Some questions:

  • Why are recommendations, and polls off-topic?
  • How can I delineate whether a question should be closed because it is related to being a recommendation or poll?
  • Is there an on-topic way to rephrase these kind of recommendation requests?
  • Is there a Network Engineering resource we can use for polls or product recommendations?
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1 Answer 1

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> Why are recommendations or polls off-topic?

Stack Exchange strives to be an authoritative resource for Questions and Answers. Polls and recommendations wind up being a Repository (of knowledge), which is fundamentally at odds with the structure of SE.

Also note that shopping questions are a subset of recommendations (i.e. someone is asking for a product recommendation).

Fundamentally, we're drawing the same line between good and bad subjective questions that Jeff Atwood did years ago after he started Stack Overflow.


> How can I delineate whether a question should be closed because it is related to being a recommendation or poll?

This is a bit subjective, but I usually look at the question and ask myself, "Can anyone give a wrong answer to this question?" If there is no wrong answer (within reason), then the question needs to be closed.

Examples of questions with no wrong answer:

  • What router / switch / firewall should I buy for this project?
  • Which service provider should I use in Central London?
  • Can someone recommend a hyperlink, book or paper for <insert-topic-here>?
  • Can someone recommend a resource or library for python scripting Cisco routers?
  • What kind of interview questions would you ask when you're talking to a Senior Network Engineer candidate?

In the cases above, you can see that there could be many different valid answers to those questions.


> Is there an on-topic way to rephrase these kind of recommendations?

Sometimes there is. (Note to self, some day improve this to be more specific to network engineering).

Some guidelines (shamelessly copying from Jeff Atwood's blog post)...

  1. Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”. The best subjective questions invite explanation.

  2. Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers. The best subjective questions inspire your peers to share their actual experiences.

  3. Great subjective questions have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone. The best subjective questions avoid the all too seductive route of ranting and flamebait.

  4. Great subjective questions invite sharing experiences over opinions. Certainly experiences inform opinions, but the best subjective questions unabashedly and unashamedly prioritize sharing actual experiences over random opinions.

  5. Great subjective questions insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references. Opinion isn’t all bad, so long as it’s backed up with something other than “because I’m an expert”, or “because I said so”, or “just because”.

  6. Great subjective questions are more than just mindless social fun.


> Is there a Network Engineering resource we can use when discussing subjective questions, such as product recommendations?

Yes, polls and recommendations are very welcome in the Network Engineering Recommendations Chat Room.

A few rules in this chat room, please:

  • This chat room is not a substitute for asking on-topic Network Engineering questions
  • This chat room is not for live support (which of course is on-topic for the main site)
  • It's the same behavior we expect everywhere. Be honest. Be nice. Don't promote your products or spam us.
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