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Note that this discussion is no longer current. We revisited this topic later in the life of this site.

Please see Do we still want general advice questions? and post your thoughts there.


Should we allow questions that ask "what should I consider when looking for an x"? Or do we only want to provide recommendations for specific hardware meeting specific needs?

The advantage I see to allowing these questions is that they won't go out of date as fast, which will probably be a fairly big issue with a site like this. Thoughts?

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I think, they should be allowed and in fact be encouraged. We can only provide recommendations, but it is the asker (and future visitors having the same question) who has to make the final decision. This might help them make their own choices and also help them in the future when looking for similar products.

The goal of SE is to provide quality answers for askers as well as future readers. If we only provide recommendations, there is not really much for future readers. There will possibly be an endless stream of questions with the same problems with slight variations.

Also, as you have already mentioned, these kinds of answers are less vulnerable to be outdated. A recommendation might be outdated, but a process for choosing it can't.

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  • But if it's What should I consider when buying a camera - that's really broad. You're going to get a whole bunch of answers on that: get something with a wide aperture, broad shutter speeds to 1/8000, and an ISO that can go as high as 6400. There's too many answers, and they're not good questions. I stick more on the side that if they are asking whether a particular feature in an item is a good idea, and not just What to look for when buying something, then we can keep the quality tone of the site higher. – Zizouz212 Sep 19 '15 at 12:43
  • @Zizouz212 why is that actually too broad? Maybe it needs some criteria still, like "what should I consider when buying a camera below $200 for casual use?" but those sorts of questions are totally answerable. – enderland Sep 23 '15 at 14:27
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One problem that I can see with these types of questions is that they may be too broad. For example, if someone asked "What should I consider when buying a graohics card?" the answer would probably be a long list of things.

I do think that these questions would be useful on this site, though. My idea is that we could make collaborative community wiki answers to answers these types of questions. That way, the question could be a resource later in the future for someone looking for a hardware piece. They may even help people who will ask questions here, later.

There is even a lock reason for this:

This question's answers are a collaborative effort: if you see something that can be improved, just edit the answer to improve it! No additional answers can be added here

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Thoughts: good idea. The other major advantage of them that I can see is they provide explanation and backdrop to straight recommendation questions. If you answer a recommendation, and there's a related "what should I consider?" question, you can link to it and say "look, I've considered these things for you, and this result matches all of your criteria and the suggestions there".

These should be allowed, because they're theory behind recommending things which is important to be able to cement our recommendations.

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  • In theory, yes, I agree. But wouldn't they be ridiculously broad, if it were only What should I consider? There's tons of answers for that, especially if it is an "implicit recommendation" because there is no telling what they want. The questions should still be specific: Should I consider this so that a detailed, specific answer can be provided, and we still keep a quality standard. – Zizouz212 Sep 19 '15 at 12:47
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They should be. It makes perfect sense to have a site about picking the right computing hardware for a task. There's no need to impose a particular format on questions. We do need quality controls — I think we'll end up with guidelines similar to the ones on Software Recommendations — but they apply to teach-me-to-fish questions as much as to feed-me-a-fish questions.

In comparison with Software Recommendations, I think it's even more important to encourage teach-me-to-fish questions, because hardware evolves quicker than software, especially when you take cost requirements into account.

(It would also make sense to have a site that's about computing hardware, including configuring and modding, but that's not the direction we seem to be taking.)


I'm mostly posting this answer in response to Robert Cartaino's.

It's an arguable point, but the problem with these "teach me to fish" questions is that they are on topic at Super User. Generally we do not worry too much about coincidental, overlapping scopes, but the entire premise behind this site is that most communities do not allow specific product recommendations at all.

That's a somewhat precarious premise on which to build a site — i.e. "they don't want these questions elsewhere" — but we are trying to make it work. But what we absolutely cannot allow to happen is to turn this site into an "alternative Super User"… a site where you can ask your hardware questions which also happens to allow product recommendations too. That just cannot happen.

This argument is grossly inaccurate, since the overlap would be small — this site isn't even shaping up to be about hardware in general: only about choosing hardware, not about how to install it, configure it, modify it, etc. In any case sites have been allowed that had even more overlap with existing sites, when they brought something new to the network. There's even a Stack Exchange blog post that explains that communities should stride to avoid

Scope Gerrymandering: attempting to micromanage what’s on-topic in order to avoid overlap with other sites or simply drive away users seen as undesirable.

Robert's argument also inaccurate in that some of the questions that were closed would be off-topic on Super User since they don't fit SU's restrictive definition of “computer” (e.g. smartphones are firmly off-topic there).

The argument for limiting is deeply flawed, yet this is presented as a diktat, allowing no discussion.

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    Very true. I personally think we just need to worry a little less about the scope. If a shaky question comes up and it seems like it could fit in three different sites, just leave it here and improve the question if needed. No need to control things too much. – Adam Sep 17 '15 at 23:34
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It's an arguable point, but the problem with these "teach me to fish" questions is that they are on topic at Super User. Generally we do not worry too much about coincidentally overlapping scopes, but the entire premise behind this site is that most communities do not allow specific product recommendations at all.

That's a somewhat precarious premise on which to build a site — i.e. "they don't want these questions elsewhere" — but we are trying to make it work. But what we absolutely cannot allow to happen is to turn this site into an "alternative Super User"… a site where you can ask your hardware questions which also happens to allow product recommendations too. That just cannot happen.

While we continue to narrow down what "hardware" includes, we have already established the basis for why we created a site for "recommendations" specifically. It wasn't to recommend an answer to a general computing question. It was to recommend *products* or services specifically. If the question is not seeking a product recommendation, it is not likely within the purview of this site.

As I continue to evaluate this site for public launch, I've been confident that we're on track regarding what "hardware" will include. But when it comes to recommendations, I am still considering whether we need a custom close reason for this site:

"Hardware Recommendations" was created for questions seeking a specific hardware products given a set of definitive requirements. If your question involved general computing or hardware issues, it can likely be asked on Super User; but nevertheless, it is outside the scope of this site.

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  • I think that close reason would be good, especially since it's almost guaranteed that if/when this site graduates it will have a migration path to SuperUser. – enderland Sep 16 '15 at 17:45
  • This is a pretty good case for not allowing them here. I'd be in favor of adding that close reason. – Undo Sep 16 '15 at 17:47
  • I suggested this as a separate discussion point here: meta.hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/124/6 – enderland Sep 16 '15 at 17:49
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    I am very disappointed that you are completely destroying the site that this community was building. Speaking from experience of Software Recommendations, focusing on a strict recommendation format does not make a good Q&A site, because it is not focused on an audience or a domain of expertise. “Recommendations” is basically “what Super User doesn't want”, and being someone's toilet bowl is an awful way to define a community. Software Recommendations doesn't work well: it has a record amount of unanswered questions. It exists solely because moderation on SO and SU sucks. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Sep 16 '15 at 22:53
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    (cont.) I was very happy to see that Hardware Recommendations was shaping up to have a saner scope, hopefully encompassing at least all pre-buy hardware-related questions (fsvo hardware). That makes good sense as a scope. Closing questions for the sole reason that they are on-topic elsewhere is not only a departure from Stack Exchange's previous sane policy, it's also a way to impose mediocrity, awkwardness and disparagement into a community. Please don't do it. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Sep 16 '15 at 22:55
  • @Gilles relevant meta post regarding overlap with SuperUser and this site (for Vi/Vim) - discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/a/17913/69946 – enderland Sep 16 '15 at 23:21

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