I've seen a recent surge in questions asking for recommendations on buying X type of hardware (replace X with mice, GPUs, CPUs, hard drives, flash drives, you name it). Looking at TheTXI's answer here, I feel these questions don't belong on SuperUser.

Diago seems to at least partially agree on this one. He left the following comment on a question yesterday:

SU Is not the shopping channel.

I feel the same way. These questions have a very short life span; hardware is obsolete in a matter of months. People have argued that making these questions CW allows others to edit them and keep them up-to-date. I have never seen this happening. Someone wants something, he asks, gets an answer and that's the end of that question.

SuperUser really is heading in multiple directions, although no one in the community seems to know what these are or whether they're good or bad. The way things are going, I feel it is turning into a Trilogy Yahoo! Answers, despite the efforts of a lot of its users.

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I would have listed this one as a bad sample: superuser.com/questions/97038/which-usb-sticks-are-reliable –  Diago Jan 18 '10 at 8:46
    
I voted to close that one. –  alex Jan 18 '10 at 8:53
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And I ended the discussion –  Ivo Flipse Jan 18 '10 at 9:42
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@Diago - admit it, you just didn't want to have your hands dirty on that one, that's why you gave it as "sample" ;-) –  Gnoupi Jan 18 '10 at 9:57
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@Gnoupi. With Ivo around I don't need to. I am actually considering a vacation. Let the newbite deal with :) –  Diago Jan 18 '10 at 10:03
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As long as people flag the questions I'll be on them in no time :P But I need someone to watch my back in the weekends, I can only work on my phone then... :( –  Ivo Flipse Jan 18 '10 at 10:45
    
If shopping discussion is not allowed on SU, why is there a "hardware-rec" tag? If the temporal nature of the discussion in the issue, why not simply auto-delete recommendations after a year? That kind of discussion should be valuable to advertisers, not to mention the obvious value to users. I'd rather not be negative but the blog post about shopping with the Barbie picture and the "let's go shopping" title is insulting. Purchasing discussions are no less serious than other discussions. –  user1232 Apr 19 '11 at 18:25

6 Answers 6

To clarify:

My problem is not keeping these questions on SU, my problem is with the quality of the questions being kept on SU. Jeff recently pointed out that SU has 1.2M hits a month, which is by no means a small amount, and the reach of the site is higher then SO solely because of the general purpose theme when searching on Google. These questions tend to get out of hand later one with drive by postings, and are often not well maintained.

I have no issues with someone putting some effort into looking for a product, or even asking for a reasonable comparison.

Asking based on price is also a sensitive topic. To use the above example, a few of the below $50.00 mice listed on that page are way more than $50.00 in SA.

Explicitly localised shopping or service questions are closed outright, and lately I have not even debated the question as to why. If a worldwide audience is not involved, then it doesn't belong.

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this pretty much sums up my views on shopping questions. asking "where" or "how much" is right out. asking "what" is ok, in the general case, although some examples will deserve closing for other reasons. –  quack quixote Mar 30 '10 at 22:15
    
Another problem is that shopping recommendations (and maybe even hardware comparisons if not done right) can get pretty fast obsolete. –  Bobby Apr 20 '11 at 19:18

This SU question you cited is OK in my opinion

http://superuser.com/questions/96934/any-cheap-and-good-mouse-with-extra-buttons

Because it's

  • somewhat timeless
  • relatively constrained in scope
  • sort of fun -- show mice with a ridiculous number of buttons!

Now in the general case, I definitely agree with you. Highly localized, time-specific "what should I buy?" questions are of little value and should be strongly discouraged. (Maybe the /faq needs updating with some text here?)

But the question you cited is a weak example of the problem. Perhaps Diago or Splattne or Ivo can edit your question to include better examples.

edit: an excellent example was referenced, one in which the author re-asked in a much better way!

Before -- bad
http://superuser.com/questions/97038/which-usb-sticks-are-reliable

After -- good
http://superuser.com/questions/97035/tool-to-test-usb-sticks

Cheers to Tony.

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If we keep editing the FAQ we're going to end up with a mile high list of what's allowed and what's not allowed. Besides, most people don't read the FAQ (sad, but true). This would at least help moderators focus on what to do. –  alex Jan 18 '10 at 8:24
    
I did actually consider this posting the FAQ update request, however also realise it is not neccessarily a bad thing, my real problem is the effort put into the question as I clarified in my answer. –  Diago Jan 18 '10 at 8:34
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Now that thar is a quick learnin' user. –  random Jan 18 '10 at 10:18
    
@random - Now that's a user who asked the "after" question before the "before" one :-] –  Gnoupi Jan 18 '10 at 10:26
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lol, yes, the "after" was asked 2 minutes beforehand. Well, at least he got it 50% right, which is more than I can say for some users.. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 18 '10 at 10:38
    
Actually, I'm not sure that was a after or anything, just two different questions, one for the tool, one for reliable usb sticks :-] But anyway, better than nothing indeed. –  Gnoupi Jan 18 '10 at 10:48

Recommendations on where to buy or what to buy make the trigger finger jump at the "too localized" option in the close menu.

They may be computer related, but most of it is helping people buy things that are wholly specific to their budget, location and/or purchase whims.

It's not like having to work out why a router is failing or configuring an FTP client to with through SSH.

Maybe even "subjective and/or argumentative" if the question is pushing it.

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Too localized is such a great way to close a question! –  alex Jan 18 '10 at 8:29

No.

Not only does these questions have a short lifespan, they are usually very geographically localized. I have no use what so ever for shopping tips in the US.

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It would probably help if the FAQ would exclude certain question groups from being asked, making it easier for moderators to close them without getting complaints afterwards.

Though the fact that these kind of questions are being asked indicates that people do want a platform to ask them. We need more StackExchange sites for these topics!

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@Ivo, I've occasionally been close to commenting that a question could be asked on my SE site, but have not done so as I didn't think it would be appropriate. Are you implying that this kind of comment would help? –  Rich Seller Jan 18 '10 at 15:38
    
Well for instance iPhone and Android questions could go to their respective SE-sites, I assume it would be helpful to redirect people there –  Ivo Flipse Jan 18 '10 at 15:51
    
@home4film.com - However, in my opinion, keep it "subtle", like a simple comment, as you don't provide an actual answer, just a possibility to get to it. –  Gnoupi Jan 18 '10 at 16:16
    
@Gnoupi, by "subtle" do you mean just mention the site as opposed to a link to an answer? not sure I follow (I don't do subtle too well I'm afraid) –  Rich Seller Jan 18 '10 at 17:16
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@home4film.com - I meant simply that if the only thing you want to write is a suggestion to post on your site, make it a comment, as it is only a way to get an answer, not an answer in itself. If the answer is already on your site, you can write an answer to the question, with a link to the answer on the other site, like you would with an answer found on a forum. The bottom line is always the same: if what you write doesn't answer the question, don't post it as an answer. –  Gnoupi Jan 18 '10 at 17:59
    
@Gnoupi, thanks for the clarification, that's what I would have done –  Rich Seller Jan 18 '10 at 19:37

In a way, you say such questions shouldn't be... and yet you answer them. Like I said on another question, more than a problem in people asking questions, you have a problem in people running to answer before checking for duplicates, or even wondering if the question is correct.

There was even one asking on meta for a "mind-reader" badge for "finding the correct answer to a badly asked question, lacking details". If people are ready to jump through hoops to answer questions which are not matching, or are not describing a problem correctly, this is where we have a problem. People should encourage askers to ask good questions, precise ones, and not jump to answer anything.

However, I agree that some more rules on some specific kind of questions like these shopping ones wouldn't hurt, as it would make things more clear in rules. I disagree though with:

SuperUser really is heading in multiple directions, although no one in the community seems to know what these are or whether they're good or bad. The way things are going, I feel it is turning into a Trilogy Yahoo! Answers, despite the efforts of a lot of its users.

In my opinion there are people, and lot of them, who know how to steer the website in the good direction. Diago typically was a good choice of moderator, as he is rarely letting borderline questions alive, he is rather known to close on sight. Other users with enough reputation to close are detecting questions to close and doing the job, too. The problem only is that people tend to complain about it, because they argue that their question was "computer related", etc. What we need here is indeed a more precise FAQ, to have a reference of what should and should not be, but only as a reason to close, given to users who ask wrong questions. Because initially, people moderating are doing an acceptable job, I believe.

I would argue though that there are not enough moderators like Diago, as he is doing (in my humble opinion, but it could be linked to the fact I am on SU only in the European time range) 80% of the moderation job on SU. I hope that Ivo replacing TheTXI will help in that. Note that this is linked also to the fact we still don't have that many 3000+ users, so it's hard to get 5 votes fastly, usually it needs a moderator to come by and make the final close, with only 1 or 2 votes.

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I am not sure if I agree with the last sentence, however agree with the point you raised 100%. –  Diago Jan 18 '10 at 8:38
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I answered one question, and that was more for fun. I even said so in the answer. As to this: "Like I said on another question, more than a problem in people asking questions, you have a problem in people running to answer before checking for duplicates ". Oh, yes, I have a huge problem with that! High rep users should know to close as duplicate, yet all they do is answer them in order to gain one or 2 upvotes. That kind of attitude is revolting and pathetic, in my opinion. Help the community, don't help yourself. –  alex Jan 18 '10 at 8:47
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@hardcoded user: Exactly my thoughts! I bet those high rep users sometimes search for their own dupe answer, to post that again, in stead of voting to close as a dupe. Pathetic indeed! –  fretje Jan 18 '10 at 10:12
    
@fretje they have the dupes in a text file, just waiting to copy-paste them in. –  alex Jan 18 '10 at 10:40
    
@hardcoded - I start doing that with my returning comments, especially the almighty "Hello, welcome, check faq, blablabla short description of the site" :-] –  Gnoupi Jan 18 '10 at 10:50
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@Diago - I think I'll start a don't answer bad questions, ask them to detail it before campaign, with a If you want quality answers, write quality questions or a more simple Help us help you motto. –  Gnoupi Jan 18 '10 at 10:55
    
@Gnoupi I'd upvote each comment like that, trust me. Answering vague questions with vague answers is not a solution, it's another problem that's affecting SU. I'm really trying to make SU better (at least I think I am); I feel disillusioned with what is happening there, that's why I stopped being active. –  alex Jan 18 '10 at 11:17
    
@hardcoded - I feel like I'm looping a bit, on my first crusade victim, unfortunately (superuser.com/questions/97191/…). Seems that the desire to provide absolutely an answer is strong. –  Gnoupi Jan 18 '10 at 15:05
    
So should that question be closed then? –  Ivo Flipse Jan 18 '10 at 15:14
    
@Gnoupi This is how we've done it from day 1. Someone asks something (no details whatsoever, we're pro's, we should be able to figure it out on our own). So we start asking questions (not comments, heaven forbid, we'll lose rep on comments). Then, after about 2 weeks of editing the crap out of everything we finally realize we've come to no conclusion. I'm as guilty of this as any other high rep user on SU. However, I feel this should change. I'm not saying never post answers until you're positive of what you're saying, but don't stab in the dark without asking anyone. –  alex Jan 18 '10 at 15:39
    
@hardcoded - about no details, don't forget that many users don't have any clue of what is necessary to give, as detail. It's not really that they consider we should figure it on our own, more that they don't know. For the rest, I agree that we have often done that, and it's normal, SO works rather this way, and in general forums would too. SU needs a step of defining and detailing the question with the asker, for some questions, before rushing to answer. –  Gnoupi Jan 18 '10 at 16:01

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