5

How can I ask fellow travelers to contribute places satisfying a narrow set of criteria? Here's an example.

7

One tip is to avoid the word “best” at all costs. You can specify meaningful criteria, amend the question, etc. but once you have used the word, people will pile on with close votes and disingenuous objections and it will be very difficult to save the question from being closed. It's a bit silly but I have observed this many times.

Also, in general, once a question is in the pipeline, people will see it in the review system with little context, framing it as a “bad” question and voters will not necessarily come back to it later on. If it's poorly received, taking the time to understand what people suggest and asking a separate question might be more effective than hastily editing the existing question.

Finally, showing you have done some research or that what you are looking for is not so common or easy to find should help too.

5

Not all questions belong on a StackExchange site.

"What is the best X" does not belong. Best varies from person to person and it's just not "good subjective". Such a question isn't useful to the next person who is going to the same place, and wants an X (hotel, restaurant, guided tour) but has different criteria.

Problem is, when you make the question more specific like "which X is the cheapest per pound" then you've strayed into the dreaded "shopping question" territory. These questions tend to attract short answers with little or no context (just naming an X without any useful details, for example, or with a link), go out of date insanely fast (prices change, places close, newer versions of things get offered) and attract spam.

So where does that leave you? Sometimes you can succeed with "how can I find and evaluate X in place Y?" if you word it carefully. You can explain your evaluation criteria, and ask for a way to learn those things (price, opening hours, length, weight, whatever) remotely. Some people will answer the actual question - explaining a search criteria, recommending a book or other real world resource, telling you a strategy on the ground. Some people will recommend Xs to you, which may be of some value on their own. This technique doesn't always make a good question, but it's probably your best option.

Examples:

Not fantastic, but better than asking "what is the best Japanese school / private room / classical music" anyway.

  • 1
    I personally find it myopic to discourage personal recommendations when it comes to travel, especially when it comes to countries where not everything is online and categorized. It also goes against the spirit of community ans sharing. The assumptions that places will close or answers will be spam prevents any answers at all. By that logic, Wikipedia should be only 10% of its size, because most things are ephemeral. Why not let the users who care about the topic curate it? – Dan Dascalescu Jun 20 '14 at 17:30
  • 1
    Shopping questions take the risk for little or no benefit. Wgat does x cost, what museum are in Venice etc run the same risk but have more benefit. Knowing the price of x is valuable to more people than just those looking for the cheapest x or closest or whatever. Wording questions to also work for future visitors is hard, no doubt. We should all help users to do it. – Kate Gregory Jun 20 '14 at 18:57
  • You might have to omit the "in place Y." I've been reprimanded for using a place as an example in a general "how to search for" question, on the grounds that only a minority would be going there. – WGroleau Jun 22 '14 at 13:37
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    Not all "shopping" questions are bad. We've discussed this several times. "Best backpack under $150" would be a bad shopping question. "Absolute cheapest accommodation in Ioannina, Greece" is a good shopping question. Questions about specific items hard to locate in specific places are also good shopping questions. Etc. – hippietrail Jun 23 '14 at 12:50
3

Think of the question as an SQL query, where:

SELECT x1, x2, x3 FROM y

will return a very large dataset and making the question an open ended list question or at best makes it opinion based because people will try to fill the WHERE clause depending on their opinions. But when you make the WHERE clause more specific:

SELECT x FROM y
WHERE x.Location = 'city'
AND x.PriceRange = '100-200'
AND x.Features = 'this or that'

will return a single or few results specific to your question. IMHO, That's the basic way of writing a recommendation question without having it closed. Also remember, making the WHERE clause too complicated will make the question too specific and most likely no one else will benefit from it other than you.

  • That makes sense, but on the other hand, what's wrong with open ended lists and opinion-based answers that are on-topic and correctly answer the question? Quora has some excellent answers of that sort, and here's one that relates to travel. While Travel.SE inherits from SO, is it not overly narrow to force users in asking questions that can take only one correct answer? – Dan Dascalescu Jun 22 '14 at 0:33
  • 2
    There is a fundamental difference between Quora and SE, and it is specifically in this regard. – Nean Der Thal Jun 22 '14 at 0:57
  • Yes, SE has a lot to learn from Quora. Especially how not to have dick moderators. – Dan Dascalescu Jun 22 '14 at 3:21
  • @DanDascalescu lol – Nean Der Thal Jun 22 '14 at 3:25
  • 1
    Most of my questions on Quora haven't attracted answers. Most of my questions here have answers. I probably recommend Quora to people more than anyone else here though for questions that don't fit Stack Exchange's concept. – hippietrail Jun 23 '14 at 12:54

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