I have noticed that we are getting a lot more questions being posted that are interesting, engaging but ultimately amount to a glorified "Shopping List".



Can anyone recommend a good framework for X?

Can you provide a list of books that are good for a beginner?

I find myself wanting to send them to the FAQ but I don't feel that it does a good job currently of really explaining that these types of questions are not constructive.

What is the communities opinion on adding this definition to the FAQ as an example of Questions that should not be asked here?

3 Answers 3


I think there's a difference between Can anyone recommend a good framework for X and Can anyone recommend a good framework for using X with Y parameters

The reason why the first is usually closed is because the end result is simply a list of everyone's favorite X

The reason why the second should be left open, is because only a few X are actually valid for the situation, and that short list is helpful to anyone looking for X with Y parameters

For example, a question asking Can you recommend a good framework for Javascript should be closed, because there are no details involved and the end result is a not-constructive list of everyone's favorite javascript framework.

In contrast, a question which asks Can you recommend a good Javascript framework that uses databinding like what WPF/XAML uses should be left open because the specific parameters make the question become answerable and useful to future visitors with the same question. Perhaps the end result is a few different answers, however the list should be short, and the best answer will get voted to the top.

But that said, perhaps we could add a bullet point to the what this site is not about section that says something like broad recommendations, and include a link to either a meta-faq post, or the Q&A is Hard, Lets go Shopping question blog post

Perhaps it could even shorten the list by bundling in "what language should I learn next" and "what project should I do next" into the line somehow

and it is not about

  • career advice, including general workplace issues
  • personal lifestyle, including relationships, office politics, and non-programming activities
  • broad recommendations, such as what language to learn, or what project to do
  • 2
    I think the "X with Y parameters" possibly working idea is in the spirit of Jeff Atwood's "Gorilla vs. Shark" post (on a different but similar issue) - which did agree that it's sometimes possible to make invalid questions valid by adding appropriate qualifications and scope to make them fit the site.
    – psr
    May 3, 2012 at 20:12

I think questions like this tend to fall into "which technology is better" or "programming tools" questions. Additionally you could also point them to the section on subjective questions, and for books specifically this question and this one provide further explanation.


The problem with shopping list questions is that there is no possible definitive answer because no one will ever be able to come up with an exhaustive list - and if they did it would be to long for the site's format, or change so quickly that the question is too localized.

So, if the question could be considered a "shopping list" question but it doesn't have those problems, it should be O.K.

In practice, this pretty much amounts to having a short and unambiguous list. You can get there because the full list is naturally short, or because you qualify your question sufficiently that the filtered list is short enough.

As far as explaining this in the FAQ, we should just say "for shopping list questions, it should be a list that you can send your husband out at 2:00 A.M. and be confident he will return with exactly those items".

O.K., probably not. I don't know what to say on the FAQ.

Maybe the FAQ is O.K., since the problems with shopping list questions do fall under things that are listed in the FAQ, even if making the connection can require some explanation.

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