On StackOverflow, I noticed that there is no tag: reference-request. That is, I have questions of the type: "I am learning X within the context of Y with language Z for application W. What are the recommended references?".

Are those questions within the scope of StackOverflow?

If yes, can someone with reputation > 1500 add this tag please?

If not, then where should I take those question?


The question seems similar to those asking for resource links (e.g. tutorials, blogs), or book recommendations. Such questions have something in common: The answers are equally valid. As the question is the asking for "recommended references" it is also subjective. What somebody suggests as recommended could change once there is something new available; this means the question should be kept updated forever with new answers, or updating the old ones.

I first suggested Programmers because Programmers allowed for more subjective questions; the purpose of the site is now changed, and the site allows those subjective questions in the same way other Stack Exchange sites do.
Recommendation questions were not welcome on Stack Exchange also before; I am not sure Programmers allowed recommendation question also when very subjective questions were allowed.

In any Stack Exchange site, the FAQ says:

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: "What's your favourite ______?"
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: "I use ______ for ______, what do you use?"
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: "I'm curious if other people feel like I do."
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: "______ sucks, am I right?"

That means questions about recommendation are not welcome on any Stack Exchange site, not just Programmers, or Stack Overflow.

As for the tag, it seems a meta tag, similarly to , , etc. I think it is enough to tag the question with the tag used for the programming language, the application, or the context (whenever those tags already exist).

  • 4
    Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! – yannis Aug 9 '12 at 6:41
  • OK, back in 2011 I was convinced highly subjective questions were still allowed, on Programmers. :) – kiamlaluno Aug 9 '12 at 12:06
  • I know, no worries. I would have edited the answer myself, but I thought it would be more fun to scream at you ;) – yannis Aug 9 '12 at 17:42
  • That's fine. It was funny reading a "Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!" in the notification application I use. :) – kiamlaluno Aug 9 '12 at 17:45

These questions are not welcome on Stack Overflow because they devolve into a 'List of X' question. Please refrain from asking them on Stack Overflow.


Questions like these can be within the scope of Stack Overflow, if they're phrased well.

Bad question: "I want to learn JavaScript to program a CMS for my school. What should I read?" Too vague, not enough details to provide any better answer than "Read Javascript The Awsome Edition", and duplicates a million similar such questions on SO.

Good question: Plucked out of a quick search, Help! I've learned jQuery… now I want to learn JavaScript. Lots of details, hooks for useful, targeted answers.

Note that the question should be non-trivial - don't ask if it can be easily found in the documentation. These questions sometimes survive, but there's been discussion of shutting these kinds of questions down.

There's no need for a specific tag for this - in fact, tags like these are frowned upon. The tag survived the Great Meta Slaughter, but isn't really necessary. is common.

  • 1
    I saw the tag on math.SE and I thought it's a good idea to have it on SO. – user161306 May 2 '11 at 20:40
  • M.S.: how would you see it used? – Michael Petrotta May 2 '11 at 20:41
  • Michael Petrotta: The question first gives in-depth details on the problem, and then asks whether there is a known solution and asks for pointers to references. The answer is more like "chapter X in book Y". – user161306 May 2 '11 at 20:45
  • 1
    M.S.: I mean, how would the tag help? What's the use case for "reference-request"? – Michael Petrotta May 2 '11 at 20:46
  • Michael Petrotta: Oh, I think this tag can help understanding the context of the question and form a better answer by giving pointers to references alongside with a review of the reference. Because quite frankly, not everyone can express themselves effectively in a written form, let alone the newbie confusion. So this tag will hopefully add to the effectiveness of communication between the asker and those who willing to help. – user161306 May 2 '11 at 21:03
  • @M.S.: How would a tag do all these things? Generally, a tag is useful when hiding content you don't want to see, and making searches easier. I could see this tag as helpful to someone who wanted to seek out "reference-request" questions to answer, but that doesn't seen common. – Michael Petrotta May 2 '11 at 21:14
  • 2
    @Michael: reference-request is a natural tag for people with an academic background. For example you'll find it on Math and CSTheory. They even have a few followers, though I don't know why, perhaps people who want to acquire a broad culture. They're mostly useful when you want to make a literature search on a topic: search for [topic] [reference-request]. They aren't meta-tags: meta-tags are subjective, reference-request is well-understood. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 2 '11 at 23:47
  • Reference request, resource request, and probably others like it are common on other SE sites. Having a standard, searchable term on questions that can be expressed in many ways makes them much easier to find when Googling, and such tags provide the standard, searchable term. Even if the original asker doesn't add the tag, other "taxonomist" types do. – hippietrail Aug 9 '12 at 6:29
  • Still a meta tag on SO, @hippietrail. That's a subject that's been covered exhaustively, elsewhere on Meta. – Michael Petrotta Aug 9 '12 at 18:11