This question was recently flagged as a "Shopping Recommendation":

Is 150 MB / month enough for limited use?

I think it's worth discussing the line between asking for a shopping recommendation vs. mentioning that your question is part of the criteria that you are using to make the purchasing decision in order to provide context to the community.



I don't think that question is a shopping recommendation or off topic. He is not asking if he should buy a phone or a particular plan. He's asking if a phone can reasonably be used without using more than 150 MB of data per month and to provide context he has mentioned that this is the criteria that he's using to decide whether or not to buy a particular phone/data plan.

He could have phrased it like this:

Is it possible for a phone to be used regularly and not go over 150 MB of data in a month

I realize that I could just turn the phone off and it wouldn't use any data but is it possible to use a phone on a regular basis and stay under 150 MB per month or is the fact that the phone is on and doing background syncs going to use more than that much data?

... at it's core this question is asking the same thing as the one I mentioned above. It clearly wouldn't be a shopping recommendation.

Here's another way it could have been phrased:

Should I get a 150 MB per month or and unlimited data plan?

I'm looking for a phone to make phone calls, text and light internet use. Should I get the Unlimiated data or would I be fine getting the metered plan?

This is a shopping recommendation. The questions are very similar but I think that at it's core this question is distinctly different. The second one is asking the community to make decision for him and tell him what to purchase. The question in question here was not asking us to make a decision for him, it was asking whether a certain theorized use was practical and/or possible because he felt that it was an important criteria in making his own decision.

While I think that phrasing is important, I think we can use a little discretion to determine what the heart of the question is and not require that question askers contort their questions to follow a strict phrasing criteria, simply to avoid using words that are related to off-topic questions.

To summarize:

  1. Asking if you should buy something or which something you should buy = Shopping Recommendation = Off Topic = Kill it
  2. Asking about a particular feature, function... that you are going to use as criteria in your purchasing decision = OK
  • It seems to me that asking if 150MB is "enough" can't be objective. Everyone's usage pattern is going to be different. I agree that this isn't subjective enough to close. You're right though: it's all about the phrasing. – ale Jan 24 '11 at 23:32
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    My point about phrasing is actually that it's actually not all about phrasing. Phrasing is important but this isn't a programming language, so we shouldn't be slaves to a strict phrasing structure that holds syntax above meaning and throws common sense out the window. – Matt Jan 24 '11 at 23:58
  • right -- teach me how to fish, versus, bring me a fish -- as described in blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping – Jeff Atwood Jan 25 '11 at 0:16
  • So in cases like this should we edit the original question's phrasing to make it into an on-topic question that can be answered, or should it be left to live or die by the original asker's wording? – GAThrawn Jan 25 '11 at 11:40
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    My point was I have no problem with the way it was worded. Could it be better? Probably. Is it a shopping rec? No. Is it on topic? I think so. Should we edit it? I don't think so. – Matt Jan 25 '11 at 13:23
  • I think your second version of the question would need to be edited, though. I think most people wouldn't mind if you left a comment explaining your rationale and asking the user if it still fit their problem. – Matthew Read Jan 26 '11 at 7:48
  • @matthew read: I agree. I have no problem with the wording of the original question. The second example was supposed to be an example of an off topic shopping rec that would need editing or closing. – Matt Jan 26 '11 at 8:21
  • As the author of the question being discussed, should I re-write it as "Is it possible for a phone to be used regularly and not go over 150 MB of data in a month", or is it fine as is? – Matthew Jan 30 '11 at 20:12

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