Why has this not been closed as a shopping question? It asks for a list/examples of people fitting a certain criterion. This is so very obvious a shopping question to me, yet, instead of closing it, it got 59 upvotes and a ton of answers. Why? Because people perceive it as a "fun" question, even more "fun" to answer? It seems slightly unfair that this question has not been closed - I was almost tempted to vote "close" more than a year later when I stumbled upon the question today, but thought maybe there was some reason why the question is still open, a reason that I fail to see.

So - Do you agree that this question fits the scope of the site, and if not, why has it not been closed?

  • 5
    I don’t see how this is a shopping question. What would be the possible “buying” decision connected to the answer? Nobody would try to join the workgroup of somebody because they are named in an answer or similar. Individual people are not even remotely on the list of things that people shop for. You may still argue that the question is too broad, but calling every question asking for a list or similar a shopping question dilutes the term to the extent that it is useless, IMHO.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Dec 3, 2021 at 15:24
  • 6
    I would consider it a shopping question because (1) when you ask for a list of examples, there is no "best" example, so it is not "answerable", and (2) questions like this (maybe not so much this one) will go out of date as new candidates appear. These are the same reasons we disallow shopping questions. That said, I do sometimes wonder if we should narrow the definition of shopping questions.
    – cag51 Mod
    Dec 3, 2021 at 23:43

3 Answers 3


The question had 2 upvotes and 1 downvote the day before it went on the Hot Network Questions (HNQ) at 06:00; on that day it got about 20 upvotes, though I can't say how many came before or after that 06:00 time, I'd be comfortable guessing that most came after.

It was in the close votes queue where it received Leave Open × 3 and Close × 2, which took it out of the queue. Later it attracted 4 close votes, but they were spaced out in time and didn't reach the 5 vote threshold for closure.

In summary, it seems this was perceived as a borderline question by the community, and got most of the voting support after it was on the HNQ, where people from around the network are attracted to visit and vote on a question.

Overall the question did attract a lot more close-vote activity than most well-received questions here, but it wasn't enough to close the question and a simple majority (3/5) of people in the community who voted during review chose to leave it open.

I think now it's worth considering how we should treat questions going forward, but I'm not sure what the value of closing this question now is. It's already attracted lots of answers, which is what closing is meant to prevent. We could delete it but that would cover up a lot of work people put into answers and discussion. We could give it a historical lock if it was continually being bumped or otherwise causing long-term problems, but that doesn't seem to be happening.

  • 5
    +1 - though I would suggest that the community didn't find the question to be "borderline" (it is clearly a shopping question), but rather they thought it was a "fun" question and didn't want to close it (something like jury nullification). This could be viewed as a failure of our community-moderating-itself system (since it is "unfair" as we normally disallow such questions), but it could also be viewed as a great success (since an interesting question was left open, and it didn't really lead to any problems). Personally, I like the latter view; I would not want to become the "fun police."
    – cag51 Mod
    Dec 2, 2021 at 16:29
  • 1
    @cag51 Sure; by the community considering it "borderline" I'm thinking of the community comprising opposing viewpoints. Some may have found the question clearly off-topic, others may have found it clearly worth keeping, others may have been more in the middle. Together, they came up to a borderline consensus in that just a single person from the community changing their position would have led to a different result since ultimately close/non-close is a binary threshold phenomenon. But yes indeed, it's a bit of a (controversial) SE tradition to allow some "fun" questions.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Dec 2, 2021 at 16:33
  • 1
    BryanKrause and/or @cag51 Help me here, please. I don't see "leave open" as a voting option anywhere in my UI. I see reopen after a question is closed. What am I missing?
    – Buffy
    Dec 3, 2021 at 21:29
  • I love democracy Dec 3, 2021 at 21:39
  • @Buffy It's part of the Review Queues, at academia.stackexchange.com/review/close If you're at all like me, you do the vast majority of your close voting and other curation work by directly viewing posts as they come up as active on the main page, but questions with close votes by other users or flags by users who don't yet have the rep for the close privilege enter the review queue.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Dec 3, 2021 at 21:56
  • 2
    @Buffy See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/139834/… for info on what "leave open" does; basically, it removes items from that queue if 3 people vote "leave open" (though they can still close vote directly from the question), and begins the "aging away" process on close votes if it hasn't started already (if a question gets fewer than 5 close votes, eventually the older votes expire one by one).
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Dec 3, 2021 at 22:03

I have a problem with the whole notion of a general "shopping question" issue. I agree completely that we should not be making recommendations of specific universities and educational programs, but, while it is generally interpreted as prohibiting "listy" questions, there are formal exceptions - software recommendations for example.

That seems inconsistent to me. I've been caught once or twice recommending closure when most others disagree.

While the linked question is stated in a way to be "listy", I think the intent of the OP was really just to understand how heat index and citation count works in the real world. I don't care much about such things so didn't get involved, but I don't see that intent as improper here. The OP doesn't have an action in mind, but just understanding. We should be able to honor that.

Perhaps what we really need is to rethink the concept of "shopping" so that it is more consistent in application. The fact that this post exists points to the need to rethink it. And note that other sites don't (all) have such a restriction.

FWIW, I'm somewhat uncomfortable allowing software recommendations. Those also have an "action" component to them, not just one of understanding how academia works. But avoiding recommendations of schools/fields seems to me to be an important thing to keep.

Some seem to adhere to the principle that questions need to be amenable to a "best" answer. But the best answer for an OP may be far, far, suboptimal for others. And academia, being a human endeavor, has enough variability that "best" is elusive (at best). There are too many variables and the fit together in too many combinations for universal answers to many things. We should recognize and honor that.

  • 1
    I've been caught once or twice recommending closure when most others disagree. That's absolutely not a problem. People have different opinions and that's fine. SE's design keeps this into account; they have decided to make closing a threshold vote, rather than a yes/no popolarity vote. It's enough to have 5 close voters, even if they are a minority. If a closing/reopening war ensues, then the proper thing to do is discussing in meta. Dec 9, 2021 at 9:29
  • 2
    @FedericoPoloni, actually, my concern is that I didn't understand what the "standard exceptions" to the rule really are. That is my issue. The thing is ill defined.
    – Buffy
    Dec 9, 2021 at 14:55
  • I agree with this sentiment, I am very much a newcomer to this stack exchange, but it seems to me that legitimate and useful questions are unnecessarily stifled because they have the chance of generating lists. Surely lists of current best resources can be very useful to academic researchers? The consensus currently seems to be "well it's all just opinion, ask your supervisor", what if I want a different opinion from my supervisor? Is that not legitimate?
    – Connor
    Jan 28, 2022 at 12:08

The question should be closed. There is no need for more confusing rule exceptions.

Brian Krause's description shows the question has not been closed yet because very few people have participated in close voting.

  • I think that the fact that many users (e.g. those upvoting) are occasionally willing to ignore the rules is a good thing, meaning that community consensus is important. The example given isn't one of my favorites but I'm happy to leave it to others to make the judgement.
    – Buffy
    Dec 3, 2021 at 21:33
  • 1
    @Buffy There were only three open votes according to Brian, which is not "many users." In fact, Brian says there were twice as many close votes. I do not see the relevance of upvotes from HNQ users who are unfamiliar with Academia. Dec 4, 2021 at 1:48
  • @AnonymousPhysicist In the time the post was in the queue, there were 3 votes to stay open vs 2 to close. Later, there were more votes to close added, but there is no possibility to "leave open" vote once it's not in the queue, so that's a bit unfair to compare. There is a possibility to upvote, which many users did, though the privilege to upvote is available to many more users than the ability to close vote.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Dec 6, 2021 at 15:58
  • @BryanKrause Sounds like you agree that there's no evidence of consensus. Dec 6, 2021 at 19:54

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