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Obviously, a question like "What is the best Linux distro" is just BAD in every way, but if it is a narrower question ( like "What is the best Linux distro for everyday use on my old G4 PowerBook" ), is it still OK?

In other words, is the word 'best' bad in itself, because it causes opinion based answers or flame, or should it just be avoided in broad questions?

11

The problem with terms like "best" is that they're meaningless on their own, kind of like meta tags.

What is best? Is what's best for you the same as what's best for me? The best Linux distro for someone who's always used Windows and is trying Linux for the first time probably isn't the same as the best Linux distro for someone who's worked with numerous computer environments and needs to set up a custom server.

What you're really looking for is almost certainly software that does everything you want with the fewest possible downsides.

So, okay, we've established askers need to provide some context for their requests. Tell potential answerers about their experience, needs, environment or other information as appropriate. But once that information is present, why bother saying "best" at all? Is anyone looking for the third-best software package that will do what they want? I sincerely doubt it.

At best (ha, ha), "best" adds no value to a software recommendation request (or any question). At worst, it's a poor substitute for explaining what an asker actually needs.

  • +1 Best answer. – juergen d Feb 5 '14 at 21:08
  • What is best? To crush your enemies and see them driven before you! – DVK Feb 6 '14 at 1:55
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    I don't always recommend software, but when I do I only recommend bad software unless someone specifically asks for good. (I'll just get my coat now) – Tim Post Feb 6 '14 at 10:12
  • Sorry but you are wrong. It's really ambitious to say one word is meaningless. Linguistics would kill you :D. Of course it's needed to specify "best" according to which criteria. – Revious Feb 10 '14 at 12:02
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We shouldn't blacklist the word "best", but I would downvote any question that used it without elaborating.

"What is the best Linux distro for everyday use on my old G4 PowerBook" 

I don't know. What would make it better/best for you? Speed? Stability? Some arbitrary weighted average of said factors?

I wouldn't mind seeing "best" in a title, but if the question failed to explain in more detail what they mean by "best," then I'd say it's eligible for closing under "Unclear what you're asking," even if they provide context as in your example.

  • 4
    If you elaborate on what you need, you don't NEED the word "best". – DVK Feb 6 '14 at 1:56
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I think it is acceptable. We're always looking for the best software anyway, so why not say it explicitly? This site is quite a bit different than the rest of the network. I would say that if a question here is acceptable without 'best', it's acceptable with 'best'.

And anyway, it's a whole lot better than saying "What is the most goodest Linux distro," which is what people will do if we blacklist 'best'.

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    nice point at the end :D – MadTux Feb 5 '14 at 18:22
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    -1 Oh no, I am out of votes for today. Noooooo. :) – juergen d Feb 5 '14 at 18:28
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I would avoid using "best" unless it can be objectively measured - examples of what I mean:

Good use of "best":

  • Q:Which is the best linux OS for installing in the smallest footprint possible?
  • A: X OS uses only 11.2 mb when installed, which is less than Y OS which needs 15.4 mb

bad use of "best":

  • Q: Which is the best linux OS for a person who wants to learn linux?
  • A: X is the best for a new person who wants to learn linux because it's similar to windows and thus easy to use.
  • A: Y is the best for a new person who wants to learn linux because it's not similar to windows and forces you to learn to do things the "linux way".

See how the in the bad example, both answers are valid, and it's impossible to choose one as "best" - this should be avoided. Best is subjective in this case and does not lead to a good answer - it would be better if the question was rephrased to allow a non-subjective answer.

1

Yes, best is all bad.

A good question defines all the requirements. And a good answers mentions software that meets that requirement.

  • So you're saying we shouldn't say 'best' in the question? Isn't that ultimately what everyone asking here is after? – Undo Feb 5 '14 at 18:25
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    1. Yes. 2.No, hopefully everyone is after the software that meets the requirements defined and not what another person thinks is just best. – juergen d Feb 5 '14 at 18:26
  • Best is best, the answer should contains reasons why something is the best! – MᴀʀɪᴜsᴢS Feb 5 '14 at 18:30
  • Have a look here: meta.softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/363/… – Revious Feb 10 '14 at 22:46

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