TL;DR version

For the same reason we have meta sites associated with (AFAIK) every SE site, we should have separate recs sites for (most, if not every) SE site.

Slightly longer version

IMHO, the charter of this site is fundamentally flawed. The problem is that there's no real unifying theme; no topic which would garner a consistent following. In other words, no associated area of expertise.

Expert sysadmins will gravitate toward SF, superusers will gravitate toward superuser, developers will gravitate toward SO, academics will gravitate toward Academia SE, and so on, but fundamentally software recs has no demographic. Now, to clarify, it does have a viewer and questioner demographic; anyone who wants a piece of software will come here. The problem is, they won't stay here.

As a result, it should be little wonder so few questions are answered satisfactorily, and there don't seem to be many votes. Fundamentally, there aren't many people here to do those things. It should also come as no surprise people keep asking recommendation questions on other sites, because they know the people on those other sites are uniquely situated to give a helpful answer within their specific problem area.

My proposal, which is kind of extreme but which I feel strongly is the right way forward, would be to have software rec sites work like associated meta sites. So, there'd be a meta.serverfault.com and a softwarerecs.serverfault.com. That way, if you're asking for (for example) a piece of network monitoring software, you know the members of the most relevant community (SF) will be the ones helping you out with that, and if you want a library for something you'd ask that on softwarerecs.stackoverflow.com, or if you want an mp3 player program with a sound visualizer you can ask that on softwarerecs.superuser.com, and so on. That way, people within the relevant communities are more closely tied to the questions relevant to those communities, and it's easier / faster to find whatever it is you're looking for.

I feel similarly about the hardwarerecs SE.

To Clarify...

I'm not suggesting a general-purpose recommendations site for every SE site. Just a softwarerecs.<whatever>.stackexchange.com site for a select set of (sufficiently independent) subject area SEs. So, math, SF, sec.se, SU, programmers, SO, physics, academia, EE, photography, arqade, and a few others, whereas skeptics, <religion>.se, philosophy.se, and a number of others wouldn't have one unless the users of those sites made a compelling case for for why they might have such a site and once launched the site had a reasonable level of non-spam traffic.

  • 1
    I suppose this may be more on-topic on the global meta.se. If someone wants to move it, that would probably be a good idea. Apr 5 '16 at 15:02
  • +1 for raising an interesting point. Apr 10 '16 at 18:46

As a moderator on Stack Overflow, I'm against this. Recommendation questions take a lot more effort to moderate. We'd have to train the Stack Overflow community, the Super User community, Server Fault, and anywhere else we do this, how to moderate recommendations.

Moderating recommendations is hard. Honestly, I'm not sure we can train three very large communities to do it. SO, SU, and SF would have much more traffic, there wouldn't be one place for moderation-minded users to keep track of these, and there would probably be a split moderation team.

It's hard enough tracking down spam rings when all the information is contained in one site, and it'd be near impossible if the moderators on SR.SO had to coordinate with the moderators on SR.SU.

I'd love to see SR integrated into the SO/SU/SF trilogy - but the communities there simply aren't ready to handle recommendation questions at the kind of scale they would receive them.

  • +1 because those points make a lot of sense. Do you think setting a higher reputation bar for posting questions / answers to rec sister sites would help? Apr 5 '16 at 21:40
  • @ParthianShot Maybe, but then you're shutting a lot of people out. It's a hard balance between ease of moderation and accessibility.
    – Undo
    Apr 5 '16 at 21:42

I think a more viable approach would be to increase visibility of our questions on relevant Stack Exchange communities.

For example, when browsing the [xmpp] tag on Super User, display our questions tagged with somehow. Or on the whole Photography SE, display our questions (because we lack more specific tags for this domain; but if we get more photography expert questions, this would change).

Possibly with a note "Do you need a software recommendation? Ask on [softwarerecs.se] …", pointing to a Meta post tailored specifically to that community (linking to our rules, referencing some tags that they are likely to need, etc.).

  • This is an interesting idea, but it raises the question of reconciling the different tags across all the SE sites. So, say there's an [snmp] tag on foo.se, and an [snmp] tag on bar.se, and their tag wikis differ slightly- or, being an abbreviation, the letters stand for something completely different. [mac], for example, could stand for Macintosh (computer), macintosh (coat), macintosh (apple), macaroni, Message Authentication Code, or Mandatory Access Control. Apr 6 '16 at 14:12
  • Granted, the only technical site which would use [mac] for "macaroni" would be absurdism.se. Apr 6 '16 at 14:14
  • @ParthianShot: Yes, I wouldn’t try to get this done automatically. Relevant communities and possible tag matches should be identified intellectually/manually.
    – unor
    Apr 6 '16 at 14:17

I agree with Undo completely and these are the reasons why I am against this idea:

  • Moderation nightmare - Undo did a great job of explaining this one. It would be incredibly challenging teaching every community on how to handle recommendations and I wouldn't even begin to think how hard it would be to create policies that affect all these individual recommendation sites globally.
  • Recommendations would be all over the place - imagine you'd like an application that is compatible with both Windows & Linux? Where do you ask? On Super User or Unix & Linux? Or both? Or if it's an IDE, how about Stack Overflow? These are issues that both new and experienced users would face and for certain questions and there would be no "Correct" place as there would be more than one.
  • What would happen to this site? Creating those other sites would possibly make this site obsolete. How would migrating questions go and who would decide where they go? (Currently, we have over 8.6k questions, I don't want that job)

I believe the reasons above explain the reason why this site exists. While moderating this site is difficult, it wouldn't as hard as to moderate as whole list of sites. It's also not hard to figure out where to ask for software recommendations, the title alone explains everything this site is designed for. Policies are quite easier to setup too as they exist here on the meta in one place. I'm not saying your idea isn't a bad one, it is a great idea - it's just the execution of this idea that would be incredibly difficult and there would be problems down the line that the community would face.

Now, in regard that there's not one unifying theme and that there is no associated area of expertise - that's completely incorrect. First of all, this site is about software recommendations, that's the theme. It's not that complicated - if you're looking for a piece of software (whether it be an app for Android to a package for Linux) it gets's asked here because they're both software.

Saying that there is no associated field of expertise is also incorrect because let's take Stack Overflow for example,

Stack Overflow is a question and answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

Wait? Does that mean if you have a Python developer and a PHP developer, there on the same site with different feilds of expertise? Yes, because the site's for "professional and enthusiast programmers". It's the same concept here,

Software Recommendations Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people seeking specific software recommendations.

See how we can have both experts on Android Apps and experts with Linux packages? It works because we can use a variety of tools (like tags) to help split the differences and I believe that time has shown we don't have any issues attracting experts to this site.

  • "Wait? Does that mean if you have a Python developer and a PHP developer, there on the same site with different feilds of expertise?" Both those languages are just Turing-complete manifestations of the underlying framework of computer science. I don't know much about PHP, but even so I can help on most PHP questions because languages have common ancestors and most problems (and solutions) can be deduced from first principles. Most languages have two's complement integer, IEEE 754 floating point, logical, and boolean primitives and operations. All are represented as arrays in memory. Apr 7 '16 at 14:31
  • Every modern language goes through lexing, parsing, pigeonhole optimization, and code generation stages. There's a lot you can deduce from first principles, and there are a lot of concepts involved. However, software recs fundamentally isn't relying on conceptual expertise so much as it is relying on internal rote-memorized lists of applications. The information is far more silo'd than in other areas. If you use debian, exclusively, there's a near 100% chance you won't be able to help someone out with a Windows question by deducing from first principles and the principle of least surprise. Apr 7 '16 at 14:36
  • "imagine you'd like an application that is compatible with both Windows & Linux? Where do you ask? On Super User or Unix & Linux?" That's already an issue people deal with every day. If, for example, I want a network configuration to work on both Windows and Linux, it might be worth asking two different questions, but more often than not it'll make more sense on SU. Apr 7 '16 at 14:36
  • @ParthianShot I could use that same argument with software recommendations, how is that different than programming languages? Next, if you're looking for software, that's not an issue. If you're looking for software that does X, you ask it here. If you're asking how do I set it up, you ask on the appropriate SE (like SuperUser). Are you proposing that you ask questions twice? Why would that be better? Personally, I think that would be worse when I ask questions, I like to have just one correct place to ask them and not asking duplicate questions.
    – Tom
    Apr 7 '16 at 17:01

I don't think we need other metas, just tags that when could fully ignore, since some people don't like software recommendations for reasons beyond me.

I would also point out that aside from software requests, there are:

  • hardware requests
  • data requests
  • reference requests
  • code requests
  • etc.

Not all sites need/want recommendations sites. There's still a few oddities (stricter than usual quality requirements, and that answers can go obsolete, but this really is a grand experiment in something that one of the folks who founded stackexchange felt was impossible to do well in the Q&A context.

As an ex mod, yeah, we made it up as we went along sometimes. For that matter, the reason we don't do software recommendations on SU is the community realised that plain product recommendations attracted oneliners which weren't much use and it was no different from a shopping question.

Traditionally on SU we'd tell folks to ask hardware recommendations on chat, and encouraged people to ask questions on processes on solving a problem not programs since those translated better.

Fundamentally SR and HR are a 'hack' to try to fit something that in many ways isn't quite a good fit for trying to build a persistant knowledge base. Hardware has finite product cycle, software goes obsolete... and so on.

I'd also wonder how non technology sites would work with this. Cooking might do with recommendations plausibly, but would say, the religion sites need it? How would we keep travel recommendations relevant...

  • 1
    "Not all sites need/want recommendations sites" True. Which is why I'm not suggesting that they do. I'm imagining an SR sister site being more like support for LaTeX formatting in posts; some sites have it, some sites don't. "Cooking might do with recommendations plausibly" At the moment my suggestion is only for a Software Recommendations sister site, not general-purpose recommendations. Apr 6 '16 at 13:24

I think it is a good idea.

I propose to keep StackOverflow/SuperUser out of this idea, at least at first, because of their huge size and because SR already fits the role well for now.

Travel recommendations would be very useful and would stay relevant longer than most Rails questions on StackOverflow. Same for cooking and most other domains.

  • Travel: I am a Edo-era history fan, what places should I visit in my 3 days trip in Shikoku?
  • Cooking: I love sweets and have only 1 egg and 100g of sugar, what should I cook?
  • The topics of Serverfault/Apple/AskUbuntu have many great recommendation questions already here at SR.

In any domain that has experts, recommendations could make sense.

Will all communities manage to keep recommendations in control? Yes. We did it starting from zero, they are starting with a solid community, so we would just need to make sure their moderators and main contributors understand well how recommendations can work on StackExchange.

Restricting recommendations to 200+ reputation users (for instance) is a good idea. Here on SR we simply can't do that because there is no "main site" for users to get points with non-recommendation QAs, but all other sites can afford to do this without sounding outrageously elitist.

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