's done as a deterrent policy to prevent more serious problems. Sure, one's not so bad, but left unchecked, they could eventually overrun the site. Better to send a clear message, "don't even bother asking these, we'll just close them."
    – Aaronut
    Jul 31, 2010 at 2:59
  • I suspect that we may not reach a consensus here. This feud between the inclusionists and deletionists is older than dirt - or at least older than Stack Overflow. It's like the pro-war and anti-war movements; we need the former so that we don't get our asses kicked, and we need the latter to deflect the inevitable backlash of anger and hate. But don't even try to get the two sides to reach a compromise, because it'll never happen.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 31, 2010 at 3:07
  • Solutions: 1) Be nice to all questioners. On-topic or not, we need a friendly way to direct users toward site policy; 2) Consolidate. I'd much rather have 1 low-fat snack question than 34 "how to grill a steak" threads. 3) Let the voting work. We might not agree, but be have some easy methods for determining this through the old tally system. I'm not recommending we form cabals and vote-war, just that some issues might be easiest taken case to case.
    – Ocaasi
    Jul 31, 2010 at 4:16
  • @Ocaasi: 1) Downvotes and close votes are not mean. Explaining one is a courtesy, one that I usually provide but that nobody is ever obligated to. 2) We do consolidate, that's why we also close as duplicates; diamond mods literally have the ability to merge. In the case of a frequently-asked off-topic question, the duplicates should be closed as duplicates and the original should be closed as off-topic. 3) Voting is extremely biased toward the upside, so that strategy won't work unless you combine it with other metrics.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 31, 2010 at 13:37
  • And implied 4) some issues are indeed easiest handled case-by-case. We will identify and handle them on a case-by-case basis. ;) This is, however, my policy.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 31, 2010 at 13:37
  • Confused on point 1; did I mention meanness or comments or even downvotes? Oh I get it. When I said be nice to all questioners I didn't mean 'vote for them'. I just meant the uncontroversial statement that the explanations we leave should make them still feel welcome at the site and guide them toward better questions in the future (familiar with Wikipedia's "don't bite the newcomers" policy?)
    – Ocaasi
    Jul 31, 2010 at 16:53
  • 2) I do see consolidation happening (thanks to mods, yourself). But sooner than later, most questions are going to have significant overlap with priors, and I think the bigger problem will be repeat questions not off-topic ones. Personal hunch. 3) Voting tends to be positive, but vote-to close, too? I thought that would have at least an even chance among those with reputation to do it. 4) I didn't get the 'my policy' reference. Loss in translation?
    – Ocaasi
    Jul 31, 2010 at 16:58
  • @Ocaasi: (1) Sure, don't be rude when closing, that's common sense. And (2) you are correct that duplicates tend to be the biggest problem (which is why they have their own close reason), but off-topic questions were a very big problem on SO until the sister sites and migration system appeared. We don't have that yet, so I suspect off-topic closings will be frequent for a while. And (3) I assumed you meant ordinary question votes - if you mean close votes, then that's more or less how it's going to work anyway; if someone thinks that a question was wrongly closed, they vote to reopen.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 31, 2010 at 19:44

I agree (and voted to close).


What will happen if we just vote them down...does that lower the prominence in the mainpage list? Or we could try and use an unofficial number, like closing the question once it has 5 negative votes. I prefer this to quick closes because it at least gives the community a chance to decide if the question has a worthwhile angle to it.

It also seems like these "off-topic" questions can be better handled with redirects/merges with old questions that cover similar territory rather than just closes. In other words, low-fat snack questions are kind of lame, but they're much less of a big deal if we only have one of them and keep pointing new questions towards that page.

  • You can vote them down if you choose. I sometimes do based on the question. However, off-topic questions are meant to be closed, and eventually deleted. This is why there exists an "off-topic" close reason. I don't think introducing meta rules is beneficial or really enforceable. The community is deciding the question is not worthwhile by voting to close it. I'm pretty sure neither down-votes nor closing lowers the prominence on the main listing (though I do think they are dimmed slightly). I'm not advocating a "quick close" either...
    – hobodave
    Jul 29, 2010 at 18:19
  • If a question is off-topic it's important that it be closed, and eventually deleted. If that happens in 1 minute or 36 hours it doesn't really matter. If anything the people viewing it over a longer period of time might get a better understanding of what is considered off-topic. I'm just advocating letting the demonstrably hugely successful system work as it's intended. I also don't see any benefit in maintaining a repository of answers to off-topic questions. Where would we even begin to draw the line here? If deemed off-topic then they simply do not belong on this site.
    – hobodave
    Jul 29, 2010 at 18:22
  • Ocaasi, this is exactly the way it works. When you have enough rep, you can vote to close. when a question has 5 votes it is closed. Same for deleting, though not sure what the rep is or what the vote count before being deleted is. Bear in mind that these values change when the site is out of beta. See the FAQ for more details.
    – Sam Holder
    Jul 29, 2010 at 18:43
  • @Sam: It's 3 delete votes, and you need 2k rep during the beta (10k normally).
    – Aaronut
    Jul 29, 2010 at 19:07
  • Ok. I wasn't distinguishing between downvotes and closevotes.
    – Ocaasi
    Jul 29, 2010 at 20:25

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