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When someone asks a valid question, and I know there's website/webapp that fulfills all or at least majority of the requirements, should I answer with that? On the other words, is it forbidden to answer with website that answers the question?

This meta question is remotely related. For questions, it might be important to define difference between website and webapp, as we probably don't want to have endless stream of questions like

What is good source for this type of news?
Are there blogs similar to X?

However, in my opinion, we should define the scope of this site primarily through questions, and not through answers. There's always implicit statement: "I'm asking for software recommendations", so Stack Overflow style answers ("take a look at this library, and write your own program this way") are not a valid (but it could be a good comment, if no answer is found). If the scope is defined primarily through questions, almost everything that answers the question should be acceptable.


Case in point: this question and my answer. Some notes: so far that is the only answer. In my opinion, it is better to have a functional - even if not perfect - solution than nothing. On the question, it is already noted that

most likely it will be a webapp


Another example, created as a better example for this question: this question and this answer. Notes: question does not specify why digits are required, but that those should be calculated. So it's clearly software recommendation question, instead of just "give me resource for...". Also, no operating system is specified.

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  • What does private mean? IMDB is owned by amazon, you can be sure that they are mining your data to sell you DVDs or streaming. Same goes for the "privacy" of google drive/docs/gmail. The author of that answer also said that music streaming like spotify is a website not a WebApp. They have both a web based version and an installable desktop version of their streaming player. What do you think about this? – Enjabain Feb 7 '14 at 17:09
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    Ummmmmm. Private means "not public". If it means "no-one is mining that data", you can't use gmail or many mobile apps. For .... sake, your activities in Chrome, iOS or Android are collected and mined. So are those forbidden from recommendations? – Olli Feb 7 '14 at 17:18
  • Please see my updated list of criteria for webapp. I would not consider IMdb a webapp and the discussion with @Enjabain brought me to further clarify where the line is between webapp and website. I added a new criteria to the answer you linked. #7: 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. – Angelo Fuchs Feb 9 '14 at 11:29
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    @AngeloNeuschitzer I removed that evaluation, as that is not the point of this question. I really don't understand why people stick on evaluating whether IMdb is website or webapp. I repeat, that is not the point. The point is, if there is a web address (be it webapp, or website, based on some arbitrary criteria) that solves the problem presented in a valid, on-topic question, is it forbidden to answer with that web address? Whether the question is off-topic is completely different discussion. – Olli Feb 9 '14 at 11:41
  • I noticed that your liked answer in fact does answer with a tool, not a website/app. So I created this example question softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/782/… as a more direct example. – Angelo Fuchs Feb 9 '14 at 12:33
  • @AngeloNeuschitzer well, that's not a case - that tool (importer) is absolutely useless without website/app. It's just a workaround to get that webapp to work. I left comments to your example. – Olli Feb 9 '14 at 13:40
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    @Olli the tool might be useless (=nonexisting) without the site, but the site is "data" for the tool. A tool that imports text to Wikipedia is a tool. Wikipedia is not. – Angelo Fuchs Feb 9 '14 at 14:42
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I think the most important aspect of any solution is how well it gets the job done according to the specifications that the asker has. If the person requires that this be something they can download onto their device and use off-line, then naturally a website wouldn't be useful. But if they do not have this requirement, and if an online service gets the job done better than what else we have suggested, then I think we'd be doing a disservice to the asker if we do not recommend it.

Let's look not at "What do we call a web app versus a web site", which I acknowledge I used those terms in my comments on the answer in the other question, but let me refortify my position on the matter. What is important is that we as a site offer solutions in doing things. The problems we solve are those that involve getting some task accomplished. Sometimes there are tools that exist solely online to get those done - for example I do most of my unit conversion work using Google, even though I even have an app on my phone to do it. That's a pretty basic need but the feel of what I mean should be there.

What skips the line into unacceptable is when the request itself doesn't mesh with how our site works. And that I feel is less a matter of whether something is an online resource rather than installed resource, but it is based on what the resource is. We don't want to be a directory of websites telling people where to go to find information on things because we deal in doing, not finding. We're not really designed to be a library card catalog that tells you out of all the sites out there, where you can find out about different things, so that's what we want to avoid getting into. But that, again, draws us to it being based on what the asker is seeking, not on the fact it exists online.

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  • So can I ask a questions like: "Is there software for receiving news in a similar format to such and such blogs where comment votes are counted?" And would an acceptable answer be a link to a blog? This needs to be decided or TONS of questions and answers are going to receive arbitrary down votes. – Enjabain Feb 7 '14 at 17:28
  • I completely agree with "offering solutions in doing things", in software context. If someone have problem that could be solved with software (and they're willing to pay for it), but there's similarly priced excellent hardware available, I think answering with that really adds value. – Olli Feb 7 '14 at 17:29
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    @Enjabain I don't think a blog can be called a software for receiving news. It's not a thing you do, it's a place you go. – Grace Note Feb 7 '14 at 17:30
  • @Enjabain That would be the system behind the blog, which then still wouldn't be the system for receiving news but would instead be the system for relaying news. Now, whether one can scope a question about what blog system to use for specific purposes of distribution is acceptable, that's a question to be thought on. It also happens to be running off from the original goal of receiving news. – Grace Note Feb 7 '14 at 17:34
  • Here is a great article I just found that discusses this exact issue. May be worth a read for all of us. link – Enjabain Feb 7 '14 at 17:46
  • This is slightly stretched, but think of it like a mailbox versus a post office, compared to a mail client and a forum with PMs. The mailbox and the mail client are tools that I can use to deliver messages and receive messages. The post office and the forum are places that I can go that permit message exchange similarly, but they aren't tools. They're places I go that have functionality I need. The mail system and the PM system are the tools. We're in the job of giving people tools, not providing places to go. We don't deliver a forum for its PM system, we deliver just a mail client. – Grace Note Feb 7 '14 at 17:47
  • @Enjabain the issue is not what is website or what is webapp. The issue is whether it is okay to answer with website/webapp when the question is valid for this site. If the question is invalid - trying to find news site or blog with good content - then answers are too. – Olli Feb 7 '14 at 17:48
  • @Enjabain That article seems to highlight why I suggest we focus not on what is a web app versus a website, and focus instead on what the task someone is asking for is. And whether or not it is, indeed, a task. – Grace Note Feb 7 '14 at 17:49
  • @Enjabain: and I find it perfectly fine to upvote comments without reasoning why, if I agree with that comment. There's just no reason to say "I upvoted because I agree.", same with upvoting answers/questions. – Olli Feb 7 '14 at 17:50
  • @Olli I asked for software, not "news site". So we have to define websites out of the criteria of software somehow. – Enjabain Feb 7 '14 at 17:51
  • Is listening to Music on spotify or a movie on netflix a task? – Enjabain Feb 7 '14 at 17:53
  • @Enjabain I disagree. If website - in strict sense; static content, place where you go to read content instead of interacting with it, for example, blog or news site - is proper answer to the question, then question is off-topic for softwarerecs. And that's another thing, which is solved with off-topic flags. – Olli Feb 7 '14 at 17:54
  • What is the difference between reading, listening to music, or watching movies? I think there will be a lot of questions asking for alternatives to spotify, groove shark, hulu. Are these also frowned upon? – Enjabain Feb 7 '14 at 17:55
  • @Enjabain It is but whether it's a task that is a valid and sensible thing to ask is questionable. I can't just ask for alternative music players any more than I can ask for alternative text editor software. – Grace Note Feb 7 '14 at 17:57
  • Exactly! I can't just ask for alternative Blogs without specifying the features that I want or that are missing from what I already read. According to my answer to the linked question that is. – Enjabain Feb 7 '14 at 18:00
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I would say that it's certainly okay to answer a question with a webapp, as long as

  • They don't say it needs to work offline (yeah, some do, but you still have to load them)
  • The question doesn't explicitly ask for native software

Then a webapp is fair game.

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  • I stipulate that there is no difference between a Web App and any website besides the number of features. – Enjabain Feb 7 '14 at 17:30
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    I stipulate the opposite - that a webapp is pretty much a desktop app running on a server that you access. – Undo Feb 7 '14 at 17:31
  • Like a wordpress blog or softwarerecs.se? – Enjabain Feb 7 '14 at 17:32
  • I don't see the difference, If we can define a difference I am all for disallowing these questions. – Enjabain Feb 7 '14 at 17:33
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    It depends - WordPress is a website if you're reading stuff on it, and a webapp if you're looking for blogging software. I like to think of it as content vs. usage. – Undo Feb 7 '14 at 17:34
  • Almost all Apps for mobile phones are for content consumption not creation. The interface(touch) is not good for much else). If this were 5 years ago we would have been debating if mobile apps were software. – Enjabain Feb 12 '14 at 1:31
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Increasingly software applications will be packaged in online presentations. I don't have an objection to answers recommending software that runs on cloud servers more so than on desktops.

That said, I think it's misguided to try and "game" Questions simply so that a webapp has more acceptability than a desktop app. Presumably there are enough actually lines of inquiry to explore that even in Beta we can restrict ourselves to Questions we really want answered.

Added: The distinction between a WebApp and Web content is related to whether there is some functionality (application to a variety of tasks) involved as opposed to some narrowly specified content (produced, perhaps once and for all time, by a single task).

The sample Question posed by Angelo Neuschitzer broaches the distinction when it says "It needs to be as simple as possible." While I interpreted this as a request to have the software perform the given task easily (i.e. without elaborate preparation or directions), others seem to focus on how "simple" the software implementation is. In the extreme, one Commenter pointed out, the task can be accomplished by downloading a list, so that no software recommendation is involved.

The canned nature of such results signals that we've crossed from asking about software applications to content, taking us away from the scope of this new site.

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    This was surprisingly hard to follow. I feel like this is more of discussion than answer. – Olli Feb 10 '14 at 8:59

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