6

We get a fair number of questions asking for off-site resources. Some recent examples:

These types of questions are typically off-topic across all Stack Exchange sites because Stack Exchange aims to build a compendium of knowledge in a given site's topic. It does not aim to be a collection of links to other places on the Internet (except where those links are citations or references to support the posts here). In practice, they also tend to become a magnet for spam over time.

When I went looking for a policy for these questions, the closest I could find was section 2.1 of Teaching a man to fish, garden, and ... shop. :

  1. Questions asking for vendors for plants X or materials Y, etc., will be explicitly off-topic. It will be closed outright and possibly deleted.

For reference, Software Recommendations Stack Exchange has well written guidelines for asking and answering this type of question:

So, do we want these questions in the first place? If we allow them, what are the minimal standards for quality that we should allow?

  • 1, 2, 3, 4, should these be allowed, based on this post? – J. Musser Jan 6 '17 at 16:13
  • Should the resource tag be eliminated? – J. Musser Jan 6 '17 at 16:17
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For all the reasons you mentioned, as well as the research questions you cited, I think most of these questions can be considered off-topic already; and there's no reason to create a standard that would enable them to qualify as good quality questions. As @J. Musser said, these questions aren’t a large part of our traffic, but the few we’ve allowed recently seem to be spawning others, like this, so I think this is a good time to enforce the policy.

I did an exhaustive search through those on your list, as well as all 17 questions with the “Resources” tag, and found, as you and J. suspected, a large number of: link-only answers with few quotes; spam-type answers with links to owner-sponsored or paid websites; answers that don’t in all cases even answer the question; mostly old questions without recent activity; and a large number of broken links. (Specifics available on request!) I mean no disrespect to the people who wrote the few great answers, almost all of whom are the top people here. My favorite was actually the one who pointed the OP to his favorite online resource, us!

In my opinion, just because that one question you mentioned has what are now 12 votes, that doesn’t mean the community has spoken. We have a much larger community than that. Also, lack of interest in this question isn’t necessarily an accurate comparison, as many users don’t ever come to Meta.

I agree that explaining to new users why we don’t take those types of questions is the easiest approach. Also, because I found that almost all of the links to books are still “live,” perhaps we should amend the “Resources” tag by adding something like: This tag is not to be used for questions seeking links to other websites, as those are off-topic for this site.

3

I'd say go ahead and rule them off-topic.

They are liable to going obsolete, if the websites recommended go down, and I think the easiest route will be placing them out of scope. These questions aren't a very large part of our traffic, so I don't think there will be any ill effects.

Explaining to new user that we don't accept this type of question will also be easier than explaining minimum quality standards.

And as you said, allowing them opens the door to possible spam.

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