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SO has long had a policy of closing questions asking for recommendations as "off topic", with the following kind of closure annotation:

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.

Since we now have a graduated site for Software Recommendations, could this response be changed to something more along the lines of:

Questions asking us to recommend or find a tool, library or favorite off-site resource are off-topic for Stack Overflow. Consider submitting this to Software Recommendations.

An alternative is to have the question simply migrated to Software Recommendations. This might not produce high-quality questions because there's no a priori reason to believe the question has been posed well, but SR can probably handle those cases.

See also suggested details for handling transferred questions.

A suggestion that a link to the SR rules be included, to ensure the poster understands the not-implied threat of secondary closure, is an excellent one. Maybe something like this?

Questions asking us to recommend or find a tool, library or favorite off-site resource are off-topic for Stack Overflow. Consider submitting this to Software Recommendations. Be sure to follow their rules to avoid closure there.

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    It's probably a little early to start making changes like this for a site that has only just entered public beta. – Flyk Feb 19 '14 at 9:52
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    Additionally, even if modified that way, it should at least include a link to our "quality requirements", e.g. What is required for a question to contain "enough information"?. Otherwise we'd get overrun with questions we simply had to close straight away. – Izzy Feb 19 '14 at 10:50
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    "SR can probably handle those cases" I seriously doubt such a young site can handle an onslaught of migrations from SO. How about we wait until SR gets out of beta first? – yannis Feb 19 '14 at 11:00
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    Wait, SR is out of private beta already? – John Dvorak Feb 19 '14 at 12:25
  • @JanDvorak yea, 2 days ago... (well depends when you read this...) – Braiam Feb 19 '14 at 14:10
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    It doesn't matter when I read it. It will always be 2 days before you posted your comment. :-) – John Dvorak Feb 19 '14 at 14:12
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    Agree with link to quality requirements. It may be early. It may not; the SO questions this addresses are the ones that asking for recommendations, so this is where they belong if they belong anywhere. – Ira Baxter Feb 19 '14 at 14:34
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    Well, migrating low-quality questions is definitely a bad idea - those will be closed on Software Recommendations anyway, and it is just additional step for everyone. Most of the "this is software recommendation" on Super User/SO are definitely low-quality in current SR standards. – Olli Feb 19 '14 at 14:38
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    Fine. I agree; add the link; make it clear if they don't follow the rules, the question will just get closed again. People burned by ask-at-SO-and-get-closed are perhaps likely to follow explicitly stated advice. – Ira Baxter Feb 19 '14 at 14:41
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    @Olli same for Android Enthusiasts (I'm an active participant there, so I can tell), and probably most other SE sites. Only few (< 5%) could be "direct migration candidates", maybe 10% could do with little adjustments. Some of them I wouldn't even dare to even mention that SR exists, just for protecting the site. // And yes, like Olli and Undo I'm an active participant on SR as well. – Izzy Feb 19 '14 at 15:09
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    This is not an off-topic question at all since the issue is cross-site in the SE network. – Luis Masuelli Jan 5 '16 at 1:23
  • @LuisMasuelli: if you believe this (obviously I'm with you), you can vote to re-open. – Ira Baxter Jan 5 '16 at 2:09
  • I'm voting to leave this closed because you are asking for the behaviour of a single site (Stack Overflow) to change. – PolyGeo Jan 5 '16 at 4:56
  • @PolyGeo: is your objection that this request was not made at Stack Overflow meta, or that you think this request should be made for many of the Stack Exchange sites? I'd be fine if it had broader scope. – Ira Baxter Jan 5 '16 at 5:01
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    So your objection is driven by the fact that GeoInfoSys doesn't have room in its custom close menu? That seems like shooting the horse because your particular sneaker isn't big enough. Your suggestion to "leave referrals .. simply via comments" AFAIK is what is happening now when it goes well. Mostly the people that close such requests seem like they can't be bothered to say this, and IMHO we lose a lot of decent questions that belong at SR, while simultaneously annoying the asker by the nonconstructive close. If you want to do this manually at Geo, I won't object. – Ira Baxter Jan 5 '16 at 9:31
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I expect this should happen, but not just yet, wait at least a few weeks. The site entered public beta yesterday and doesn't even have moderators yet.

We need the site to grow gradually. To accommodate an increasing number of questions, we also need an increasing number of answerers and of janitors.

It is absolutely necessary to refer would-be askers to our question quality guidelines. I'll summarize the salient points here:

  • An SR.SE question must define a goal. This is a task to accomplish, a user story.
  • An SR.SE question must define some objective requirements (typically, features that the software must have).

Note also that SR.SE is about software recommendations only (including both end-user software and developer software such as libraries).

In a way, I want this to happen fairly soon, just to have the quality guidelines in there, as opposed to the expected wave of “ask on SR” comments. Given the current composition of SR.SE, which has more questions about end-user software than questions about libraries, SU or Android may be a better place to start with the traffic drive.


To moderators of SO, SU, Programmers, AU, and any other software-related site that forbids recommendation questions: please wait until the SR.SE moderators give you the ok before migrating any question there. Once SR.SE has moderators, you can work out a protocol for migrations.


To everyone:

  • If you ever mention SR.SE in a comment or in chat, please always link to the question quality guidelines and mention the necessity for both a goal and set of requirements. Here's a proposed comment template for questions that don't quite meet the guidelines, but which the asker could improve to meet them — please adapt it to indicate what the question lacks.

    This site does not accept requests for recommendations. We have a sister site that does, but your question needs to meet [certain guidelines](https://softwarerecs.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/336/what-is-required-for-a-question-to-contain-enough-information). In particular, all questions must both define a goal or task to accomplish, and list some objective requirements. Please read the guidelines and improve your question accordingly, then you can repost your question on the Software Recommendations site.

    (Yes, I omitted the direct link to the site on purpose.)

  • If you see an “ask on SR” comment that lacks the guidelines, please reply with a comment like:

    Note that Software Recommendations wants questions to meet certains [quality guidelines](https://softwarerecs.meta.stackexchange.com/q/336). In particular, all questions must both define a goal or task to accomplish, and list some objective requirements.
    @commenter Please always link to the [quality guidelines](https://softwarerecs.meta.stackexchange.com/q/336) when you mention the SR site.

  • I wouldn't expect that the close reason would even consider directing users to the site until it is at least graduated. SE has made it pretty clear that automated migration paths won't be created for beta sites. I also wouldn't expect the site to leave public beta after just a couple of weeks. – Servy Feb 19 '14 at 16:24
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    @Servy I'd rather have a close reason that mentions the quality guidelines, than have people comment “ask on SR” (which we know will happen anyway). It's like building dikes to contain the flood waters: you can't prevent the flood, but you can at least confine it to some extent. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 19 '14 at 16:25
  • Can I upvote this answer two more times, please? :) – Izzy Feb 19 '14 at 22:06
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Software Recs participant here.

I really don't know if we should do this. Sure, it'll get us a ton of traffic. But do we want that traffic? By the very nature of the site itself, we're not going to be starving of users.

Another thing to consider: SR isn't (and shouldn't be) a 'no-rules shopping site'. We try to keep the questions in as manageable a form as possible. We so far have a very small core userbase, and no dedicated diamond mods. I'm not sure we could handle a much bigger flood than we already are.

One more thing: Since we have our rules there, people need to follow them. The people that post recommendation questions on SO aren't very likely to read our rules either. That's another thing to consider.

All in all: I don't think we should be pointing people to SR at least until we get our PT mods and we show that we can handle the current flood.

  • Who said SR was a "no-rules" shopping site? Yes, the questions need to be in appropriate form as per the (still evolving) rules at SR. There's no a priori reason to believe that people that post moved recommendation questions are any more or less likely to read the rules than those that simply find the public beta. The link to the rules in the close reason might actually get more of them to read it ("Consider posting your request at SR; be sure to honor the rules at <link> to avoid closure there"). – Ira Baxter Feb 19 '14 at 14:38
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    @IraBaxter There is evidence, actually. These questions are very strictly against the SO rules. The fact that the author posted them on SO means they didn't look at SO's rules before posting, meaning they're not likely to look at SR's rules before posting a question on that site, if directed there. – Servy Feb 19 '14 at 14:40
  • If you believe this, then I think you likely believe they won't read SR's rules when they discover it by themselves, either. I look at this from the outside, and I imagine an SO poster's reaction: "Oh, they don't allow this at SO". And then she eventually finds SR, where apparantly such questions are allowed. But nobody offered her a hint. So, impolitely slammed closed, and impolitely no further advice. That makes SE IMHO seem like an unfriendly place. Yes, they need to read the rules. The link solution seems like a good one to offer them the chance. – Ira Baxter Feb 19 '14 at 14:46
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    @Ira The traffic of bad question askers coming from Stack Overflow can crush a small site struggling to find its identity and define its boundaries. It's happened before. – Pekka Feb 19 '14 at 14:53
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    @IraBaxter So you're saying you want to be more encouraging of the users that are providing very low quality content, so that they're going to be much more likely to continue providing that very low quality content in the future. Sorry, but personally I'd rather encourage the people that are generating high quality content. SE, as a premise, is here to generate high quality content, and has high expectations for posts. We don't want to encourage people who aren't willing to provide valuable content. – Servy Feb 19 '14 at 14:53
  • I'm hearing two responses: "Its too early" OK, maybe so. "These are low quality content questions". That's only by SO's definition, and I've repeatedly agreed/suggested that the OP be encouraged to read the SR rules before reposting. How else do you get to high quality questions? – Ira Baxter Feb 19 '14 at 15:01
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    @Ira the OP is already repeatedly encouraged to read SO's rules when posting to SO the first couple of times. (Try it out - try asking a question with a new account, you can hardly see the input field over all the hints and "please read this" dialogs). What are the odds that they will suddenly turn into good citizens when being redirected to SR? – Pekka Feb 19 '14 at 15:04
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    @IraBaxter Sure some people will notice the existence of SR without being explicitly pointed there, and sure that will include even low-qual posters. That alone will already flood the side. But do you really want to deliberately drown it by even lure those over who would have been "spared"? No prob with telling those hand-selected few who posted "acceptable-quality" questions and only missed the OT for some reason (including borderline questions). But don't make it a "general response" yet. – Izzy Feb 19 '14 at 15:19
  • @Pekka: You seem to be arguing that no set of rules, easily accessible, will be followed. OK, why will the rules at SR be treated any differently? You seem to be implicitly predicting failure at SR. Maybe so. But the experiment is running, and experiments sometimes surprise people. – Ira Baxter Feb 19 '14 at 15:21
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    @IraBaxter well, please point me to one question that is off-topic on SO (because it's software recommendation) and is not low quality on SR standards. If that's not the common case, those questions should not be migrated to SR. – Olli Feb 19 '14 at 15:29
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    @IraBaxter To quote Bill Gates: "That's why we call it Beta". The steps you propose shouldn't be applied before SR leaves Beta. In fact, "direct migration paths" (* this question belongs to another SE site...) won't be established before that. That's one of the reasons there are multiple phases: private beta (to establish rules etc), public beta (to learn handling the load), graduated. You don't teach a bus-driver-to-be on a loaded bus, and you don't send him on the most difficult road first. – Izzy Feb 19 '14 at 15:33
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    @Pëkka Regardless of what we say, I know there'll be plenty of comments telling people to repost on SR. (There've already been flags on SO requesting migration to SR, even before the site left private beta!) So I'm proposing to get ready to counter-trend and link people to the guidelines instead of the site. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 19 '14 at 16:23
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    @Gilles fair point. What I tend to do is comment in response that we shouldn't recommend migration to sites we aren't active on - because we are bound to be ignorant of what is acceptable and what isn't. But your approach sounds better (for OPs where there might be hope) – Pekka Feb 19 '14 at 16:28
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    @Ira you're right that low quality posters could - and often will - find SR by themselves. But there's a difference between a giant site like SO sending droves of them there, and people finding it organically. – Pekka Feb 19 '14 at 16:29
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    @Pëkka That's exactly the rule we have on Android Enthusiasts: If you're not active on the target site, vote "close as OT", and leave "belongs to..." to those who are active there. So basically, on Android Enthusiasts are at maximum 5 people I currently know of falling into that category. Should be a general rule on SE – as only those can really know if a question is acceptable on the "receiving end". – Izzy Feb 19 '14 at 22:04
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Not now, maybe not at all, maybe someday.

The site is far too young to even consider this. The community has not yet fully fleshed out the finer nuances of their conventions, the help center remains generic, moderators have yet to be appointed and even once that all happens, it needs time to gel.

If something like this were to happen, it would only be upon graduation of Software Recommendations. We'd just have to see how the cultures on both sites were at that time, and if a migration conduit made sense. If we were going to do it, that's ideally how, and that's not going to happen during the beta phase of a receiving site (as a matter of policy, we want to be sure sites stick around before we start promoting them as permanent fixtures).

As others noted, I think this would be doing SR a bit of a disservice. Someone asking a wildly off-topic question on SO is going to see that link, not read a single additional thing other than the letter A in "Ask Question" - and have an equally miserable experience.

Should Stack Overflow help promote SR a bit? That's probably not a bad idea, and why we have community choice ads in the sidebar. Let's let folks find this new mystical place naturally, and check out how the site does things. It's a great site, I know people that find it would like it, and it looks like they're making the subject work.

It's just not time to start throwing kibbles and bits over the fence, and might not ever be.

  • Have you considered this recently, since Software Recs is out of beta? I think it would make question closures a little more user-friendly for the asker if there was a link to the SR Asking Help page, or even to Slant if you're willing to go out-of-network. – Bill the Lizard Apr 24 '18 at 14:05

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