This question currently has two votes to be closed as a "shopping list" question.

Technically, however, this is not a question as to what among several products is recommended/the best (called out explicitly as the basis for a shopping list question), but one asking if any products exists that do "X".

It seems to me that a not inconsiderable portion of the questions that get closed as "shopping list" questions are phrased as "does this exist" questions.

Should "does this exist" questions be treated the same as "what's the best" questions?

Many of the same arguments against shopping list questions would apply: the answer to the question can become stale, and multiple people are likely to propose multiple answers, based on their personal opinions.

However, a definitive, objective answer to "what's the best" is almost always impossible to arrive at. However, for "does this exist", the first answer that says "Yes, Product Z can do this" technically answers the question.

If you can't find anything that does what you need, you're stuck. If you know that there's at least one product that does what you need, you may be able to use keywords from that product's description (terms that you may not have known, without at least one example to refer to) to find other products that do the same thing, and to pick one. So, I see a utility to getting an answer to "does this exist".

And thus, I will rarely vote to close a question worded this way for the "shopping list" reason. I am, in fact, tempted to actually vote to leave questions worded this way open. However, given that I'm not sure that my interpretation of the wording of the "shopping list" reason is appropriate, I generally simply skip these questions in the "Close Votes" queue.

I'd like to feel I was taking an appropriate action on these, instead.

My expectation is that the odds of a lot of conflicting, opinion-based answers, plus the likelihood that people would learn to phrase "what's the best" questions as "does this exist" questions to avoid closure, means that we should treat "does this exist" questions the same way we treat "what's the best" questions. However, I could find nothing that actually discussed this, so I felt it was worth bringing up for discussion. Unlike Calvin (as in "and Hobbes"), sometimes questions I already (think I) know the answer to are worth asking.


2 Answers 2


Should "does this exist" questions be treated the same as "what's the best" questions?

I think it should — while acknowledging that the term 'Shopping List' is technically a misnomer for this kind of question (any term we choose whould be imperfect).

The reason I think things are right as they are is the same as your reasoning in your last paragraph. In other words, although…

…the first answer that says "Yes, Product Z can do this" technically answers the question…

…the first answer is unlikely to be the last answer — we will still end up with a stream of "and Product Y can do this too, and it does it better" answers. In other words this kind of question does not lend itself to a single, excellent, definitive answer. As long as we understand that 'Shopping List' is really shorthand for that, I think it's a useful close reason as it stands.


Yes, most importantly for this part of the close reason

questions about which tool, library, product or resource you should use are off-topic here because they quickly become obsolete

Something may not exist at the time of answering, but that doesn't mean that it wont exist in the (near) future rendering the answer obsolete or even incorrect.

  • The future can change almost any answer. There have been a number of ways to "aggregate" strings in SQL Server, before the latest version actually provided a string aggregate function. Admittedly, the old answers still hold for the old versions in that case, but someone searching for how to do this can get a bad answer because they don't know it's obsolete now. Point taken, anyway!
    – RDFozz
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 15:24
  • @RDFozz sure but most questions (should) include the product version and the reader can verify if that has changed in recent versions. With a " doesn't exist answer" the reader would have to know the release date of new products (of which he doesn't know the existence)
    – Tom V
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 15:26
  • I'd be willing to give an answer to a question with no version specified, if the answer would be true for (basically) any version. Still, like I said, point taken.
    – RDFozz
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 15:42

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