Question: Anyone else getting frustrated with what is consider on topic at the Hardware Recommendations Stack Exchange?

My Opinion: Its being over moderated. I see questions being placed on hold for various reasons, some are valid but most are not. I started flagging the post that are placed on hold when in reality they shouldn't be.

Example: https://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/4044/upgrading-3-year-old-amd-athlon-ii-p320-s1g4

It was placed on hold because "There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format."

Even though, the user has asked out of the 3 cpus he listed.. which one would you chose if you were concerned about overheating issues in a laptop. Now granted the question isn't worded the best way. If you take the time to read the question it's not hard to decipher what they are asking. Despite being placed on hold, people still try to answer these questions in the comment section...

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    Yes, I saw a question the other day about what type of PC a person should build put on hold because they included an example list of parts they were considering. The moderator said build reviews were not allowed (even though that's not what was actually being asked for; it was just an example), and though that rule exists NOWHERE in the rules for this site I've seen, the question was put on hold. Guys, if you make a site for electronics hardware suggestions, but you shoot down people asking for desktop PC build advice, you're basically shooting yourselves in the foot. – Adam Wykes Jul 11 '16 at 15:26
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    Agree, I saw that post too. I've seen others put on hold because it was not a "Pre purchase" question. A lot of people are coming here for help, and they are being shut down by overzealous modding. Another thing, look at my example below. Look at all the revisions they made this poor guy go through before closing out the question. hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/posts/4044/revisions – user3725 Jul 11 '16 at 15:36
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    You have to find it somewhat darkly funny that the editors are railing against opinion using extremely subjective measures of "broadness," "usefulness," and the like. Also, these guys - "Adam" and "ArtofCode" - have popped up elsewhere in threads where I thought the moderation was a little heavy-handed. Do they have an agenda which is not clearly articulated in their otherwise apparently excessive moderating? I would strongly encourage them to use more justifying and edifying language in their moderation notes going forward. – Adam Wykes Jul 11 '16 at 15:58
  • They appear to be operating on principles NOT stated in the rules of the site, but rather interpreted FROM them and enforced as actual rules: meta.hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/177/… I understand and sympathize with their goals (I don't want to see the site flooded with poor questions basically begging people to help a 12 year old with their next gaming rig and having people descend into cancerous AMD vs Nvidia wars and whatnot)... – Adam Wykes Jul 11 '16 at 20:59
  • ...but I think the length of time it takes to come out of a question closure is cruel and unusual punishment for a crime so subjectively enforced and commonly (and innocently) committed. – Adam Wykes Jul 11 '16 at 20:59
  • Let's see what happens here - hopefully they will start to see how annoying this is: hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/482/… – Adam Wykes Jul 12 '16 at 15:28
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    @BigElittles let me gauge your opinion too: would you prefer a strict moderation strategy, or an increase in the amount of low-quality content getting posted here? – ArtOfCode Mod Jul 12 '16 at 17:50
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    @ArtOfCode Considering "low quality content" is subjective, I'd like to see the moderators not use the on hold, or closed powers at all. Stack exchange is community driven, and low quality questions will receive downvotes. A few times, I've seen posters almost begging to have their questions re-opened, I've seen people TRY to help them in the comment sections. Also, I appreciate you removing my comments. – user3725 Jul 12 '16 at 17:57
  • @BigElittles Since you mention it, I removed only those comments that threw names at the moderators. Be Nice. As for closure, if the moderators didn't use their powers, we would not have enough people with no new-unilateral closure powers to prevent low-quality stuff getting posted. – ArtOfCode Mod Jul 12 '16 at 18:02
  • If the questions were left open people would be able to answer them and drive their reputation up. Furthermore, I am fairly certain that the modding activity on this site goes against the theory of moderation. – user3725 Jul 12 '16 at 18:38
  • @BigElittles Theory of Moderation is a theory, not a rule. Moderators don't have to follow it. Additionally, driving rep up is a terrible reason to leave questions open if they otherwise deserve closure. – ArtOfCode Mod Jul 12 '16 at 20:53
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    Enjoy your stackexchange. The current moderation practices will prevent this page from becoming a thriving community. – user3725 Jul 19 '16 at 13:41
  • @AdamWykes discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/24047/… Trying to have a review done. If this site, with its current name is not accurate. Then a new site should be created to meet the demand. The site is still in beta, so I am hoping that something can be done. – user3725 Jul 19 '16 at 18:44
  • Seems your question was removed by yourself? – Adam Wykes Jul 19 '16 at 19:00
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    Yea. Either the site's naming needs to be changed. The scope needs to be expanded. Or the entire "recommendations" concept is not a good fit for the platform and the page needs to be shut down. I have emailed the mods my deactivate request, so this will likely be my last post here. I wish you luck in your journey for common sense. – user3725 Jul 19 '16 at 19:55

The site itself is frustrating, but I do not agree this is a moderation issue.

The Moderators♦ are only doing the job we set out to do — upholding the story that created this site — but I've come to believe that the premise of this site is fundamentally flawed… or at least fatally obscure and misunderstood.

This site was created with a specific story in mind — a premise that there was a specific type of question that, if carefully worded and considered, should probably be allowed on a site hosting that subject… but they are largely rejected by their host communities (which I believe is overdone). So we gathered up all those questions and lumped them into a derivative site which isn't really based on a "subject of study", but rather a class of questions that aren't allowed on the site focused on the underlying subject.

I've talked about this issue in Should this site be called "Hardware Search"?, but the community didn't find it to be the perfect solution to all of this site's ills… so the foundational problem remains.

But why can't we expand the story of Hardware Recs?

At it's core, a Stack Exchange-style Q&A isn't designed to handle every type of question. Our format with no point-counterpoint discussion; no on-going debates; the best answer prevails makes some questions fundamentally inappropriate for this format. Questions that need good-faith arguments and on-going discussion aren't intrinsically bad questions; we would just be doing them a terrible disservice to host them this strict Q&A format — so we are unabashed in foregoing those types of questions entirely.

But there are a lot of "is there a tool?" solution-search questions that are a perfect fit for our format — that's what got this site created — but a lot of the questions you want to see remain simply run afoul of how Stack Exchange works. Here are a few categories of questions I see a lot on Hardware Recs:

  • polling the community for favorite brand preferences
    e.g. "<vague problem, list of products> Which one should I buy?" There is rarely enough information to conclude that the top answer is fundamentally any better than a random product search. That's not good Q&A.
  • soliciting categorically broad product reviews
    e.g. "What do you think of this product?" The "best" answer depends almost entirely on who happens to be reading the question. That's a problem. It may help that one user in the sense of randomly sending them on their way, but it isn't terribly authoritative to anyone who comes after (again, one of the core premises of creating a Stack Exchange site).
  • "Getting started" questions that are simply too early for a site like this
    e.g. "Dear users, Based on no data, problem statement, nor prior efforts on my part, just tell me what to do."

So if I were to ask "Should I buy a Canon EOS 5D or a Nikon D3200?" I think most would agree it's a poor question polling for brand preferences, what people have, or statements embodying generalized product reviews ("I like x, y, and z"). But if you look at your example again (Upgrading 3-year old AMD Athlon II P320), honestly what's the difference there?

These questions are fundamentally not a good fit for our format.

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    I agree with a lot of what you're saying. And this is the last post I make at hardware recommendations. The user didn't just ask "Should I buy a Canon EOS 5D or a Nikon D3200?" He asked "Should I buy a Canon EOS 5D or a Nikon D3200? when I want the fastest shutter speed?" That is the difference. I wish the community good luck, I'll be elsewhere. – user3725 Jul 1 '16 at 19:58
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    So this site is exclusively for recommendations on proper hardware configurations only for cases where the correct answer can be fully determined and opinion doesn't enter into it? Remind me why you aren't just directing people to benchmark sites again? PC hardware and related technologies offer some of the most complex search fields I've ever seen, and as such, mere humans can't hope to have fully explored its topography. Normally that would imply a computer program would be better suited to performing the search, but AFAIK no such computer program exists, which is why this site does. – Adam Wykes Jul 11 '16 at 15:21
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    People come here looking for opinion, among other things. That there are a large number of questions asking for just that should be evidence to us that there is a USE and a PURPOSE to providing those opinions; rhetoric and voting can sort out the wheat from the chaff. If someone came to me and asked whether to buy the Canon or the Nikon, I'd take a look at the specs of those, consider what they were going to use them for, and then try to make the recommendation that would fit their use case best. How is that not useful? – Adam Wykes Jul 11 '16 at 15:24
  • I also agree with this answer. This is the worst experience I had on a site in the network so far and see no point in keeping this account. I wish this community good luck and all the best, bye. – user3966 Jul 17 '16 at 20:53

Robert's answer covers a large area that I already agree with. I'd like to focus on another area that you raise:

Now granted the question isn't worded the best way. If you take the time to read the question it's not hard to decipher what they are asking.

The great thing about Stack Exchange is that anyone can suggest edits to a post. If a question isn't worded correctly, or is hard for many to understand, make an edit so that it's easier to understand. Edit the question to make the "on topic-ness" apparent.

"Too broad" is a close reason that can be hard to avoid. We have details hidden in long explanations or comments. Without these details in the question - or details that are hard to extract from a wordy question - it will be closed. Offer a bit of help for the other users and edit those details to be more obvious.

  • This sounds an awful like like making excuses for mods that can't be bothered to read through a question. Writing is a continuous process of improvement, and there are almost always ways any given question could be more perfectly composed, but the returns are asymptotic, to be sure. How difficult is "too difficult" for a moderator to be bothered? I would venture that moderators pondering the answer to that question would be better suited to wait and see what kind of response the question gets - if the answers are diffuse or wildly conflicting, that is a better indicator of bad writing. – Adam Wykes Jul 12 '16 at 15:27
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    "On hold" doesn't mean "never touch this again". It means that the question needs improvement and after such improvement, it can be reopened. The moderators are putting stuff on hold (as they should be) to make it clear to users (both the OP and to the community at large) that the question, as it stands, doesn't meet our guidelines - either quality and/or on topicness. If/when those are resolved the question will be reopened. Looking at the review tools, I see a few have been opened recently. – Andy Mod Jul 12 '16 at 15:59
  • What is the average time to reopen a question after being it on hold, and what is the percentage of questions put on hold which are never reopened? I want these stats. I also want to contest the fundamental assumptions being made about what constitutes a quality post as determined by mods; my basic assertion is that they are being too strict, possibly allowing their own difficulty with parsing somewhat difficult elocution to get in the way of fair moderation. – Adam Wykes Jul 12 '16 at 16:14
  • I'll see if I can find stats in SEDE. For the parts you want to challenge, take those up on their own meta questions here, not in the comments. Take a look at the faq we have regarding quality though. – Andy Mod Jul 12 '16 at 16:16
  • Thanks for working with us on those. If I can find the time I will make a separate post. I just felt these issues were related and bore mentioning in this context. Sorry to dilute the focus. – Adam Wykes Jul 12 '16 at 16:18
  • Using the queries mentioned here, there are 60 reopened questions out of 151 that have been closed. Note: Deleted questions don't appear in SEDE, so the 151 is the low end. – Andy Mod Jul 12 '16 at 16:26
  • Looks like reopen time is less than two days – Andy Mod Jul 12 '16 at 16:34
  • Or, put differently, the average reopen time is almost two full days, with less than 50% of all questions put on hold being opened again. Perpetrated simply because, in many cases, the moderator may not understand the question. – Adam Wykes Jul 12 '16 at 16:38
  • SQL isn't my strong skill, but you have to account for the amount of time it takes for a question to be edited too. A question rarely gets reopened without the edit taking place too. – Andy Mod Jul 12 '16 at 16:40
  • SQL is certainly not mine either, so I'll be no help. I will only add my two cents that I think it would behoove moderators to wait and judge questions with the help of the answers they receive before subjecting them to that kind of purgatory. – Adam Wykes Jul 12 '16 at 16:41
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    @AdamWykes You misconstrue question closure as a punishment. It's not. It's actually designed to help: it's saying "this isn't answerable in its current form, and if we let it get answered then the answers you get likely won't help you - so here's why, and have some time to edit it". – ArtOfCode Mod Jul 12 '16 at 17:53
  • @AdamWykes As for your assertion that mods aren't taking the time to understand a question, let me assure you that I at the very least am (and I expect the same of my fellow moderators). Without trying to boast, I do have a good command of English, it being my first language, so if I can't understand a question (for non-technical reasons), then the vast majority of people will have difficulty understanding it, and it warrants closing as "unclear" and the OP to be asked to reword it (with assistance if they need - I recognise that English is not a first language for many of our users... – ArtOfCode Mod Jul 12 '16 at 17:57
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    @AdamW because the users don't have the tools necessary. I'm talking about answers that don't meet the standards that we objectively set out on Meta; these are answers that should be deleted, not just downvoted. – ArtOfCode Mod Jul 12 '16 at 18:05
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    @AdamW 37.5% of edited questions were reopened. No, that's not concerning, that's about right - especially for a site as experimental and with as strict quality requirements as this one. – ArtOfCode Mod Jul 12 '16 at 20:55
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    At this point the discussion has gone way outside of my answer. I suggest you write your own so that you can articulate the concerns you have in a single post instead of across multiple comments that are now behind a "show more" link. It'll also help to have your concerns in an answer instead of various comments. @AdamWykes – Andy Mod Jul 12 '16 at 21:04

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