# Dealing with “recommendation” questions

We have had a lot of sites throughout the history of Stack Exchange that have suffered problems dealing with "recommendation" questions. That is, questions which are intending to gather a collection of recommended items, from which the author selects their preferred answer out of. Here, this would be questions like the following:

I enjoyed Lucky Number Slevin, what movies out there are like it that I'd enjoy?

Are there any good Steampunk movies out there?

However, these kinds of questions have very poor performance on the sites. This is because their functionality conflicts with the intent of our sites. Our goal is to have expert solutions that are identified by the depth of the knowledge of our users. The accepted answer system is founded on the principle that an answer serves as an understood closure to the question.

The issues of itemized lists are elaborated in various places: blog articles, essays, and quick notes. To summarize it concisely:

• They require extensive maintenance (which never happens for long) to be accurate
• The voting on such lists conflicts with the scope of voting on the site (people vote as if it was a poll, not based on quality)
• No single item in the list can conclude the question, which conflicts with the nature of Q&A.
• Many problems result in trying to reduce their scope, due to the subjectivity of how "narrow" criteria can be. So if any are allowed, generally all are allowed.
• Compounding on that, the ease and spread of itemized list recommendations gives a very poor image of the site as it does not showcase the expertise that many are looking for.

Now, at the moment, there isn't necessarily an intent to invite or allow recommendation questions. Recommendations were in fact noted as off-topic during the definition phase, and there's no trace of them in the top voted on-topic questions. Nevertheless, I'm writing this to hopefully get people in the mindset to understand why recommendations are hazardous, and consequently help setup a "no-rec" policy on the site before it opens to public beta.

Some references:

On Literature, we have a temporary policy allowing recommendations, found here. This has had some mixed results, but without enough traffic to get a definitive answer we've left it open for the time being.

Role Playing Games also allows recommendation questions, here's their meta discussion.

On Science Fiction and Fantasy, we do not allow recommendation questions. This post summarizes our history and was a proposal to relax the ban (based on Literature's experience), which didn't gain any significant support.

A key thing to keep in mind if evaluating a recommendation policy is that recommendations are not a way to smuggle in bad questions. In particular, if allowed, recommendation questions must invite worthwhile answers, and not lists of items. If you feel like mandating community wiki on a type of questions, it's a sign that these questions do not belong on the site at all (read The Future of Community Wiki.

We now have this question. Future questions of this type can be closed as duplicates.

I suggest creating a dedicated Recommendations chat room and redirect all users there immediately, removing the question after some time (enough to communicate with the user through comments to the original question), because the question isn't probably a good fit anyway.

If for any reason the user can't use the chat (low rep or doesn't want) there should be a Meta post where users can choose from many different ways to find recommendations otherwise. For example, go to IMDB, rate their favorite movies and go to IMDB recommendation page.

I think each SE site can easily implement this approach.

I was about to make a recommendation question on the site and decided to search here on the Meta before making it to see if it is something frowned upon. I see that this question is from 2013 and all and it seems no decision was taken. However I have a suggestion to make, if it is something doable (or even if it isn't, actually.)

As I am a user of StackOverflow, I see that is is often mentioned that it is really important for them that the SEO is performing well and they heavily welcome the simplest questions so the tags in the post may become relevant in google.

Maybe, recommendations questions aren't something bad for the site because even if each member posts a different recommendations, the search engines (Google...) will index them in a positive manner.

If the major concern is the author accepting the answer which he sees that was most beneficial to him, maybe it could be advised to not accept any answers, but only give upvotes. It even makes sense, since this idea will make him keep getting answers.

Now this is only theoretical since I have no clue how the big SE system works, but there is no way that a recommendation tag could be created and could disable "Accept" buttons on posts which has it? I think it would be something cool to look into.

Well... That's just my 2¢ on the matter. Thanks!

• Well, it's been actually decided to close them all. – A J Jun 24 '17 at 16:22
• @AJ I figured it out, although it makes 0 sense... :/ – LeonX Jun 26 '17 at 11:04