Apologies if this is a naive question, but I was surprised to note in the criteria for upgrading GD.SE from beta that one of the criteria is the number of answers that questions attract on average. There's obviously some rationale behind this, but I can't think what it would be.

Many questions of the "How do I..?" or "What is this... ?" type are answered well and definitively by one of our number and I see no advantage to adding a redundant 2 cents. Questions of the "What do you think of...?" variety, which are frowned on in the FAQ, or which call for opinions (the classic being "How do I learn to be creative?"), are the ones most likely to attract many answers.

It seems to me that using ">[x] average answers-per-question" is not a valuable metric, at least in this forum. Why do we have it?

3 Answers 3


I'm sure at some point @JeffAtwood will jump in, but my understanding of the underlying philosophy that StackExchange is intended for expert users to ask quality questions that get quality answers. Quality questions generally receive multiple answers. The more quality questions and answers we get and receive, the more the site shows itself as being a valuable resource to people in their particular field.

What makes a question and answer pair "quality" is subjective and the StackExchange blog spends a lot of time trying to answer that very question.

That was probably grossly over-simplified, but that's how I read it all.

That being said, I would argue that the "How do I..?" or "What is this... ?" types are answered well, but are also not entirely appropriate for the site since a lot of them is simply rewriting what is already found in documentation elsewhere. According to everything I have read, those types of questions aren't really the quality questions that the site was originally intended for.

  • Hmmm... yet we specifically include beginners and non-designers looking for answers. A wee conundrum. Thanks for the links, though. They help to clarify the thinking, at least. Jul 19, 2011 at 7:45
  • @Alan: It is a conundrum, and one I never really understood, but I'm sure that is what the voting system is for: voting up the quality questions and answers and voting down (or simply closing) those that aren't. I have to wonder how much of the Stack Exchange experiment has succeeded, failed, or simply changed along the way. Some parts of StackOverflow really only allow useful information, and others are full of genuine "please do my work for me" type questions. I am of the opinion that most "How do I..?", "What is this... ?", and "I need an idea for..." fall well within the latter category. Jul 19, 2011 at 9:30
  • Hadn't really thought of it before but it sort of makes sense that questions with only 1 right answer are probably too simple...
    – Farray
    Jul 20, 2011 at 15:33

It seems to me that using ">[x] average answers-per-question" is not a valuable metric, at least in this forum. Why do we have it?

Well, above a certain point, it is definitely symptomatic of inappropriate discussion questions.

But if the average answers per question is below 2, that also means the site isn't offering many alternatives -- any decent question usually has several correct-ish ways to accomplish the goal. And questions with 2-3 answers will generally have a "good, better, best" continuum to work with too. All beneficial to anyone encountering that page on the internet.

Therefore, if the number is too high, that's bad. For sure. But if it's too low, that is also bad -- it means questions either aren't getting answered, or are getting inadequately answered.

  • Gotta love a continuum. That has such a quantum chromodynamic ring to it. :-D Jul 23, 2011 at 9:30

It's probably the least important of the metrics, but it still does help. Basically, if a site has enough questions being asked, and enough users with high reputation, it'll probably get promoted.

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