Consensus seems to generally be that camera-recommendation questions are off-topic on this site. (See discussion Equipment recommendation questions)

But we get a lot of such questions, and they make up a large fraction of camera-forum traffic. For example, this one came in while I was writing this message.

I'm envisioning a site which would cover "what should I buy" for cameras, lenses, and other accessories. How to do things once you have something would go on this site, as well as "I want to do X; what general thing do I need?"

That way, this site could stay focused on photography, but people could still have a place for these kinds of questions. Another important distinction would be that while this site generally aims for timelessness in the answers, the new one would be more of-the-moment.

General brand war flamefests might be an issue, but I think we could keep them in check (especially by clearly noting that "what brand is better" isn't helpful).

Thoughts on this? Shall I propose it over on Area51?

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Interestingly, although there is already a gaming.stackexchange.com, I just noticed that a Game Recommendation site just made it into the "Commitment" phase. I'm going to watch how that goes. :) –  mattdm Dec 14 '10 at 20:01
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5 Answers 5

Its not that "Camera recommendation questions" should be off-topic, its that subjective questions should be removed:

"What is the best sub $1000 DSLR?"

Will all be highly subjective, how would you even pick an answer to that question? On the other hand:

"Should I buy the Canon 16-35L f2.8 or the Canon 24-70L f2.8"

Is a totally reasonable question which could certainly generate an identifiable answer and should be asked on photos.se. The problem isn't gear recommendations in general its asking subjective questions which gear recommendations can easily fall into.

Don't think we need another site for that we just need to educate/moderate.

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I agree completely with this answer. –  BBischof Dec 11 '10 at 0:28
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I think that "What's the best sub $1k DSLR" is a perfectly reasonable question given enough context in the question. Nearly all questions are at least somewhat subjective, and I believe that answers to this one are of value to photographers; hence, they should be on topic. –  Reid Dec 13 '10 at 2:20
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@Reid: I think a question about buying a sub-1k DSLR can be a reasonable question, but wording is a factor. A lot of people just read the title, then spin off an answer. Questions with "What's the best blah blah" should always be examined, and at the very least, the title should be reworded to be less subjective and more targeted. I think as we continue to moderate, we can slowly educate our community as to what kinds of questions (and the wording used to ask them) will garner the most support and useful answers. –  jrista Dec 15 '10 at 20:38
    
@Reid & @jrista Sure, its all about context 'What is the best sub $1k DSLR' is a bad question, 'Tips on buying a sub $1k DSLR' or 'What to look for in a sub $1k DSLR' are great questions with answers that will still be valid years from now. –  Shizam Dec 16 '10 at 0:41
    
@Shizam: those are actually still time-bound, although less so. What you can get (and therefore what you should look for) in a sub-$1000 dSLR is very different from what it was five years ago. –  mattdm Dec 16 '10 at 14:06
    
Hahah: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/5769/… –  Shizam Dec 16 '10 at 17:01
    
Does this post is any more actual? My questions about the quality of one camera compared to the other was closed: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/46918/… –  Lukasz Jan 15 at 21:25
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I see the main problem with gear-reccommendation being the timeliness of the information. An answer is only useful for a certain period of time. It could easily only be a few months.

So a gear-related site should have some mechanism for aging answers.
At the very least, it should show when each answer was given.

Perhaps this is something for the next version of Stack Exchange??

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This is a problem with all of the technical Stack Exchange sites as well. The answer for the current version of Ubuntu or Fedora may very well be completely off-base for next spring's release. I agree it's an issue, though — as I say in the question above, that's actually one of my reasons for thinking a separate site would be good. –  mattdm Dec 16 '10 at 14:08
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I'm not sure it's that big of a problem. If the answer becomes out of date, but the question is still relevant, a new, better answer will arise. The old answer will eventually get down voted as folks realize it's out of date, and the new answer will get up votes. If the question is no longer relevant with next year's version, then it won't really matter. –  cabbey Dec 16 '10 at 20:29
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Hmmm... I'm late to the party on this topic having just discovered meta, but I don't necessarily agree that the community will simply downvote questions that are out of date later on down the line. After all, the system is tuned such that there is a 'cost' to downvoting, which kinda discourages the practice of going back and cleaning up posts that have become out of date... –  Jay Lance Photography Jan 5 '11 at 19:15
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Also, downvoting penalizes the questioner, which is unfair if they asked a perfectly valid question a year ago. –  mattdm Jan 5 '11 at 19:39
    
Penalties for downvotes aren't that bad (-1 or -2), and if the user is still active, then they will be notified if a comment is also made (which is a normal practice when downvoting). That would give the person a chance to either A) update the answer to keep it up to date or B) delete the out of date answer. –  chills42 Jan 7 '11 at 19:12
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Answers to camera recommendation questions are
1. often divisive owing to strong brand loyalties in the camera community
2. have only transient value so become noise in the system
3. are vulnerable to attempts at trolling and astro-turfing
4. can be biased by the background of the relatively small number of contributors

We should be striving to become a high quality source of photographic information that is enduring and non-partisan.
We have no business acting as advocates for camera companies.
And moreover the thriving forums such as DPReview have large communities of avid supporters of every camera. They will happily debate in great detail the pros and cons of equipment choices.
Camera equipment choices are more effectively debated in those forums.

I believe we should apply four tests
1) Will the answer make an enduring contribution to the body of photographic knowledge?
2) Is the answer largely dependent on the user's particular circumstances and needs?
3) Is this question better answered in popular manufacturer related forums such as DPReview?
4) Should we make an exception because the answers can provide an opportunity for a 'teaching moment' that is general and enduring?

So, in general I oppose equipment recommendation questions on the grounds that it will damage the quality of information in this site and degrade its reputation for impartiality and neutrality.

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I'm kind of in this camp too. Yet equipment recommendations and discussion are useful to people -- hence the suggestion for a separate, sister site. –  mattdm Dec 13 '10 at 18:09
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Yes, that is a possible solution but then there is a strong overlap with the discussion forums and so it might not garner enough support to survive. –  labnut Dec 13 '10 at 21:28
    
yeah, that's why I brought it up here first — it'll work best if there's a general sense on both sites what belongs where. –  mattdm Dec 14 '10 at 20:11
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I agree with 1,2 & 4. Also, I like your approach of documenting explicit tests to apply. I think we should follow in that spirit. –  AJ Finch Dec 16 '10 at 12:27
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i am on the site for loads of hours now mainly for help in selecting gear. and while doing do educating myself about photography in general. having both mixed in is a great resource to me and the loads of tragic that are lookign for gear help.

dedicating a site to gear suggestions would eliminate this very big convenience for me and other like me.

plus as i get started i will be trolling the site daily and seeing threads on new gear and comparisons would keep me up to date on my knowledge about my Nikon gear.

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Keep in mind that the site would be a sister Stack Exchange site, not a completely different thing. –  mattdm Dec 20 '10 at 19:36
    
+1. Do we actually have a community of people who would populate that site? I doubt it. Also, I don't see the equipment recommendations being a problem here. They're not crowding out other questions. –  Reid Dec 25 '10 at 2:15
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Personally I think the best answer is to have some built-in 'aging' mechanism within the framework of Stack Exchange. Since that doesn't seem to be possible (right now, anyway), maybe the solution is to add a [legacy] tag (or something along those lines) to older camera gear questions which no longer are current. This would alert users that the info contained in the answer was correct, but may no longer be relevant, and it would also allow users to screen old information from their searches, if desired.

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Ironically, though, adding a tag bumps the post to the top of the site. –  mattdm Jan 5 '11 at 19:38
    
sigh Well that's a problem. :-) –  Jay Lance Photography Jan 5 '11 at 19:59
    
We could tag them by year: buying-guide-2011, buying-guide-2012, etc. That could work mixed in on this site, but would be pretty silly on a stand-alone equipment-recommendation site. –  mattdm Jan 6 '11 at 1:07
    
That's not a bad idea. If we 'tag as we go' then for the most part things wouldn't pop back up later on down the line... –  Jay Lance Photography Jan 6 '11 at 1:37
    
I think what you're suggesting falls under the category of "meta tags" and they are discouraged. Have you seen this blog post about avoiding meta-tags? blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/08/the-death-of-meta-tags –  Tom Jan 6 '11 at 8:49
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@Tom: Are you referring to the idea in my initial post, or to mattdm's refinement of the idea in the comments? I totally agree that my initial idea was meta, but I don't think tags like [buying-guide-2011] fit the definition of 'meta' as laid out in the cited article. Open to being wrong, just not seeing it right now. Thoughts? –  Jay Lance Photography Jan 6 '11 at 10:26
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@Jay Lance Photography: I'm skeptical about tagging by year. Take a look at my answer to this question: meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/256/…. If you go to the physics site I kind of like someones suggestion that "For smaller sites the good rule of thumb is that if it is nonsense to get particular tag-badge (and this is only a matter of time someone will get it), the tag should be killed as meta tag" I think that applies to buying guides. –  Tom Jan 6 '11 at 13:50
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(continued...) Not only that -- but we have no way of knowing when the information will no longer be relevant. A 1 year cutoff is arbitrary. I also don't think it's intuitive for newer users. People won't know to tag their question with a buying guide tag. –  Tom Jan 6 '11 at 13:52
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