# Has [system-recommendation] grown too big for its britches?

We occasionally get adventure/encounter/setting/campaign recommendation questions that are asking for a subjective evaluation, not just objectively-identifiable features. They're infrequent enough that we can sorta overlook them regarding our *-recommendation policy, but present a bit of a tagging problem even so. Should we tag these somehow as rec-policy questions?

Relatedly, we've had a few recommendation-questions that aren't for systems, but are getting the tag applied to flag that they're definitely subject to our *-recommendation policy. This is useful to us old hands, but it's confusing, counter-intuitive, and (most importantly to me) non-discoverable for the people actually asking these questions. By my entirely unrigorous estimation, people looking for recs are more likely to be new users, and it's an especially weird hoop to deal with as a new user.

Should we have a general [recommendation] tag?

It's how we're currently using the sys-rec tag. On the other hand, as soon as I typed that I got an "ew, that feels like a meta tag" reaction. My reaction might be completely unreasonable though, so I thought best to bring the question here.

FYI, the question that was the last straw for me is Recommend a published encounter for 4e to demo its strengths to newbies! When I edited it, I couldn't bring myself to add the tag because it really, really doesn't make sense, yet the *-recommendation policy really should apply to this question.

Last but not least at all, is this actually a problem? Or are my delicate editorial sensibilities just being delicately offended?

• This question will not result in change unless people propose specific actionable schemes in answers and the community votes on them. FYI. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 3 '13 at 21:44
• So... The only specific proposal is mine, with 3 votes, which isn't super compelling. Do people want any specific action on this or should we just take a mulligan? – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 18 '13 at 22:11
• @mxyzplk Phil's answer suggests a set of -rec tags, which seems to have support, but it's also mixed with "don't make one general tag", so it's ambiguous what those votes mean. I'd almost say a new Q asking specifically if we should make a suite of -rec tags might be fruitful. It would at least disambiguate those votes on Phil's answer. – SevenSidedDie Jul 19 '13 at 0:10
• All he or anyone else needs to do is add a set of rec tags to this Q and get them voted up. He also doesn't suggest a specific set, as "*" is not specific. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 19 '13 at 0:11
• @mxyzplk I asked Phil to do that, but haven't seen a response. I'll propose a basic set. – SevenSidedDie Jul 19 '13 at 0:15
• OK so the concrete option in the lead besides "don't do recommendations" is a switch from system-rec to game-rec with 3 votes. Is that enough to act on or should we let this lie? – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Aug 15 '13 at 12:45
• @mxyzplk Maybe? How many comments to ratify? Maybe this is contentious enough we need a separate ratification question? ;) Actually, maybe that's not a facetious suggestion. – SevenSidedDie Aug 15 '13 at 16:20
• This is the ratification question. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Aug 15 '13 at 21:28
• I have swapped rec questions to game-recommendation and edited synonyms and tag wikis to fit. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Aug 21 '13 at 3:29

I would oppose a general recommendation tag. It's far too broad and will eventually end up being meaningless. My preference would be to come up with a group of different *-recommendation tags that cover the range of questions that are likely to get asked. If we keep an eye on these and their use we can edit/prune/add to them as and when is necessary.

• I tend to agree with this. I've seen several adventure-recommendation type questions already. – C. Ross Dec 3 '12 at 15:45
• Can you propose an initial group of *-rec tags, so that this is more of a plan than a sentiment? – SevenSidedDie Jul 3 '13 at 22:06

Don't have recommendation tags.

Why do we have recommendation tags? Honestly, why do we tag a "Recommend me a system about aliens and pirates" question with a system-recommendation tag? Who searches for "system-recommendation aliens and pirates"? People search for "aliens and pirates" instead, or maybe "aliens and pirates system". We should be tagging by the content of the question; the fact it's asking for a recommendation should be a self-evident part of the question.

For system recommendation questions, we could maybe have a or tag, since it's asking about RPG systems.

Incidentally, this also completely circumvents the hard question of what to do about multiple categories of recommendations: if you want an adventure or module recommendation, just use the or tags. We don't need to also have a recommendation tag for those.

• The tag sprung up as a categorising thing, and then later got all the guidance of some meta discussions hung on it. (A lot of people seem just unaware that there are more than a few dozen RPGs.) Now it's more about flagging that guidance… So this is arguing that we shouldn't need such a crutch? I could see just rigorously applying the "too broad" close reason until a question is answerable. Do you think that would do it? – SevenSidedDie Jul 23 '13 at 15:37
• @SevenSidedDie Yes, we should absolutely keep handling system recommendation questions the way we do: ensure they're detailed enough to answer, and closing them as too broad until they're answerable if they are not. I don't know if I'd call it a crutch, but yes, we don't need a recommendation tag - it's unnecessary and not a useful way to tag those questions. – doppelgreener Jul 24 '13 at 3:35
• I for one like looking through the recommendation questions in particular and recommending games. It's an excellent way to disambiguate these kinds of questions. Are there any, more book-ish perhaps, SEs that include recommendations, or is this more of a thing specific to RPGs? – okeefe Jul 26 '13 at 22:20
• @okeefe Maybe! Sci-fi turns up a "suggested order" tag, and many SEs have some variation on a product identification tag. I'm reconsidering this position myself, given what you've said, and what the help article on tags says they're for: "Tags are a means of connecting experts with questions they will be able to answer by sorting questions into specific, well-defined categories." – doppelgreener Jul 27 '13 at 1:18
• -1 I disagree. As long as we have rec questions, a tag that says what they are is as valid as any other tag. It describes the problem space I'm talking about - a 'recommendation' about a 'scifi' game or whatever. We have bug etc. here on meta that are exactly equivalent, and I would argue that problem-players etc. on the main site are the same thing. They describe the content of the problem and yes, guide answers - if I want a system to play LOTR, I don't want "you should use the same page tool to make sure your players want to play LOTR" or "general hints for LOTR" or anything else. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 28 '13 at 23:20
• This has all been discussed to death before: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/08/the-death-of-meta-tags. – Cypher Aug 1 '13 at 0:54
• Uh, Physics.SE has resource-recommendations. – Arle Camille Feb 28 '14 at 15:48

Here's one specific alternate proposal.

[game-recommendation] as the general "shopping" tag. Modify with whatever the scope is, [published-adventures], [campaign-settings], [gm-tools], [4e], etc.

Sub in all existing system-rec guidance on game-rec.

• [game-recommendation] [campaign-settings] doesn't express intuitively to me that the user is looking for campaign. In isolation, those tags suggest to me it's a question for a game recommendation related to a campaign setting (e.g.: "Which D&D system is Forgotten Realms the most fun in?"). This could be understood after becoming familiar with how it works, but I think it's important that the usage of a tag be immediately intuitive. I like the direction you're going in, though. – doppelgreener Jul 2 '13 at 23:16
• I think that works. It certainly passes the meta-tag test: it can still work as the only tag on a question (in pretty much the same circumstances that sys-rec can right now). – SevenSidedDie Jul 2 '13 at 23:16
• @JonathanHobbs That would be clear from reading the body of the question though, wouldn't it? – SevenSidedDie Jul 2 '13 at 23:17
• @SevenSidedDie Yes, but I don't think that's good enough for how tags should be used. I edited my comment a bit. It should be immediately apparent roughly what a tag means, without having arcane / counter-intuitive meaning like this. – doppelgreener Jul 2 '13 at 23:18
• [recommendation] [campaign-settings] by comparison is clear to me, though I am in full agreement just having a generic [recommendation] tag would lead to bad things. – doppelgreener Jul 2 '13 at 23:20

Burn it down!

When I first found this site, one of the reasons I didn't participate was that it seemed like a lot of the questions were forum-like (Stack Exchange format is like the worst forum ever, for several reasons). The situation has improved dramatically, which is why now sys-rec is a proud nail just waiting to be hammered down.

I don't think our system-recommendation structure is tough enough to produce strong answers. I don't think there is a way we could define it that wouldn't lead to closing most of the questions people will actually ask.

Applying the fundamental philosophy of all SE questions to system-recommendation questions creates a tight-rope walk:

• On the one hand, we want answers that actually solve the specific problem in the question. For sys-rec, that means spelling out exacting personal preferences in the question; otherwise you're just getting shotgun-method list-making rather than thoughtful advice.
• On the other hand, we want answers that help more than just the question asker. So too specific becomes useless.

This doesn't mean we should soften the requirements in order to support sys-rec questions, of course. Quite the opposite! We need to apply our standards consistently and if that ends up excluding most examples of sys-rec, then that's just how it works.

Ask yourself this: Have you ever looked at someone else's system-recommendation question and found an answer that was both a clear answer to the original question and actually helpful to you as well? (Maybe the answer is yes; I'm seriously asking.) If you haven't, then that's a sign that system-recommendations aren't actually contributing to useful, lasting content.

• I would be sad to see recs go, but I've said before that I'm not sure that they can be saved. We've put lots of energy into them, but they're only improving logarithmically, not linearly to the effort. – SevenSidedDie Jul 23 '13 at 15:40
• A valid opinion but not relevant to this specific question. Would suggest you instead chime in on the "do we allow sys-recs" question. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 28 '13 at 23:14
• Wasn't there a discussion on how "too narrow" is not a thing in rpg.se? – Zachiel Feb 27 '14 at 15:59
• The majority of other people's system-recommendation questions that I've read that had a good answer were helpful to me as well. 90% of the RPGs I've even heard of I first heard of in someone else's system-recommendation question. – DCShannon Oct 28 '14 at 20:49
• @DCShannon I appreciate your comment! (Like I said, I seriously did want to know.) – Alex P Oct 28 '14 at 21:39

I don't really want to curate a whole set of *--recommendation tags, that is solving a problem that doesn't exist yet.

Maybe if we just switched system-recommendation to game-rec it could help. It's one of those things where nothing's perfect... "product-rec" but it's not necessarily a published product, etc.

I guess I'd have to see more proof that this is causing a problem of some sort before bothering to make much of a change. SSD, you're one of the most experienced users, so with all due respect your feeling of cognitive dissonance may or may not be indicative of any actual problem for new posters.

• Your last point is a good one. I should add a question to the question: "Is this actually a problem?" That said, [game-recommendation] isn't a bad suggestion. It'd cover pretty much every current use, without sliding into broadly meaning "help, help, recommend what I should do." – SevenSidedDie Dec 3 '12 at 2:31
• I'd rather categorize things accurately/precisely to start with, and not make a big re-tagging effort for later... – C. Ross Dec 3 '12 at 15:45
• Agree with @C.Ross. The question is whether we're likely to need any recommendation tags other than system-rec & adventure-rec? – Oblivious Sage Dec 13 '12 at 16:06
• @ObliviousSage people have asked for recs for mobile apps, web sites, miniatures/mini alternatives, mini arrangement tools, campaign settings, dice... In general we want to make sure and apply the guidance we're using for system-rec (GS/BS, etc.) to all of these. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 2 '13 at 22:45
• Agreed, but my question was what other *-rec tags we might want. I think SSD had a good point that a switch to [game-rec] might be the way to go for adventures and systems, and maybe a [tool-rec] tag for the other stuff. – Oblivious Sage Jul 2 '13 at 22:59
• Sure, just looking for folks to propose specific schemes for people to vote on - right now there's a bunch of what we don't want, which isn't actionable for change. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 2 '13 at 23:01

Specific Proposal

Since mxy asked, not unreasonably, that we have a specific proposal that can attract some consensus in order to justify action on this issue, here one is.

• The tools tag can be for questions about tools, so it would be bad to make it a synonym of a tools recommendation tag. Retag those questions, sure, but leave the tool tag alive. – doppelgreener Jul 22 '13 at 10:43
• @JonathanHobbs So the 2 tags should be mutually exclusive? The tools-rec tag for recommendation questions and the tools tag for other tool-related questions? – Oblivious Sage Jul 22 '13 at 11:55
• That sounds reasonable. The tools tag would be redundant on every tools-recommendation question, and you describe accurately how they'd be used. – doppelgreener Jul 22 '13 at 12:24
• Why do we even need these at all? Why are we categorizing the type of question instead of the content of it? – wax eagle Jul 22 '13 at 12:43
• @waxeagle Wouldn't "Can you recommend me an X?" be content that a *-rec tag would be categorising? – SevenSidedDie Jul 23 '13 at 6:14
• @waxeagle But to answer the question, sorting by [tools-rec] would let us more easily find and manage the questions that need the extra attention recommendation questions need to not get out of hand. Look at [tools] now; it's a mess of "you could use this thing I googled up..." The alternatives are banning recs, or keeping them but flying blind without the tags. Neither is very appealing. – SevenSidedDie Jul 23 '13 at 6:16
• @SevenSidedDie That sounds like... a wrong reason to have a tag. Finding and managing questions that need particular attention. Tags are for searching for stuff; people search for tools, not tools recommendations. – doppelgreener Jul 23 '13 at 12:35
• @Jonathan Maybe. Perhaps "managing" is the wrong word, though. Tags are for askers and answerers, and being able to watch a tag is useful for answerers. – SevenSidedDie Jul 23 '13 at 15:29

is a meta tag and should be abolished.

That said, since it's not going anywhere for the moment, the answer to fixing it is not adding more meta tags. The actual answer is not tagging these questions with any kind of identifier about the type of question that it is.

Instead of adding more meta tags, questions themselves should be clear about what they are asking for, if they want an adventure, say so, if they want a tool, say so.

There is no need for additional "question category" tags. These are not what the tagging system is for.

• The problem then is what tag those questions should have? Remember, it won't let people ask a question without at least 1 tag, and sometimes system-rec is the only available tag that's a good fit for what the asker is looking for. – Oblivious Sage Jul 22 '13 at 13:58
• @ObliviousSage they should have tags relevant to the topic of the question. Things like simulation, narrative, rules-light. If there is a system tag for other rec question. Though honestly this does show the weakness of even allowing rec question. If we're going to continue to do so we should do them in a way that doesn't break the tagging system with meta tags. – wax eagle Jul 23 '13 at 10:45
• Frankly I think we'd be better off banning rec questions entirely, but I'm not sure we can get a consensus on that. – Oblivious Sage Jul 23 '13 at 12:04
• @ObliviousSage yes we would, and no we wouldn't. – wax eagle Jul 23 '13 at 12:24
• But the tip-off should be, if you need a meta tag for the question to be valid, it's probably not a good question for an SE site. – wax eagle Jul 23 '13 at 12:33

Would work? Is there a good synonym for “published event material”?

I like the tag.

I don't see the utility of a general tag. seems a little too genre-specific. I don't think system-specific tags, like are a good idea, either; we don't need an explosion of tags.

• "Module" pretty strongly connotes a pre-3e D&D-type game, so it's even more genre-specific than "adventure". I might suggest [product-recommendation], except lots of relevant material isn't a "product" in the sense that usually means… – SevenSidedDie Jul 17 '13 at 3:04
• I guess I use module to refer to everything. Product isn't quite specific enough. – okeefe Jul 17 '13 at 4:31
• "Supplement" is too broad. – okeefe Jul 17 '13 at 20:34
• Really? I read "supplement" as too narrow: it doesn't include the core system. – SevenSidedDie Jul 17 '13 at 20:40
• I wouldn't want supplement to include the core system. Recommendations for a core system would fall under system-recommendation, right? – okeefe Jul 18 '13 at 0:20
• Oh; it's not clear you're proposing a sibling tag, not a replacement. – SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '13 at 4:09

I propose we open the gates to more -rec tags, but start modestly. (Simply allowing more than one -rec tag is by itself a shift in policy, and I think it's plenty of shift to take the overuse off sys-rec.)

• We already have and it does it's job well enough. We'll simply stop using it for recs that aren't for a game system.

• already has a set of questions that would qualify, so it's the obvious next rec tag to make.

Other tags I could think of would probably be premature, or trying too hard to prescribe categories. Beyond those two we should simply watch for new questions that suggest new rec categories that we don't cover with a tag yet. If a tag gets added that way, or a user just comes up with one, we'll keep an eye on them and see how they're used.

If the -rec folksonomy gets wooly we can trim it, but I think we should simply let it grow a bit to see what comes out and what -rec tags end up being useful.

I don't think we need to worry about it getting out of hand because, by our own policy, identifying a question with a -rec tag is begging for extra scrutiny. I don't think new -rec tags are going to start getting added willy-nilly.