I've cast plenty of close votes on questions based on them being tool, library, or resource requests:

Questions asking us to recommend or find 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.

After coming across https://stackoverflow.com/q/21723551/1281433 (and casting a close vote, along with a comment explaining that the question is off-topic), it occurred to me that it would surprise me if that particular question “attracted opinionated answers and spam.” Even though the question is clearly a tool/library request, the user base for Common Lisp is smaller than a lot of the languages that get covered on Stack Overflow and the particular tool is so specialized that if there's not likely to be more than one, or maybe two appropriate answers to this question. That's clearly different than asking for, e.g., a CSV library (e.g., library to convert CSV to XML, MYSQL, html, RSS, JSON and etc? (which is still open!) and Are there any CSV readers/writer libraries in C#? (which is closed)).

I'm not really suggesting any change in behavior or policy here; I'm just wondering: Do you tend to treat these kinds of questions in low-view tags or low user-base languages differently than you would if they were for a more mainstream or popular language?


  • 2
    User bases can grow and / or change. The posts are going to be up on Stack Overflow for a long time! – Martijn Pieters Feb 12 '14 at 16:03

No, don't treat low traffic questions any differently.

  • Spammers are still interested in spamming links to products in low traffic tags.

  • The answers are still likely to be of low quality; usually just collections of links, and are very unlikely to have additional useful information.

  • They still don't fit the q/a model; voting still doesn't really work for these questions.

  • They can become more popular over time, more options can and will come out, and something that was once somewhat manageable can easily spin out of control.

  • It creates signposts to other users indicating that these questions are acceptable, causing people to go post them in higher traffic tags "because that one over there is allowed to be open".

  • +1 For good reasons. As I said, I'm not really asking for advice, since I've been closing these questions all along; I'm just curious whether there is, and if so, how much, variation in how people handle these. Most of these make sense for the particular question I mentioned, but I'd still be surprised to see "Spammers … interested in spamming links to products" on this question, since it's about two open source pieces of software that don't get much commercial activity, as far as I know (but again, things can change in the future). – Joshua Taylor Feb 12 '14 at 16:25
  • @JoshuaTaylor With products like those it's often the creator, or primary contributors, of the open source product that are trying to get people to start using it. For them posting about it on the relevant SO tags is the exact target audience, however small it might be. Keep in mind spam isn't limited to large scale commercial products. – Servy Feb 12 '14 at 16:27
  • Good point! I can't imagine emacs users doing that, but maybe those vi folks… – Joshua Taylor Feb 12 '14 at 16:28
  • @JoshuaTaylor You're also thinking pretty large scale. Think about all of those thousands of products on GitHub where someone spend a weekend making something or another. They'll then want to go around to a bunch of SO questions asking about how to do that thing that they just write a library to do posting an answer linking to their product. That kind of thing happens all of the time, and it's questions like these that are the primary targets for such users. They look around for questions of these formats that didn't get enough traffic to end up being closed. – Servy Feb 12 '14 at 16:31
  • That's unfortunate that that's so common. I guess it says, if nothing else, something positive about the users in the tags where I'm active; I don't see much of that on a day to day basis. It's good to get some input from someone with a wider view of the site. – Joshua Taylor Feb 12 '14 at 16:34

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