I've seen several questions getting close-votes as asking for lists because they ask for examples. An example: What are examples of official documents or speeches composed in verse?

Others get closed because it's opinion-based.

But I think this question has some merit to it: Does anyone have a concrete example of the British Empire using revolution to gain control over foreign resources, governments?

But it is asking for something essentially relative.

Is there some truth to a saying.

That's opinion based. But in the end comes a less opinion-based variation.

But does anyone have concrete British Empire examples?

But that risks getting closed as a list.

My question then is: Is there some merit to this question, or should it be closed? Maybe it is OK to ask for examples of something, even if it becomes a list?

  • 3
    What is the second question ("British Empire ...") even asking? I honestly cannot make head nor tail of the question itself, beyond getting an unpleasant conspiracy theory bile in my stomach. (Disclaimer: I voted to close.) Commented Aug 16, 2013 at 4:55
  • @PieterGeerkens - I did not vote to close, but ditto here regarding that question.
    – user2590
    Commented Aug 16, 2013 at 19:21

2 Answers 2


I think that it is important to reference this question, and in particular this answer (and also T.E.D's answer). Lists and examples don't fit the stack exchange model.

Having said that, in my opinion, the stack exchange model is a bit of a myth; it is an aspiration or goal that we use to define our common culture. It is possible to depart from the SE model and remain within SE, but only if you can actively define how you're going to solve the problem. (I can't find the reference right now, but one of the high reputation moderators pointed out that many SE sites have managed to build successful sites that diverge from key elements of the SE model mythology).

The SE "single answer myth" is important; it is part of what separates us from discussion sites, and what makes us (we hope) a valuable reference. We don't want to abandon that myth without a substitute myth that is more effective for what we want to build. History is not about single answers - (except in trivial cases). History involves dialogue between different schools of thought. The 'single answer myth' is antithetical to the concept of scientific investigiation.

How do we ask questions that permit multiple answers, but:

  • Do not discourage discussion and/or debate
  • Allow for the selection of a single answer as "best"
  • Provide reference value

I suggest that when a question potentially involves a list answer:

  1. The OP explicitly identify how the "correct" answer will be identified
  2. List responders accept that their answer may be correct, but not selected
  3. We all accept responsibility for moving debate/discussion to chat or meta
  4. We develop (better) guidance for list based answers, and include it in the help section

The StackExchange model does not require that questions have a single answer, but it does require that questions have authoritative answers.

There are different schools of thought regarding "Who were the Sea Peoples?". While there is not a single correct answer, answers can be judged on their logic and evidence.

Entirely different is a sort of a question like "What are some examples of battles during World War II?" There is not school of thought and no evidence beyond a trivial reference.

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