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 faq question (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.)

  • I would prefer adding the fourth close reason. I don't want to have people seeing questions asking for recommendations, even if they're closed as duplicates. I feel free that (recently, at least) we've had several current events questions that have been closed.
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 20:21
  • 1
    I'm kinda "meh" on this topic. As long as it's closed and made obvious that recommendations are not welcomed, i don't particularly care what the tag says when they're gone.
    – DForck42
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 5:29
  • See also this discussion why closing as duplicate when it's actually plain off-topic is a bad thing.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 11:42
  • @DForck42 "As long as it's closed and made obvious that recommendations are not welcomed" - Yet, that is faciliated in a better way by a builtin reason, since it caters to people who otherwise might not always be engaged enough to provide proper guidance in a custom comment. See the question for some problems with the current heterogenous approach.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 13:16

2 Answers 2


Tom Cody's suggested wording for a new off-topic reason seems to do the trick. However, I'd recommend swapping out the "current events" reason:

Close reason   Closed Closed% of total
------------   ------ ----------------
identification    215  53.34%
duplicate          50  12.41%
other              45  11.17%
trivia             21   5.21%
opinion-based      20   4.96%
too broad          20   4.96%
unclear            17   4.22%
current events      9   2.23%
another site        5   1.24%

Of the 45 "other" reasons, about 11 seem to be referring to the recommendation queries. It's also possible that some of the "too broad" and "opinion-based" closures reflect questions closed because they are asking for lists. So, according to the statistics, a relatively small percentage of questions closed are closed because they are about current events.

In addition, there is some confusion over the current events reason. From the perspective of an outsider, it reminds me quite a bit of the old "too localized" reason, which was often misused:

A question that only applies to a certain build of software. For example, a developer discussing a bug that only occurs in a certain version of the .NET framework. Sure, that version is going to be replaced with another version, which might fix the bug, but we're still going to answer it!

I suspect that most of these questions could be closed as asking about opinions. ("Who's going to win the Director Oscar this year?" and such.) In the event that the reason is needed, I bet the extra time spent composing a custom "other" close reason will be worthwhile if only because the message can be tailored to whatever event is going on that makes answering a bad idea.

If it turns out that people start writing in some form of the current events reason and those start to catch up with some of the other standard reasons, we can talk about adding a fourth reason again. (Only Community Managers, such as myself, can add a close reason slot and I'm marking that portion of the feature request for now.)

  • @TomCody: Derp. I counted 2 different ways and got two different results. 11 is the count that makes the best case for adding a fourth reason. Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 20:17
  • The more I think about this, the more it seems like a very good solution, since lately that "current events" thing was IMHO not always used that consistently and it could really benefit from some more clarification in the form of custom text if applicable (or just "primarily opinion-based" if so), be it only for people to think more about why it's a current event. While one can never have enough off-topic reasons in store to possibly use one day, switching "current events" for "recommendation" seems like a very reasonable compromise for now. +1
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 20:21
  • You might want to add (or I'll just do that with this comment here) that you are representing SE and that the currently top-voted answer (which I will still leave in existence) is out of the competition for now from a framework perspective.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 20:26

I think that having a builtin close reason for recommendation list questions would be beneficial as it is such a clearly defined category of questions which we're sure to get every now and then, even if not that often. And the current heterogenous way of dealing with them is both tedious and prone to problems, as explained in the question. Such a close reason could look like this:

Recommendation questions asking for lists of movies/TV-shows are off-topic as they don't fit our Q&A format. Feel free to ask for people's opinion in chat or take a look at this related question for general guidance on finding what you're looking for.

But since the other existing builtin close reasons are still useful and needed, I'd opt for a 4th custom off-topic reason. I'd thus understand a vote on this answer as a vote on this approach and would contact the SE team about it if that idea garners sufficient traction.


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