Especially with this site, there will probably be many "product comparison" questions, from pet food to perfumes. As with any stack exchange site, these types of questions are opinionated and should be flagged for moderator attention (right?)

Does anyone have any ideas beyond just flag for moderator attention that we can do to prevent these questions from being asked?

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The first thing you have to do is make sure you have an actual problem. Consider the following question:

I have a Beagle with [z and x] skin allergies, as well as open sores due to him biting the spots that itch. I need to bathe him, what is the best shampoo for his condition?

Is this a shopping question? Yes, technically, but the scope is rooted enough that we really shouldn't expect too many answers to this, and that's the key. When you look at what has not worked well on other sites, you've got to look at why it didn't work well, or what sorts of undesirable things happen when open-ended questions are asked.

What the above question really asks is:

Is there a shampoo I can use for a dog in this condition? If so, what is it?

That's not open-ended, in fact there are probably less than half a dozen or so answers to that question, all of them likely to help someone in the same predicament.

I really suggest waiting for these examples to manifest organically and then bring up a discussion about them, it's too easy to box and compartmentalize these questions hypothetically based on what they might contain, or what you see as the perceived scope of a bad question.

Remember that Pets Stack Exchange has quite a bit of competition, the two things that are going to help us gain evangelists are the quality of our content and the friendliness of our community. We need to keep the noise down, but I don't think we're at the point where we should be making concrete plans on what to exclude.

Why not let a few questions come in, watch what happens, and then raise the discussion again? Funniest thing your dog ever did is probably not going to fly, but What's the best way to help my previously abused dog take better to a leash? is something you might grow to be proud of.

Right now, I think it's just too hypothetical. The site will be going public in the very near future, let's give it a few weeks and then circle back?

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The problems with product-recommendation questions are that they're generally opinion-based, they don't have definitive answers, and often they aren't specific enough to help anybody else. As noted in this MSO post, questions should ask how, not what. To that I would add that they should describe a specific problem.

"What shampoo is best for my dog?" Bad; vote to close (or flag if you can't vote).

"How can I bathe my dog with sensitive skin who has reacted badly to Shampoo A and Shampoo B?" Good; answers might recommend a different shampoo or they might recommend a different washing technique or some mitigation for sensitive skin or... in other words, answers might solve your problem.

If there's enough information in the question and/or comments to turn a question like the first into one like the second, you should edit to make that change if you can. Otherwise, close and leave a comment advising the asker on what to change.

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    This. There is nothing inherently wrong with shopping questions that allow experts (or those with experience) to intelligently weigh in on which answers are better than others. The photo site allows TONS of these, and they work great. Monica nails it above: the key is the difference between "Which is better, Nikon or Canon", and "What camera will suit a novice who needs a body that fits in a coat pocket, can't spend more than $500, and needs to optimize for low-light performance with minimal noise." – Jaydles Oct 16 '13 at 16:10

One of the ways we could handle this is by mentioning in the FAQ and elsewhere that these sorts of things are considered off-topic, due to their opinionated and so on nature. We can also leave comments reminding people that such things are off-topic along with flagging or voting to close as appropriate.

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  • This should definitely be covered in the help center. It might already be addressed by "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page." in the first paragraph. Most sites have this issue, so we should model our help on what others do. – Monica Cellio Oct 16 '13 at 0:20
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    Yeah, that covers a lot of it, but I know that sometimes being incredibly specific about it also helps. :) – Ash Oct 16 '13 at 0:26
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    Yeah, I'm not objecting; just thinking there's prior art and we don't need to reinvent the wheel. :-) – Monica Cellio Oct 16 '13 at 0:27
  • I agree with both of you, Ash it could be a case of what we can append to our FAQ meta.pets.stackexchange.com/questions/50/… Care to answer over there? – user87 Oct 16 '13 at 5:49

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