As of recent there were quite a few questions asking for movie recommendations, which are currently off-topic on this site, and those questions arise now and then and are usually closed quite fast and unargued according to our help center:
Please note that the following subjects are considered off-topic here:
- Opinions about or recommendations for a movie or TV show
However, I find myself writing more or less the same custom off-topic reason again and again when closing those, something similar to this:
I'm closing this question as off-topic because the site doesn't entertain questions for recommendation lists. Take a look at the tour and the help center to get a better understanding of how this site works, expecially the on-topic section. You might also want to visit Movies & TV Chat and ask for any recommendations there. And last but not least, you could also take a look at this more general question to get some possible pointers for finding what you're looking for.
Seeing that they are on the one hand commonly asked on this site and on the other hand rather clearly and unarguably off-topic (as to the current rules at least), would it be beneficial to add something like this (maybe less elaborate, but still with the major guidance) as a builtin close reason or is this not deemed necessary?
There are a few problems related to this matter to consider, though:
- Often those questions could technically also be seen as primarily opinion-based or too broad (depending if you concentrate on the recommendation aspect or the list aspect) rather than off-topic. But there are no custom sub-reasons for those and one would still be advised to write a proper comment explaining the situation in this case.
Another way of closing those questions could be to mark them as duplicate of this canonical
faqquestion (which was originally created for that purpose actually, I think). And in fact I personally used and advocated that procedure in the past, as it is the most easy way to on the one hand close the question and on the other hand refer the asker to a place for finding the answer he is looking for.
However, I'm not sure anymore if that really is appropriate. The specific question isn't really a duplicate of the more general question and it might not always be clear to every user why his question was closed as a duplicate of a much more unspecific question, when the real reason is actually that his question is just off-topic in the first place. It is a bit of an "easy-out" (not to say lazy) way to close those recommendation questions.
Another more practical problem of this rather pragmatic approach is, though, that questions closed as duplicate will not get deleted automatically by the system, even if they have a negative score, in contrast to questions closed for other reasons. However, in contrast to perfectly on-topic questions that were just asked before, such recommendation questions don't really have any value to be kept on the site as alternative pointers to valid questions, since they're completely off-topic in the first place and not just duplicates. See also this related discussion why closing and deleting something as a duplicate when it is actually off-topic might cause confusion.
We currently already have 3 custom off-topic reasons (trivia, detail-lacking ID, current events), which is the maximum a site gets by default. There are ways to ask the SE übermods for additional slots, but I currently don't know how much consensus and "urge" is required for this. Another way might be to drop one of the existing close-reasons. For this I would only reasonably consider the one about "current events", since that seems to be used rather rarely and is on the other hand a bit fuzzily defined and not always clear when to use it (well ok, not that "trivia" would be that much clearer either, though).
- I did a little review of the last 90 days' closed questions using the close reason statistics and individual searches. In summary we had 16 questions closed as recommendations (4.07% of all closes) in the last 90 days. It also shows that they are closed for a wide variety of reasons (off-topic: 9, too broad: 3, primarily opinion-based: 4), although they always amount to the same rather clearly defined type of question. Compared to the other builtin off-topic reasons (trivia: 21 (5.34%), detail-lacking ID: 203 (51.66%), current events: 9 (2.29%)) we also see that it is even more than the least used of them.
- As a little addendum, both Anime & Manga as well as Science Fiction & Fantasy have a custom recommendation close-reason (and the former even has 4 custom off-topic reasons). This doesn't mean we ought to have one, too, or that we have the same likeliness to get such questions, but it might be a hint.
So what are the community's thoughts on this matter? Do we want a custom off-topic reason for recommendation questions? If yes, should we drop one of the existing reasons or ask SE for a 4th slot? If not, then how should we proceed to close those questions, as heterogeneous as we do or with a bit more common policy? Or does someone just have any other helpful information for making a decision, some better SEDE-fueled statistics or experience from other sites?
(This should be clear from the question, but just to make sure, if your answer is "don't close 'em at all, they're valid questions", then please spare this for a separate discussion, we are not here to discuss if they are off-topic or not, just the way to handle them given they currently are. But if this is really your opinion, don't feel held back to ask that as a proper question on its own or contribute to any existing discussion on the matter.)