So I had asked How do I identify a high quality HDMI -> VGA adapter? and it was closed, which is fine. I don't think it should be reopened, it is probably too broad. It's not even that great of a question. (Note: I've since deleted the linked question.)
However, the reason given brought up some concern:
I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because we don't provide general advice because it goes out of date too quickly. If you need a product, you should specify requirements for it and we'll recommend one to fit those requirements. – ArtOfCode ♦
I did some digging on meta and found some directly relevant posts and prior discussions:
- Do we still want general advice questions?
- What is required for a question to be 'high quality'? (linked from the help center).
- Is a scope of "product recommendations" + "pre-purchase inquiries" agreeable?
To be clear where I stand: I am weakly of the opinion that general advice questions are OK as long as they pertain to gathering info to make a purchase, but I am not strongly for this. There are good arguments both ways (especially that these questions tend to be broad) and I fully support whatever the community decides. This post is about establishing consistency no matter what the consensus is, not about me trying to push one or the other.
The issue here is there are a large number of contradictions in the above comment and meta posts. The reason that there are contradictions is because the issue isn't truly resolved (otherwise these contradictions would not exist). To name a few:
- The comment states general advice goes out of date quickly and implies that specific recommendations do not, or at least implies that general advice is unwanted because it goes out of date quickly. However, the exact opposite is the case: Specific recommendations by their very nature go out of date quickly, while general advice does not. I found this confusing.
- The implication that things going out of date quickly is a reason for not wanting them here seems to contradict the nature of this particular site, which specifically revolves around giving advice that goes out of date quickly.
The linked help center topic and guidelines state, pretty directly:
A question on Hardware Recommendations has one of two goals:
- A request for a product recommendation, OR
- A request for information that will lead to a product decision
This contradicts the above. If this type of question is not wanted here then it should not be listed as acceptable in the very help center topic that the close reasons point to.
The "Do we still want general advice questions?" topic has 5 votes yes and 5 votes no. There is no consensus, and a check mark on an answer in that type of question does not constitute community agreement. This lack of consensus is somewhat contradictory to a unilateral close of general advice questions for this reason.
So, hopefully this illustrates how up in the air things are. Right now, given that there is no consensus, I think the following should happen:
- Moderators, despite their opinions on the matter, should not be taking unilateral action when specific vs. general topics are in question. At least not until we have a clear community consensus. Unless it's obviously too broad, for now defer it to the usual CV mechanic, or at least wait for 3 or 4 close votes.
- From what I've read the actual argument against general advice questions is that they don't always directly lead to purchases. Whether or not that is a good or bad thing is part of the debate, of course, but let's be clear on that: The argument against general advice questions is not that they "go out of date quickly". We don't want to confuse people (it is confusing with the contradictions outlined above in mind).
- We may want to edit the relevant posts above to state that the issue still seems to be up in the air, assuming it is still up in the air. We can't have rules stated in help center topics when we don't all agree on the rules.
After that, once a consensus is reached, here's a short todo list of things that need to happen to clean up the consistency:
- https://hardwarerecs.meta.stackexchange.com/a/206/1111 needs to be updated.
- We need to decide on a good reason either way so something reasonable can be provided in comments if asked.
- Perhaps a custom close reason could be in order.
The Big Question
What can we do to reach a clear consensus, either way? And, how can we clean up the help center, guidelines, close reasons, and our own thought processes and comments regarding these types of questions?