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In the Ask Question Wizard, there are 6 options:

  • 3 of these options make a customized message appear. For instance, the "I have a question about some code" option's message is a custom message about code, including the tip "Make sure to have any code handy - including this will help you get fast, quality answers."
  • 3 of the options have a generic message "Stack Overflow is mainly for code questions, but <SITE NAME> is a good place for questions like yours."

In particular, here is what people see after selecting the "I need a software recommendation" option:

The Software Recommendations community is here to help you with a software recommendation. Tip: Stack Overflow is mainly for code questions, but Software Recommendations is a good place for questions like yours.

Problem

The current wording makes it sound like any software recommendation question is OK, thus everyday we get tons of off-topic questions like:

  • "I want to concatenate two strings in Java, I can use + or concat, what is your recommendation?"
  • "What protocol do you recommend to send multicast packets?"
  • "Which is best, ImageMagick or GIMP?"
  • "Please recommend a tutorial for Spring MVC"

Consequence

This vague wording has lead to an explosion of off-topic questions.

The Ask Question Wizard has been active from December 20 to February 19, then inactive, then active since March 23. Whenever it is active, very consistently, we get an explosion of off-topic questions. The analytics show that we get +1900% of closed questions when the wizard is active.

We moderators and close-voters are totally overwhelmed:

  • We are struggling to do the impossible, but we are close to burnout.
  • We used to be friendly and comment on off-topic questions, making many of the new users understand the site and become great users. We don't have time to do this anymore.
  • The worse is, even though we do our best, many off-topic questions get through, so the +1900% figure above does not even show how bad the situation is.

Solution

The Ask Question wizard's wording can be improved, a lot. I suggest we:

  1. Brainstorm here about what are good wordings.
  2. Decide on a particular wording that sounds good to most people.
  3. Propose the change to our Stack Exchange overlords.

Please post your suggestions below.

  • // , The first two examples have "a task to accomplish," and are asking for recommended software with which to accomplish it. They seem perfectly good, at least according to the Tour thingy. The only problem with the other two is that they don't mention a User Story. – Nathan Basanese Jun 4 at 17:36
  • // , Is it customary to downvote an idea on meta that I disagree with? Or only downvote in cases of low-quality posts? – Nathan Basanese Jun 4 at 17:38
  • @NathanBasanese: Anyone would quickly close all of these 4 questions if they were asked on SR because: 1 is not asking for programming advice, not software. 2 is a protocol recommendations, explicitly off-topic, see softwarerecs.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2451/… . 3 is a A vs B question, see softwarerecs.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/69/… 4 is asking for resources, see softwarerecs.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2671/… – Nicolas Raoul Jun 5 at 2:57
  • All of these 4 questions are not asking for "software that matches your requirements". And yes, it is customary to downvote ideas on meta that you disagree with, that's how it works :-) – Nicolas Raoul Jun 5 at 3:00
  • Can't we just say "we wil not help you code (althoguh we can recommend some libraries)"? – Mawg Jun 26 at 5:56
  • 1
    is a good place for questions like yours is nonsense when the system does not know the question yet... – user416 Jul 4 at 14:43
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    overwhelmed is a good description: Thank you for reviewing 20 first posts today; come back in 9 hours to continue reviewing. No chance of increasing that limit some way or another? – user416 Jul 4 at 14:46
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Great idea, Nicolas!

Here is my first second draft:

The Software Recommendations community welcomes questions to help you determine what particular software is fit for a specific purpose.

Tip: Stack Overflow is for coding questions, Super User is for how-to questions relating to software or hardware functionality, and Software Recommendations is for determining what software meets specific needs.

  • Is SU really dealing with hardware questions? Or is that rather Hardware Recommendations? Or is Hardware Recommendations (similarly to SR) to recommend hardware meeting special requirements? – Izzy Apr 27 at 12:59
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    @Izzy According to SU's Help Center, they deal with how-to for hardware questions, but requests for hardware recommendations belong on, not surprisingly, Hardware Recommendations. – RockPaperLizard Apr 28 at 4:07
  • If it's "Enterprise Network" equipment it's on-topic at Network Engineering.SE, and they don't want home networking questions - so I both hesitate to suggest adding the link and suggest adding it (with complicated disclaimer :[ ). – Rob May 27 at 8:23
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After looking at the messages of each of the wizard's options, it appears that:

  • There is a short custom message for:
    • "I have a question about some code"
    • "I need help with a homework problem"
    • "Other" (actually this one goes directly to the guide)
  • There is a generic message for:
    • "I need a hardware recommendation"
    • "I need a software recommendation"
    • "I need to troubleshoot some software or hardware"

So I took the custom messages as a source of inspiration and came up with this:

enter image description here

Great!

The Software Recommendations community is here to help you find software that matches your requirements.

Tip: Make sure to tell us all of your requirements, as well as your operating system and your budget.

Goal: Prevent off-topic questions, make sure each question has the basic essentials.

Will this prevent all low quality questions? No. We can not put more than a short tip on this page. But after clicking "Ask Software Recommendations" askers are sent to https://softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic where we can explain in further details.

  • 1
    This! is! What! Is! Needed!! – Mawg Jun 26 at 5:55
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To kick off the brainstorming, here are some random thoughts:

  • Space is limited.
  • The tone must be welcoming.
  • Most Stack Overflow users are not native English speakers, so we must use easy-to-understand terms.
  • Not every single one of our complex rules can be summed up on that page.
  • I don't think links are permitted.
2

I came over here after seeing this question.

What about this possible wording for the Tip portion of the text?

Tip Make sure you tell us about all of your requirements. Try not to leave anything out. Include OS or container environment, hardware and networking constraints, dependencies (web/desktop/mobile/API/library), issues to avoid, desired outcomes, licensing constraints, and budget.

I'm trying with the above to capture succinctly all (or at least many) of the dimensions related to software recommendation.

  • Thanks for wording this! By the way, webapps (web-based tools or APIs, not websites), libraries, and operating systems (in particular Linux distributions) are actually on-topic too, feel free to change your wording to include them, or not (this is already a consequent paragraph to read, and we can't cover all possible cases anyway). – Nicolas Raoul May 29 at 7:22
  • @NicolasRaoul here's another more jam-packed go. Make of it what you will! – Kit May 29 at 14:32
  • // , Some of these might lead to questions losing their general interest characteristic. – Nathan Basanese Jun 4 at 18:38

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