The close reason off-topic states

Questions asking to recommend or find a Mac, book, tool, tutorial or other off-site resource are off-topic for Ask Different as they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam.

I find this formula problematic in more than one way.

  1. Is this really "Questions asking to recommend or find other off-site resource are off-topic." This has so much overlap with the existing tags "software recommendation" (1,410 questions) and "hardware-recommendation" (214 questions) and too many other questions that – to be frank – I doubt there is much utility in having the close reason phrased in the way it is. It is outright contradictory to read "recommendation question can be tricky", see the number of questions asked in that box and then read in the off-topic reason that they are defined in writing as strictly off-topic from the start. I think that needs a clarification.

  2. Particularly the part "other off-site resource" is not easy to grasp for me. What exactly is an "off-site resource"? Wrapping this around my head I tend to arrive at the conclusion that all future questions are either off-topic or duplicates. This sounds ridiculous? Well, strictly speaking, on-site resources are the questions already asked and asnwers already posted? If you ask anything that is not already on-site it is off-topic?
    Obviously I do not read "off-site resource" as it was intended to be used. That I understand and acknowledge. But I think I read it just as it is written. That is what I truly and simply do not understand about this bit. Why is this catch-all even there? Why is it so wobbly?

In case this interpretation is particularly dull, I welcome a reading aid that explains it better for me or future readers speculating about the meaning of "off-site resources" and how it relates to the meaning and intended usage of this close reason.

In case you agree that the phrasing might profit from slight improvements, please suggest one below. As far as I understand that sentence right now, my suggestion would be to simply remove "off-site resource" from the reason.

1 Answer 1


Here are off source resource questions I believe should be closed:

  • Recommend the best book for high school Mac users
  • What list of iPad models is the most complete?
  • Where can I buy a twentieth anniversary mac?

Resource is there since we don't need to or want to list all the things that exist off this site in the close reasons.

  • Accessories
  • Songs
  • Ringtones
  • Photographs of people / machines / etc...
  • Things that would be a book if they were continued to several chapters like information listing / wiki articles / thoughtful blog posts on X

Are you struggling more with "resource" being too generic or that we should be closing things asking above in specific as well as in general?

The key to these being off topic is the faults listed specifically so that we can reopen these questions:

Instead, edit this question to describe the problem and what research has been done so far to solve it."

By adding research that shows how someone failed to find what they are looking for, that almost always removes the close. Feel free to ping me or flag or raise in meta a list of any closed questions were the research to find that off site resource has enough research to be useful to others.

The problem is more about answers that gather a lot of spam "What's the best X" or are even asked as places for a spammer then to put their spam. I see this as a quality filter and bar to only let in good / useful / answerable questions about getting an off-site reasource, not that we just close all of these forever without a thought of how useful they might be by being specific and documented what the "ask" is.

Maybe we need a "How should I ask about off-site resouces?" guide similar to this one on how to ask about software recommendations. Recommendation questions are some of the hardest to ask so they are useful and aren't just "support me" lobs with not enough detail to even guess an answer.

  • Examples I agree with. I think an equivalent to "resource" should be found that makes it easy to deduce what it is meant by that from what is written out (as in ius positum as in legal positivism. Resource is very generic and may give rise to many complaints, as I read it. Signal words we agree on are "most/best": POB. Also list-type answers. But even that might be good if reasons/rationale are required. (Personal bias of course: I suffer more from closevotes as I suffer from seeing a Q fly that I think should have been closed.) Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 23:04
  • Well, my latest Q had research, also around help center, a meta post and still tanked. In my view: primarily because of a wrong "too broad", but then here on meta it was dawned on me that "off-topic" might still be an issue with that. Hence a close reading, again, of that. Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 23:06
  • Shoot me a link to your question or I can make a chat room for us if you don't wish to post it in main chat or here, @LangLangC - also - thanks for asking! My answer here is for many questions and not all of it may apply to your question.
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 23:07
  • Gotta hit it for now, but it was around this question Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 23:12
  • 1
    OK - that's going to be a special case. The advice to show research is going to backfire there. I think I know why that was closed. Let's see if an edit to make it far less likely to draw some opinionated answers and you can then post much of your details in an answer stating your best guess as to how you see it, @LangLangC
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 23:14

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