First discussed when the site was proposed: What's a good recipe for <insert some dish>?

I believe that allowing recipe exchanges in a professional Q&A site would be a huge mistake. The "low-hanging fruit" for this site would be lists of brownie and cookie recipes, over shadowing any expert appeal this site might have.

I believe that discussions about technique are fine. ("How do you prepare <dish>?"). Any recipe-related discussions should be along the lines of fixing recipes, improving recipes, etc.

The site should be about technique, and getting better at the craft rather than "I need a recipe for X." Thoughts?

I vote to [close as off-topic].

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This is the type of thing I'm citing as less-than-productive for this system: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/244/… –  Robert Cartaino Jul 10 '10 at 0:04
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Robert - your comment reminds of a time when I was involved in setting up an internet exchange point back in 1999. The opinion of the stakeholders (who were telcos) was that ISP's and hosters would not be permitted to peer. You're doing the same here with this site by banning questions about recipes for specific sauces or dishes. It's specific and I don't see the harm. On a website about cooking how can you possibly police this misguided rule when it gets bigger. Cooking and recipes go hand in hand. –  Kev Jul 10 '10 at 19:42
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Cooking is a subjective topic, it always has been and no matter how much food scientists try and take the fun away, food and cookery is driven by our senses. You might as well ban questions on how do I cook a steak so it's juicy and not dry. There are many opinions on how to do this - cooking time, resting time etc. –  Kev Jul 10 '10 at 19:42
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@Kev: Check out my clarification here: meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/49/… and let me know if my opinions on what poisons a Q&A site still seems "misguided" to you. –  Robert Cartaino Jul 10 '10 at 22:01
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@kev: 'how do I cook a steak so it's juicy and not dry' is an <i>excellent</i> type of question for this sort of site, precisely because of the breadth of information responses can provide. "I need a recipe for steak" is going to be a much narrower band. –  daniel Jul 18 '10 at 8:20
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@roux: 'how about I need a recipe for steak which keeps it juicy and not dry' .. does that blow your mind? –  codeinthehole Jul 19 '10 at 22:46
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I said it here cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/4818/… and I'll repeat it on meta; A cooking site that disallows recipes makes absolutely no sense to me. Particularly with the fact everything on the stackexchange sites is a wiki. If they weren't wiki, I could understand the logic –  Chris S Aug 11 '10 at 9:56
    
+1; if anything, this isn't stringent enough. There are plenty of non-subjective questions about food. –  Pops Sep 13 '10 at 6:04
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9 Answers

I believe that if a recipe is sufficiently "standardized" such that it is practically a question on preparation, it should be considered on topic. For anything complex enough to have many different recipes, it is too difficult to manage effectively.

For example, the rules for making Hollandaise sauce or choux pastry are pretty specific. It's really not a subjective question. On the other hand, a question asking for Ragù recipes is pretty useless, since everybody and their brother has got one.

I realize that there's a gaping gray area here, but just like we've all experienced on the original Trilogy (think career development), discussions of on/off-topic-ness are rarely black and white, no matter how much some of us would like them to be. Everybody needs to use his/her better judgment to determine whether a "recipe" style question can be answered succinctly and objectively or whether it's just inviting anyone and everyone to post their "favourite."

In the future, if and when the site gains sufficient popularity, we might want to revisit this decision. A central "topic" for an individual class of recipes with the most-loved ones floating to the top, complete with comments and the ability to communicate directly with the recipe-poster, could actually add a huge amount of value to a site like this. But we're not ready for it yet; if allowed, those questions would dwarf the more "concrete" questions at this primitive stage and could kill the site before it has a chance to mature. So let's try to keep them to a minimum at least for now.

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It's interesting and also confusing that your reasons for this are less to do with the value of the questions themselves and more to do with the particular phase and trajectory of the site. I think it would be helpful to explain the differing motivations when issues come up, particularly because that "huge amount of value" is what you seem to be overlooking when you discuss the issue, even though you are well aware of it. –  Ocaasi Aug 5 '10 at 22:00
    
@Ocaasi: I deleted my earlier comment, it was a little incendiary. What I'll say is this: I know that you're a very knowledgeable and well-spoken individual but nevertheless you do lack much of the knowledge about the history and philosophy of Stack Exchange that many of us who helped start this beta have internalized over a period of many months. There are dozens of meta answers, blog posts, podcasts, and other official statements from the team regarding these ideals. Perhaps we should discuss them - but please, let's take it elsewhere rather than continue with these constant petty arguments. –  Aaronut Aug 6 '10 at 0:56
    
The bottom line is that the scope of the site heavily influences the community that forms around it, and that community is the value of the site, regardless of the value of any individual questions. The higher the caliber of questions, the more likely it is that the site will attract real experts. Certain types of questions might become valuable in the future but only after that community is formed. Until then, we should be limiting questions that target a general audience as opposed to experts. –  Aaronut Aug 6 '10 at 0:59
    
I actually was getting at something not petty at all, something I didn't realize about your point of view. I thought you 'just didn't like' those broader questions--that you didn't see value in them. Your post showed that you do see value in them, even potentially "huge" value, but that it is an issue of timing rather than scope. That makes much more sense to me. –  Ocaasi Aug 6 '10 at 1:52
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Would also vote as off-topic.

Those questions aren't defined by a correct expert answer. They're more along the hairy lines of getting-to-know you. And we don't need them clogging up the pasta tubes right from the start.

Set the tone of high quality questions with excellent answers and not drown it in a recipe-swap.

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Most things in cooking don't have a correct expert answer. –  Cade Roux Jul 9 '10 at 20:06
    
If it's a case of most questions not having correct expert answers, then this SE site will likely fail to gain traction/post-beta blessing. @cad –  Eight Days of Malaise Jul 9 '10 at 20:07
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@Cade - I agree. These questions could be easily titled "How do I prepare according to OP's rules. I find nothing wrong in asking for a recipe for a particular sauce. As I mentioned elsewhere, cooking is driven by the opinion of our senses...and w're all different. –  Kev Jul 10 '10 at 19:31
    
@Cade Roux; EXACTLY .. the whole premise is ridiculous. –  codeinthehole Jul 19 '10 at 18:18
    
If you need a recommended recipe for a specific food stuff or meal - why on earth shouldn't you be allowed to ask for one? Community should come first, not facetiousness. –  codeinthehole Jul 19 '10 at 18:20
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@codeinthehole: Exactly, community comes first, and recipe swap questions are antithetical to forming the kind of community that will make the site successful. Several of us have made pretty reasoned arguments here; all you seem to have to say is "Why shouldn't I be able to?" (in other words, I should be able to because I want to). That's not really an argument at all, it's whining. –  Aaronut Jul 19 '10 at 23:27
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@Aaronaught - you're translating a world view that has been established for code development, directly to a site that's about food. The two communities have different requirements. I can appreciate you're doing a lot of work here, but I think you need to step back and consider what the final goals could and should be. –  codeinthehole Jul 20 '10 at 15:23
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@Aaronaught - recipe swap questions are antithetical to forming the kind of community that will make the site successful .. says who? –  codeinthehole Jul 20 '10 at 15:24
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@codeinthehole: You've been here all of two days and the only question you've asked (on the parent site) is a meta question that got migrated. As far as I know, you didn't actively participate in the Area 51 definition phase either. I don't claim to be the final authority, but I think the 50 or so of us who helped spawn this site are in a slightly better position to judge "what the final goals could and should be." And although we have our areas of disagreement, most of us do seem to agree that recipe questions dilute the value of the site because they call for non-expert answers. –  Aaronut Jul 20 '10 at 17:43
    
@Cade, it doesn't matter how many "things in cooking don't have a correct expert answer"; what we want on this_ site is the remainder. –  Pops Sep 13 '10 at 6:06
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@kev and Jeff. I think you're talking past each other. The meeting point, I think, is somewhere between free-for-all "I need a recipe for roast turkey" cropping up a zillion times from October through December and "you asked how to make Hollandaise, u iz banninated." which I think is how you're seeing each others' responses.

That being said, when it comes to people reading the site, how-to questions are of more lasting value than recipe needed questions; those can be answered at epicurious or allrecipes or just by typing into Google. What's less easy to find is "my souffles just fell and my guests want dessert, how do I fix this?" Which is where this site can be most useful: a focused knowledgebase regarding the why of cooking as opposed to the what. So 'how do I roast a turkey' will be a question that will garner some specific recipes, as well as more generalized information about how to roast birds. That sort of question generates more useful information for everyone interested in the general subject of roasting birds and meats. Whereas "I need a recipe for roast turkey" will pretty much only get actual recipes; less information for everyone.

Or to use your plumber reference: a good website for plumbers would have questions like "when is the best time to use a whatever instead of a whatever?" The bad version of that website would be "where can I buy a whatever in $small_town?," because the latter can be easily googled.

Doh, this was supposed to be a comment replying to kev and jeff's back-and-forth.

Also adding: it would be great if we could hammer this out earlier. The horrible inclusionist/exclusionist divide on Wikipedia needn't be replayed here.

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As a complete newcomer, I agree with roux that it will help to have this explained well and clearly upfront -- it could leave a bad taste in people's mouths, and this site clearly has more back and forth going on it than SE seems to. –  Peter V Jul 21 '10 at 15:08
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Recipe requests will be a very common request, especially if the site gains any traction. Recipe swapping is the kind of activity I categorize as 'community building'. That kind of thing has been a better fit for meta, or better yet that 'third place' them folks keep talking about. The primary site should remain questions with great answers.

I suspect this kind of site is going to develop 'community' to a greater extent than the trilogy sites did. We'll leave a less bitter taste in the mouths of new users asking recipe requests if we can forward them off to another space more geared for that kind of thing, rather than closing the question outright.

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Now that is an interesting idea; maybe we could get the team to create a meta-like sub-site where the hardcore contingent of people who insist on using this platform for recipe exchange can go to do their thing. And make it work like this meta, where rep is derived from the parent site and badges are segregated. –  Aaronut Jul 20 '10 at 3:47
    
There are some 'mission' questions here, though. Trilogy sites are meant to be reference manuals, and cooking was pitched that way too. I suspect that maintaining our expert population of question-answerers will require a bit more 'community' than the trilogy sites allowed for. That's what the grand StackExchange concept is all about. –  sysadmin1138 Jul 20 '10 at 3:55
    
Eh, you kinda lost me on the follow-up comment. Recipes are too open-ended to be useful "reference material." There is already a different standard of "objectivity" being applied to questions and answers here (compared to Stack Overflow), and I think the community has gelled pretty well on a quality standard, however difficult it may be to describe in words. Still, the idea of a "back room" recipe site sounds like a great compromise, and I'm going to pitch it to the team if nobody else has already. –  Aaronut Jul 20 '10 at 14:35
    
@Aaronaught; I suggested that recipe swaps could be included as part of the community wiki in this question which you downvoted (meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/231/…) –  codeinthehole Jul 20 '10 at 15:21
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I could see a "recipe swap" Stack Exchange as a dedicated site but I still believe it would grievously water down an expert "culinary Q&A forum." Propose it as a new site. –  Robert Cartaino Jul 20 '10 at 15:27
    
@aaronaught No, you had it right. Recipe swap type questions don't belong in the reference manual, more in the book next to it. Addressing Robert's problem and mine, I think keeping that other site closely associated with this one would help maintain our user-base. –  sysadmin1138 Jul 20 '10 at 15:57
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@codeinthehole: Once again, the Community Wiki feature exists to allow editing by lower-rep users, not to justify off-topic/discussion questions. –  Aaronut Jul 20 '10 at 17:38
    
@Robert: It wouldn't water the site down if it were totally segregated like this meta site is. Nobody would see the recipes unless they specifically went to that sub-site. Does that count as a "new site" or does it pretty much have to be a brand-new Area 51 proposal? –  Aaronut Jul 20 '10 at 17:40
    
@aaronaught I was thinking a segregated site anyway. Once we get enough people on this one we might be able to catalyze enough support on Area51 to spark a new one for more recipe stuff. –  sysadmin1138 Jul 20 '10 at 17:57
    
Why not forward people to another site and close their questions? Seems to me that both is better than just one. It's early in the beta, but Programmers SE (a site for all the stuff that's too subjective for SO, to oversimplify) is doing well; we could probably use an analog here. –  Pops Sep 13 '10 at 6:12
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I think there's a distinction between a Q&A site for cooking and a site for recipes and I think there's probably another stack exchange site in the making just for recipes. I actually could see it working in conjunction with the cooking site as a bit of a sister site where people could post a recipe as a "Question" like "Chocolate Cake" and others would post their chocolate cake recipes as "Answers" and they would invariably get voted on and the best ones would float to the top.

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The thing about a recipe site is that it's been done a million times, and there's nothing the StackOverflow model would do to improve them. –  Brendan Long Jul 18 '10 at 17:14
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A recipe is to cookery, what code is to development.

The idea that regular people (non-developers) will adhere to arbitrary rules about what constitutes a question .. and whether they're allowed to request a recipe, is ridiculous.

Food is all about recipes. Recipes are used to describe how to prepare food. Without the ability to share and discuss recipes - the grand aim (being able to share knowledge about cooking) is completely obscured.


EDIT: What is a recipe?

It's a list of ingredients and a method. At the moment it's being suggested that it's okay to talk about these components individually - but not combined. It doesn't make sense to me at all.

Perhaps the problem is actually the use of 'good' in the example question.

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I think we need to acknowledge that developers have a specific (technical/structured) way of looking at a problem. –  codeinthehole Jul 19 '10 at 23:16
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Virtually any professional or even accomplished home cook would disagree that "food is all about recipes." In a way, you could almost say that one of the goals of this site is to elevate its users beyond the need for simple recipes. –  Aaronut Jul 19 '10 at 23:30
    
In any case, the analogy is nonsense to me. Code is a set of instructions for the computer. A recipe is a set of instructions for the cook. The former is the end product, created by the craftsman; the latter is essentially a set of training wheels for him. –  Aaronut Jul 19 '10 at 23:33
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Without recipes - this site will be nothing but general knowledge relating to food. When I cook - I like to end up eating something, and that generally means that I need a recipe (or method + ingredients) to allow me to do so. Sometimes information about the method or ingredients is enough to get me by. –  codeinthehole Jul 20 '10 at 15:18
    
Code is a set of instructions for the computer. A recipe is a set of instructions for the cook. Bingo .. they're quite similar aren't they ;) –  codeinthehole Jul 20 '10 at 15:19
    
Your recipe/code analogy is exactly why you don't want a site full of recipe requests! You can talk about recipes/code all day (discuss, troubleshoot, enhance, develop, etc)... we just don't want "give me the recipe for X" anymore than we want "plz send teh codez". There are endless places to find random recipes. I'm hopeful that the users here can hold the line and aspire to something more significant. –  Robert Cartaino Jul 20 '10 at 15:45
    
@Robert Cartaino - I see your point, and agree. But I'd argue that we're talking about what constitutes a bad/good question. A question requesting a recipe, is not automatically a bad question. If I'm looking for a good, community recommended recipe for making a particular dish (which meets a particular criteria) .. is it really that bad to ask for it? I think there's benefit in creating a recipe resource, alongside the main general knowledge resource. I initially felt that recipe requests would work in the community wiki, I still think this could be the case .. –  codeinthehole Jul 20 '10 at 16:02
    
How do you figure that a set of instructions for the computer is in any way similar to a set of instructions for the cook? We are the cooks here; we are not the computers. The site should be a resource to help teach us new skills, not a repository of instructions for mindless automatons. Community wiki mode has absolutely nothing to do with this and does not alter the fact that a high volume of recipe requests would be a wet blanket on the real, quality questions and answers we are striving for. –  Aaronut Jul 20 '10 at 17:52
    
And maybe there is "benefit in creating a recipe resource" - but that doesn't mean that this has to be that resource. I'll never understand why some people insist on being allowed to discuss certain subjects in places where those subjects are not welcomed, when there are hundreds if not thousands of other places where they are welcome. There is already a site that tries to put everything under one roof; that site is Yahoo Answers, and we all know how useful it is. –  Aaronut Jul 20 '10 at 17:56
    
I'll never understand why some people insist on being allowed to discuss certain subjects in places where those subjects are not welcomed - I thought this was a discussion to decide what should be welcomed, but it sounds as if the decision has already been made. –  codeinthehole Jul 20 '10 at 18:08
    
@codeinthehole: You're right. Discussion of these topics are very much the purpose of the meta site. And we are in beta. –  Robert Cartaino Jul 20 '10 at 18:38
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Is it possible to have something like a separate tab for recipe questions? In such a system, perhaps once a question was tagged with "recipe," it could automatically migrate over to that separate area. That way, recipe questions would not clog up the rest of the site, but we would not have to fight a continual battle with removing them.

I am hoping for some sort of automatic filter, since I think this will be never-ending problem.

I do agree that they don't belong overall, but they may simply be unavoidable.

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It's been proposed in sysadmin1138's answer here. I actually think it's a good idea, although Robert didn't seem so keen on it. I still haven't gotten around to formally proposing it. –  Aaronut Jul 22 '10 at 23:05
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I cannot see how recipes can be off-topic on a cooking site - recipes come in all shapes and sizes. I've got some which discuss options and variations and some which don't. I've got shelves of cookbooks with wealth of information hidden away in the recipes - from seasonal hints to tips on techniques.

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it's not that recipes are off topic, it's that asking for a recipe is off topic. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 9 '10 at 21:37
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@jeff - I think you'll find that the bulk of any Q&A on a cookery site will be about recipes. How are they any less subjective than asking about technique or method. Cooking is opinionated. That's why cooking and food is fun. In France you may prepare a steak one way, in the US a different way. There is no right answer (except for maybe the core basics such as the education you get when training to be a chef - a saucier for example). You will find that some great gems of advice that may otherwise not surface will come from asking for a particular recipe. This site is doomed to fail if... –  Kev Jul 10 '10 at 20:12
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..if driven by the strict standards demanded by SO. Chefs discuss and ask each other about recipes all the time. Driving the rules of a cooking site by the black and white standards of programmers is just plain daft if you ask me. –  Kev Jul 10 '10 at 20:15
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@kev how is "gimme teh recipe!!!!" any different than "gimme teh codezzz!!!!"? We want some thought going into the questions, not just "do my work for me, thanks bye" –  Jeff Atwood Jul 10 '10 at 22:40
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@Jeff - Well that's fine Jeff if you really want to compare food and cooking with programming in that simplistic way then be my guest. Good luck to the site. You just let a bunch of programmers who do a bit of cooking on the side kill this site. It's like allowing a bunch of plumbers decide what you can ask in a programmer site. –  Kev Jul 10 '10 at 23:55
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I agree, Kev, that we should try and make our rules appropriate for this site, rather than derive all the rules from StackOverflow, but I do think that recipe questions shouldn't be allowed. I see this site as a place for someone who already has a recipe, but is having trouble with a particular technique, or needs to know how to do something that the recipe demands, but is not explained. –  MJeffryes Jul 11 '10 at 10:30
    
@jeff - ok...mulled this over and point taken. I added a comment to Robert's answer here: meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/49/… –  Kev Jul 12 '10 at 21:37
    
@Jeff. Gimme recipes is always bad. But, "what's the best marinade you've ever had or made for a grilled chicken" is more useful. Perhaps analogous to, what's the most efficient way to store an array instead of, "gimme array storing code". –  Ocaasi Jul 29 '10 at 16:21
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I think they should be disallowed.

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