This line in the Comms Room grabbed 10 stars:

Note to all: Please use the "not constructive" close reason for shopping questions, because it more accurately describes why the question is being closed. Thanks

It seems to make sense to me. Shopping questions are not constructive questions:

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, see the FAQ for guidance.

I've noticed they're often closed as off-topic, which kind of makes sense, but we've declared them off topic because they're not constructive.

Maybe we should close them as Not Constructive instead?

I suppose the downside of this is that users might not realize as quickly that shopping questions are yucky territory and to be avoided.

On the other hand, by marking them off-topic, they might not ever realize the proper way to format these would-be shopping questions.

What does the community think?

Given that shopping recommendations are listed among the other off topic items in the FAQ, and not constructive being quite vague in comparison, I'm not sure this would be useful. Please also note that there will be some changes to how closing works. –  Daniel Beck Feb 19 '13 at 19:53
I have always seen and used "not constructive" as the reason. –  cpast Feb 20 '13 at 3:03
I usually go with "not constructive" as well. "Off-topic" to me seems to imply that there exists a Stack Exchange site where the question would be on-topic, just that SU is not that site. "Not constructive" is IMHO a better fit for questions that aren't a good fit for any Stack Exchange site, like shopping questions. –  Indrek Feb 21 '13 at 15:43
"Off-topic" to me seems to imply that there exists a Stack Exchange site where the question would be on-topic, just that SU is not that site. Agreed. –  Qix Feb 24 '13 at 0:30
IMHO, the explanations given to reviewers muddy the waters here. I don't think this confusion would exist if the "not constructive" close reason would explain to users why their shopping question was closed, as well as identify such questions unambiguously as not-constructive in the close reason explanations shown to reviewers. –  oKtosiTe Mar 21 '13 at 20:44
In short, the not constructive close reason should specifically mention shopping recommendations. –  oKtosiTe Mar 21 '13 at 20:58

3 Answers 3

I wrote that line in chat. It was pinned for several weeks, as I recall. So I'll preface this by saying that what works at Server Fault may not work here.

The reason I prefer "not constructive" is that closing shopping questions as "off topic" is too confusing. I've lost count of the number of users whose shopping question was closed as "off topic" who couldn't understand it because they thought they were asking a question about professional system administration (they were, which means it's not really off topic in that sense, leading to the confusion).

"Not constructive" explains more of why shopping questions are closed and helps these users understand more quickly, not only why their question was closed, but how they might improve it.

As an addendum, I should note that the ban on shopping questions originated at Super User, and was later adopted on SO and SF. But it is by no means universal; some SE sites (like unix.SE) welcome questions that would be closed as "shopping" on SU or SF.


Recommendations (either for purchase or free) are off topic because we don't deal with that type of question and/or format at all. Same goes with polls.

But now we're in a mess over semantics.

Yes, they're not constructive in the same way as asking the kids in the hall what they think is best practise or good PC hygiene.

They're a type of question that feeds from the community but does not strengthen it. It's out of subject scope, hence off topic.

If it was just out of focussed definition, then it would fall under not constructive.

The Kids In The Hall :) –  Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Mar 2 '13 at 16:41
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Putting this answer out there so we can figure out what the majority of people want to do:

I think shopping questions should be closed as "Not Constructive" on Super User.

Please upvote if you agree and downvote if you do not!

A special upvote for the "downvote if you do not" part. Commendable. –  Roney Michael Mar 1 '13 at 17:19
@RoneyMichael Downvotes in meta are used for this purpose. There's no effect on rep here. –  Tanner Faulkner Mar 1 '13 at 17:28
Maybe there should be two answers so that people who can't downvote can can upvote for the alternative. –  user193782 Mar 2 '13 at 16:43
@Tanner Wouldn't it have been better if someone else posted this, so accepting it would stick it to the top? –  cpast Mar 3 '13 at 15:17
Good use of voting, thanks. I know I'm fairly new here but I'm afraid my opinion differs from others. I would welcome shopping questions in SU though I recognise it might open the floodgates to even more poor quality questions. SU experts will have a great deal of expertise to help others make decisions on getting the right software. –  Julian Knight Mar 3 '13 at 15:21
@cpast I was wondering why it didn't stick at the top... Didn't know that's how it works. In any case, so far there's 6 up and 6 down. Pretty divided. –  Tanner Faulkner Mar 3 '13 at 16:04
@Tanner The "stick at the top" doesn't happen on self-answers, I think. You could ask on MSO. Maybe a CW post would stick to the top? (so you could make it CW) –  cpast Mar 3 '13 at 19:42
This is not really a poll between "not constructive" and "off-topic", but between "not constructive" and "not not constructive". It doesn't really get us to a specific solution. –  oKtosiTe Mar 21 '13 at 20:25

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