I fired up Stack Overflow just now and entered in the search "best jquery tooltip plugin", and was met with a fine collection of perfectly clickable candidates ... many of which have been closed as not constructive.

I've read the FAQ and I get it; it's not necessarily a factual programming question, and at some point they have to draw a line in the sand. Alas, I'm spoiled, and at this point I've pretty much convinced myself that if a SO post fails to generate traction then my question is untenable.

Where in the Stack Exchange universe does a question like the one above make the most sense? Is it just flat out unacceptable anywhere? Is there a stackdiscussion.com? Should I be asking this in meta.stackoverflow? Someone kinda did. But this is a programming question. Factual? debatable. But most certainly a programming question.

  • This is not a programming question. Where is the code that posts your question to a stackexchange site? Where's the tag telling us which programming language you're programming your question-asker in?
    – Wooble
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 19:48
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    See blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping
    – user102937
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 20:10
  • Ugh, you asked this on SO? Shame. Shame! Also, I don't think these types of questions belong on SO... even though I want to ask "what X should I get to do Y" questions several times a month. So I know the feeling.
    – user1228
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 22:12
  • @Won't yes, yes. I deserve the double shame (and the flurry of down-votes I got on SO before it was migrated).. I was actually in here first, trolling around, but regrettably wound up back on SO and posted there.
    – kmk
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 22:22
  • See also: Which computer science / programming Stack Exchange do I post in?
    – gnat
    Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 10:11

4 Answers 4


As pointed out in comments, the most enlightening guidance on asking and answering best / recommendation type questions appears to be one given in Q&A is Hard, Let’s Go Shopping!

...consider the voluminous amount of information you need to even begin properly answering...

Let’s say the question asker provided all that information. Fat chance, I know, but let’s pretend for a moment they did — and we were able to provide the perfect, ideal shopping recommendation to them. Even if that was the case, technology moves so rapidly that the best shopping recommendations will be utterly obsolete within a year! What’s the point of a bunch of labor intensive questions that provide only temporary benefit to a limited (some might say Too Localized) audience? There isn’t any...

... there is a way to ask these questions that avoids the inherent problems with shopping recommendations. For example, let’s say you wanted — as I did — to buy a point-and-shoot camera that takes good low light photos. So we’re going to ask on photo.stackexchange.com, naturally!

Here’s one way to ask:

Q: What’s the best low light point-and-shoot camera?

...Here’s another way to ask:

Q: How do I tell which point-and-shoot cameras take good low light photos?

...The former question provides the path of least resistance: a laundry list of products I can buy without thinking about it too much. But that answer will only be valid for a year at best. The latter question may take some thinking, but its answer will be valid forever … or at least until camera technology somehow shifts beyond lenses and sensors as we know them today. Thus, when it comes to shopping questions, don’t ask us what you should buy — ask us what you need to learn to tell what you should buy...

Applied to your particular case, a more appropriate question could be like like "How do I tell which jquery tooltip plugin <fill in what do you want from it>"

  • 6
    Or take it a step further and avoid asking for a plugin at all: "How do I do X in jQuery?"
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 20:54
  • thanks. chat is a non-starter for me here at work. this link, and the advice was helpful.
    – kmk
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 21:03
  • 3
    In before "How do I tell which jquery tooltip plugin is the best jquery tooltip plugin" gets closed as not constructive.
    – user1228
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 22:13
  • 2
    Relating to your camera example, there is no way to tell which camera takes good pictures in low light conditions by looking just at specs. You need to test it, that is why there are so many websites doing these. And what will tell you that it needs good sensor and even better software to clean the image? Nothing.
    – Grzenio
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 12:56

If you're looking for discussion instead of Q&A, I'd suggest the chat.

SO usually has chat rooms for specific languages/technologies, or there are some more active chatrooms that are for general chat

There's also the Programmers.SE chat, which is the main chat room for programmers.stackexchange


Where in the stackexchange universe does a question like the one above make the most sense?


Stack Exchange is not a place for discussions or debates. The very design of SE is built around quelling debates should they spring up, not encouraging them out. That's why the comment system is restricted.

Stack Exchange is for answering questions, not discussing things and putting forth various opinions. Even subjective questions must be held to certain standards, and answers have to be backed up by either facts or actual experience.

You could try the chatrooms if you feel like it. That's as close to "discussion" as it gets.


There's now programmers.stackexchange.com, which accepts many questions about programming projects, techniques, and designs, which aren't specific to a particular piece of code.

Gee, this started a firestorm. I didn't feel there was enough information to know for sure whether the question would or would not be on-topic at Programmers.

I can't tell whether he's looking for an existing plugin (the "best" one, whatever that means) or "best practices" for writing his own plugin.

But go ahead and downvote my answer into oblivion. I'm assuming the intent is that "this answer is not helpful" rather than incorrect, and that may be true, depending on what kind of question the user was really asking.

  • 4
    This question is not appropriate for Programmers.SE. "Best" questions are all "bad subjective". Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 20:03
  • 3
    Oh dear, I think Mark Trapp is coming for you now.... Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 20:20
  • 9
    You must be new here, Ben. Any time Programmers is recommended as the place for a question, the Programmers.SE mafia comes out to downvote you into oblivion and leaves angry, fist-shaking comments that their site is not the place for that. It makes everyone a little bit confused about what, exactly, Programmers.SE is for, and their FAQ doesn't help. But no matter, they've successfully deterred anyone from ever recommending their site as the place for questions. Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 20:38
  • 3
    @CodyGray What parts of the FAQ are confusing? I'm not sure how saying "discussions aren't appropriate on Programmers" (which is normal for SE in general) is equivalent to "Programmers mafia" coming down on you.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 20:46
  • 2
    @Anna: Ben's answer says nothing about discussions. As far as I understand the scope of Programmers, everything it says is precisely correct. But that's precisely the problem: I don't seem to understand the scope. This is a much more general problem. No one is arguing that we should have more discussions. Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 20:48
  • 3
    @CodyGray Fair enough, but is an answer getting downvotes cause it's making a poor recommendation worth the "Programmers is bad" rhetoric? If you have recommendations for making the FAQ there clearer, I'm sure they'd be quite receptive to that.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 20:52
  • 4
    @Anna: I didn't say it was "bad". I said you must be new here; no one recommends Programmers anymore because it's unclear what the site's scope is and some of its users disagree strongly with what others of its users think the site's scope entails. It's not a problem with the FAQ, it's a problem with the disconnect between the community at large and the moderators (not just those with diamonds). And no, I don't have any recommendations for the FAQ because I don't even understand it myself. I've followed lots of discussions about it and never seen any consensus. Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 20:58
  • 2
    @CodyGray I definitely agree with you. The site name doesn't match the FAQ, so users not familiar with the site think it is about one thing, while those familiar with the site think it's about another. And since the site was originally created to be something other than what it is now, there is a 3rd group that disagrees with the site's direction completely. I plan on posting a meta question about changing the FAQ significantly sometime soon once I find time to finish writing it, and will outline what is unclear in the current FAQ there.
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 21:09
  • 2
    @Adam: I suppose that explains why, when I looked at the front page yesterday, over 3/4 of the questions had "[closed]" appended to their titles (I was bored; no new questions on Meta). Maybe eventually that will help clarify things for users; I was, however, quite confused. Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 21:11
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    @CodyGray the point is that without a lot of extra information on what the OP is trying to do it will just get a list of everyone's favourite plugin which is the very definition of not constructive. However, by adding enough qualifiers you'll either make it too localised or find the answer yourself.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 22:31
  • 3
    @CodyGray Bad timing. We are cleaning up career related questions, at some points these past few days all our questions in the front page were closed. There are about 100 of them left, out of about 500, so we will be over soon, and our front page won't be such a mess. Needless to say, Programmers is not about career advice...
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 12:32
  • 2
    @BenVoigt It seems to me that you aren't very far off from what Programmers is actually about. We do welcome questions about programming projects, techniques, and designs, which aren't specific to a particular piece of code, the down votes you are getting are because "best jquery tooltip plugin" is not a question that would be constructive even on jQuery Stack Exchange, if such a site existed.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 12:39
  • 2
    @CodyGray: The way I keep it straight is--When I'm sitting at my keyboard, I'm on StackOverflow. When I'm standing at the whiteboard, I'm on Programmers.
    – user1228
    Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 14:30
  • 2
    @Yannis - your comment to me should be the FAQ. It doesn't get any clearer than that. Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 15:41
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    @Yannis: If "more trouble than they are worth" is the standard, I think that applies to Programmers, too. I haven't seen very many questions that you still endorse as being on-topic for your site that I couldn't ask on Stack Overflow with minimal modifications. Good questions about programming are good questions. Not all questions on SO require code. Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 20:55

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