It's always been a pain to vote to close a question just because it was asking for a recommendation for a specific part or type of part, and not be able to give the OP an alternative.

Now that we have the Hardware Recommendations site, it would be nice to add it to the list of sites displayed after clicking on the link "This question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network" when you select "close" and then "off-topic because".

I realize the new site is currently in Private Beta, so it is a little soon to do this, but I assume changes to the ESE site are not made overnight, so I though I make the request.


I just realized that one of my issues isn't just that Hardware Recommendations isn't on the list of sites to be migrated to (which I still think would be appropriate), but that the list is fixed -- it only shows meta.electronics.stackexchange.com and superuser.com. It would be nice to be able to manually suggest one of the stack exchange sites, like one can manually enter another question for a suggested duplicate question.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If Hardware Recommendations is a valid site on SE, then the scope of "recommendations is off topic" needs to be reevaluated. \$\endgroup\$
    – Passerby
    Sep 9 '15 at 20:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hardware recommendations is in private beta at the moment of writing. I'm looking at its Area51 definition. I don't expect that their scope is going to extent to low enough level to be useful for EE sourcing. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9 '15 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @tcrosley - Thanks for the pointer, though. It will be interesting to see how a stack that allows shopping recommendations develops. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ricardo
    Sep 10 '15 at 22:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Should we ask whether EE sourcing would be welcome there, perhaps? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ricardo
    Sep 10 '15 at 22:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ricardo The answer is and remains "no". \$\endgroup\$ Sep 12 '15 at 22:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ That should be left to the community to decide! \$\endgroup\$
    – Passerby
    Sep 16 '15 at 19:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nick Alexeev: It's now in public beta. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fizz
    Oct 2 '15 at 4:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nick Alexeev: And this is their scope page (well, meta question on scope). The most upvoted answer there allows a question like the selection of a PLC. So they explicitly allow questions that are on a technical enough level for EE. Whether the site will gather enough momentum in that area... remains to be seen. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fizz
    Oct 2 '15 at 4:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nick Alexeev: The 2nd most upvoted answer wants however to explicitly disallow electronic components. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fizz
    Oct 2 '15 at 4:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ The basic premise of this question is wrong. No, it's not much pain at all to close a question that doesn't belong here, other than the hassle of having to deal with it at all. There is no problem to solve here. Closing is the easiest way to dispense with questions that don't belong here. Migration is actually a little more trouble, and then rewards the lazy OP on top of that. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 2 '15 at 12:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ If OP is seeking for hardware recommendations, ask them to come into the chat room. You can discuss anything in there. We talk about cabbage in the python chat room all the time. \$\endgroup\$
    – Funkyguy
    Oct 2 '15 at 14:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Funkyguy I'm not looking for recommendations, I'm just trying to deal with all of the recommendations (or implied recommendations)on the ESE site, seems to be at least one per day, often more. \$\endgroup\$
    – tcrosley
    Oct 2 '15 at 15:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @tcrosley Yea, I meant the OP of those questions. Not you. Sorry for the confusion! \$\endgroup\$
    – Funkyguy
    Oct 2 '15 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Funkyguy (1) Talking in chat requires 20 rep. Chat can accept only a portion of shoppers. It can accept first-timers with 100 rep association bonus, though. (2) Recommendations (shopping, sourcing) should have a separate chat room in order not to interfere with non-shopping chat (incl. cabbage talk). \$\endgroup\$ Oct 2 '15 at 17:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ discussions related to the update: this and this. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 6 '15 at 3:46

Hardware Recommendations is currently still in its early days, so its policies are not set in stone yet. But so far it looks like most electronic parts would be off-topic there.

In What type of hardware is allowed?, the strongly dominant trend is that HR.SE is for IT professionals and amateurs. Computer parts that require a screwdriver to mount are allowed — they're the bread and butter of HR.SE — but anything that requires a soldering iron is likely to be off-topic.

Stack Exchange sites are communities, and a community is strongly defined by its audience. The audience of Hardware Recommendations is IT professionals and power users, not electronic engineering professionals or tinkerers. While HR could pronounce electronic parts to be on-topic without making its scope completely crazy — but of course it would be up to the HR.SE community to decide, not the EE.SE community — I don't think it would be a good idea, because it would split the site between two distinct audiences who care about different topics, with only a fairly small intersection (e.g. home-grown IoT).

The best place for recommendations of electronic parts would be a site whose audience cares about electronic parts. In other words, the best place for recommendations of electronic parts would be EE.SE!

Do note that there has never been a ban on “recommendations” on Stack Exchange. That was a decision of Super User (mainly driven by its early moderators), first directed towards hardware and then later also towards software. There are other sites where recommendations are not considered problematic, such as Unix & Linux (but there, due to the subject matter, only software recommendations are on-topic).

The site Software Recommendations (where I have been a moderator since the site's early days) has taught us a few things about recommendations.

  • Recommendations definitely can work on Stack Exchange. The fears expressed in Q&A is hard, let's go shopping! are unfounded.
  • “Shopping questions” are only a small subset of recommendation questions. Obvious crap is obvious crap is easy to close.
  • Recommendations do need quality control. That's not a problem: Stack Exchange already has quality control, in the form of question closure (through closure flags and votes to close) and answer deletion (through low quality flags and delete votes).
  • Recommendations do need some specific quality control. SR.SE evolved some guidelines on questions and answers. It's a good idea to have clear written guidelines to show them to new users.
  • A motivated community can definitely enforce those quality guidelines. There's no need to be worried about a flood of crap. The main problem SR has is people on other sites who tell people who ask bad recommendation questions to go to SR.SE — a bad recommendation question is no more welcome on SR.SE than it would be elsewhere.
  • But SR.SE does have a problem: many questions go unanswered. It's succeeding at moderation, but not so much at providing answers, which is the goal of Stack Exchange in the first place! A recurrent problem on SR.SE is that, especially with questions with somewhat specialized requirements, the experts are by and large not there. SR.SE has a relatively small community; that's ok for moderation, but expert answers require a much larger pool that only sites without a restriction on the question format can provide.

Might there be something about hardware recommendations that makes them very different from software recommendations? A little, I think, because they age faster (not only does hardware age faster, but hardware recommendations age faster due to pricing variations). But not fundamentally so.

Ideally, recommendation questions should live where the experts is. For electronics parts, that's here.

  • \$\begingroup\$ First bullet says that recommendations can work on SE. Last bullet says that in actual practice it doesn't work. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 2 '15 at 17:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev The last bullet is saying that it doesn't work because SR is a separate site for recommendations only. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 2 '15 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Shopping questions have several problems. (1) Answers tend to have a short useful life. In a couple of years, the product landscape will change, and old recommendation will become stale at best, or even misleading. Case in point. Other good examples in the EE.SE world: microcontrollers and oscilloscopes. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 2 '15 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ (2) More quality control means more moderation effort. It aggravates that shopping questions are often asked by people who have neglected to do the preliminary research, don't know what they want and don't know that they don't know it. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 2 '15 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ (to summarize) Allowing shopping questions would increase maintenance effort, and their benefit to EE.SE will diminish in the long run. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 2 '15 at 18:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev You need to close the bad recommendation questions that do get asked anyway. (There's a strong correlation between “didn't read the FAQ to notice that recommendation questions are forbidden” and “asks a crap question”.) The extra moderation effort is to refrain from closing good recommendation questions, and delete bad answers. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 2 '15 at 19:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev: I agree with the price issue(s). I've posted some "practice" answers on HR.SE (in an area where I've bought more consumer/prosumer products than the average joe). The issue is that many posters/questions seem to have very tight budgetary constraints, which can invalidate the answer next week. Also their choice of checklist items isn't always the most sensible/important for a given application/product (that reminds me of some management I worked for). \$\endgroup\$
    – Fizz
    Oct 3 '15 at 6:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ On the other hand, one can hope for that other readers will only only have approximately the same, but not identical hardline budgets, so they can still benefit from such answers even with price variation. There's also a thread on their meta about the pricing issue (worth reading, IMO): meta.hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/13/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Fizz
    Oct 3 '15 at 6:50

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