When an answer recommends a product, only recommends a product, but is a relevant and seemingly genuine recommendation rather than spam, is that an acceptable answer? And if not, which of downvoting, flagging, or both is the way to go? Also if not, (how) could such an answer be made acceptable?

Case in point: How can one learn to identify intervals by ear without singing?.

A related topic: What should be done with answers that consist almost entirely of material copied from external sites?


We should strongly discourage answers like that. Even if it's not spam, there are still several problems with it.

  • The product itself may be discontinued at a point then the answer will be useless especially version specific software
  • It encourages more products as answers which very much could just be spam.
  • It turns everything about the answers including votes and comments into a product review instead of focusing on the quality of the answer itself.

These are just a few reasons, there's a lot more out there. I'd say in most cases just down voting should be enough especially if we do it together as a community. Since it is an attempt at an answer the not an answer flag alone wouldn't make much sense, but a custom flag could be raised if we decide as a community down voting answers like this is not enough.

  • We just got a new product-recommendation answer: music.stackexchange.com/questions/11951/…. Before downvoting or flagging, there one other "ing" to consider. For discussion's sake, what do you think of converting product recommendations to comments? I'm leaning "no", but would like your (and, hopefully others') thoughts.
    – Aaron
    Feb 25 '21 at 5:50
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    @Aaron I'd say no because it does not make much sense with typical flow of converting to comments. Typically when that happens, it's to content that is already a comment, not an answer with issues.
    – Dom Mod
    Feb 25 '21 at 15:21
  • @Aaron My feeling from this meta question and others in the past is that pretty much everyone is now agreed that mentioning a product is absolutely fine if it's in response to, and relevant to, a question that is looking for a solution to a clearly specified problem. I think the course of action we need to take is to get rid of the wording around 'recommendations' (and 'shopping help', for that matter) from music.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic and replace it with something that can't be misinterpreted so badly, so often.
    – topo morto
    Feb 25 '21 at 22:01
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    @topoReinstateMonica That's my impression as well. Mentioning a product is fine as long as there's more to the post than a simple product recommendation or request for such.
    – Aaron
    Feb 25 '21 at 22:04

When an answer recommends a product, only recommends a product, but is a relevant and seemingly genuine recommendation rather than spam, is that an acceptable answer?

I would say it may be if that recommendation is particularly relevant to the question.

For example, if the question is "How can I control the parameters more easily in realtime on my Roland JX-3P'...


then a recommendation for the PG-200 Programmer might be very relevant. (I agree with Dom's point in the comments that a good answer would describe how the particular product solves the problem, although sometimes that might be apparent from the nature of the product).


In the context of the particular question you highlighted, How can one learn to identify intervals by ear without singing?, I agree with Dom's points, but I don't think we can apply that logic to every question.

  • We still don't do hardware recommendations so answers that focus on the hardware recommendations over the set up and what you should look for should be discouraged. I will also point out the the sample answer that you gave suffers from the three bullet points in my answer as the product will become obsolete, it will encourage others to recommendation other hardware, and voting and commenting will turn into product reviews.
    – Dom Mod
    Feb 23 '21 at 7:10
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    @Dom I think this brings up an interesting boundary case, because the proposed question itself is about the use of a specific piece of hardware. In this case, that hardware in question has another specific piece of hardware designed to provide the answer. Considering the criteria of answers becoming obsolete, so would the question. Taking that to the logical extreme, it would mean that any question about specific hardware or software should be off-topic.
    – Aaron
    Feb 24 '21 at 14:24
  • @Dom This calls to mind Is there a way to balance the panning of an audio file?, in which there was strong objection, because the question was perceived as needed just a "read the manual" answer. Certainly there could be an obsolescence case to be made there as well.
    – Aaron
    Feb 24 '21 at 14:27
  • @Aaron I don't think it's that big of an edge case. In the example given the user is looking for a solution, not just a product. Just recommending the product alone is not an answer, but how to do it with the product is. I will also point out as I do from time to time is musician's typically have a very diverse set up and while there may be specialized products for tasks like this, there are many other ways to get the same result and ways to generalize the answer. I do think that sometimes the request will be so specific or obscure we won't be able to answer, but that's a separate topic.
    – Dom Mod
    Feb 25 '21 at 0:01
  • @Aaron I will also for the second question in general while not required, research effort does help. With specific software and hardware, the manuals for them is that and does help a lot, but especially for old devices it may get lost with time. I don't think obsolete is the right answer there, but the more obscure mentality. There does get to be a point where something is so localized and obscure it's not really answerable and used to be a close reason on SE. If it becomes a problem here, I think we can talk about it in meta, but I don't think we've ran into that yet.
    – Dom Mod
    Feb 25 '21 at 0:09
  • @Dom I like the distinction between looking for specific equipment vs. looking for a solution, which might involve recommending (or at least describing) equipment. I agree regarding manuals as well -- they can get lost or be hard to find, especially for older equipment.
    – Aaron
    Feb 25 '21 at 0:35
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    @Aaron agree with what you say, and also with Dom's point that questions where the user is looking for a solution can generally be seen as on-topic. One of the reasons I don't find the "recommendations for specific hardware or software" phrasing useful on music.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic is that a user may well come looking for a technical solution to a problem, but the answer to that may well involve a mention of specific hardware. I made a similar point in my answer to music.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3657/… .
    – topo morto
    Feb 25 '21 at 9:23
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    @topoReinstateMonica mentioning hardware or software is not the same as recommending it and like I said in previous comments, if you tie your solution to a single hardware/software product it's not going to be as useful as a general answer because people aren't going to have the same set ups and as time goes by may not be able to even get the software/hardware you are using.
    – Dom Mod
    Feb 25 '21 at 14:34
  • @Dom a big problem with the word 'recommend' is that it is not very specific - it could and has in the past been interpreted as simply 'mentioning'.
    – topo morto
    Feb 25 '21 at 17:35
  • And it's true that in the future people may not be able to get the exact hardware being mentioned in an answer, but if we don't mention hardware when it's clearly particularly relevant in this day and age, we run the risk of devaluing the usefulness of answers at the time the questions are asked. Consider a question about how to slow the attack of notes on guitar, for example - would it be terrible to have an answer that mentioned and explained the use of the e-bow? or the Boss Slow Gear and its clones?
    – topo morto
    Feb 25 '21 at 17:39
  • And I don't see how "people aren't going to have the same set ups" is necessarily a concern - surely we are allowed to give an answer that relates to the set-up mentioned in the question?
    – topo morto
    Feb 25 '21 at 17:42
  • @topoReinstateMonica we're never going to have perfect wording. Recommending hardware/software best describes what we want to avoid as it quickly turns content into a product review/ space for spam which we do get. Again for equipment we focus on what to look for rather than recommending specific products to avoid the too localized set up problem and make it as useful for future users as possible. The set up is a concern because if you don't make it general, it's not useful for future users just the OP.
    – Dom Mod
    Feb 25 '21 at 17:47
  • @Dom we're never going to have perfect wording, but I think using the word recommendation is really bad wording, because almost any answer on this site can be seen as a recommendation, so any answer that mentions hardware can be seen as a hardware recommendation.
    – topo morto
    Feb 25 '21 at 21:48
  • I think it would be much better to come up with a phrasing using your wording from earlier in these comments, and make it clear that questions about equipment should be looking for a solution to a specific problem. To you, that may be mean exactly the same as what the current wording says, but different people continue to interpret the current wording in quite different ways .
    – topo morto
    Feb 25 '21 at 21:49
  • @topoReinstateMonica that's already in the off-topic reasons "Questions seeking recommendations for specific equipment are off-topic, because they are primarily opinion based. Instead, describe the required function and setting in which the equipment will be used, and ask what you should look for to achieve that.". The term
    – Dom Mod
    Feb 25 '21 at 22:47

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