I see a lot of questions here that essentially turn into polls. Often the nature of the question leads to poll-style answers but to me the "issue" seems to be in the answers themselves.
An example of the general form of such a question and its answers might be:
Q: How do I X without using Y?
A1: You could use A, B, or C.
A2: How about D or E?
A3: I like F and G, they've worked well for me.
However, I posit that the issue is the answers, not the question, as a more general answer such as this can usually cover the whole list:
A4: Given your current situation, look around you to find something that can 1, 2, and 3. Any such item will let you do X without using Y.
The reason I believe this is an issue is essentially this: When somebody asks how to solve a problem, an arbitrary list of items that others can think of off the top of their heads is often given. However, answerers can't really know what materials are in the OP's surroundings. Something better may exist, which listing specifics does not help find, while listing general requirements of a solution lets the OP find themselves. This is good because:
- It promotes general problem solving skills (it instructs the OP to look around them and gives advice on what to look for, that is, on how to choose an item that solves their problem - if you give a man fire, you know the saying...) which is good in the long run.
- Even if the OP manages to fully describe their surroundings, it helps future readers who might have the same issue but not have the same materials available.
I believe the arbitrary specific item list answers don't encourage problem-solving, thus aren't necessarily truly helpful, and don't lend themselves well to future use.
Here are just a few examples (there are many examples, my goal is not to pull a high quantity of examples, but just to give concrete form to the general pattern above):
- Problem: Answers here are various things that block out light. The result is a vote for everybody's favorite thing that blocks out light. The OP doesn't learn how to find an item, rather the OP may end up at a loss if in the same situation with none of the suggested items available, even though other perfectly good items may unknowingly be in arm's reach.
- Better answer that covers all of them and teaches something: "Look through your house or take a walk around a store, find a cheap flat material, large enough to cover the window and opaque to light, and mountable to the wall using mounting techniques such as nails, screws, or tape, or able to rest on a window sill."
- Problem: Answers here are various things that are padding. The result is a vote for everybody's favorite soft thing. Same deal as above.
- Better answer that covers all of them and teaches something: "Look through your house or take a walk around a store, find a cheap, soft material. Your goal is to allow the door to hit the material without taking damage. You can either mount the material to the car door, or to the garage. When mounting to the car door, specialized bumpers may exist, take a walk through an auto supply store or look for something easily mountable to the edge of a door. When mounting to the garage, look for something mountable using techniques such as nails and screws."
- As with the above, essentially the answers become suggestions for everybody's favorite, well... object that occupies space.
Here are some examples of good answers. These are the style of answer that I believe should be given:
- Is there any way to kill a fly without a flyswatter? - While the majority of answers there were just lists of random objects and ways to kill flies, the top answer describes the technique and requirements rather than focusing on the objects. Thus, a reader learns something, and also learns how to determine what objects around them work on their own.
To be clear I do think some of the questions listed as examples above have other issues, but that is not the focus of this post.
- Is this bad? I believe it is, for reasons stated above. Answering questions in this way does not lead to the best end result (improving life skills) and does not lead to the best future usefulness (future readers in different surroundings).
- If it is bad, is the issue with the questions, or with the answers? On one hand there is a class of questions that definitely attracts this type of answer. On the other hand, a more generally useful answer can still be given to nearly all of those types of questions.
- If it's the questions, should they be closed as opinion-based? It fits the definition of the close reason.
And in the mean time: I personally think answerers should really start to focus on the how to find your solution rather than the here is a specific list of arbitrary items angle. If the site is to be higher quality than the other "life hacks" sites out there and is to maintain long term usefulness, it's probably better to teach people how to do things. I personally believe that this type of philosophy is what will make LH stand out among the crowds.