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There have been some recommendation questions lately asking for resources of any kind for different levels, mostly beginner-intermediate.

Now, these questions are absolutely interesting, even for me (being a language learner), but such questions are off topic on any site, not for their content, but for their structure. This is because they don't ask for a definite answer to a single problem, but ask for several solutions to a single problem. So they aren't exactly off topic, but just "not constructive".

The problem about such question is: how can you tell the best answer? Sure, the OP can but probably only according to his taste. While a good answer should answer (sorry for the play of words) a solution for any person.

My proposal then is the following:

We keep these questions because they are not bad questions, they can be useful. But we organize them in Community Wikis by category. For example:

  • CW about Chinese movies, dubbed or original (one movie per answer or one answer gradually edited by who wants to add other movies);

  • CW about Chinese books (one answer per level, so one answer listing all books for beginners, another answer listing all books for intermediate and so on. We can decide the boundaries of such levels);

  • etc...

This way the content is usefully organized. What do you guys think? Share your views! I hope to see many answers and comments on this.

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I think this is a good suggestion. However, I think there should be some boundaries. Allowing these types of questions shouldn't mean that we allow any question that is similar.

Currently on the site we are getting requests like this:

"Please tell me what are some good [X] for someone who is at level [Y]"

How will we handle the problem for the "someone who is at level [Y]?" do we have 3 lists for beginner - intermediate - advanced? Because you can't tag answers and we shouldn't be adding a new rule to the system that is not implemented. Maybe we can just encourage people as part of their answer to specify what level it is at. But, I am against having this in the title otherwise we end up with too many of these types of questions e.g.:

  • Good books for beginners
  • Good books for people with 1000 characters
  • Good books for people with 3000 characters
  • Good books for advanced learners

The problem with the above is they are too subjective as to what is appropriate for a certain level, even though publishers do this all the time.

Suggestion: Start these questions as meta questions and then when there are enough good answers and we are happy that the quality is good enough they should be moved to the main site.

Suggestion: Remove or migrate any of these questions that are currently on the new site that need work to be more in line with our aim to the meta site until they are good enough to have on the main site.

Suggestion: Start a new meta question asking for what list type questions people would like to see on the site and then proceed from there.

If we can get some sort of consensus on here to proceed with your suggestion I think we should act quickly to adjust, move to meta or close similar questions.

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I definitely agree with this idea (as you could see by my list of resource post) - I think it's a big problem at the moment that the scope of the site is being too tightly defined, and therefore useful collections as you are discussing haven't been permitted, and traffic to the site hasn't been as great as it otherwise might have been.

However, if such a collection was available on the site, it would have a lot more value for me, I would share it a lot more, and many other learners I know would be much more likely to drop on by and become users of the site. All good things for the site. In terms of search engine traffic to the site, I think they would also be very useful, as learners of all levels are searching for resources to help them - I know I do.

I'm not really fussed as to how it is achieved (posting resources), but I think we need to allow the site to grow, and I think this will be very helpful. To me, not allowing a question because it doesn't have just one answer (like recommendation questions) is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. It's not like every question should only have one right answer, and I think if it has value to users or potential users of this site, it should be allowed.

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  • I don't want to ban them all, but certainly not allow them freely, as this would unavoidably unleash many "what-can-I-do-users". We don't want that out of control. Instead, we can create the resources in advance so when someone asks, we can say "Your question is OT, but we have all of the resources here, go check and add if you want". – Alenanno Jan 29 '12 at 11:16
  • @Alenanno - that seems like quite an acceptable compromise to me. Limiting these so we don't end up flooded with questions like xiaohouzi's examples, but giving a useful, constructive place for sharing resources makes a lot of sense to me. – Ciaocibai Jan 29 '12 at 21:22
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As I said in another question on this meta site, I think the best way to make recommendation questions fit in the Stack Exchange model is to make clear and specific requests.

I don't think making the questions community wiki will make them fit the model any better. Open-ended lists of resources can be placed elsewhere. You could start a discussion in the chat room, create a scratchpad wiki, create a Google Doc that everyone can edit, or use lots of other collaborative editing web sites. In the future, when we close a new recommendation question, we could link to an FAQ that points to some related Google Docs or wiki pages that other people have made.

The board game site recently banned all recommendation questions. They had tried a few different ways of dealing with them, and finally gave up. If you're really keen to allow open-ended recommendation questions here, you might want to go chat with some of that site's moderators first.

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  • My intention is not to allow just any recommendation question, of course, but I think that some of them might be valuable, so I wanted to find a way to allow some of them (the best ones at the best way) with some limitations, of course. – Alenanno Jan 19 '12 at 9:10

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