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One of our current off-topic reasons reads like this:

Questions seeking product, service, or learning material recommendations are off-topic because they tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve. Here are a few suggestions on how to properly ask this type of question.

Now, this works fine for all kinds of software recommendation questions, but if the question was about hardware, what would this guideline encourage?

In the worst case, describing the situation and the specific problem the OP is trying to solve would end in a question that is much too localized. Imagine someone asking for the best graphics card for under $100, and after seeing this closure reason, editing their post to include more details about their current setup and what games they wanted to play. That'd make their question even worse.

I propose we split up this reason into two - one focusing on software…

Questions seeking software, service, or learning material recommendations are off-topic because they tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve. Here are a few suggestions on how to properly ask this type of question.

… and the other on hardware:

Questions seeking for hardware shopping recommendations are off-topic because they are often too localized to a specific situation and tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead of asking what to buy, try asking how to find out what suits your needs.

How's that sound?

  • Sounds awesome to me - but how does this fit inside the limited number of close reasons we're alloted? – Journeyman Geek Jul 27 '13 at 14:07
  • We can get more slots if needed. Stack Overflow has five, for example. – slhck Jul 27 '13 at 14:08
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    I would support this. – nhinkle Jul 27 '13 at 15:15
  • Although I might want to tweak the wording slightly. Let me check again later when I've been awake for longer :P – nhinkle Jul 27 '13 at 15:16
  • @nhinkle Feel free to, I on the other hand have been awake for too long (and it's too hot for me to think clearly now anyway…) – slhck Jul 27 '13 at 15:16
  • @slhck I'm just saying not to publish the changes right away until we've all read it while awake. – nhinkle Jul 27 '13 at 23:15
  • I like this, but I think it might be worth grouping software + hardware together, as those are usually what I think of as "concrete" products (and it would be pretty easy to tell from the question which one we're dealing with). That would leave services and learning materials together, and while IMHO they should be separate, at least for the questions that would be closed with that reason, whether it's a service (is there a web API to do X?) or learning recommendation (how do I make a script to do Y?) would likewise be quite apparent. – Breakthrough Jul 28 '13 at 18:10
  • I'd follow Breakthrough's suggestion and leave it one closing reason with two sentences explaining software and hardware respectively. – Jan Doggen Jul 29 '13 at 6:39
  • Could you post an answer with a suggestion, @Breakthrough? Thanks! – slhck Jul 29 '13 at 6:42
  • Imagine someone asking for the best graphics card for under $100, and after seeing this closure reason, editing their post to include more details about their current setup and what games they wanted to play. That'd make their question even worse. Really? Worse? If they are trying to play a game and want to build a system that can run it, is being specific about their goal really worse than XY-ing? Or maybe you think any sort of system-requirements questions are too localized (even though they almost never are). – Synetech Aug 9 '13 at 4:59
  • @Synetech I never had system requirement questions in mind. Those are not really "too localized", but definitely show no research because system requirements can be easily looked up. You look what the requirements are and buy something that matches those. By "more specific", I meant – for example – users including their budget, or a list of options they had in mind, or a ridiculous amount of features they need (which also applies to software requests). That'll make the questions worse in the sense or becoming less relevant to anyone except the OP. – slhck Aug 9 '13 at 6:23
  • Again with the doesn’t help other people in the future bit. ¬_¬ As for requirements, I wish it were as simple as you said. Once upon a time it was that simple but then AMD and Intel had an argument and made computers and comparisons much more complex and annoying (though for games, the onus is usually on the developer to determine all requirement permutations). Obviously requirements for old or obscure apps would go here, but I wonder if requirement issues for games would fit here or Arqade… (I recently spent hours and hours trying find a way to run a Windows game from 2001). – Synetech Aug 9 '13 at 14:03
  • @Synetech A question about the problems you're facing getting a 2001 game to run would probably be fine. Why not? At worst no one can help you :) – slhck Aug 9 '13 at 16:32
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I like this, as I do feel the current single reason covers too many different cases.

That being said, I think it might be worth grouping software and hardware together, as those are the two things I think of as "concrete" products. Furthermore, it's usually pretty easy to tell from the question which one we're dealing with (and thus, why the question was closed). Using @slhck's post as a reference, this close reason might appear as:

Questions seeking hardware or software "shopping" recommendations are off-topic because they are often too localized to a specific situation and tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead of asking what to buy, try asking how to find out what suits your needs.


That would leave services and learning materials together. While they could be separated, I think it's okay to group these two together, as we don't really need another reason specifically for one or the other; it should be pretty apparent whether the question was closed for dealing with a web service (e.g. Is there a web API to resize images?) or a learning recommendation (e.g. How do I make a bash script to do X? or Where can I find information about Y?).

Questions seeking service or learning material recommendations are off-topic because services and information tends to become outdated quickly. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve. Here are a few suggestions on how to properly ask this type of question.

  • That doesn't sound too bad. With respect to software recommendations though, now the "how to find what suits your needs" advice does not make perfect sense anymore, I think. – slhck Jul 29 '13 at 10:39
  • @slhck I see what you mean (assuming you're referring to the linked blog post, which might give off the impression of being hardware-specific). Do you think it might be worth adding something to the help center regarding "How do I post a question that might deal with recommending software"? – Breakthrough Jul 29 '13 at 10:44
  • Yes, the blog post doesn't mention software at all, and it doesn't make sense to ask "What do I have to look for when shopping for a good text editor?" if you know what I mean. We wouldn't have to add it to the help center though—in fact we already have a Meta question dedicated to this. So maybe we can just say, "If you're looking for hardware… If you're asking for software…", but that's where we'd be going around in circles with my initial suggestion of splitting both topics. – slhck Jul 29 '13 at 11:19
  • With your wording on the hardware/software one though, I feel like software actually goes better with "what's the problem you're trying to solve" and hardware is where you want "how to find out what suits your needs"... – nhinkle Jul 29 '13 at 21:08
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I like everything but the phrase 'too localized'. First, it's incorrect - 'too localized' doesn't mean what we thought it did, localization refers to adaptation for a specific locale.

Second, there's a lot of ambiguity around the term. Flat out saying "Relevant only to the question author, at the time that they asked" is a much better way of putting it.

You end up with something like this:

Questions seeking for hardware shopping recommendations are off-topic because they are often relevant only to the question author at the time the question was asked and tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead of asking what to buy, try asking how to find out what suits your needs.

The meaning hasn't changed, but the delivery is much clearer.

  • I could live with that. I agree the definition of "localized" is a little vague, but in the context of shopping recommendations we always interpreted it as "only relevant to the author at the time of asking". At least most folks did. By the way, could we get more slots for off topic reasons? Thanks! – slhck Jul 31 '13 at 14:26
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Since the pre-release / beta software option wasn't used a lot, we activated two new reasons to replace the previously combined software / hardware recommendation option:

  • Questions seeking for hardware shopping recommendations are off-topic because they are often relevant only to the question author at the time the question was asked and tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead of asking what to buy, try asking how to find out what suits your needs.

  • Questions seeking product, service, or learning material recommendations are off-topic because they become outdated quickly and attract opinion-based answers. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve. Share your research. Here are a few suggestions on how to properly ask this type of question.

We'll see how these work out. If you have feedback, don't hesitate to post on Meta or leave a comment.

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