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Specific questions like "Which Canadian band have sold the most albums worldwide" do usually have an objective answer (even if the answer may not be easy to find or agree on)

Should more general Who-are-the-best/greatest -type questions be allowed? Such as "Who are the greatest pop band", "what is the best song", and so on?

(This question in response to What is the best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band of all the times based on his achievements)

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Unless the criteria is well defined to pick the best, no.

The term "best" typically comes with opinion no matter how much you try and define it especially with songs and bands, but the question does list criteria that is objective in nature and we can answer. The problem from there is that even knowing those bands that meet that criteria this typically does not mean that they are the "best", but excel in a quantifiable area that we can observe.

  • I agree. If there is a subjective answer based on fact, the question is good. "Which Metal band has sold the most albums?" is good. Music, and art in general, is subjective. One person may love Bruce Springsteen, while another may love Gwar. To each of them, their band is "the best, EVAR!". Any questions about best band, best guitarist, best vocalist, et al should be closed. However, "Which vocalist has the widest vocal range?" is legit, because it can be measured and, therefore, is not subjective. – Johnny Bones Dec 22 '15 at 15:02
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    @JohnnyBones You've said that in your opinion, "Which bands could claim to be the greatest electronica act'" shouldn't be allowed. But wouldn't that be a great example of a question where you could give a answer that was somewhat subjective, yet still based on fact? – user16 Dec 22 '15 at 15:12
  • You have to make the question tighter. What's your qualification for "greatest electronica act"? Anything open to opinion just isn't what the SE network was designed for. That being said, we're a very small component of the network so we don't necessarily have to follow a strict guideline, but I think most people agree that the layout isn't geared for discussion. There are better forums for that kind of stuff. – Johnny Bones Dec 22 '15 at 15:25
  • SE Started as SO, But SE is not SO. There are plenty of sites in the SE network that are open to some level of opinion being voiced in answers that can still be seen as generally applicable to the world we all live in, rather than being entirely personal. (I think whether or not the site is geared for discussion is another topic.) – user16 Dec 22 '15 at 15:38
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    @topomorto We're not SO, but we should follow the SE model which those questions tend not to. Even the Area51 FAQ discusses what questions should be sought from proposal to exiting beta. – Dom Dec 22 '15 at 17:15
  • I'm sure we both agree that there's clearly a whole swathe of fundamentally opinion-based questions that would be wrong for any SE site, including this one. What I don't think is healthy is the idea that only questions that lead to purely objective answers should be allowed. That's not an interpretation of the SE model that is used by all SE sites and I believe it would be wrong for us - a bit of good nature and mutual respect between users can lead to a discourse that is informative and also has a bit of entertainment value and humanity. I'm sure we're all in broad agreement - just... – user16 Dec 22 '15 at 17:49
  • ...a question of where the line is. – user16 Dec 22 '15 at 17:49
  • @topomorto not purely objetive, but they need some objective consensus. I'm sure anyone can find an argument for or against some acting being the best and what I'm saying is that in a question where you can say anything is an answer or not an answer will not lead to anything useful for us and is best closed as opinion based. – Dom Dec 22 '15 at 18:00
  • Completely agree. – user16 Dec 22 '15 at 18:08
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"No, these questions should not be allowed. However, we could still allow 'softer' questions like 'Which bands could claim to be the greatest electronica act' or 'Who are the most influential blues artists."

Reasoning : There's rarely much point in a question asking what "the best" (or even "most successful") is, even if it's explicit (or implicit) that this should be based on measurable achievements. How, for example, do you meaningfully compare album sales for a band that were big in the 70s to a band that is around now, in a very different market? The same problem with comparisons would apply to other criteria too.

If the answer is so clear that even those difficulties don't prevent an answer - e.g. "Who are the most successful Irish rock band" - then it's probably not a question that really needs asking or adds much value to the site.

However, this site (like a number of other SE sites) has shown itself to cope well with questions that involve an element of personal assessment and judgement, as long as they still invite answers that are widely and generally valid rather than entirely personal. For that reason, I think we could cope with questions which invited answers that themselves would involve a discussion of the considerations.

For example, "What's the greatest metal band" is hard to give good objective answers to. However, "Which acts could claim to be the greatest metal band" invites more thoughtful answers that themselves could involve the discussion of whether AC/DC or Zeppelin are 'metal', how album sales can be meaningfully compared over time, and so on.

  • I can only give qualified agreement to this. A lot would depend on the wording of the question. I don't mind questions that have subjectivity, but only up to a point. Questions should bring in well-reasoned answers that have some basis in fact, rather then open ended discussion. – Donald.McLean Dec 21 '15 at 13:13
  • @Donald.McLean Agree totally. It also somewhat depends on the nature of the community - but so far in the main we've had some success at being respectful of others viewpoints! (touch wood) – user16 Dec 21 '15 at 13:31
  • 'Which bands could claim to be the greatest electronica act'. Not allowed. Without any subjective qualification, there's no answer. – Johnny Bones Dec 22 '15 at 14:59
  • @JohnnyBones I'm not sure I follow - what would be an example of subjective qualification? – user16 Dec 22 '15 at 15:02
  • See my comment under Dom's answer. Anything measurable is a good question. Anything that involves opinion, generally, is not. SE is an answer board, not a discussion board. – Johnny Bones Dec 22 '15 at 15:05
  • @JohnnyBones I've read that comment but I still don't know what you mean by "subjective qualification" - could you please explain? – user16 Dec 22 '15 at 15:08
  • A subjective qualification is anything you can't back up with facts. If you can count it (album sales), it's a fact. If it's an opinion (best ever), it's not. There is no "best ever guitarist", because it all depends on your personal preference. However, there is a "guitarist with most Guitar Player Magazine awards", because you can count them. – Johnny Bones Dec 22 '15 at 15:13
  • @JohnnyBones aha, I'd not seen 'qualiification' used in that sense before - I've learned something there! But I don't agree that any possible answer to 'Which bands could claim to be the greatest electronica act' could only contain subjective statements as supporting evidence. I DO agree that there is no "best ever guitarist", and that "who is the best guitarist ever" would be an unsuitable question. But there are a couple of key differences between that, and 'Which bands could claim to be the greatest electronica act'. – user16 Dec 22 '15 at 15:33

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