Can whoever is flagging as off-topic because they are primarily opinion based please stop doing so?

The community decided a long time ago that these types of questions are on-topic:

And reaffirmed it a few times since:

And yet resource recommendations have been appearing in the review queue as being primarily opinion based. Two recent examples include,

(Pretty sure there have been more, but searching SEDE turns up the latter of the above two, but perhaps I'm doing that wrong).

I'm sure arguments for such questions being off-topic can be made, but current site policy allows them, so I'd like to understand why they're being (incorrectly) flagged and how we can better inform users that such questions are on-topic.

  • $\begingroup$ NB: In this answer on the Book recommendations: On-topic, on-topic but community wiki, or off-topic? question, I was offering that to see what the community thought, not what I think. It sits at +3/-3, which suggests not many think it's the right call. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jun 4, 2017 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. Just to dig some heels into this, I think this question is valuable and deserves more attention. $\endgroup$ Jun 4, 2017 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ I see no consistent pattern of res. rec. being flagged to close as primarily opinion-based (your two recent examples are the only ones among the 20 most recent res. rec. questions), so I'm not sure there is something to understand here - I'd presume the flaggers thought that this particular question was too opinion-based and were not making some general statement about res. rec. questions. $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Jun 4, 2017 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind didn't mean to imply that it is consistent, but 10% of recent questions is still pretty large. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jun 4, 2017 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ But, presumably, if you feel the need to remind people that res. rec. questions are on-topic, you should have the impression that some think they're not. That only 10% of recent questions were flagged suggests to me that the cause behind the flagging here is not that someone is confused about the on-topicness of res. rec. in general, but that someone took issue with the specific questions that were flagged. $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Jun 4, 2017 at 16:29
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    $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind yes, both happened in the last week. I'd rather nip it in the bud than wasting close votes on things that have no business in the queue in the first place. Sammy's comment in the second link suggests a reminder is necessary. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jun 4, 2017 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos To be fair, that second question seems really... vague or oddly niche or something as a resource recommendation question. It's asking about a fairly narrow range of problems and doesn't seem very well phrased with what it is looking for. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Jun 5, 2017 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Kyle Kanos : re your 1st comment above, a vote count of +3/-3 suggests that the community is equally divided on the issue. That answer reads as the expression of a personal opinion ("I'd also argue that..."), not a question or suggestion. Isn't it possible that your opinion has changed since you posted that answer? $\endgroup$ Jun 8, 2017 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ @sammygerbil: No. IIRC, I had pointed out the point of the post in a comment that is now deleted; my opinion is the same: they're on topic (though I actually prefer David's answer to ACM's in that thread). $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jun 8, 2017 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ Is this a question? The title is a statement, and the 1st line of text is a request. You are not asking eg "What does the policy mean?" but rather asking reviewers to stop voting to close certain questions because you disagree with their "incorrect" decisions. $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2017 at 11:33
  • $\begingroup$ @sammygerbil there is that request, but the last line also asks for how we can inform users of the policy. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jun 10, 2017 at 11:40

1 Answer 1


I do not think there is any dispute about resource recommendations being on topic. But there is a difference of opinion about what this means.

Your interpretation of the policy appears to be that voting to close any resource recommendations questions (RRQs) because they are primarily opinion based (POB) or too broad (TB) is a breach of the policy. Routinely voting to close all RRQs as POB (or for any other reason) would indicate a misapplication of the policy, but there is no evidence that I or anyone else has been doing that. You have identified only one instance - I do not recall voting to close the Fractional Statistics question as POB.

ACuriousMind comments :

I see no consistent pattern of RRQs being flagged to close as primarily opinion-based (your two recent examples are the only ones among the 20 most recent RRQs), so I'm not sure there is something to understand here - I'd presume the flaggers thought that this particular question was too opinion-based and were not making some general statement about RRQs.

Your logic appears to be :

Premise 1 : RRQs are necessarily too broad and opinion based, as stated in your comment.
Premise 2 : The community has voted that RRQs are on topic - sentence #2 of your question.
Deduction : The community has decided that the criteria primarily opinion based and too broad do not apply to RRQs.

The error of logic is the false assumption in Premise 1. I think there is also confusion about the meaning of Premise 2.

Premise 1

I do not see Premise 1 expressed or implied anywhere in the policy Are resources recommendations allowed? In fact, it seems to me that the policy clearly states the opposite : that valid RRQs should not be opinion-based nor too broad.

Questions are required to provide adequate details of the kind of book which is required and to specify the level of understanding of the asker. Answers are required to be descriptive, specifying objective qualities of the book such as contents, style and pre-requisites. The objective is clearly that answers should provide recommendations suitable to the asker's needs, rather than promote the answerer's preferences.

The rationale given in Good list, bad list stresses that answers must be based on facts not opinions and that questions should be sufficiently limited in scope :

If these policies are in place, the major problems with books questions are reduced. They're much more relevant and useful now. They also are less "all answers are equally valid". They're still not conceptual, though, but this isn't so important if the answers are explanatory.

The intention of the policy is clearly to exlcude opinion and broadness as much as possible. Therefore it is entirely appropriate to vote to close RRQs (and to delete answers) which the reviewer considers to be primarily opinion-based or too broad.

Premise 2

Your interpretation of the policy seems to be that the community has voted to make RRQs inherently on topic. If this is correct, voting to close them for any reason is a breach of site policy.

My interpretation of the policy is that RRQs are not inherently off topic as a category, just as homework-like questions are not inherently off topic. Special requirements apply to both categories, in addition to the usual criteria which apply to all questions regardless of the tag, including primarily opinion based and too broad.

Many high rep users (including yourself) have voted to close RRQs for these two reasons. This shows that they do not agree with your interpretation of the policy.

Examples no more than 6 months old in which you (among others) voted to close as RRQs as too broad :
* Where should I start?
* On the State of Quantum Electrodynamics
* Good physics book to discover stuff by yourself
What are the open problems in the field of quantum thermodynamics?

Examples no more than 2 years old (in which you did not vote) which were closed as primarily opinion based :
Landau and Lifshitz or Goldstein classical mechanics
The best book for learning the renormalization group
* Improvement of Von Neumann's measurement scheme
Studying Quantum mechanics from Schwinger's book
Feynman Lectures for a newcomer
* Any good statistics books under the context of astronomy?
* Books on entropy
* Recommended reading about antennas?
* Learning physics from a strong math background?.

(Questions marked with an asterisk ask for suggestions of books or articles; others ask for comparisons between books or opinions of a particular book.)

Whether or not a particular question is too broad or primarily opinion based is a matter of judgement, on which any two reviewers may disagree. That is why there is voting : to try to average out such differences of opinion.

Moreover, questions are closed when 5 votes are cast for any reason. Reviewers might find multiple reasons for closing, but they can only select one. They might disagree on any particular reason, but the key issue is that they agree that the question should be closed.

Just because the opinions of other reviewers disagree with your own it does not follow that they are voting contrary to site policy.

Justification of my VTC Dependent Motion: Motion of Several Particles

The question of what is the "best book" on any topic can only be answered by expressing an opinion - although I admit it is ungenerous of me to take this part of the request literally. The question also specifies that the book should deal with "motor systems in real applications" which I interpreted as meaning that the OP is studying mechanical engineering. In common with many such requests, the OP displays no prior research effort. And the level of study is not specified.

So I can see 4 valid reasons for voting to close this question : (1) primarily opinion-based; (2) the request ought to be on another SE site; (3) insufficient research effort; (4) unclear what you are asking. The 3rd is not an official close reason, but has been used before for non-homework questions and is covered under "some other reason" why the question is considered "off topic".

Only one close reason is allowed per reviewer. I chose the one which came to mind first, and mentioned 2 others in a comment.

I did not select the strongest close reason in this case. Sometimes that happens by mistake or haste. The decision was then whether to retract my vote altogether, because I cannot change the reason, or to leave the matter for other reviewers to consider. I decided it was more important to put the question in review than to ensure that I only voted for the most convincing reason.

Insufficient research effort could also apply to Resource recommendation for fractional statistics : a google search using "abelian and non-abelian statistics" gives several promising leads on the 1st page, many of which are used in the accepted answer. The OP could easily have found the same resources himself.

I appreciate that you disagreed with my decision, but that is what voting is for. If others had agreed with me and voted to close the question, for whichever reason, I think that is a proper exercise of the democratic principle on which this site is founded.

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    $\begingroup$ Resource recommendations are necessarily too broad and opinion based but virtue that it is asking for a list of books based on one's opinion of the book. The community decided long before you gained 1 rep that such questions are on topic. As such, your close vote is completely inappropriate and cannot be rationalized/justified, outside of ignorance of policies. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jun 6, 2017 at 11:12
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    $\begingroup$ The decision whether a particular question is off topic has to be judged on its own merits. That is what voting is for. Just because a question has an official tag does not make it on topic. The community decided that questions asking for resource recommendations could be on topic, but the community cannot decide in advance that all future questions with such a tag are inherently on topic, regardless of the details of what they are asking. $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2017 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ I could perhaps understand a unclear closer reason, if the details are insufficient. POB is definitely the wrong choice, however. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jun 6, 2017 at 11:24
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty : My interpretation of the policy is that requests for resource recommendations will not be off topic simply because they are requests for resource recommendations, just as homework-like questions are not off topic simply because they are homework-like. They must conform to the specific requirements of the res. rec. or hw policies respectively, in addition to conforming to the general criteria. $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2017 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with this (though clearly I'm not one of the majority here). I have no problem with resource recommendation questions. If I see one I feel like I know a good resource for, I'll participate. That said, this particular question seems like a very poor quality resource request. We could try and assume he was looking for a dynamics book, perhaps an machine component design book. At the same time, due to the vagueness of what they want to study; they may also just be looking for an introductory text on Newtonian physics. It's not clear what level of detail is required, or what... $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Jun 6, 2017 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ ... level of knowledge we should assume the asker has. As is, I'd call it "unclear what you're asking", but it honestly is "too broad" as well. There are multiple types of texts that would cover that in some way; but it is unlikely that it addresses the intended question. Due to the lack of clarity, the answers could cover such a broad range that it would be useless to most trying to use that question as a reference. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Jun 6, 2017 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ It does not actually look like any one of the resource req's you linked there are actually resource requests but asking for opinions about certain books. I'd also appreciate the removal of the ad hominem attacks in my voting patterns. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jun 8, 2017 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos : Ad hominem means "an argument which is directed against the person rather than the position they are maintaining." I pointed out the inconsistency in your position. That is an attack on your position, not your character, so it is not ad hominem.... In refutation of your other claim, see "Good physics book to discover stuff by yourself" which opens "I am asking for a book/any other online which has the following quality..." If that is not a book request, I don't know what is. $\endgroup$ Jun 8, 2017 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ Note further that the one you cited in your comment is not listed in the resource req's list but in the other list. But nice try anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jun 8, 2017 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ Fair enough, I didn't look at the first at because it's an attack on me and my voting habits, rather than an address to the question I originally posed. The second set of questions aren't actually asking for resources but opinions on resources. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jun 9, 2017 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ Well then you're working along a pair of fallacies. I suggest reviewing argumentum ad verecundiam ("appeal to authority") and tu quoque ("you also") before continuing. I also would recommend reading about poisoning the well and re-request you remove your attempt to discredit me. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jun 9, 2017 at 10:15
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    $\begingroup$ Yes of course I am appealing to authority, because the voting users of the site formed the policy. The higher the rep, the more expertise they are likely to have regarding the correct interpretation of that policy. I am not attempting to discredit you, I am pointing out the error and inconsistency of your position. This is no different to challenging your answer to a physics question. You are reacting by taking it personally, and quoting a few fallacies without showing how they apply. $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2017 at 9:24
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    $\begingroup$ And if you really have to ask how the fallacies apply, then you need to take a course or two on logic. I don't think I'm taking this personally (how that can be determined from text online is still beyond me), despite your insistence on leaving a personal attack on me. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jun 10, 2017 at 10:58
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    $\begingroup$ Uh... because you single out a specific user by name? There is absolutely no call to make any reference to any single user's voting behaviour, which you insist on doing; if you don't see the difference, @Kyle's suggestion of a course on logic is appropriate. And, just to clarify: are your lists of links examples of RRQs that get closed, and just that? Or are you claiming that they are comparable to the examples in Kyle's OP? If the former, the claim is pretty empty (i.e. yes, obviously true, but also inapplicable); if the latter, I think it's a stretch worthy of Reed Richards. $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2017 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ Of course it requires judgement, and believe it or not, we're both plenty open to opinions we disagree with. You could have said something like "I know RRQs are on topic, but I think those two are not up to the policy standards and this is why", and we can all agree to disagree. Instead, you went off into a logically incoherent mess of steadfast literalistic reading, untoward personal attacks, and inapplicable examples, and where you touch on the relevant examples, you do not explain why you think they go beyond the standards of the tag. So, those problems in your post get pointed out. $\endgroup$ Jun 12, 2017 at 1:54

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