6

I've been mulling over this for a while myself, ever since I saw this comment, on a question asking for recommendations for poetry like "The Raven":

A couple of ideas: "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" by Robert Browning, and "Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti. link to comment

This comment was posted after the question was closed. It's basically a full answer, since the point of recommendation questions is just to get links and pointers to other works.

Looking for previous posts on answers-as-comments here, this one was the closest I could find:

I suggest that we discourage but not delete answer-like comments.

  • Deleting them would be removing potentially useful content from the site at very little gain. Surely removing helpful content goes against what SE is supposed to be all about.
  • Not deleting them enables us to ping the commenters suggesting they leave an answer instead, and enables them to come back and find the info later to jump-start their answer. So by not deleting such comments, we actually increase the chance of them turning into answers.
  • Often what would be a bad answer is still a useful comment: e.g. an unelaborated link to a source of further reading, or an unsupported possible explanation of the issue being asked about.

At least the first two definitely don't apply here. Recommendation requests aren't useful content that we want to encourage here; we have a custom close reason for a reason. The question will likely be auto-deleted anyways, if it follows the normal pattern for recommendation questions (closure + downvotes + no answers). The commenter won't leave an answer later since the question will probably not be reopened. Unless it gets edited into a non-recommendation question, in which case the comment-answer is probably no longer applicable.

<opinion>

For the third bullet point: yeah, it would be a bad answer. It's still not a useful comment to anyone but the asker. As I said - the point of closing is to prevent answers. These questions shouldn't be answered.

We do not want to be a place where you can get an answer to your recommendation question.

</opinion>

This isn't a new phenomenon. Here are two questions from 2017 which got answered in comments. (Deleted now; 2k rep required to read)

"Anybody got any good books?"

Almost everything by Wolfe is great. For speculative fiction I highly recommend the Wizard Knight, Pirate Freedom, Homefires and and the Soldier series. You might also be interested in Stephenson's Anathem and SevenEves, Gibson's The Peripheral, Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312 and the Quantum Thief trilogy. If you like Dumas, Perez-Reverte's Alatriste novels are excellent, and Queen of the South is absolutely top-notch. You might also like Kafka and Gogol. link to comment

"Translation Request: Good translations of Dante's Divine Comedy"

Dorothy Sayers', personally. link to comment

I quote these for more examples of how answers-as-comments for recommendation questions tend to work. "Here's what I think is a good recommendation", sometimes with a link, never any justification.

So... what do we think about this?

  • Are these comments discouraged? Fine? Welcoming?
  • Should anything (commenting, flagging, etc.) be done when someone answers a recommendation question in the comments?
  • Does it change anything if the question was closed before or after the comment?
0

*removes mod hat* This is not a statement of site policy but just my personal opinion; vote on it as you see fit.


I don't see a big problem with these comments.

Arguments in favour of allowing them:

  • We get to help people at least a little. Their question isn't on-topic and has no place here, but we don't need to spurn them to go away completely empty-handed.

Arguments against allowing them:

  • Comments can't be voted down, so there's no quality control on suggestions posted there.
  • Setting a precedent that people can get recommendations in comments may lead people to post more recommendation questions even knowing they're off-topic.

Counter-arguments against the above arguments:

  • We very often redirect recommendation askers to chat, a more relaxed space where recommendations can be freely requested and given. There's certainly no voting ability or quality control on those suggestions! If people can get random personal opinions in chat, why not in comments too?
  • Recommendation questions here almost never get any (upvoted) answers, so the roomba will usually delete them after 9 days. So there won't even be any evidence remaining on the site that people can get recommendations in comments, except very transitorily.

I'm aware that general Stack Exchange network custom is strongly against answering off-topic questions in comments, and on many sites such comments will be deleted with prejudice even if they're correct and completely solve the question. But it's my humble opinion that they aren't doing much harm here, and it's worth going a little against network custom if it can give people a little help.

2
  • After thinking about this for a few days, I'm upvoting based on the counter-arguments. You've convinced me I was wrong :)
    – bobble
    Mar 28 at 23:57
  • 1
    Counter-counter arguments: Chat as a recommendation tool is more fluid and can be more nuanced more suited to a back and forth discussion around a recommendation (like asking, "do you X or Y in a book" etc), whereas comments on questions are a little too clunky for that length of discussion. Also the fact they are Roomba-able feels like an argument against them... if they had any value they wouldn't be roomba-able.
    – Pureferret
    Aug 16 at 13:17

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