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I recently posted a question, and it was closed as "opinion based", presumably (and from a comment here) because of the word "best" in the title. I don't quite see where the opinion is; I really only asked (or meant to ask) how to achieve something in Ubuntu/Gnome.

The question is essentially identical with the word "best" removed from the title.

Should questions be closed as opinion-based when they are really simply asking "How" to do something? It's obvious that people are going to answer "How" questions with what they feel (in their opinion) is the best way anyway. But if all "how do I" questions are "opinion-based", then it seems there wouldn't be many valid questions here.

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    You asked for the "best" way to do something is. What are your metrics for that? How can an answer fulfill them in order to be "best"?
    – VLAZ
    Jun 6 at 11:41
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    @VLAZ I erased "best" now. But it's a moot point - I imagine there can be several ways, and people will reply with the way they think it's best.
    – pglpm
    Jun 6 at 11:47
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    @pglpm I hope you don't mind, but I extensively edited your question to focus on what seems to me to be a very valid point. The problem is that you brought a lot of "fighting words" to the question, and I think that your actual issue might not get noticed with that. Feel free to rollback my edit or edit again if you'd like, but it would be great if we could actually focus on your issue here. Jun 6 at 13:14
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    @NotTheDr01ds Thank you, appreciated. Indeed I was mixing two different issues: the problem with my specific question, and the problem of how whimsical can moderators be. I'll maybe post a second question about the second issue.
    – pglpm
    Jun 6 at 13:20
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    @pglpm Thanks! I'd wait on posting that second question. Mistakes happen - Most moderators will agree. What probably happened here was that someone flagged your question as "opinion based" because of that "best" keyword (which I disagree with), and that the Mod reviewed it and agreed (perhaps too hastily, without taking the full context into account). It happens, and it's one of the reasons we have Meta here for community escalation and review. Let's see what types of answers we get to this revised question and go from there? Jun 6 at 13:22
  • You don't seem to have actually tried anything and just asserted that some methods are outdated. But why would you take the word of random users on this site that some particular method is not outdated? If you were willing to do that, then your question is a duplicate of several other similar questions here - and a vote to close as duplicate would be the word of a random user that some answer in the duplicate is up-to-date.
    – muru
    Jun 6 at 13:52
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    @muru I actually solved the problem, after having spent three days looking into the workings of the xkb system. I'll post my own answer to my own question. Comments sprinkled throughout 'ask Ubuntu' saying that xmodmap doesn't really work anymore seem correct. Yes, a big problem of the whole StackExchange concept is that it's "random". Large number of user-points don't mean a user is actually capable or helpful.
    – pglpm
    Jun 6 at 14:01
  • @muru And I did try several things, as I wrote in my question (but maybe you read it only quickly).
    – pglpm
    Jun 6 at 14:03
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    No, the only thing you say you actually tried was GNOME Tweak Tool (which you say was limited), with other things you said you were going to try, but then went to to talk about other sites. Anyway, it's good to see you actually got a solution, in which case I'd recommend that you post an answer to one of these popular questions with apparently outdated answers (but do check that you're not actually duplicating an existing answer). The year you tried it in as not as relevant as the version you tried it with.
    – muru
    Jun 6 at 14:06
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    @muru Not sure why you assume or require that I should know if the year is relevant or not. I just moved to Linux from Windows (as I wrote in my question), and I have no idea about such things - otherwise I wouldn't be posting here in the first place. I tried some of the solutions - some 10-year-old or more, and many didn't work. That's why I asked for an updated solution.
    – pglpm
    Jun 6 at 14:09
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    I didn't assume it, you're the one who asked for a 2022 solution. I'm just pointing out that a "2022" solution might be irrelevant for a 18.04 user or even a 22.04 user based on which version of Ubuntu it was tested with.
    – muru
    Jun 6 at 14:11
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    @muru Would you consider writing up a separate answer on this? Since I respect your thought process, I figured there was some reason other than just the "best" problem that caused you to vote-to-close. From your comments, it sounds like it was really more a combination of that plus the lack of research into the other duplicates plus the request for a 2022 answer that made it "opinion based" to you? I think a counter-point answer to mine would be helpful, but I'll leave it up to you. Jun 6 at 15:31
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    @NotTheDr01ds that plus cross-posting from Unix & Linux. I actually initially voted to close it as plain off-topic due to the cross-posting, and voted to leave closed based on lack of clarity as to which methods were outdated, since the U&L post is now deleted.
    – muru
    Jun 6 at 15:52
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    I actually think that 99% percent of the time, including the word "best" would make a question opinion based, since "best" is a very subjective word that will vary greatly, and it simply sends the wrong signal on a site like this. So yeah, avoid asking for "best" solutions, and just ask for solutions - and choose the one that suits you best. Jun 6 at 17:32
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    An addendum here: people following the close vote reasons and policies are NOT bullies - the site follows policies for what is or isn't on topic, and close voters aren't bullies. Neither are moderators, who you're accusing of bullying because one of us closed your post originally as opinion based. The question since has been revised to a point it can be 'reopened' but keep in mind it's still likely to get questions of "Well, what about this or this which answer this question?" and dupe close votes still too. That's just the way the site works - don't repost duplicate posts, etc.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Jun 7 at 16:28

2 Answers 2

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It's probably obvious from my edits and comments to your question, but I think you have a valid point here.

I think there should probably be a "litmus test" on questions that ask for the "best way" to do something. If the question is essentially a "how do I" question, as yours seems to be, then the word "best" is, as you mentioned in the comments "moot".

I think a simple edit on the part of an existing user, along with/or a comment warning about the "danger" of using the "best" word ;-) would have been a better approach.

Sometimes we (I've done it too) are too hasty to flag or vote-to-close questions without taking the full context into account. It happens, unfortunately.

But that's one of the reasons we have Meta here - To discuss, review, and potentially think differently in the future about how we handle these.

Note that, while I've voted to reopen, it's possible (I'd say likely) that there's an existing duplicate on the topic. One good approach when you are asking for an updated/current answer is to:

  • Look for existing questions/answers to similar or the same problem
  • Reference them in your new question, note why they don't work (or aren't optimal) for you, or even just that you wonder if there's a better current approach.

You've done some of that, at least, with the note in your question that:

I checked several questions and answers on Stackexchange, but most of them seem to be quite outdated.

It doesn't necessarily mean that the question won't be closed as a duplicate, even if it's reopened as not opinion based. However, it does (IMHO) greatly reduce the chances of it being closed if you reference the other duplicates and give the reason why you believe your question is still valid.

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Speaking as a bit of a language nerd: yes, almost always. And in situations where "best" isn't asking for subjective opinion, such as:

  • Which team has the best odds of winning the Super Bowl?
  • What are best practices in [situation]?
  • Who was the Best drummer for the Beatles?

...rephrasing the question will likely get you more useful answers. For example, instead of asking for the "best odds" of a team, which isn't exactly accurate because it isn't the team that keeps the odds, one might ask "Which team are the bookies in Vegas saying will win the Super Bowl?" or "How do I go about finding out which team is the odds-on favorite for the Super Bowl?"

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    That's my issue with it. You say, "almost always", but then you go on to give several examples of questions that aren't subjective but still use the word. The issue is when people close these types of questions (as happened in this case) as "opinion-based", when (as you and I have both pointed out) they aren't. They can easily be edited (by those same community members who voted to close them) to rephrase the question. But again, would the answers really change for the better? You might give "before and after" versions of the above questions and show how the answers would differ. Jun 16 at 14:45
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    @NotTheDr01ds The issue I have with editing another's question is: if I know what they meant, I feel the question did the job; and if I don't know what they meant, I don't want to re-phrase it. My inclination is always to either ask questions or otherwise annoy the questioner (which may be why I have so few friends) or point out the ambiguity and request they re-phrase it themselves. As far as offering counter-examples, the Beatles thing was a bad joke and "best practices" is such a useful idiom it's hard to come up with another way to put it. I'll see what I can come up with for the first.
    – MDeBusk
    Jun 16 at 18:40
  • Not a bad joke at all IMHO (acronym intentionally ironic ;-)). It actually took me a second since "best drummer" looks like opinion until I realized ... ohhhhh. Jun 16 at 19:47
  • BTW, here are some examples of real (highly voted) questions where I really don't think rephrasing to remove "best" would have changed the answers. There are found with this search. 1. "How do I best report the issue?" Simply asking, "How should I report the issue" wouldn't change the answers. 2. "What's the best way to use these?" Replacing with "How do I use these?" wouldn't change the answers. Jun 16 at 19:54
  • 3. "what is the best way to make rsync do this?" -- Replace with "how do I make rsync do this". 4. "What is the best way for me to stop this from happening?" Replace with "How do I stop this from happening?" 5. "What is the best way to uninstall nginx"? Replace with "How do I uninstall nginx?". The key point is that people are going to answer these with what they believe is their "best answer" anyway ... Jun 16 at 19:57
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    @NotTheDr01ds Your examples of re-phrasings that wouldn't have changed the answers all seem to me to be questions about "best practice" rather than simply "what do y'all like the best?" Perhaps that's the hinge on which the original question turns.
    – MDeBusk
    Jun 17 at 1:02

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