In 2014, Dan Dascalescu asked:

Can the About please include whether web apps are OK to ask for, or whether this site is limited to desktop (or mobile?) software?

I had my hand slapped by @jonsca for posting a web app question on webapps.SE, and I find it difficult to determine what the scope of SR.SE is, starting from its About page.

See also the meta question: Can I ask for recommended websites?

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    We really need to clarify our policy around web services. Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 20:59
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    @Gilles I think this element from the linked meta nails it: "Given you had the program of that thing yourself and would run it on your own server without any data from the original source, the program would still be useful." This is my personal check if something is good here or not. I recommend including it in the FAQ. Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 8:48
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    @AngeloFuchs: I think your criteria is pretty good. I'd adjust it slightly: .. and your goal would be to run it (anywhere, including its site of origin) without any data from the original source .. Its the data which is the key distinction.
    – Ira Baxter
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 9:53
  • @IraBaxter I simplified it some more and posted an answer for it. Have a look. Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 10:02
  • @AngeloFuchs This is my opinion, but it isn't consensual, many people think that services (that are realistically implemented as software that isn't distributed outside the service provider, but could in principle be implemented by gnomes typing very fast) are on-topic. Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 10:14
  • @Gilles I'd say that given you had the code of the service and it keeps its use if you don't also have the data from the source - then you are looking for software. You are looking for a tool to do stuff. I actually didn't hear voices that speak against this, so to me its seems consensual. Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 10:20
  • @Angelo: a service is a tool to do stuff. Its just that I'm not the one running it. I think the goal of SR is to acquire a tool that I intend to use without the aid of a service.
    – Ira Baxter
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 10:24
  • @IraBaxter I disagree. SR is about getting software to solve your problem. If its run somewhere else, thats fine. "A tool that helps finding dates for a bunch of people" would be fine (a possible answer would be doodle - which is a service). Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 10:28

1 Answer 1


I propose that the About contains this entry:

You are welcome to ask about software for your desktop, the web and mobile platforms. If you are unsure about your question being about a website (rather then a webapp) ask yourself: "Given I had the program I'm looking for and the means to run it, but not any of the data it contains, would it still be useful?" If the answer is yes, then go ahead and ask. If the answer is no then you are looking for a data collection and this is not what this site is about.

  • I think you lost the idea that we want to break the linkage to data from its source; we want to discourage things that are about the data at some site ("data collection"). Data embedded in/with the program itself is OK. (Remember: you mostly can't tell data from code when you examine a program binary).
    – Ira Baxter
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 10:16
  • Hmmm. On consideration, I think its more subtle than that. An application, that to do its job, consults an encyclopedic reference that happens to be at some other site, seems like it should be in scope. ("I want an application that reads my blogs and checks them for factual correctness against Wikipedia"). Maybe the point is that running the program at other than at the source site, provides value that cannot be obtained by running whatever is at the source site.
    – Ira Baxter
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 10:22
  • @IraBaxter I see your point. My fear of making this statement totally precise is that it will become too complicated for non-techs to comprehend. I aimed at a sentence that could be understood by an average computer user. The finer points and edges of this could (and should) then be tuned out by case-by-case situations on meta. I wrote more points that should be considered here: meta.softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/a/219/94 But I think that would be too overwhelming for inclusion on the /about page. Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 10:26
  • The struggle to get definitions right should continue; we may find something even "average" computer users can understand, ahem. Partly we do that by working with edge case examples. Do you agree that my "fact checker" is a valid SR request? If it only ran at the Wikipedia site (that is, I can't run it elsewhere) and I had to submit my blogs to it, would it be a valid SR request? How is that different than a porn site with a search box labelled "favorite kink?"?
    – Ira Baxter
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 10:39
  • Your fact checker is software, no matter where it ran. The key element of that tool would be to read the text and extract the "facts" out of it. Then read a database (even if its bound to exactly one), interpret the relevant information therein and compare the two sets of data. (tbc) Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 10:52
  • "A video service which analyzes my watching behavior and recommends other views" is not. The use dies off as soon as you don't have that collection of videos with their relevant tags etc. - Except you state in your question that you have a collection of videos and are willing to categorize them. Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 10:54
  • @IraBaxter Compare this real-world discussion about a question (of mine) meta.softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/1246/94 Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 10:55

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