It seems there is mixed guidance about this.

Current situation

On meta, it's possible to find a few, very old threads about this:

The Help Center page is even explicitly ambiguous:

The short answer is: No, but it depends.


We even have a close reason for resource requests (emphasis mine):

Questions asking for learning resources are off-topic as they can become quickly obsolete and are difficult to maintain. We do maintain a list of generally-useful resources for learning Mandarin that you might find helpful.

What is a resource?

Essentially, anything not present on Stack Exchange which needs to be linked to (a website, a book, a list, a github page, a blog post, etc.)

Why are resources difficult to maintain?

I generally agree with the idea that resources are difficult to maintain. The link to the resource may break, become obsolete, etc.

Questions that can be answered with just a link, without additional discussion, will do exactly that, attract link-only answers. (Note: an answer containing 7 links is still a link-only answer; an answer containing a super-short introductory sentence which doesn't alone answer the question is still a link-only answer).

Link-only answers are bad for the above mentioned reason. They may just break. And when that happens, their value is completely negated, but the upvotes remain! At that point nothing is clear anymore.

The questions

  1. Are questions asking for resources on-topic?
  2. If some of them are, which ones? What are the criteria for telling good answerable resource requests from bad unanswerable resource requests?


  • I encourage people to give opinions here [what's good, what's bad?], as (I think) what to do here is not obvious. (There's also the meta.SE post Your answer is in another castle: when is an answer not an answer? which describes link-only answers as "not answers".) It seems we'd want "link requests" off-topic (for attracting non-answers). Maybe "recommendations" are also an issue for attracting opinion. – Becky 李蓓 Aug 19 '20 at 0:55
  • 1
    Also, I'm not sure the on-topic page's "you should ask for something as specific as possible" is the best advice. Too specific => not useful to others. – Becky 李蓓 Aug 19 '20 at 1:16

Here are my current thoughts (others may disagree)...

Pros and cons

  • Does allowing resource questions harm the site? In some ways, yes.

    • There are multiple issues (see below), including broken links, obsolete answers, link-only answers, opinion-based answers, overly specific questions, and Google requests. (Although not all resource requests have these issues.)
  • Does banning resource questions harm the site? In some ways, yes.

    • They're common questions among people learning Chinese, they might facilitate learning Chinese, and they sometimes require the expertise of the site's users (cf. Wrzlprmft's post about photography). We lose this by banning them.
    • The current "ban" is simply not working; it's enforced inconsistently and unfairly; it's too much effort and heartache.

At this point in time, I'm leaning towards "resources = not off-topic". This is not to say that we don't close them (as many of them are indeed problematic and worth closing), but I don't consider them close-worthy for the sole reason that they are a resource request. We still have the usual close reasons: Duplicate; Needs details or clarity; Needs more focus; Opinion-based, along with write-your-own off-topic reasons, and migration to Language Learning.

There are options we can consider: "Forward duplicates" are possible, e.g. if the answers are obsolete, we can re-ask the question, and close the old question as a duplicate of the new question. We can convert answers [e.g. link-only answers] to comments. We can add a notice like at Physics.SE explaining the expectations for resource requests. We could simply delete old resource requests after a certain time (e.g. 1 year): the OP gets their answer, and we don't have to waste time curating broken links and obsolete resources.

Only two language sites have a close reason for resources: Japanese (49 Qs) and Chinese (133 Qs). At neither site is it enforced consistently, which indicates how unpopular (or unclear) this close reason is. The others sites are: English (77 Qs); German (119 Qs); French (141 Qs); Spanish (33 Qs); Russian (25 Qs); Latin (72 Qs); Italian (40 Qs); Portuguese (8 Qs); Esparanto (21 Qs); Korean (32 Qs). This is proof of concept that the site won't fall apart if we allow resource requests.

The current close reason links to Resources for learning Mandarin Chinese. I'm not sure where this is going, but my opinion is that the linked resources page is poorly maintained and contains many useless resources. (The close reason is also pointless because we can simply close as a duplicate.) I feel this definitely needs to change. I'm not totally against having a central question like this (maybe it's good advertising), but if we're going to create a up-to-date version, we need to address obsolescence and quality in some way.

What makes a resource question good or bad?

Bad resource questions...

  1. ...are vague: It doesn't request particular resources, but a unspecific "what resources can solve a problem?" There are many possible "correct" answers.

    • E.g.: What resources can help me get started learning Chinese?
  2. ...are too broad: It's specific, yet there are still many possible "correct" answers.

    • E.g.: Is there an iPhone Chinese dictionary app?
  3. ...are too narrow: It is so narrow that finding the answer is overly difficult and benefits only the OP.

    • E.g.: Is there a pdf version of the textbook لا أحد يحب الألم بذاته which was used to teach Chinese in Saudi Arabia in 1985?
  4. ...are about the OP: The OP is after some personalized recommendation.

    • E.g.: What resources can I use to improve my speaking and listening (currently HSK4) before my 1-month trip to Guangzhou?
  5. ...are a Google request: The resource exists if and only if Google says it exists.

    • E.g.: Where can I find example solutions to my Chinese textbook 发展汉语?
  6. ...have an unspecific quality requirement: The OP is somehow unsatisfied with the first Google hits, but doesn't specify what it actually wants instead. They often contain the word "good" in the title.

    • E.g.: What are some good resources for learning calligraphy?
  7. ...request link-only answers: It is likely to be answered only by a link, and that link might break over time (or redirect to e.g. NSFW websites). We waste user time checking and maintaining these links.

    • E.g.: Where can I download past HSK exams?
  8. ...request answers which will become obsolete: It asks for resources (particularly webpages, apps, software, etc.) which will become obsolete quickly, even if the link doesn't break.

    • E.g.: Which apps help with basic Chinese pronunciation?
  9. ...are irrelevant to learning Chinese: It asks for a resource which is largely irrelevant to learning the Chinese language.

    • E.g.: Is there a Chinese version of Introductory Calculus (2nd ed)?

The expertise required is often more "Google-fu" and less "Chinese language". In some cases, answers can also be exploited for advertising.

Good resource questions...

  1. ...facilitate learning Chinese: It asks for resources which facilitate learning the Chinese language, which is helpful for others.

There's also something to be said for using such questions to advertise the site (via links shared around the Internet).

  • 1
    it seems there's a lot of ways to ask a bad resource question, and not many ways to ask a good one – blackgreen Aug 19 '20 at 7:39
  • Consensus is lacking, and I still don't know how to handle resources questions... might we add a featured tag on this Q, or something else, to encourage participation? – blackgreen Aug 29 '20 at 23:28
  • I agree with your points: 1. change the current not-very-useful Resources for learning Mandarin Chinese: maybe keeping a central post with general and most used resources but other posts for specific resources, 2. follow instead the other usual close reasons for low quality questions and duplicates and 3. flag questions/answers with obsolete resources and do "forward duplicates". – Puco4 Sep 2 '20 at 13:54

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