Certification questions in general, and certification market-value questions in particular, need a more obvious close reason. They may also benefit from some red flags in the help center.

Certification Questions as Shopping Questions

Now that Stack Exchange has rolled out the new close options, questions that were previously closed as NARQ or Too Localized don't have a self-explanatory radio button for closing because they are easily searchable, are shopping-type questions, or are otherwise too narrow in scope.

For example, About the new PMI-ACP certification in comparison to PMP could be closed as a duplicate (we already have some related questions), but it is also fundamentally a shopping question because at some level it's asking for advice on what tool to buy. In this case, the "tool" is a certification rather than a gizmo, but that doesn't really change the nature of the question.

Certification Questions as LMGTFY Questions

Certification questions are also often searchable. Even when they aren't, the correct source is generally the certifying body. In my opinion, the broad category of certification marketability is one that should always be off-topic because it will probably always fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Opinion-based.
  2. Searchable by job availability, market research, or certifying authority FAQ.
  3. Only relevant to a narrow situation or a particular point in time (see next section).

Certification Questions as Too Narrow

Certification questions, especially ones about certification marketability, are also too volatile. Even when the answers aren't completely subjective, an objective answer such as recent job survey data or market-sector polling would be out of date within a short period of time. There's a reason why salary guides like Robert Half's annual IT salary guide come out yearly, after all.

Such questions are also generally useless unless narrowed geographically, which may render the answers useless to anyone not in the same geographical region. For example, a salary guide for Japan will probably yield very different results than one that surveys jobs in Australia. As a concrete example, note that Robert Half's salary guides are divided into 15 geographical regions.

Finally, while the question that triggered this meta question wasn't one of them, most certification market-value questions are inherently too narrow because the real underlying question is how valuable they would be to the questioner. While you can certainly make some general statements about the marketability of a Ph.D., whether or not having a Ph.D. in comparative fly-fishing will help me personally achieve my dreams of financial success in the world of quantum mechanics research is probably not answerable, nor would any possible answer be relevant to anyone else on the Internet.


I'd like to see a targeted close reason for certification questions. One possible decision tree might be:

  • off-topic because -> too narrow
  • off-topic because -> shopping question
  • off-topic because -> too temporally volatile / too quickly obsolete

but please don't down-vote just because you don't like the suggested decision tree wording. Please focus on the issue of whether the certification category in general needs better close reasons instead.

This question is fundamentally about whether the community finds value in certification questions. If we don't, we should make it easy to put such questions on-hold. If we do value such questions, we should provide actionable feedback to askers about how to refactor off-topic questions so that they become on-topic for our community.

  • 1
    We have a close reason for software recommendation questions. What do you think about deactivating that close reason and then re-creating it to cover both software recommendations and shopping questions in one? See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/186336/… for context.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jul 14, 2013 at 20:13
  • The reason I make this suggestion is that we're limited to just 3 off-topic close reasons, so we need to make these count.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jul 14, 2013 at 20:18
  • One more question :) If something is too narrow, could we ask the asker to clarify and expand? Would "unclear what you're asking" cover that specific scenario?
    – jmort253
    Commented Jul 14, 2013 at 20:21
  • 1
    @jmort253 I think it's perfectly clear what they're asking. I just think these sorts of questions are not really constructive. The problem is that there's a "Too Broad" but not a "Too Narrow" close reason. See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/184154/….
    – Todd A. Jacobs Mod
    Commented Jul 14, 2013 at 20:55
  • Related meta post: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/184154/…
    – Todd A. Jacobs Mod
    Commented Jul 14, 2013 at 20:56
  • I'm not against having a too narrow reason, but when I read Shog9's response to Jeff, I'm thinking they want us to come up with something a little clearer than simply, "too narrow"; otherwise, that would have been a standard. There are definitely questions that aren't going to be helpful to future visitors, and I'm wondering if we can possibly find out if there's a pattern or type of question that we can give a more custom reason for. Whatdya think?
    – jmort253
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 2:02
  • I will say this: I've seen "Too localized" get severely abused on other sites, but I can't say I've ever seen it be a problem on PMSE. :)
    – jmort253
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 2:06
  • 1
    One of the off-topic reason is "Questions seeking software recommendations are off-topic because they tend to become obsolete quickly." Can we have multiple words besides software? such as "Questions seeking software / tool / certification recommendations are off-topic ..." Would that help? Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 12:13
  • @AzizShaikh - That's what I'm thinking. If we combine those, we can make the most of the other 2 custom off-topic close reasons.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


I believe there is value in some certification/software/tool questions. Certification/software/tool related questions seem fall into three categories:

  1. I (or my organization) is new to project management and heard that certification/software/tool is a good first step.
  2. Help me find/decide about a certification/software/tool.
  3. I am looking for a place to put a spam advertising link.

Of the three types, we can all agree that we want to keep no. 3 off the site. We could close this with "off topic."

No. 2 seems to fork into different directions like a work/career advancement question best suited to workplace.se or too localized. No. 2 type questions would fit into an "off-topic" (and send to workplace.se) or "too localized" category.

No. 1 has merit if we can ferret out why the OP is looking for a certification/software/tool and help direct them to existing answers. This type of question seems to be the one that would benefit the most from a custom close reason. We could have a standard reason that refers the OP to getting started with PM type questions.

  • "Too localized" is gone...that's part of the problem. :)
    – Todd A. Jacobs Mod
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 13:43
  • ah. Thanks for getting me up to speed on that. Then, I'd move it to "off-topic" since a question about finding or deciding on a certification/software/tool is off-topic for the site. Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 15:06
  • 1
    Hi Mark, one concern I have is that the close reason I proposed for approval, as we've worded it, could make it appear that all 3 types of cert questions are off-topic, and some of them do have value. How can we word these close reasons so we don't accidentally kick anything out that we want to keep?
    – jmort253
    Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 2:34
  • 1
    How about "motivation unclear" or "unclear intent" Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 1:16
  • 1
    Agree that you have to go narrow here, or anything resembling a certification is just going to get closed, since the UI suggests it should be. When it comes down to number 1, and the major concern is just not being able to ferret out what they're after - wouldn't 'unclear what you're asking' work equally well?
    – Tim Post
    Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 12:05
  • I'm thinking something that helps guide the OP on how to improve. It is clear what someone is asking with "Is the certification worth it/which tool to use". Discovering why they are asking it can guide them and the community on ferreting out the underlying need. Too subtle? Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 14:55
  • We do a good job of helping people improve their posts when something is wrong, so it may be a non-issue.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jul 27, 2013 at 17:41
  • It might be a non-issue. Figure it could be a helpful short-hand and allow the community to give constructive feedback more easily without having to commit to a longer engagement. This could be particularly appealing in the face of OP's who don't respond to community feedback on improving their question. With this, it would be closed (good for the site), have given specific feedback (good for OP/community) and put the ball in OP's court (good for OP/community). Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 14:40

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