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I was under the impression that as a rule, we don't allow questions asking for external, third party resources. However, as part of a minor debate that happened on this question, I realized that I could not find an official meta post about this. There has been at least one meta discussion (see here) about whether or not asking for guides is on-topic or not. The consensus appears to be that questions asking for guides are often just poorly worded requests for a help on a general topic, and can still be valid question with some editing.

However, there are a lot of questions that aren't asking for guides. Some are definitely asking for external resources, and the only possible answers turn out to be links to those resources. For example,

(These example questions were found by entering search terms "patch notes", "where can I find", and "statistics")

My gut feeling is that a lot of these fall under the "Shopping and recommendations" part of the off-topic list. However, I think that specific rule is meant for questions asking about game recommendations ("I like RPGs, what games should I play?" type questions).

Since I couldn't find any meta posts specifically about non-guide external resource requests, I wanted to find out what the official community stance is.

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    For the question in debate, if it is looking for a specific map, then it is off topic imo, but i think it could be edited to not be a request for a source, but rather asking what portions of botw correlate with nes zelda 1, and a good answer could have a map showing the correlation – Dragonrage Apr 12 '17 at 21:29
  • I suspect the reasoning @Dragonrage just outlined is why it's closed as developer intent and not recommendation – Unionhawk Apr 12 '17 at 21:33
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    Voted to close those still open. – Frank Apr 12 '17 at 22:00
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    IMO, official resources are always acceptable. The recommendations rule doesn't apply for the last three questions, since they don't ask for any recommendation (which implicitly brings with it some pure opinion). – Schism Apr 12 '17 at 22:02
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    I also can't help but feel obliged to point out there are links in the close reason itself: So, what actually is a game-rec? and Q&A is Hard, Let’s Go Shopping! – Schism Apr 12 '17 at 22:03
  • @Schism What counts as official resources and what doesn't? Why are questions that ask for official sources different? – Frank Apr 12 '17 at 22:09
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    @Frank they're not asking for a recommendation. There's no choice. One definitive answer. – 3ventic Apr 13 '17 at 10:06
  • @3ventic It's still a link-only answer. It's still asking us to point to something that meets their specific criteria. – Frank Apr 13 '17 at 11:55
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    @Frank A link-only answer being one answer to the question doesn't necessarily make the question bad (although it's often indicative of it). Patch notes for PlayStation for example could have menu navigation instructions on the platform as an answer (I don't know whether or not they can be found that way, but that's besides the point). A question encouraging poor answers doesn't make it off-topic, it makes it a poor question. – 3ventic Apr 13 '17 at 13:35
  • @3ventic That, I would agree with. We get link only answers to a good chunk of questions, and often, that doesn't mean the question has issues. My point is that specifically asking for said link only answers are problematic questions. And we have a specific close reason for exactly those types of questions. – Frank Apr 13 '17 at 13:38
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Let's think about why a request for external resources is not desired. We want this site to be useful on its own. The information that helps the user, that answers the question, should be on this site, not some external resource. This is especially true given that the external resource may go down while Arqade remains up. This is why we don't like link-only answers.

Given that link-only answers are no good, it follows naturally that any question that could only be answered with a link would be bad.

So, if the question is truly asking for an external resource, like "what forum should I use to post character builds", then that's off-topic.

However, if the question is asking for an external resource because the asker just assumes that that's how they should fix their problem, then it should be possible to edit it to be on-topic. Remove the request for an external resource, and just ask how to solve the problem. This may result in an answer that mentions an external resource, which is fine, but it should be possible to include the essential information from that resource in the answer.

If the question can't be answered here because it would require importing an unrealistic amount of information from the external resource, then I would call that "too broad".

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If a question is asking for external resources, whether it's software, games, servers, websites, whathaveyou, it's off-topic. The entire class of recommendation questions don't belong here.

That said, rarely these questions can actually be XY questions; try to see if there's an underlying problem that the question is trying to solve. That's what we try to do with Minecraft mod recommendation questions. If there's something there that asking for a resource is supposed to solve, we can always try to surface that part, remove the request for a resource, and leave it at that.

However, most often, we don't have the information needed to surface the problem, if there actually is one. For questions where no problem exists, and asks for an external resource, vote to close.

A good rule of thumb we can use, although it isn't perfect: If you're asking how to find something in-game, good to go. If you're asking for us to find something out-of-game, probably not.

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    So, just to tie into the question a bit, you're essentially saying "What are the patch notes for World of Warcraft" is on-topic but "Where can I find the patch notes for World of Warcraft" is off-topic? I would think teaching a man to fish would be better than giving a man a fish. – Ellesedil Apr 12 '17 at 22:14
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    @Ellesedil There's a critical difference between those two questions: One of them would answer it right here, which is good. The other would post a link, which can die, become outdated, and otherwise be subject to link-rot. We can teach a man to fish with the first one, and really should, for a really good answer. But just linking elsewhere isn't an answer. Never has been, and that's the core issue. – Frank Apr 12 '17 at 22:17
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    @Ellesedil we're not here to teach people to fish, we're here to answer specific questions and maintain those answers over time. Changing an answer from "its in the bottom left of the launcher" to "its in the help menu under updates" is drastically different than having to scour the internet for a new resource once a wikia page goes dark – GodEmperorDune Apr 12 '17 at 22:17
  • @GodEmperorDune: I'm not really worried about third-party resources, so a link-only answer to some wiki I would expect to be closed. But an answer with steps to find the patch notes for a game within a component of the game, like the game launcher or some in-game menu button, I would probably expect to be a good answer. It might change... just as much as any other question we have could change due to the developer deciding to make changes in their games. But, it seems like Frank's answer here would also label that off-topic. – Ellesedil Apr 12 '17 at 22:21
  • @Ellesedil Whether it's asking for official or third party sites is immaterial; the point is it's asking for external resources. That's a problem. We don't want link-only answers, no matter where it goes. – Frank Apr 12 '17 at 22:26
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    Ok, perhaps I'm not being clear. I'm not talking about links. I'm talking about steps to discover them. If the patch notes can be found in the launcher or in the game settings or wherever the developer stashes them and an answerer can give the proper directions, does that mean the question is still off-topic? The answer in that question contains the steps to find the patch notes yourself. – Ellesedil Apr 12 '17 at 22:29
  • @Ellesedil Having to know the answer in order to close the question makes for very bad decision making. A question has to be judged on it's own; answers don't come into the process. That said, I could see how that question could be left open, but it doesn't specify the scope; you can read it as looking everywhere, or just through the console itself. – Frank Apr 12 '17 at 22:31
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    I see you touched on the second concern I was considering raising. I feel like the answer here isn't quite cut-and-dry. I'm somewhat of the mind that asking "Where can I find the resolution settings" and "Where can I find the patch notes" would be pretty similar. And I feel like just closing any "Where can I find...." questions that might wind up with a lot of external links but could very well have in-game answers is a bit heavy-handed. There's a line somewhere here, though. – Ellesedil Apr 12 '17 at 22:35
  • @Ellesedil I think a bit more context either way would be more useful than either of those questions as posed. "Where can I find the patch notes in the launcher?" would be absolutely fine. "Where can I find the patch notes on the internet?" most definitely would not be. – Frank Apr 12 '17 at 22:39
  • Sure. Unfortunately, I don't think most people asking questions like that will think to limit the scope in that way. They won't think to add that info (I probably wouldn't because it wouldn't occur to be as being necessary). If they do, great. We can upvote or downvote/close as appropriate. Otherwise, what then? Do we force questions to provide that context? If so, why do that if the expected context is always "within the game"? And if not, do we then just react to answers that are link-only accordingly and leave the questions open? – Ellesedil Apr 12 '17 at 22:45
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    I could not disagree more with the whole premise of this post. Anything that gamers specifically gain as expertise by gaming and doing game-related activities is on topic. Learning about out-of-game resources is a natural effect of game-related activities and certain types of these questions could absolutely be good for the site. I don't think a blanket rule one way or the other is the way to go here. An example I asked on BoardGames which is analogous and demonstrates the potential value here: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/9363 – Invader Skoodge Apr 13 '17 at 13:21
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    That feels like a meaningless distinction to me. "Where are all the patch notes for Disgaea?" is off topic but "How can I find out what all the patch notes for Disgaea are?" is on topic? In that case, our policy should just be to fix questions because it's a trivial difference. – Invader Skoodge Apr 13 '17 at 13:40
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    Which...is exactly what I'm saying, isn't it? As long as there's a problem to surface, that is what we should be doing. – Frank Apr 13 '17 at 13:42
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    If it's a trivial difference, then what is there to fix? Why do we have to assume that a question with no scope is somehow out of scope as opposed to just assuming the asker is asking within the scope of the site? If they later clarify in some way that causes their question to become out of scope, then we obviously have things we can do about that. But I'm thinking we should just assume that a question like "Where are the patch notes for Disgaea?" should be given the benefit of the doubt of trying to ask the "right thing" until something happens to the question to indicate otherwise. – Ellesedil Apr 13 '17 at 16:04
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    This is actually pretty close to the answer I wrote, if different in tone and approach. I largely agree. It's mostly the last paragraph that kept me from upvoting. – DCShannon Apr 14 '17 at 0:14

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