The off topic close reason for shopping questions is this:

“Shopping” questions and other recommendation requests are off-topic, but can be asked on any one of a number of role-playing games discussion forums. For more information, see Are Game Recommendation Questions On Topic, Revisited.

The "and other recommendation requests" bit is over-broad. We need to rephrase.

Recommendations of games, published adventures, and tools went off topic. A great deal of other kinds of recommendation requests are still totally on topic: character build questions and social trouble questions very often involve recommendations or outright request them and are not off topic, but sound like they are.

However the overbroad phrasing is a bit sloppy and is impacting other things occasionally. Most recently, it was suggested the wording means podcasts requests are off topic. Those were never in the game-rec scope that we removed the rules for, and are just generally covered by Good Subjective, Bad Subjective.

The shopping questions blog posts expresses three patterns: "what should I buy?" (hugely problematic), "what's the best option meeting Y criteria?" (better, avoids most problems) "how can I tell what a good option is?" (best), from worst to best in that order. Many of our existing, good, on-topic types of recommendations fit the middle scenario, and many are for games for which material is still being released (like D&D 5e and Pathfinder) so they share the exact same kind of problems. We haven't ruled that entire pattern of shopping questions off topic.

I'd like to tighten up the wording to be more specific, but apparently there's a 400 character limit and this one's 426:

“Shopping” questions are off topic, which covers recommendations of games, supplement products and published adventures, as well as requests specifically for assistive tools. These can be asked on any one of a number of role-playing games discussion forums. For more information, see Are Game Recommendation Questions On Topic, Revisited.

Is there a fitting & accurate description we can use?

Code for the original/current version:

“Shopping” questions and other recommendation requests are off-topic, but can be asked on any one of a number of [role-playing games discussion forums](https://rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/q/5449). For more information, see [Are Game Recommendation Questions On Topic, Revisited](https://rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/q/5747).
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure money has anything to do with this, and I don't see anything in the blog post that suggests it does. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 28 '15 at 5:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman The first section of the blog post is largely about money & budget, and whether you should buy X or Y, and the fact the questions go obsolete rapidly. They then go on to list a good example of a learning question which is just: what's the best camera fitting these qualities? Apparently that's fine, and that is the pattern that many of our recommendations fit, and that doesn't go obsolete. (I'll give the question a small update.) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 28 '15 at 5:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's an example of a shopping question. "What qualities should I look for?" is the example of a good question. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 28 '15 at 5:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman No, reread. That example is directly part of the 'good questions' section. "However, there is a way to ask these questions that avoids the inherent problems with shopping recommendations. (...) Here's one way to ask: 'What's the best low light point-and-shoot camera?' Here's another way to ask: 'How do I tell which point-and-shoot cameras take good low light photos?'" - So, "what qualities should I look for?" and "what is the best camera fitting these qualities?" are both given as examples of good questions. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 28 '15 at 5:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ You left out: "The former question provides the path of least resistance: a laundry list of products I can buy without thinking about it too much. But that answer will only be valid for a year at best." That's an example of a bad question, not a good one. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 28 '15 at 5:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman: There are three questions, not two (which makes "former"/"latter" dubious), and upon rereading, I'm honestly not entirely sure which one is being referred to. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Dec 28 '15 at 5:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TuggyNE I think it's pretty clear. "Here's one way to ask. Here's another way. The former is..." \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 28 '15 at 5:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman: Yes, but which former? \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Dec 28 '15 at 5:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TuggyNE I'm not sure I'm seeing the ambiguity you are. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 28 '15 at 6:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman That's fair to point out, actually. But we still accept a lot of on-topic recommendations along that pattern: all of our character build questions, including those for games like D&D 5e and Pathfinder for which material is still being released, fit that pattern. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 28 '15 at 6:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ One thing to add is that the custom off-topic reasons are limited to 400 characters including links; fitting everything in is part of the reason the shopping one was initially wording that way. (With links, the suggested wording above is 426 characters.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 28 '15 at 9:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Thanks, I've opened this up as a question requesting an alternative. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 28 '15 at 11:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are we sure they are on topic? I'm not sure they are. I suggest we wait for that meta to get hashed out first. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Dec 28 '15 at 14:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk They've never been considered off-topic explicitly. Nevertheless, the wording covers character build questions and many social situations, wherein we are requested to make a recommendation about what to use or do, and that's not off topic. Lots of our stuff involves making recommendations or being asked for them. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 28 '15 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's great discussion for that other meta. meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/5991/… \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Dec 28 '15 at 15:52

I like your new wording. Change

...any one of a number of role-playing games discussion forums


...most RPG discussion forums

and the 26 characters you need saved are saved at a minimal loss of quality.

I think that custom close reasons are the way to go even if they are entirely covered by existing reasons if they tell our users (especially casual/first time visitors) what's actually going on more effectively, and I think this should stay and be edited as our policy changes.


I think the custom close reason might actually be unnecessary. Every question correctly closeable with the "shopping" custom reason can be closed as either "purely opinion-based" if it's looking for recommendations that are all equally correct (and hence unvotable) or "too broad" if it's hoping to compile a list. The class of questions you're legit concerned might be caught in the overly-broad net of "other recommendations" aren't purely opinion-based nor usually soliciting a list, so our standard close reasons are ironically more precise than the custom reason.

The advantage of the custom reason is to convey that we really do follow the network standard ban on "what should I get/read/watch/play next" questions. In practice that seems to have mostly been useful to convey it to our own regulars, but that purpose has been fairly well served by now. If the wording of the custom close reason is creating more problems and arguments about what it de jure means than it is solving, then it may have outlived its usefulness.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I finally figured out why I’m not favoring this: the custom close reason is a way to say “what you want is not something you can ever ask here,” while more generic close reasons imply that if you improve the question, it can and should be re-opened. My concern is that for your typical game-rec question, I can imagine a run-around: someone gets the impression that their question can be re-opened if it’s a “how” question, but then without a system the question is hopelessly broad so they get “what system are you playing?” and their response is “well I want you to tell me that.” \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 30 '15 at 15:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Basically, I worry about a lot of effort and frustration to come to the same conclusion. If we’re good about supplying comments, links to meta, etc. along with generic closing, that’s fine then. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 30 '15 at 15:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan You're right, that's a major strength of having a definitive "no shopping help" custom reason. It has definitely made the feedback more consistent than when we had to explain it with comments every time. I'll leave this here as an voting option still, in case there's will to remove it despite that good point. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 30 '15 at 18:16

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