BEFORE YOU ANSWER OR VOTE, I know it's long, but if you read the whole thing, you'll see where I'm coming from on this. It's not just a "let us having shopping questions!" post.
With the highly likely chance that the Software Recommendations beta site will become a normal part of SE, I'm curious if the SF community might consider allowing both software and hardware recommendations again. I say again because in the early days of the community it was quite common, even if it was discouraged.
I'm probably harping again...I know Tom and myself and others attempted the Area 51 beta that was quickly shot down...so maybe it'll just never fly.
Reasons to allow for IT hardware/software shopping questions:
- All of us are smarter than one of us -- Amazon reviews as a case in point...the collective reasoning behind lots of consumers allows someone to make a wiser decision. Our sysadmins here have a wide range of real world experience with hardware/software that is beneficial to others when seeking out advice.
- Why trust your VAR? - sure they are smart...but they often are selling whatever is either hot or is paying decent commission or sales bonuses at the moment, or whatever OEM is wooing them the most.
- Why tell people "go away"? - do we really want to send decent IT sysadmins away to other SE sites or even 3rd party sites? Our "community" should look out for each other and help out our fellow sysadmins, not encourage them to make decisions without foreknowledge.
Allow me to play Devil's Advocate on the current "Shopping" close reason:
Questions seeking product, service, or learning material recommendations are off-topic because they tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve.
I'll start at the end, with the last sentence above.
Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve.
9 times out of 10, the OP is doing just that. Case in point from today: https://serverfault.com/questions/615163/smnp-monitor-cloud-service where the OP clearly states their specific problem and what they are trying to "solve".
It's very rare that a "Shopping" question has no specific problem, perhaps the old "what cmd line tools are good in a Windows server environment" is an example, but even that at least shows a specific situation that is easy enough for a sysadmin to key in on.
OK, that last question done...Let's get to the heart of it, the first sentence.
Questions seeking product, service, or learning material recommendations are off-topic because they tend to become obsolete quickly
This one's strength lies in "tend to become obsolete quickly" as well as the underlying "Shopping link" and it's text at that URL.
Here's the issue I have with this. Who cares? We are professional sysadmins. Let's say a shopping question allowed 4 years ago recommended Windows Server 2008. Does that mean if I looked at the same question today I'd go "oh...so don't use 2012 R2?...got it ServerFault, thanks!"
And "quickly" ??? Obsolescence is often based on many factors, but in the IT world even software/hardware that is obsolete to one is still used in production environments by another. But again, who really cares in the space of a Q&A site? People can sift through the material and decide at their discretion what is right/wrong.
Which leads me to the "issues" I see with shopping questions for hardware/software on this site:
- duplicates, triplicates, oh my! -- Because tech does change, the answers given on a "which cloud monitoring to use?" in 2014 will be different vs. the same question in 2015. So there's bound to be people asking the same question over and over. But does that really matter?
- Voting - I see nothing wrong with upvoting/downvoting answers in a shopping question, it helps set a "Amazon review" like scenario where mass opinion helps drive the OP to the right product. However, looking back at the same question a year or 2 later might cause someone to downvote an answer that was the best answer at the time of the question.
- Selling/steering - while not that hard to detect, you will inevitably garner more attention from various VARs, OEMs, etc. that could simply be peddling their goods and not agnostic IT pros making recommendations based on experience.
I don't have great answers to the above issues, but I think that once the SoftwareRecs site does fully launch it would be silly to drive traffic AWAY from ServerFault.
Maybe we can find away to allow the "good" shopping questions and close the bad with a close reason such as: "IT Shopping questions should be clearly defined, time relevant, and applicable to the ServerFault community. Shopping questions not related to hardware or software used by professional sysadmins are considered off-topic."
Just some thoughts...I'll digress now...that's enough typing.
If the question gets a bunch of downvotes...I'll give up the "cause".
without some way to prevent low quality and overly opinionated answersI agree. We need to have a voting system in place for answers- or at least the ability to edit or flag them- before we let people do just whatever they want. As of right now, when someone posts a terrible answer, the most an SF user can legally do is leave a comment saying "I did not enjoy that post. It made my inner child sad."