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So some time ago I flagged an answer that contained multiple recommendations within one answer and it was declined, why? Should we continue to allow these types of answers? I know this question What to do when an answer contains several suggestions? Has been asked so put simply, should we flag answers that contain multiple recommendations in one answer?

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As we want software recommendations (instead of merely software mentions), an answerer that has multiple solutions in mind would ideally compare these solutions, and recommend when to use which.

I think this works better in a single answer post (otherwise you would have to repeat this in every answer, and cross-reference all of them).

So I even encourage to post a single answer instead of multiple answers. (Which may have to do with the fact that I don’t vote for the software, but for the recommendation.)

Possible exception: When posting an additional recommendation some time later, it can make more sense to create a separate answer for it (as the change to the older answer would be too substantial).

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  • I agree, if the answer does compare the software and states when to use what software then yes, that would belong in one answer; however, if it does not compare the software recommendations in it, I think it would be best if those recommendations are separated to their own answer. – Tom Dec 17 '15 at 13:00
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    @Tom: In that case I’d prefer to leave a comment, asking the answerer to update the answer and include a comparison (i.e., to point out when to use which). -- If the answerer doesn’t want to do this (or doesn’t react), I’m not convinced that splitting it into multiple answers would be an improvement, but I wouldn’t mind it either. -- Do you happen to have a link to an example answer? – unor Dec 17 '15 at 13:11
  • No, (but I'm sure some are out there), I now understand why the flag was declined, the poster did compare the software recommendations within the one answer, but the reason for the flag being declined was not very clear in explaining why, "declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention" – Tom Dec 18 '15 at 4:26
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I think we should enforce only one recommendation per answer. @Flyk posted a great answer here explaining why,

For the voting system to mean anything, we need to employ the system of using one recommendation per answer. Allowing multiple recommendations in a single answer introduces ambiguity into the voting since it's not obvious which recommendation is being voted for.

This use of the Stack Exchange engine is similar to the way the gathering of questions for the Q&A sessions occur during moderator elections, in addition to past attempts to use the Stack Exchange engine for recommendations.

Take this example:

A post contains 3 recommendations. One of these is actually really good but the other two are average. Because of the really good recommendation, this post becomes highly upvoted.

At some point in the future, a random passerby (our target audience) turns up and sees the highly voted recommendation but the first link (the good recommendation) no longer works. We've just recommended substandard software to somebody because of the way we chose to allow multiple recommendations in a single answer.

The proposal:

The way Stack Exchange works, in general, is multiple answers, with the best answer voted to the top. This is how we should use the Stack Exchange engine - one recommendation per answer with the best recommendation voted to the top.

Not only does this provide clarity to the people already using the site but it provides the most value to future visitors to the site.

Edit 1

@Izzy brought up a good point that sometimes context can be lost if an answers compares two or more recommendations together. If that is the case, then I think the flag should be declined; however, if it is just two or more recommendations with very little to no comparison between them, then I think the flag should be considered helpful.

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    While I basically agree, also see Gilles answer there for a good exception. – Izzy Dec 16 '15 at 21:31
  • @Izzy He has an excellent point, but I think that is still possible across multiple answers for example giving pros and cons for the software may be a way around this – Tom Dec 16 '15 at 21:37
  • While that might be, context gets lost that way (also see Kenny's answer on that). In such a case, I'd definitely decline the flag. If an answer includes two independent recommendations, my action would be probably recommending the poster to split it (I see your point then). Not sure whether I'd enforce that action then (I think rather not); that might be a case to be discussed with my "mod collegues" if it arises. – Izzy Dec 16 '15 at 21:42
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    @Izzy I don't remember ever getting such a flag, but I would have declined it. We vote on answers, not recommended products, so there's nothing wrong with voting on an answer that mentions multiple products. Conversely, I would support a policy of discouraging multiple answers from the same person, but since the community is against it, I would have declined a flag requesting the deletion of someone's second answer (but again I don't remember getting one). – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Dec 17 '15 at 23:02
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    I go with Tom's conclusion (aka "Edit 1"), @Gilles. By "decline" I mainly mean not "taking action" (delete etc). Tom's question here is a good and valid one – as most likely the concern of that "potential flagger" is (which alone counts as "helpful" in many cases). While my scale goes slightly different than yours, results are most likely the same :) But as I wrote earlier: No "general rule" drawn, it all depends. So noone should hesitate to raise that flag, if it's felt needed. – Izzy Dec 17 '15 at 23:34
  • I broke this comparison-free answer softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/a/133/101 into several answers softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/a/19989/101, softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/a/19988/101 etc. precisely to allow such seperate votes but @undo deleted them. I thought that was really wrong but didn't think objecting would have any effect since undo clearly did what he did. This discussion suggests my breakup was a reasonable thing to do. – Ira Baxter Jan 22 '16 at 8:51

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