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I've started getting involved in reviewing questions and answers on Stack Overflow and came across a question which already had 2 close votes.

How do I draw a graph or tree structure in JavaScript?

I read the question, and felt it was a good fit (asking about libraries to achieve to render a visualization on the web), and happen to know about the area. I've been watching it and it's since received another 2 close votes but I can't understand why.

I wanted to get other people's views on the question, and try and understand why questions that perfectly fit the FAQ are being marked for closing?

The FAQ specifically suggests questions on "software tools commonly used by programmers" fit the site, and at least one of the answers (D3) has it's own reasonably popular tag on SO.

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It got closed, I cast the first reopen vote. Good Luck. –  Lance Roberts Apr 17 '13 at 18:22
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Because it's a recommendation question, which are regarded to be not constructive. –  Bart Apr 17 '13 at 18:22
    
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It's a textbook list/recommendation question. They have been very clearly determined to not belong on these sites. I have no idea why @LanceRoberts would vote to reopen a question that he knows should be closed. –  Servy Apr 17 '13 at 18:23
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P.s. once again the "software tools commonly used by programmers" is misinterpreted here. Perhaps we really need some clarification there, because that one seems to come up time and time again. –  Bart Apr 17 '13 at 18:24
    
@Servy - it's his version of non-violent resistance... if there's a reopen vote, you can safely guess who cast it. –  LittleBobbyTables Apr 17 '13 at 18:25
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@Bart: Couldn't agree more. I think it would be worth calling out library recommendation questions specifically in the FAQ, since many users (fairly) point to the FAQ and claim it doesn't mention them. –  David Robinson Apr 17 '13 at 18:26
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One of SO's most defining qualities as opposed to other sites people can go to to ask programming questions is that SO won't answer just anything; it closes questions that aren't up to it's quality standards. If you disagree with that concept then you'll be better off on another site, rather than trying to remove that defining quality of SO. –  Servy Apr 17 '13 at 18:26
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@LanceRoberts If you think it should be closed and not deleted then vote to undelete if deleted, and vote to close if it's open. I'd support that. You don't reopen a question that should be closed just because it might possibly maybe be deleted in the future. –  Servy Apr 17 '13 at 18:28
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@BlahBlahGrabblesnackers: Exactly like that. And I upvoted that feature request at the time. –  David Robinson Apr 17 '13 at 18:29
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I think George's edit suffices. Re-opened. Feel like this is a duplicate though. –  Shogging through the snow Apr 17 '13 at 18:31
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@Ian: it's the difference between trying to accomplish a specific task and just asking for lists of libraries (that may or may not do what you want). See: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/176793/… –  Shogging through the snow Apr 17 '13 at 18:34
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@shog9 oh, so it isn't a shopping question now? HAS THE WORLD GONE CRAZY?? –  Won't Apr 17 '13 at 18:50
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I wish there was such a thing as a vote not to reopen. –  Jack Maney Apr 17 '13 at 20:46
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@Ian - The Stack Exchange network of sites do not operate on the basis of consensus. –  Jack Maney Apr 19 '13 at 16:03

5 Answers 5

"software tools commonly used by programmers" means specific questions about using a software tool. This is to cover questions that aren't about code exactly, but are about how to use features of IDEs, revision control systems, etc.

General questions asking for recommendations for tools (shopping questions) are off-topic.

From What kind of questions should I not ask here?

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite __?”
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I was under the impression that asking for recommendations for a specific detailed task was OK though, such as asking for a library in a specific language that had the specific capability of accepting an array of objects nodes and relationships, and would output a graph of style specified in the image given. Sure the "best" could probably have been clarified (fast, easy to use, high-performing, etc), but the rest of the question wasn't one that would elicit a huge list of everyone's favorite drawing library, so I think was fine. –  Rachel Apr 17 '13 at 18:38
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@Rachel It's better to ask how to solve the problem that you face than to ask for a particular type of solution (a library) that solves the problem for you. Asking for recommendations tends to result in a list of links. This one was short, but that's still the kind of answer that it generated. –  Bill the Lizard Apr 17 '13 at 18:52
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Sure it's better to ask a question that way, but last I checked you weren't forbidden to ask recommendation questions in the first place providing you included enough details so the answers can be evaluated and judged by other users based on your criteria, and the end result is not a huge list of everyone's favorite X. –  Rachel Apr 17 '13 at 19:18

The question is essentially this:

Does anyone know a good JS tool/library similar to google visualization API that allows to layout and draw automatically graphs like this one?

A question like that is just going to get answers that list possible libraries the OP could use. The requirements are not much restrictive, but even in the case they would be, the question would require users to add a new answer when a new library is available, or delete an answer when the suggested library is not anymore available.

It is true that questions about tools normally used by programmers are on-topic, but that doesn't mean I can ask for recommendations about which IDE I should use.

That is the kind of question that is better to ask on chat. Once the OP gets to use a library, he can ask how to achieve something with that library.

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I'll be honest, I think the StackExchange 'chat' is one of the biggest wastes of time... Often it's just banter that isn't productive at all. –  Ian Apr 18 '13 at 7:37

I've edited your question to make it more palatable for Stack Overflow.

Bad: "I need a library."

Good: "I need to do this in JavaScript, how do I do it? If someone has already done it, how would I integrate their work into my project?"

It has also been re-opened (I was distracted, otherwise I would have re-opened it for you).

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-_- Well, now we're going to have to fight. Its a crap shopping question. I've closed it. Now, into the octagon. –  Won't Apr 17 '13 at 18:48
    
Won't that just create a lot of "what have you tried" comments? I think the point is the OP was looking for an existing library before he/she attempted to try doing something like that on their own. –  Rachel Apr 17 '13 at 18:48
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If you can demonstrate how to solve the problem using a library, great! @Rachel. The problem with these (as the existing answers demonstrated) is that explicit library requests tend to collect answers with links to libraries but no information on how they can be used to solve the problem in question. –  Shogging through the snow Apr 17 '13 at 18:54
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@Rachel Isn't that part of the problem though? If the answer to "what have you tried?" would be "nothing, just looking for a library", you still have a crap question. If it were reformulated along the lines of "I used the Raphael library, this is my result, it got me partially there, but now I'm stuck here. How can I achieve feature X?", you might have something better. –  Bart Apr 17 '13 at 18:54
    
@Bart, if I spend 40+ hours drawing shapes with Raphael and then I need to auto-layout these shapes and then I realized just by an accident that there were libs that could do BOTH tasks? Don't you think it isn't worth asking such a question beforehand? Please downvote me, and I realize I violated SO rules, but it saved me a whole bunch of time. Sorry guys. Sad that others won't be able to see the question as it's closed now. –  Alexey Apr 19 '13 at 15:29
    
@Alexey It is unfortunate that you would have to spend a lot of time to figure that out. But then again, that is not my concern. My immediate concern is to have a good question that attracts good answers within the boundaries we have set for this site. With that in mind it surprises me to hear you knew full well that your question was not appropriate for the site, but you still thought, let's ignore that, it will help me. Your question is a fair one to have, but it is not for this site. By all means ask it somewhere else. –  Bart Apr 19 '13 at 15:41

The FAQ specifically suggests questions on "software tools commonly used by programmers" fit the site, and at least one of the answers (D3) has it's own reasonably popular tag on SO.

If the question were something like How can I use LibraryX to draw a tree graph? Here's what I've got so far... then it would be a reasonable question about software tools. But this is a question asking for people to suggest libraries that could be used to draw tree graphs, and questions like that aren't so good for at least these reasons:

  • Different people may have different favorite tree-graph drawing libraries -- there's no objectively correct answer.

  • The question can be answered pretty easily by searching.

  • A long list of answers is likely to result, with each answer being something like "try XXX".

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All, I'm the author of that question and I see everyone's point that it's similar to "What is your favorite _" and reference about IDE's question. But I strongly disagree with this, I don't feel like this comparison (IDE vs a JS library) is right.

I asked that question in Javascript section, and it was about Javascript libraries. If I was asking about IDE it wouldn't be appropriate since IDE's are not written with JS, so my point is that JS libs are more related to the subject than IDE's or any other similar apps.

Also, I don't think this question is easily google'd. Trust me, I tried and I found only Raphael library which was ok for drawing shapes, but not laying them out, so it solved my problem partially. While Ian's answer really helped me. And this is the purpose of SO, right? And I really believe that it will help others in the future.

So to my mind, FAQ should be specific in what is considered as "tool". AND if I had asked "what php framework should I choose" and wouldn't specify the purpose, I agree, it should be banned. But I specified the purpose.

So my two points are:

  1. I specified the problem I'd like to solve with the tool/library
  2. The library I asked for is using the same language I'm going to use
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How is asking for a JS library recommendation inherently different from asking for an IDE recommendation? The reasons that have been given for why recommendation questions aren't allowed aren't specific to anything. Asking for any type of product recommendation isn't allowed. That it's not easy to Google isn't particularly relevant. The question isn't closed because it's easy to Google this. Nobody is saying a good recommendation engine can't be helpful; we're saying SO isn't a good platform as a recommendation engine. Knowing what you need the recommendation for doesn't change that. –  Servy Apr 18 '13 at 20:30
    
sorry, I re-read your comment twice and besides the fact that I violated SO rules, I couldn't understand anything. I agree with this. But I really believe that reputation score down was worth it. See my comment above in the other thread. Back to your question why a recommendation for a lib is different from IDE recommendation - I tried to explain this in my answer above. Thanks for your comment though –  Alexey Apr 19 '13 at 15:32

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