I have a consideration about new off-topic close reason:

Questions asking us to recommend a tool, library or favorite off-site resource are off-topic for Stack Overflow as they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam. Instead, describe the problem and what has been done so far to solve it.

For example take that question: Good jQuery plugin for image zoom in an absolute position div to the side? (like ecommerce sites)

It has a close vote with the reason above. But if it would be formed

How to zoom image in an absolute position div to the side?

The answer would be probably also a jQuery plugin or javascript library, but it would follow the patter of most questions about jQuery.

Take that question: Maven multi-module project version management

This is the good question about real-life problem. The answer is to use a maven plugin. It is correct, there's no need to reinvent the wheel or rediscover the America.


I'm afraid the off-topic text could be misleading and could be misused to close such a questions as that about maven simply because a tool, library or plugin is the answer.

Is it a new guideline that the questions such as cited above should be banned, no matter how they are formed (this would make most how-to-do-in-maven/jquery) questions illegal? Or the close reason should be changed to make more clear what the guidelines are (it's not clear to me now)?

  • 2
    If this is a feature request to reword the close reason, I'm in Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 7:12
  • In my opinion most of those software shopping list questions that should be closed can be closed as either too vague or as primarily opinion-based. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 7:14
  • At first I'd like to know what is the intention. It is not fully clear to me. Well, if I'm not the only one with such problem, than it probably should be reworder :) Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 7:14
  • ..., the remaining legitimate reason being if these libraries are likely to retire soon (such as when they're bound to a specific version of some API that is likely to change). There's also a major problem that library recommendation questions where there is a plenty of valid answers tend to attract spam (as far as I've heard from the mods) and such spam is harder to remove (such spam is more likely to appear legitimate) Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 7:19

2 Answers 2


As written, that question should be closed. Here's how the OP could have restructured his question to have it re-opened:

I'm trying to implement zooming for images on my site. I've seen this done elsewhere and that is the behavior I'm trying to mimic. I have the following code showing my images dynamically:

<script type="text/javascript">
    //code that handles dynamically changing images based on which image 
    //is clicked

<img src="blah.jpg" />

but I'm not really sure how to implement the zooming part. How can I do that in JavaScript or using JQuery?

This would have been an acceptable question. It is understood that the question (as I phrased it) may elicit a library recommendation, and that's okay because it gives people the room to answer the question as they see fit, and the best answer necessarily would look like the following:

If you're trying to zoom a widget with JQuery, I use a JQuery plugin called AcmeZoom.

Here's how you'd use it:


Good answers should contain:

  • link to library
  • usage as it pertains to user's needs
  • caveats (optional: but really helpful)

What we want to avoid (and what we want closed) are questions where the user is asking for a library. Asking how to do something isn't asking for a library even if some answers are library recommendations.

If you come across an answer that is lacking crucial components, feel free to leave a comment with an explanation and a link to this meta question.

  • 4
    "What we want to avoid is asking for a library" - I don't agree. There are situations where you know that your problem will be most efficiently solved using some library. Why should the OP walk around hot topic - the taboo to ask for a library? These are real life situations.
    – Tomas
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 11:58
  • @Tomas Because asking for a library doesn't solve a problem. "What's the best library for zooming in JQuery" precludes a whole class of answers, but the answers it opens up are all subjective. Also, it doesn't actually solve the user's problem (if they have one -- if they don't have a problem, why are they asking?) Instead, asking, "How do I zoom in JQuery" opens up the idea that we're here to solve problems, not give recommendations. Sometimes, it just so happens that a library recommendation is the best solution, but only under specific circumstances (see bullet points in my answer). Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 12:01
  • 1
    George but if the asker specifies the objective requirements he has on the solution, why would he need to deny that he is looking for a library? In many cases you know there must be some library. Will we automatically close questions that ask for library? Will we force the askers to pretend they want to reinvent the wheel, secretly hoping for answer containing a library recommendation?
    – Tomas
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 12:06
  • @Tomas It all comes down to what problem you're trying to solve. A carpenter doesn't buy hammers just because he's a carpenter. He buys different types of hammers for different jobs, but he never just buys them because they're hammers. He doesn't ask, "I need a good hammer, can you tell me what the best hammer is for building a house?" He will ask, "I need to pound 1 1/2 inch nails into a 2x4 and it needs to hold 1500lbs of weight, My current hammer doesn' do this. How do I solve this problem?" The answer may be a new hammer, or it may also be restructuring so he doesn't need a new hammer. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 12:13
  • 1
    I agree with you George, on what the carpenter should ask. But if he adds "Do you know a better hammer that is capable of this?", is it actually reason to close the question? It shouldn't be, in my opinion!
    – Tomas
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 12:23
  • @Tomas It is; Advice on how to solve a problem and helping me solve a problem are two different things. We need questions to have specific problems, and answers to directly address those specific problems. Blanket library recommendations fail on both fronts. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 12:25
  • 1
    OK so the carpenter must pretend he is going to knock nails by his bare hands, if he doesn't want the question to be closed? And secretly hope for hammer recommendation? I don't see the logic. My carpenter says exactly the same as yours, he only adds he's hoping for hammer recommendation. I don't really see how this violates the goals of StackExchange.
    – Tomas
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 12:28
  • I would argue there is a certain level of acceptability for answers without code that still show proof of research. In the above, something where the author perhaps mentions, and provides, the sources he has searched so far that have been vaguely useful, but not enough. These could act as useful jump off points for answerers and provide research, while still allowing people to be unsure of their toolbox, so to speak. I also think there is a difference between asking "is there a better hammer?" after discussing the current hammer or current hammer options than asking for a shopping list.
    – Magoo111
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 13:41

I fully agree that questions asking about libraries should not be automatically closed just because of that! If you describe your problem and your objective requirements well, I think it is legitimate to admit that you don't want to reinvent a wheel and you are waiting for recommendation of already made solution out of the box - i.e. library or package. Why should the asker need to deny it?

Why would we want to force the askers to pretend they want to reinvent the wheel, only secretly hoping for answer containing a library recommendation?

I think a request for library with objectively stated requirements is fine.

Argument: But the answers will be subjective!

Well, if the requirements on the library are objective, the answers are objective to an extent specified by the requirements. If there are more appropriate solutions (libraries), the choice among them is of course subjective. But this is valid for every question and every problem!

So let us not automatically fight against questions asking on libraries. Let us instead just fight against questions without properly stated requirements!

  • I think the problem with your answer is shown in the question itself. Links abound, no actual usage, and there's no "right" answer that we can vote on (because there is no actual usage to see). If the OP had posed his question better (showing the code and the problem he's trying to solve, so a potential answer could hook off of specific code -- even if it's a library), and the answerer had shown actual usage (as I talk about in my answer), it could have been salvageable, as written, it is not. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 13:05
  • 1
    @George, I agree with you, that requirements should be stated by the asker, as objective as possible! However most of the times when you are searching for library, you don't have any code yet. You are usualy at the stage of design, where you have requirements only, and trying to find proper means to code it. Forcing users to show code at this stage is the same as to demand the carpenter to show photos of him trying to knock the nails with his bare hands.
    – Tomas
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 13:21
  • 5
    What I don't like is that "library" is started to be taken only as a bad keyword, which, if present in question, justifies a mental shortcut - close the otherwise useful question without thinking and no further reason.
    – Tomas
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 13:27

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