At which point is a question no longer asking for a software recommendation, but asking how to set up a system?

On-topic questions on this site are defined by two criteria: you're trying to accomplish a task or type of task, and this task can be solved with software.

Occasionally we get questions where the task is solved by software that is part of the asker's platform, e.g. questions asking for an application to do something that the core operating system can do, questions asking for a browser plug-in that the browser can do, etc. That's ok, we can answer “use this built-in feature” — and sometimes there can be answers that say “this third-party tool does it better”.

But we also sometimes get questions where clearly the solution is not to install a piece of software dedicated to the task, but to configure a system. These questions are off-topic, and best migrated to sites like Stack Overflow, Super User, etc. Examples:

Sometimes it isn't obvious that the solution is not going to be installing software dedicated to the task, but configuring software (either preinstalled or not, but the difficulty is in configuring, not in finding the software). Where is the boundary?

Case in point: Which software to put two wifi connection together? (Linux) This is absolutely not a task that can be solved by installing software: it's solved mostly by activating the right features that are bundled in the kernel. However this is not obvious if you aren't familiar with the topic.

At which point do we say “yes, this is on-topic”, “while on-topic, you're likely to get better answers elsewhere”, or “this is off-topic”?

  • Hard to draw a line. At least for your last example: though maybe not obvious to the poster, someone "familiar with the topic" could (and should) explain that in a comment and, if post quality permits, mark it for migration. If the OP has sufficient rep, details could be pointed out in chat (and I wish someone with say, 4k+ should be able to even drag a new user there).
    – Izzy Mod
    Commented Mar 22, 2015 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


In my opinion, such questions are still on-topic. They should be answered with the name of the software/utility that would accomplish the task, along with a short explanation on how to install or access this tool, even if it's intrinsically available with the OS.

When the instructions are short and clear, they could be included in the answer. In case of longer ones, the asker could be encouraged to post a more specific follow-up question on the appropriate StackExchange site if they had problems trying to operate it.

In the linked example question, a valid answer would be the names of the features that need to be activated, along with the set of commands/tools that are needed to accomplish that with an explanation to why it's that way. If these commands are simple one-liners that the answerer has tried and is aware of, they can be included, but there should be no obligation to. The asker should then be directed to the appropriate site to ask for further specifications on these features.

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