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How to ask a “Recommended design / tool for the job” question correctly, and where?

I'm often in need of recommended solutions to problems. E.g. what is a good regular expression tester, as asked in How can test I regular expressions using multiple RE engines??

These questions are closed 'not constructive' on stack overflow. But they're terribly useful when you're in need of a good answer to a fuzzy question.

What is the location to ask these questions, or what is a good form to do so?

  • Good as in "best of the best" or as "This question is succinct"?
    – random
    Jan 5, 2013 at 0:51

1 Answer 1


Stack Overflow is About Solutions, Not Opinion Polls

SO is about solutions, not opinion polling. While some problems have more than one solution, questions that generate a list are simply not in the spirit of the site.

With that in mind, a question like "How can I test my regular expression against a corpus?" might elicit an answer that points out some appropriate tools, but it is essentially a problem-solving question. That would probably be on-topic.

On the other hand, "What is the best tool to test regular expressions?" would generate lists of tools, elicit subjective answers about which is "best" for various purposes, and generally fail to be canonical in any way. That would generally be closed as Not Constructive.

Ask "How" Instead

Instead of asking for a shopping list, ask how a particular task can be accomplished. Of course, it's best if you mention what you've already tried and why whatever you've tried doesn't work for you, but asking "how" will generally be better received than an open-ended question.

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