For the most part, recommendations are off-topic on SE (the notable exceptions being Hardware Recs and Software Recs).

However, that's no reason we can't have recommendation questions being on-topic here.

For example, take this recent question: What books are recommended for the ethics of veg*nism?, asking for books debating/discussing the ethics of veg*nism.

The question here is really just should we allow it? Are questions asking for recommendations (either of books, or perhaps asking for the tastiest tofu brand) allowed on this site?

  • 1
    We should think very well before ruling anything as off topic since we're running out of options as it is :)
    – ecc
    Mar 20, 2017 at 14:05

2 Answers 2


I don't think it is exactly true that recommendations are generally off-topic... For example, software recommendations are on-topic on Ask Ubuntu, although hardware recommendations are off-topic. The latter seems to be a relatively recent development too - the consensus about it developed over time, because, while most well-formulated software recommendation requests have continued to be answerable, reasonably durable, and not too broad (a handful of answers at most), hardware recommendations necessarily quickly become obsolete, and are very much opinion based, with little possibility for corroboration (until software recommendations - in the free software ecosystem, I can install, test and remove an application at no cost and with little effort).

All this is to say that, if the questions work, if they attract good answers, votes and views and thus help a large number of users, then they should be allowed I think.

The question you mention, to my thinking, falls into the too-broad (too many possible answers) and primarily-opinion-based (I like this book, you like that one) categories. But maybe I was too hasty in voting to close it - perhaps there is a small enough set of books specifically about the ethics of veganism to make that question manageable, and helpful to our visitors. I am not sure now!

Since the (soft|hard)ware recommendation sites are always up against the problem of questions being POB and too broad (and thus inviting bad answers), they have some nice sharp guidelines for what makes a good recommendation - software recs has these collected in a meta post which is linked in their help center.

I think we could perhaps aim for a nuanced approach along those lines - let's keep open minds for now and see what kinds of recommendation questions we are getting, and decide whether or not we want them, and if we do want some of them, figure out how we can make sure they are of good quality (ie answerable and useful to others).


They're on-topic:

  • Because I thought that this answer about Nutella was a good and useful answer
  • Because hardware and software answers become obsolete quickly; food brands and recipes (etc.) less quickly

Or they're off-topic:

  • Because foods brands are too country-specific (therefore uninteresting to a global audience), e.g. the fact that I recommend Yves products isn't interesting outside Canada and the USA.
  • +1 BUT I would consider stuff that is available in a whole country (especially if it is well established and/or available for import - users might be OK with going through the trouble importing, OR might be professional food importers!) and/or country-plus-size-region on-topic. NOT "Get your cabbage from Farmer Joe Bloggs at Fooville farmers market...." Mar 27, 2017 at 10:59
  • If you eat food regularly it may be prohibitively expensive to ship in personal quantities.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 27, 2017 at 11:02
  • TRUE, but in case it is needed for a rare culinary task/experiment, or indeed for professional use (restaurant special, or you have an import business), it is valuable information. Also, for a recipe writer it can be very relevant what he can recommend to his non-local readers! Mar 27, 2017 at 11:04
  • So when people ask for recommendations, we just require them to specify their locale/country/region. Now all recommendations are on-topic!
    – Nic Mod
    Mar 29, 2018 at 18:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .