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[Edited] NOTE: I've edited and rearranged the question to emphasize the issues. I don't care about links which describe why Stack Exchange does not allow shopping recommendations. I am simply claiming that My question does not fall into the category.

Ok, here it goes:

I asked a question on Stack Overflow last month, which got a close vote for being off-topic, and subsequently got no answers.

According to this (non-authoritative) interpretation of the "no shopping" rule, a question which asks whether a {hardware component, class of product, peripheral} meets [a] technical requirement should actually be considered on topic. Again, not that it came from the SE staff or moderators, but the interpretation feels right and it's the answer with most votes.

1. My question (here)

Is there a .NET WinForms charting library which supports progressive zooming (like Silverlight deep zoom, for example)?

2. Jeff's examples (described in the no-shopping article):

  • Macbook Air vs. Macbook Pro?
  • What’s the best dual-band wireless router?
  • Dell GX280 Processor upgrade?
  • What RAM should I buy?
  • Nvidia or ATI video card?

3. A search for ".NET library" on Stack Overflow (first page only):

So, a (non-representative) sample of questions (this is the first page only) shows that 7 out of 8 lazy shoppers not only get by without being closed, but they also get upvoted, and get at least 2 answers. All of these questions can be answered by a non-expert through a single Google search.

4. Summary

So, I asked a question which:

  1. Does not ask for the best product.

  2. Does not ask for a recommendation of a product, but instead a single product which supports a specific feature (which is objective and verifiable).

  3. Does not ask for current state of the art for a family of products. The answer to my question, presuming that such library exists, will not be obsolete in a year. The feature is either there or it isn't.

  4. Does not ask for a comparison of different products.

And still, it's being flagged as a request for a "shopping recommendation".

Does any one care to explain what I am missing?

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migrated from Jun 16 '12 at 10:35

This question came from our discussion, support, and feature requests site for computer enthusiasts and power users.

not sure it's asked on here on Super User meta; seems more Stack Overflow specific. Having said that - "shopping" recommendation need not mean that involving money - recommend an app for x is generally considered offtopic. – Sathya Jun 16 '12 at 9:43
@Sathya: But I haven't mentioned the word money anywhere, and I don't care about buying stuff either. I asked two concrete questions at the bottom of this post. – Groo Jun 16 '12 at 10:24
@Daniel: you misinterpreted (or didn't read) my questions. I find the metaphor pretty obvious. I am arguing that my question doesn't ask for a product recommendation. – Groo Jun 16 '12 at 10:31
Charting libraries are products as well. They don't need to have a price tag. We don't do software recommendations, even for freeware or open source, on SU either because of that rule. – Daniel Beck Jun 16 '12 at 10:45
This is a reasonably authoritative treatment of your question. "Stack Overflow doesn't provide product or service recommendations [...] We cannot reliably tell you what the best book, language, platform, tool or library is." – Michael Petrotta Jun 16 '12 at 10:51
@Michael: there is no word best anywhere in my question. I am looking for a way to implement a specific requirement, using an existing product, if possible. I am not looking for a subjective answer, contrary to, say, this question answered by Marc Gravell. If you would stop posting links, and just try to compare that question to mine, I will vote to close my question myself. – Groo Jun 16 '12 at 11:05
@Daniel: I didn't ask for a recommendation, and I don't need the best library. I am asking if a specific product exists (not "what is the best product"), which contains a certain feature. Nothing vague or subjective. Otherwise, I believe most answers which have an external link to a library (or a "product", as you like to say), should have to have their questions closed. – Groo Jun 16 '12 at 11:12
Also, a search for ".NET library" yields this, this, this, this, this, this, this. – Groo Jun 16 '12 at 11:20
(that's the first results page only) There is actually a single closed question there, because poster was careless enough to include the word "recommendation". Which, by the way, I might have already mentioned, my question doesn't include. – Groo Jun 16 '12 at 11:21
I don't know what to tell you, Groo. You're self-evidently asking for a product recommendation, which is a no-go on Stack Overflow. The words mean what the words mean. As for your link salad, take a look at this. – Michael Petrotta Jun 16 '12 at 11:22
@Michael: Are you sure you really meant recommendation, again? Oh, and thanks for yet another link. Some posts get to stay [due to their] intrinsic value or historical significance. That closely follows the open/closed ratio for my search results, and the wealth of valuable exceptions to the rule. Fair enough, as you just posted, Stack Overflow is not a perfect model of its guidelines. And that sometimes happens in 7 out of 8 cases. – Groo Jun 16 '12 at 11:39
Thanks for finding these posts. Just because some of these types of questions slip under the radar (and many are quite old) it doesn't mean they're permitted, they just got missed. With newer questions the community is far more vigilant which is why we see less of them staying open (hopefully). – Kev Jun 17 '12 at 16:02
@Kev: these are just search results for ".NET library"‌​, as I've mentioned. There are many more similar questions if you continue from page 2, and yes, most of them a couple of years old. – Groo Jun 17 '12 at 21:32
up vote 4 down vote accepted

With the wording of your question as it stands, the only possible answers are “Yes” and “No” (and I'd be surprised if it was the latter). It simply isn't the kind of question which can be answered helpfully without a “shopping recommendation”, i.e., a list of possible products that you might look at (libraries in this case). We do not mean to imply that you have to purchase them — that's only necessary for commercial libraries, which might or might not be on such a list — but rather just that there's no practical way to make a correct answer: there will probably be many valid choices. Alas, which answers get the most votes tends also to be just a silly popularity contest fought for all the wrong reasons.

However… In general, I worry a bit about strict enforcement of this rule. There needs to be somewhere that can collect such lists of possible ways of solving a problem where a library is required. Choosing the right tool for a job is difficult, and finding which ones could be used by other alternatives seem to resolve down to essentially-random personal recommendations or Googling for out-of-date blogs. Those are horrible ways to pick things! Yet the problem with a question on SO is that it tends to not be curated: even if there was a perfect answer that listed the current state of the art originally, it goes out of date without someone working to prevent that from happening. I have seen it suggested here that tag wikis should be used for that purpose instead: that works OK for very popular tags, but I really doubt that it is anything like as effective in others, and one of the key strengths of the StackExchange way of doing things is the fact that you can find expertise in even fairly obscure things (and a lot of people work on stuff that is a mix of common and obscure). What's more, I've never seen a tag wiki page come up as the top suggestion in a Google search; that could be because I've never searched for the right thing, but it remains a worry.

I don't know the answer in general. I worry that some of the policies being pushed that are suitable for aren't nearly as useful in (to pick two random examples from opposite ends of the scale). Ho hum.

share|improve this answer
+1 But, unfortunately, I didn't manage to get a single answer (out of the many you are mentioning), and everyone is acting almost like I am talking about something so common and obvious it's embarrassing. On the other hand, I see 10 questions on the first search page which can be answered using a Google search ("I am lucky" might even work). This differentiation is slightly annoying, and no one has even tried to provide a reasonable explanation what I did wrong. My question being closed seems like an exception to the rule. – Groo Jun 16 '12 at 12:24
@Groo, why not try chat? – soandos Jun 17 '12 at 2:32
@soandos: hey, that's actually a great idea. Thanks a lot! – Groo Jun 17 '12 at 8:22

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