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The issue of book recommendations has been raised before (to name a few examples); however, I'm raising it again because the problem doesn't seem to have gone away. has over 2,500 questions, so I haven't had a chance to sort through them all. That being said, I've burned through almost 200 helpful flags to mark recommendation questions for closure, and I'm only on page 5/28. I think use of this tag should be heavily discouraged. Reasoning:

  1. The vast majority of the questions in this tag are recommendation questions. Here are some examples of questions I personally flagged for closure.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196

    Like I said, the majority of those questions came from only a few pages.

  2. Several book recommendation questions are well-received by the community. Many of these questions do provide useful repositories are information, so I'm not suggesting that they be deleted by any means. I'm mainly referring to the questions linked to on the tag itself.

  3. There are other questions that are also book recommendation questions, but are not labeled with the tag. Since the questions that fall into this category have been closed, I don't believe the books tag adds any value. Adding it would just clutter up the tag more.

Situations where this tag could apply

  1. Questions related to API's that deal with book information, e.g. this question. Although that example is not a good example of a question in general, more specific questions about book API's would be suitable, e.g. "I am trying to use the JQuery to get information for a library. However, I get when I use this code to access the API ." Etc.

  2. Questions about a specific book exercise. Once again, however, I don't believe the [books] tag adds any value to these questions, so why use it? 1

  3. Questions about specific differences between books, or better yet, different editions of the same book. If phrased correctly and specifically, these questions can be good contributions. 1

  4. Other questions that are tangentially related to books or publishing, from a programming perspective, e.g. "I am trying to use JQuery to replicate the turning of book pages, but this code has a odd black border around the contents." That isn't the example question, but the example is the closest I could find that loosely represented this type of question in a quick search. 1

What can be done?

  1. I've seen questions where users have suggested moving the questions to programmers.SE, but I'm not sure virtually any of these questions are a good fit for any SE site (because they're subjective, for example). I don't think this is a good option.

  2. Since many of these questions are not being closed immediately, just relying on direct monitoring doesn't seem to have a high success rate. I only recently realised that SE already has a filter for subjective questions:

subjective filter

I don't know how long that has been around or how many such questions it actually discourages (before and after data would be interesting, at least to me). Is there a way to improve the message this filter sends?

My first idea was to delay the posting of questions that a filter considers highly subjective, but I wasn't sure if that would go against the principle of the site. Another potentially extreme idea that came to mind was hellbanning such questions for some time period so they don't show up to the normal community, but that seems... sneaky, perhaps. I don't want to add another category of questions or duties to the moderators' lists.

Thoughts?


TL;DR

The books tag has some valid uses. Questions about specific exercises in a book, specific differences between examples, and questions about API's that deal with book information are valid, in my opinion. The current influx of recommendation questions is not. There are quite a few questions in that are great repositories of information for the community, and I'm not suggesting these be deleted. As it stands, however, the tag draws numerous recommendation questions that add little or no value.

Is there a better way to monitor this tag for the numerous recommendation questions that don't add any value or to improve the filter for subjective questions? Are there any other tricks that should work? Is the status quo acceptable and I should simply go outside and stop worrying about it? Should I ask a fourth question in this paragraph?

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7  
Man, that's a lot of closures I'm going to have to go through.... –  casperOne Aug 8 '12 at 3:17
    
@casperOne Do you have to review questions that are already closed? Most of those in that list have already been closed after I flagged them, save the ones I just flagged a few minutes ago. If I could vote to close, I would do so instead of using up flags. –  Ricardo Altamirano Aug 8 '12 at 3:18
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I assume most of them are closed, I was going more for comedic effect. –  casperOne Aug 8 '12 at 3:19
    
@casperOne I don't even pick up on humour in spoken conversation, so I have absolutely no chance on the internet... –  Ricardo Altamirano Aug 8 '12 at 3:27
    
Apparently my flagging earned me a badge. Nifty. –  Ricardo Altamirano Aug 8 '12 at 3:29
    
Did you manually enter all of those links/link texts? Because geez –  Ben Brocka Aug 8 '12 at 3:39
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@BenBrocka I compiled them in a text file, ran a python script to open them in tabs <# of remaining flags for the current day> at a time and format them in the SO link style. –  Ricardo Altamirano Aug 8 '12 at 3:41
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@RicardoAltamirano - +1 for writing a cool Python script for inserting a ton of question in a post. –  jmort253 Aug 8 '12 at 5:03
    
@RicardoAltamirano Meta is definitely going to give you problems then =) –  casperOne Aug 8 '12 at 11:31
    
@casperOne Know what gives me problems? The books tag. It haunts me... –  Ricardo Altamirano Aug 8 '12 at 11:40
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This is one of those things where I actually approve of Jeff coming down from the heavens and nuking the damn thing. –  casperOne Aug 8 '12 at 11:44
    
@casperOne It's still happening... If the tag was to be demolished, maybe information the questions its wiki links to could be incorporated into it? –  Ricardo Altamirano Aug 9 '12 at 13:09
    
@RicardoAltamirano That's not feasible, as there are too many book questions. I got those three (thank you) but there are so many more. I might request a blacklist on this tag. –  casperOne Aug 9 '12 at 13:11
    
@casperOne I didn't know a blacklist could be done, but it if would be helpful, absolutely. I don't think many people actually read the tag wiki, so even once it's changed it may not make a difference. –  Ricardo Altamirano Aug 9 '12 at 13:13
    
@casperOne I just remembered this: how embarrassing. –  Ricardo Altamirano Aug 9 '12 at 13:29

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think you should start by changing the tag wiki to reflect this usage, if no one objects. Since recommendations are off topic I can't think of any other valid usage than yours.

Then, keep going through the list and flagging/closing/deleting. Getting rid of them will remove the bad examples which will prevent people from saying "someone else asked for a book, guess I can too". From looking at the search results these questions only seem to be trickling in; most are old cruft.

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I updated it, but is there anything more that can be done? I'm not sure how many people, especially new users, read tag wikis when posting. I'm open to additional suggestions too (and reviews of my tag wiki edit too). –  Ricardo Altamirano Aug 9 '12 at 13:08
    
That's what I have been doing previously, and all of the questions as bad examples were questions I had already flagged for closure. –  Ricardo Altamirano Aug 9 '12 at 13:24
    
Used up my close votes again but we need more people voting on them. –  Brad Mace Aug 10 '12 at 3:30

While these questions are no doubt off-topic, I don't think it's worth moderator time to go through all those questions and close them just because they're off topic.

This is what the community is for. This is why every 3Ker can vote to close. Using a moderator to do this does not scale well at all. There are currently approximately 10,512 people who can vote to close questions. There are 15 moderators.

Which process do you think scales better? 10,512 doing something? or 15 people doing something?

What is useful is when the community flags new and recent questions for moderators to handle, not old questions that aren't detracting from the new user experience.

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Maybe users with close privileges will go through the old questions now that the issue has been raised, since neither close votes nor flags were used before. Since I don't have close privileges and felt the questions should be closed, I worked with what I had. I definitely agree that close votes scale much better than flags. –  Ricardo Altamirano Aug 9 '12 at 16:17

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