Resource/reference requests seems to be a crucial part for any SE site.
However, such questions naturally tend to be list-questions, and many users therefore consider these off-topic.

Sister sites have worked out some policies about what resource questions are good, like Physics.SE.

What is our policy on asking for resources on Quantum Computing Stack Exchange?


3 Answers 3


Yes, these are allowed, but with parameters

I think a good policy to follow is that of Physics Stack Exchange:

Resource recommendations must ask for descriptive answers. It's not enough to ask for a list of books that cover topic X — a simple Amazon search can provide that.

Instead, you should ask for recommendations, which specify:

  • What the book covers
  • How it covers it — is it rigorous? Intuitive? How is the writer's style?
  • What are the prerequisites? and similar questions.

(full link to policy here)

I should also note that answers must describe the resource and explain why it is ideal for the OP's situation - answers with just a name will be commented on and if necessary deleted.

I think this is good for the site. Providing these specific parameters allows there to be an objectionably "best" answer (or at least close enough to keep it from being a free-for-all), and it will allow experts to share information on how to learn about this subject =)

I know I personally find the resource recommendation answers on P.SE very useful, and I think they would add a lot to this site.

Gypsy Spellweaver mentioned paywalls. I have to admit that while I personally cannot (legally, anyway) get behind most paywalls, I think they should be allowed. If asking for a paper on a topic, it could very well be completely impossible to find one not behind a paywall, especially in a younger field like quantum computing. Second, we all know there are ways to get around paywalls, and people can choose to use those if they so desire. Finally, even behind paywalls, most papers do have the abstract available, so the OP can read, at the least, that.

And, because I completely misunderstood Gypsy's comment:

the lines of the answer ought to mention that there is a paywall on the link provided. Alerting users before they click through. And, possibly that the question might need to say that they cannot access a paywalled resource if, as in you case, they cannot do so. An answer you asked with all paywall protected resources in the answers might be good for others but of no value to yourself.

I agree wholeheartedly with that.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Don't forget to add in if the resource is, or is not, behind a paywall, and if so, what that paywall is. $\endgroup$
    – user76
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ @GypsySpellweaver added some thoughts on paywalls - what do you think? $\endgroup$
    – auden
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking more along the lines of the answer ought to mention that there is a paywall on the link provided. Alerting users before they click through. And, possibly that the question might need to say that they cannot access a paywalled resource if, as in you case, they cannot do so. An answer you asked with all paywall protected resources in the answers might be good for others but of no value to yourself. $\endgroup$
    – user76
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 14:53


This is in support of, and expansion to, the answer by heather on this topic.

Resource requests are useful

Quantum computing is a new, relatively, scientific field where even the most seasoned experts are still learning, and trying, new things.

As a result of the speed with which discoveries are made, new methods are developed, and the field advances, nobody can be expected to know all the material, or keep track of where to find the new information, or even the old (as old relates to a new field) information. Everyone in learning, and that learning is partially based on resources.

I do believe that a question seeking a resource should be specific as to the OP's needs, including what they need to know or learn from the resource they are looking for. As the site grow, and more experts come online, it's possible that the author of a resource could be part of our user base. The needed information just might be available directly from another user without needing to point to any other resources. Such would only be known if the OP stated exactly what they needed.

Answer/resource aging

Rejecting an answer because it has information that might become invalid, or rejection a question, or class of questions, because the answers might become invalid would result in closing almost every SE site for lack of activity.

In this field there will be a lot of the information in the current body of knowledge which becomes greatly expanded upon as the field progresses. The aging of the information might be measured in weeks rather than years, as in many other scientific fields. Aside from the speed aspect, however, such is a issue in any field. Even information about an established field like mathematics can change. (The Three Radii Theorum or the improvement in prime number theory might qualify for that.) This field will see a higher percentage of outdated information than others, perhaps, which is to be expected, and hoped for actually. (The more we learn, an perfect what we learn, the farther the field advances.)

As SE users, however, we shouldn't be unwilling to answer a question, or provide a resource, because it might become invalid tomorrow. As members of the field, not just the SE site, it would be the responsible thing to do to update any answers one writes, or finds, with either new resources, or that the information is no longer "accepted knowledge" when, and if, that becomes the case. Any user can suggest an edit to any other answer, so it need not be the original user that updates SE content.

By way of example, of information becoming invalid and SE content being changed, I submit the following. On the Information Security stack it was asked "Why can't Let's Encrypt support wildcard certificates?" As a user of Let's Encrypt I knew the answer, and posted it. It was even "accepted," for a while. Well, surprise of surprises!, Let's Encrypt figured out a method for doing wildcard certificates, and another user discovered that, posted an answer about the new method. My answer, no longer valid, was un-accpeted. I added a note to the top of my answer that it was now only of historical value and referenced the new answer, which also became the "accepted" one.

Policy to develop

As done on the Physics site, we would need to develop our own policy on how to deal with, refine, and qualify resource requests. I would expect that the current policy, once established would, itself, by subject to change as the site grows and we learn more about how the site is used by the developing user base. It could even be termed provisional for the present time. Now is not the time to carving rules and guidelines into stone, but to be fluid and try what seems reasonable, and be ready to reject what proves not to work. Scope is not the only thing a beta site needs to develop as it grows.



Note: I'm talking about resource requests here, not recommendations. Those are a whole other beast and definitely not a good idea.

There are 2 main issues I see with allowing them to stay:

  1. This field is changing daily, and it's not hard to say that there's likely to be some breakthrough that invalidates (or more likely obsoletes) much old research (or in our case, many answers)

  2. SE doesn't deal well with list questions, in general. We even have a close reason for it, "too broad". A question like that would never be completely answered, unless you cornered every single researcher ever and forced them to add their works to the list.

I can see allowing one, maybe 2 "list of all relevant < whatever >", but again, it would obsolete pretty quick and get unmanageable.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Just because there could be a technological breakthrough doesn't mean that the old information would become irrelevant. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 1:27
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielBurkhart Indeed, it is often the case that the good theories are kept despite being 'obsolete' by other theories. Take Newtonian mechanics, for instance. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 14:32

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