Something that I've noticed lately is the addition of the formula 'is it known ...' to a question which would otherwise be speculative and primarily opinion based.
The concrete example that prompted me to write this post was the question:
(My apologies once more to the OP for using you to make my point, I don't mean to pick on you, but people like examples.)
This started out life as:
Who is the brightest student in Harry's year after Hermione?
Which I voted to close as primarily opinion based because I don't think it's answerable. To be honest, though, it doesn't matter to me whether this question should be closed or not.
What I'm interested in is the fact that, as the close votes accumulated, the question was edited to read "Is it known who &c."
Disregarding whether or not this question is POB, I would like to invite consensus on whether or not questions which are, at their core, POB can be rendered on-topic by the simple addition of "is it known ..."
Personally (no disrespect to the OP, I don't want any of my questions closed either), I view this as an attempt to smuggle questions through customs and more about rules-lawyering than a serious attempt to improve the content on this site.
It doesn't materially change anything about the question, the core, POB question is left wholly intact. The possible answers remain essentially the same. One either goes from saying 'there is no cannon answer' to 'no, it isn't known', both negatives being very hard to prove. Or one goes from saying 'the answer is X and here's the proof', to 'yes, it is known, it's X and here's the proof.'
And yet, bizarrely and simultaneously, a shift in focus is effected such that "I'm not sure, but a possible candidate would be Y" technically doesn't answer the yes/no "is it known who ..." question at all, meaning existing answers may be invalidated by this simultaneously trivial and revolutionary edit.
Now at a glance that seems to be the system working, since unnecessary speculation is ostensibly precluded. But it's not really because you can still say "no cannon answer, but a possible candidate would be Y".
More to the point, let's be honest, the only reason the question was asked, and the only reason anybody ever clicked on it in the first place was the core question. And we recognise in the POB close reason that
Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience
And those are the answers that people want to read and write, not "no, it isn't known, mind you I can't actually prove that it's not known, of course." Nobody really cares whether or not it is strictly true that JKR once confirmed who the 2nd brightest kid in Harry's year was - no further details. They want to know who the 2nd brightest kid in Harry's year was!