It's pretty manageable right now due to the low question rate, but I think maybe ~3% of all questions this site will get, forever, will be "what's the best printer" or "what printer should I buy" type questions. They're mostly coming from people who don't know enough about 3DP to articulate their requirements, so they're difficult to help and very unfocused. Is there a better way to handle this than locking them as they come up?
I think the site tries to prevent this as best as possible, short of having a bot prevent the post.
- There is the Don't Ask page and the On-Topic (which we have control over its content).
- The suggested/related questions that appear when asking a question. Ideally users at least regard its existence before posting the question.
- There appears to be a pop-up that does try to warn the user that their question is "subjective". I tested it really quick, see the image below
- All else fails, that's what moderators are for. Moderators should utilize the tools available to them. So even if these types of questions pile up, there are means of quickly identifying. A simple feature, available to everyone, is advanced searches. I try to use searches like this to quickly identify large groups of questions that may need attention.
- It might be nice to have more options over whether keywords can be contained or not, "asker" reputation, "answerer" reputation, etc.
You've got a few options:
Often, what we do is you have a canonical "catch-all" question.
Since the shopping questions seem to have been deemed off-topic, this is probably your best bet. What you need to do is to guide users to select a printer themselves, but by asking them a set of criteria. Therefore, you would need an answer that addresses the following questions (but in no way limited to the following):
- What filament do I choose?
- What's my budget?
- What size do I need?
With such a post, you guide users to what they want, and then in the end, you can recommend a few printers.
Also, this question has to be locked using what's known as a wiki-lock. This way, the community can edit the question to update it, and it prevents spam and other nonsensical answers.
You close them as off-topic.
Since this seems to be a persistent problem, it would be helpful to add a custom close reason (hey mods! That's for you!). Something along the lines of this would be good:
Questions asking for the recommendation of a printer or other 3D printing-related resource are off-topic because they tend to attract opinion-based questions, low-quality answers, and spam. For more information, see [Why are recommendations off-topic and where can I ask?](link to a meta post)
You get the community to get support for the close reason, and a moderator implements it to allow questions to be closed. Bingo!
However, you're going to need a meta post explaining why they are off-topic as well as other information. That's good etiquette: you don't leave users stranded and you continue to guide them to where they can ask a question.
You do 1. first.
Then, you allow such "shopping" questions to be on-topic, as long as they follow the specific criteria and answer all the questions that you have outlined in the meta post. Otherwise, you close it.
Numerous sites do this. On Open Source, we allow questions that ask for the recommendation of an open source license. We have a meta post on what you need to include, as well as a dedicated close reason in case something is not of quality. It works very well.
The only downside, is that it can take a bit of time and work to get right.
I face this question very very frequently. On 3d printing and 3d printing hobbyists facebook group we can see this daily.
The ideas of giving people a catch all set of questions is nice.. That is exactly what I did 6 months ago. I put it in the group rules and did everything I could to get people to read it. To date 0 people, even after directly being told to, have used my list of questions.
In my opinion we need to educate the user, nicely. Also we need to remove the question with flagging. Hopefully without offending the person and thus scaring them away from the community.. Maybe just flag as duplicate, etc. Unfortunately this will one of those situations where we cannot perfectly solve.