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Prompted by this question.

A long time ago, we decided that "what should I consider"/general advice-type questions are allowed. We had at least one of these questions, which seemed to be pretty well-received.

Simple question: do we still want these, or in light of more recent decisions, events, and close reasons, do we put them to bed?

  • Why did you lock the example question? Can't you just leave it as close? – Franck Dernoncourt Apr 30 '16 at 21:16
  • @FranckDernoncourt it's off-topic, and the other option for off-topic questions that haven't seen activity in a while is to delete them. It seemed to be popular, though, so I wanted to keep it around. – ArtOfCode Apr 30 '16 at 21:23
  • What's the issue with leaving an off-topic question unlocked, and closed? – Franck Dernoncourt Apr 30 '16 at 21:39
  • @FranckDernoncourt It saw no activity for 5 months, so when I came round doing a cleanup run, it popped up as a possible deletion candidate. Cleanup is basically the reason. – ArtOfCode Apr 30 '16 at 21:53
  • Doesn't the cleanup allow you to take no action? I.e., leaving the question closed, without having to lock it? – Franck Dernoncourt May 1 '16 at 22:41
  • Also, unrelated, why not accepting the answer with the most upvotes in this thread? – Franck Dernoncourt May 1 '16 at 22:57
3

Note: This post reflects the current consensus on the subject of general-advice questions. It was chosen based on the arguments it presents and some additional discussion had in chat.

I vote to restrict this kind of question.

It has great intentions, and this question specifically is honestly very interesting, but these simply don't fulfill what people come here for which is to 1) get recommendations based on specific requirements, or 2) ask for information that will directly lead to a recommendation (often within the same question).

Based on #2 above, this question isn't quite there (keep in mind I'm using this question to refer to all questions like it). Once the question is answered the author now has more information about how the laptop-monitor connection works, but this doesn't necessarily mean it will directly lead to a monitor recommendation. Here, it can lead to better research.

So what I've essentially boiled this kind of question down to is a question about improving research. Again, these don't necessarily lead to asking for recommendations based on specific requirements; they just help in the process of searching the internet for the desired kind of hardware needed.

In my opinion these don't quite represent what this site is all about even though they are usually very good questions in terms of gaining knowledge.

The other major issue with this type of question is that the information that can be provided in answers goes out of date quickly. While that's not a problem for regular hardware recommendations, it becomes a problem for general-advice questions because they're more likely to become canonical information sources and Googling targets, which would require (or at least make it very desirable for) us to update them regularly to keep them up to date. As the volume of these posts increases, this becomes unviable.

  • If this is so, we really need a site for asking this type of question. Super User? – Rubyjunk Oct 30 '15 at 20:40
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    @RubyJunk SU may not always be able to take questions like this. Questions aren't guaranteed to have a home on SE though. – Adam Oct 30 '15 at 23:41
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    I don't understand how this can be called a consensus while another answer has almost twice more upvotes. – Franck Dernoncourt May 1 '16 at 22:56
  • @Franck That's a good point. It might be that my answer had more votes at the time of the decision but now it has less. Either way, I'm willing to reconsider this. Let's discuss it in chat with everyone else. – Adam May 2 '16 at 1:29
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No, I think this is a good question. It appears to be on-topic, and is asking for a hardware recommendation.

To make this question even more on topic, it could be clarified to consist of what he is asking for, e.g., what types of qualities he wants.

I basically want a general suggestion on how to find LCD panel of specific size, with specific (e.g. 30-pin eDP) connector, that has desired qualities (e.g. brightness of at least 300 cd/m²) and does not have problems like obviously uneven backlight or wrong colors.

This statement could be more specific. A preferable approach to this could be to state what he is looking for. For example, "I want X qualities in this screen, and it should not have Y problems" This might be more off topic, although I believe the original question should be allowed also.

Just my two cents.

  • We're not really talking about that question specifically, more whether questions asking for general advice should still be allowed. I agree that this question isn't the best example, though. – Undo Oct 29 '15 at 20:10
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    I disagree that it's asking for a recommendation. It is asking about a method for figuring out what monitors are internally compatible with a laptop which I see as off-topic. – Adam Oct 29 '15 at 20:15
  • @Adam So the question is, is that off-topic? I wouldn't think so, but my first question on this site was closed as off-topic because it was similar to this one. I continue in my defence of it, though. – Rubyjunk Oct 29 '15 at 20:16
  • @RubyJunk I would say it's off-topic. It isn't asking for a recommendation and it also doesn't ask for info leading to a recommendation (since knowing what monitors can connect to a laptop doesn't exactly further a search for a product). – Adam Oct 29 '15 at 20:20
  • @Adam In this case, it might. I really think this type of question should be allowed, but I am not the holy one with the diamond, so I cannot decide =P – Rubyjunk Oct 29 '15 at 20:31
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    @RubyJunk don't be afraid to voice your opinion! Just because we have diamonds, doesn't mean our opinions are worth more. You're just as important in deciding things. – ArtOfCode Oct 29 '15 at 21:10
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    @ArtOfCode It was a joke, I did not mean for you to take it seriously... :) – Rubyjunk Oct 29 '15 at 22:15
  • @RubyJunk Humour is lost on me :) though it never hurts to reiterate that point – ArtOfCode Oct 29 '15 at 22:22
3

This may not be the most coherent line of thought, but I wanted to say something before this is officially decided.

I want to allow general advice questions, but I think the problem is that many of them end up being sub-par, weak, or closable for other reasons. I think we could also take some more time to see if we get some really good ones, if needed.

In many cases, it is possible to word this type of question in a way that makes it look like it is going to lead to a purchasing decision, including the one in the example. If you think about it with "give a man a fish" language, these are questions about how to fish. In many cases, the person could provide enough detail so that the question is no longer "How do I catch fish?" instead, it becomes "How do you fish, and can I have the fish that you are going to catch in your demonstration? It needs to be between 12 and 14 inches long, non-toxic, available in the Gulf of Mexico, and a member of the class Actinopterygii."

I think that some of the best, or at least most detailed, answers to typical obviously on topic questions can also include information about how the answerer came to their recommendation, even if no one asked.

So finally, my vote is to allow these kinds of questions (possibly including the one in the link because I think the editing has improved it). But, having said that, I think that I would also be ok with disallowing those general questions as long as we still allow them when a specific context (enough info for a recommendation) is provided.

  • We would have to define what 'enough information' is, which is somewhat difficult for these. Otherwise, I agree that I'd like to allow them - do you have any ideas for a way to define 'enough information' in this case? – Undo Nov 6 '15 at 16:14
  • @Undo In this case, enough information would be the same thing that we would require of any other question (in particular, make sure the question isn't too broad). OP would need to include all of the details we need to make a recommendation. In the case of the example laptop display question, we don't know for sure what OP wants, and we have no price range, size, desired qualities, etc. Truth be told, there are markets for bare panels (and communities of people who use them for fun things like homemade projectors). – JTL Nov 6 '15 at 17:29
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Personally, I say no. I'll reiterate several reasons for that that I've made over the past few days.

  • They go out of date too quickly.
    Robert Cartaino has explained why that's not usually a valid reason to close a question; it's a misconception that questions have to last a long time. And, for the most part, I agree. However, the longevity of these questions I think is a concern for us.

    Posts that provide general advice are very likely to become canonical sources for information about how to choose X component for your new computer system. They're liable to be some of our most viewed questions, and to be relied on to provide solid advice about choosing a product.

    I don't think our community is big enough to manage that. Looking at the numbers of really active people we have on this site, it's relatively small. That's not a bad thing - the site is very young, and I wouldn't expect it to be much bigger. However, it does mean that providing the time and resources to keep these posts updated is a much bigger ask of the community. It may not happen - and I really wouldn't like to have to add a disclaimer to every general-advice answer that warns people the content may be out of date.

  • They don't necessarily lead to a product decision.
    I don't think this point is as strong as the last, but it's worth mentioning. Our scope is to provide answers that either directly recommend hardware, or that directly lead to a purchase decision. General advice questions don't necessarily fit that scope.

    Providing general advice is great, and it may well help people to choose their hardware. However, what it doesn't do is provide the personalised service that a recommendation question gets - there's no consideration of each person's situation and requirements, and there's no chance to get specific questions answered by looking at general advice.

  • Reviewing case-by-case is messy.
    It's been suggested that we could review these questions on a case-by-case basis. I don't think that'll work very well, because it turns out subjectivity. Who's to say when a certain question is worth closing? Is it off-topic? Why? Too broad? Why?

    OK, we deal with this to some extent with normal closures. However, I feel that making the policy case-by-case review would mean we close questions with tenuous policy at best to back us up. As a moderator, I would far prefer to close a question if I have solid policy backing me up that I can link to and explain if I'm challenged on the decision or the case goes to meta.

    If we can't review case-by-case, that leaves two options - allow them all, or ban them all. I don't think we should allow them all - see above - so we're left with not allowing them at all.

  • All questions about hardware go out of date quickly. – Gerardo Grignoli yesterday
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I'm just adding this as an option; I don't feel strongly about it.

I think these questions should be handled case-by-case. I disagree with making a blanket statement either way. I think the only real criteria should be:

  • The question must be about hardware shopping, of course.
  • The question cannot be too broad - this is what we should be looking for on a per question basis.

While I could see adopting a different policy in the future, I don't think we have any particular problem right now that can't be solved using the "too broad" criteria, and I don't think this will become a slippery slope.

If 5 people CV then we can presume the community collectively decided it was too broad. If it gains a good answer we can presume it wasn't a bad question. And if it gets downvotes and no answers it will be automatically deleted, no harm done.

We cannot predict what kinds of questions will be asked. We might get a gem of a general advice question and answer some day, that is helpful, directly relevant to purchases, and increases the quality of information on the internet.

  • 2
    I would love to have the ability to take general advice questions here, but I honestly don't think we're correctly equipped to do it. Given the size and activity of our current community, we don't really have enough people or effort to be able to keep these threads updated, and I don't want to have to put a disclaimer of content at the top of every single one. Perhaps this issue should be revisited later in the life of the site, when we do have the people and effort to resource these posts correctly? – ArtOfCode Mar 7 '16 at 19:04
  • @ArtOfCode I think I agree. I wanted to lay this option out for posterity. We should revisit it later when site traffic increases. I will also say that I was pretty down on this site when it was a proposal, but I've grown to really like it, and I think we're doing a really good job at keeping it sane so far. – Jason C Mar 7 '16 at 19:06
  • That's useful; thanks. When we revisit this, it'll be useful to be able to link to the various posts in this thread. – ArtOfCode Mar 7 '16 at 19:07

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