I recently asked a question regarding gaming products and worded it in the way of it being a shopping recommendation. Ok I didn't know that was against the rules, but the question was clearly on topic, yet it was closed due to being "off topic".

The question can be found here: Nice DPad controller for fighting games on XBOX 360

The ruling in the FAQ states this:

Can I ask for shopping recommendations?

Shopping recommendations are considered off-topic for the website. They are too specific, often localized, and are open to a lot of subjectivity.

  1. The question was not off-topic, it was about equipment for one of the biggest consoles, on one of the most popular fighting games out at present.
  2. It was not too specific. A question about SSF4 on the Xbox 360 applies to a lot more people than an 'identify this game' question that usually only caters for the original author.
  3. There was no subjectiveness in this question, it was very specific.

Now to be fair to the moderators, after I rephrased the question and removed the word "buy" it was re-opened.

The issue I have is, the question was EXACTLY the same as before, so why should it be closed just because I made it more personal by asking for a shopping recommendation?

All I ask is that users and moderators look at the context of the question, rather than closing it because the FAQ says so. (It happens on all SE sites, not just here)

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tzenes also made a significant modification to this question, changing "better suited for" to "especially designed for". I do not think these two phrases are the same. A Ford Explorer is arguably better suited for off-road driving than a sedan, but that is debatable; a Unimog is specifically designed for that task and unquestionably preferable. All that said, I still think the question is dangerously close to a shopping recommendation. –  Oak Jan 21 '11 at 12:38
    
My point is, despite the modification, the answers would still be identical, so what is the point? –  theorise Jan 21 '11 at 12:47

3 Answers 3

There are three points to address here. Two come from your question here, and one from your comments on another answer. I'm going to skim over the merits of your individual question and focus more on the issues of our rules and following them. Mostly because it seems there is still some debate as to where your question sits.


Point the first: The question wasn't considered off-topic because "it didn't relate to games", as it very much did. The fact is that shopping recommendations are off-topic regardless of being related to gaming. That's why it gets its own explicit clause in the FAQ. So, please understand that as why we might close something that is very much about games.

As far as subjectivity and localized nature goes, it's a very brief thing meant to illustrate basics of the issue. The related blog post helps illustrate it better - it's about learning and the comprehensiveness of both question and answer. In the end, we're not a shopping plaza for people to look for the next stuff to buy.


Now, as to orthodox rules following and why it is important to revise questions even if the answers may be the same... this is exactly the kind of reason that I provided this answer clarifying our game recommendations rule. I'll also provide this parent Q&A post, which I had joined in closing and has a similar situation as yours.

Presentation is important, especially when skirting the edge of unacceptable question types. Sometimes, a question will have the appearance of a shopping recommendation, but somewhat fill out more like a comparison question. The answers probably wouldn't change that much by revising the question, yet this revision is important. To you as a question asker, it won't necessarily affect what happens except possibly pitting you through frustration.

But not having a question that amounts to "Help me buy stuff" does two things. It prevents people from coming here in the first place to ask about it, because we won't turn up when people search for shopping advice. And it prevents people from vainly trying to justify true shopping advice questions when they ask them. Broken windows are annoying and problematic to deal with, especially long term. This is why presentation is important - the less we have to deal with broken windows, the better the experience will be for everyone in the long term.

"Better suited" versus "specifically designed" also introduces a better measure of objectivity. Our ultimate goal as a site is to provide authoritative answers, but our "authority" isn't based on the background of our users. It's based on the quality of our content, the essence of the knowledge itself. Our answers are based on what we know, not what we think or believe. They're answers, not opinions or ideas. Opinion very much weighs less on the site's scale, and just as before it's important to keep people away from asking about opinion.

But to get to why these get closed - it's not always easy to salvage questions. Sometimes you can just remove a "best" to make something a better question. But that isn't always the winning result. The question may still be faulty at that point - it may require the author to retool the question to something more useful. Subjectivity isn't always the culprit. Sometimes the question is simply of a class that doesn't belong. This is the case with a reparable shopping recommendation; the question must be transformed into something that belongs.

As it were, blindly following the FAQ isn't encouraged, but really we put stuff in there because we do indeed want such things closed.


On multiple answers. This is something I've tried to explain so many times, something which various users have also explained, and something that even got a blog post on. People, both on the closing and the reopening ends, still get confused on this. This is ultimately a tangent to your concern, though, so I'll be brief. I just want this understood.

Questions are allowed to have multiple solutions. Almost any strategy type question we get on the site will follow this. That's why we allow more than one answer to be posted, after all. What makes these work is that any individual answer is capable of solving the problem. They seek to be a comprehensive effort to complete the question.

Itemized repositories don't have multiple solutions, they have multiple items. This is what makes them more similar to polls than towards more traditionally acceptable list questions - their contents are built in an entry-by-entry basis. And moreover, in spite of the fact that no individual answer provides a conclusion, the vast majority of these questions are only of interest to people who care about individual items.

The answer to "list of all steampunk games" is not a single steampunk game, but that's all most people care about. To use a quote from Jeff about itemized lists...

yes, this is the "give me a recipe for baking cookies" problem. Individual answers of "use sugar!" and "use flour!" and "add butter!" are terrible compared to "here's how I baked cookies last and how they turned out.."

There's a large difference between when something has multiple possible solutions, and when something just has multiple qualifying items. The former is acceptable, the latter not so much. And important to the point made in the last section, we don't want to leave broken windows that give the image that we accept itemized lists. They may be valuable, but they're simply not what we do.

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I upvoted this post out of sheer trust when I read "There are three points to address here." –  badp Jan 21 '11 at 15:40
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Hey hey, it isn't that long! The last point is even a tangent that you can skip. –  Grace Note Jan 21 '11 at 15:43
    
Roger, roger wilco and roger wilco. –  badp Jan 21 '11 at 16:01

There has been a metric ton of discussion on Shopping Recommendations and there were lots of reasons the site chose not to support them. The reasons include, but aren't limited to:

  • This system isn't built for that.
  • We can't easily distinguish the good shopping recommendations from the bad.
  • It's often an opinion question, which we don't support.

The discussion was all couched in terms of Game Recommendations. I suggest you read a little of that tag here on Meta.

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I still believe this question should be closed as is. There is no single best objective answer to the question, which results in a skewing of reputation based on popularity. That is the reason we banned shopping list and game recommendation questions in the first place.

Beyond that, it is still a shopping recommendation. I happen to like the rules.

Essentially, there may be more than 1 controller that meets the requirements that you set forth in the question. If both are given as answers, both are correct, and now users will vote on one or the other according to subjective allegiances or experiences they might have had in the past, rather than the correctness of the suggestions.

I am voting to re-close that question.

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Now I have edited it to ask for multiple controllers. I agree there is not a single specific controller that is best, that comes down to opinions, so now I have asked for multiple suggestions, in which the voters can chose who is best. That is called democracy. It is a serious question and the answers posted have really helped me (and probably others). I thought that was the point of this site. –  theorise Jan 21 '11 at 12:43
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@danixd - the pattern of question you have described, "I have asked for multiple suggestions, in which the voters can chose who is best" - is precisely the sort of question that many users here do not want to see. As C. Ross wrote you can read a lot about this if you explore the game-recommendations tag here on our meta-site, which is a debate about questions very similar to what you are describing. –  Oak Jan 21 '11 at 13:18
    
Ok thanks @Oak. This leads me to the point, I genuinely want to know what options I have for this particular question. It helps me, and probably the community. If it doesn't belong on this site, where does it belong? It is a tricky one that highlights the fact that the whole framework needs extra features where multiple answers can actually be correct. I have the same issue with Stack Overflow. There are always multiple ways to code the same thing, so which one is right? Well, all three of them are... etc. –  theorise Jan 21 '11 at 13:23
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@danixd no one disputes the question has value - what many dispute is that it belongs here. As for an alternative place for these sort of questions, it sounds like you're describing Tobias's idea of a 4th place, which I personally support, but seems to be frowned upon by Jeff (one of the owners of the stackexchange sites). Until that is implemented, I guess these questions just need to be asked somewhere else. –  Oak Jan 21 '11 at 13:39
    
@Oak thanks for that link. Yes I know Jeff, been following him on Twitter for a while. Something needs to be done, not too sure about this fourth place though. I'll move this discussion over there now. –  theorise Jan 21 '11 at 13:45

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