This question was just asked:

What is the best way to recommend a new browser to my family?

The question does not ask about a browser recommendation, or a piece of software, but simply asks how to convince family members to use a new browser.

Some commenters on the question seem to think that it is on topic.

Can a question be on topic here if the question does not ask for a software recommendation?

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    If we're gonna allow meta.softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/11/… just about anything recommendation based then I don't see why not. This is about strategy to recommend which can be just as important. – jcolebrand Feb 27 '14 at 16:20
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    I disagree with your reasoning here - allowing operating system recommendations is a no brainer because an operating system is actually software. Asking for tips on how to recommend something to somebody is more a case of psychology and nothing related to recommending software. Whether we expand the scope so that we're not just recommending software but also analysing the act of recommending software is another question that we definitely need to discuss. – Flyk Feb 27 '14 at 16:25
  • There's no time like the present to raise the discussion. And I understand that you disagree with my reasoning on operating systems, but consider that operating systems define what software is available for recommendations in the first place. You have to have the operating system BEFORE you can make the software recommendation. That's kind of like asking "which video game platform should I buy" instead of "Which platform should I buy if I want to play Titan Fall" – jcolebrand Feb 27 '14 at 16:29
  • @jcolebrand absolutely and I agree with you that the discussion needs to be had - I'm not trying to stifle discussion. Please don't take me commenting as anything other than voicing my opinions on the specific things I refer to - I am personally against the idea of having questions like this around but some people have voiced that they think it's a good fit so I'm very much waiting to see their opinion on the matter before deciding how I feel about it. – Flyk Feb 27 '14 at 16:31
  • I'm not taking it personally. – jcolebrand Feb 27 '14 at 16:32
  • Just a thought... this particular question could perhaps be restructured into a "software recommendation" question. eg. "What internet browser would be best for a non-technical user?". Although that won't include "how" you should put forward your case. As a start, I'd suggest putting the kettle on! – MrWhite Feb 28 '14 at 11:34

The question is clearly off-topic, as it is not asking for a software recommendation. It is more of a relationship question than a software recommendation question.

The scope of our site is software recommendations. There is nothing in the FAQ or on meta to indicate that a question that doesn't ask for a software recommendation could be on topic, whether or not it is a good-subjective style question that is relevant to experts in this field.


To simplify things:

  • To ask about X: X.stackexchange.com
  • To ask about to ask about X: meta.X.stackexchange.com

IMHO we should draw a line between the two. I see the value of the question. I also see how it relates to our site's name. But sorry, I don't see how it is really on-topic. We focus on high-quality software recommendations themselves. That's the purpose of our main site. When in doubt how to give high-quality software recommendations, we have Meta.

We certainly don't want to "cover everything around software and its recommendations". That's an issue most (if not all) SE sites have: Defining the borderline. And sorry as I feel about the otherwise good question: IMHO it's on "the other side" of it. A cobbler should stick to his last :)


As I am the one that asked the question, I would like to take the first stab at defending the question. Others have already spoken up, so I will not speak for them.

To start, let's discuss the fact that I know a thing or two about StackExchange and I wouldn't have asked this question if I didn't think it was a good fit. I don't have a habit of asking throwaway questions because they are fun to overload the mods with. I did consider that the purpose of this site is for recommendations (granted, most people are looking for specific software, not how to recommend software) but I also know that this question has very specific implications (security, experience). So let's don't go with "what does this person know about our StackExchange site, crucify!" but instead consider the merits of what I'm looking to achieve with the question. Which is my second point:

This site is still in beta. This is still a good time to define what this site is all about. We should be posting well-written guiding questions that other people can look to to learn from. Yes, this question strains credulity for some folks, and that's fine. I personally am against operating system recommendations, but I am not the dictator of this site, we are a community that wants to grow what is acceptable.

Lastly: I don't think this question can be too conversational or opinion based, I feel like there are a few experts in this field that can share their opinions for the rest of us to learn from. I would like to learn from those people. This site is a good way to do that.

Thanks for hearing me out.

  • 3
    Actually, the general opinion on the question in chat at the moment hasn't focussed on your past experience with Stack Exchange or the potential subjectivity of the question - it's been pretty much focussed on whether "how can I recommend software to a demographic" belongs on the same site as "recommendations for software that fulfils a purpose". – Flyk Feb 27 '14 at 16:29
  • I wasn't aware this was blowing up in chat. – jcolebrand Feb 27 '14 at 16:29
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    Oh no, there's no explosions, it's more a sporadic conversation starting around here. – Flyk Feb 27 '14 at 16:40
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    I wholly agree that your question shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. But beyond that your answer is thin on why it should be on-topic here. It's not about the process of choosing software, which is what we do here, it's about the process of convincing people to use software. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 27 '14 at 18:13

Like all SE sites, this one is about a field of expertise: knowing when to use what software.

This question is clearly related to that field. Unlike most of our questions that ask for that expertise to be applied and the take away value is only a solution not the knowledge needed to arrive at a solution, this question is about the field itself and the take away value will be more people having knowledge about when and how to recommend software to others.

The question is clearly topical. The only thing that remains to ask is, "Is it constructive?" Question that are too opinion based and just discussion starters would not be constructive, but I suggest that this one is very well formed and fits the good part of the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective litmus test.

In summary, yes questions can be on topic without looking for a specific software package if they are about the field of expertise needed to generate and act on recommendations as long as they are otherwise good constructive questions that fit the SE model.

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    Why would the software users on this site be experts on convincing the OPs mother to do something she doesn't want to do? – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Feb 27 '14 at 16:35
  • "doesn't want to do" is highly subjective. The "ethical" question I've posited within the question would indicate that the average user being instructed is actually merely unaware, not opposed. But that's a good angle that should be determined. – jcolebrand Feb 27 '14 at 16:36
  • @BenMiller Because they know when good software is important and have experience getting other people to take their recommendations. – Caleb Feb 27 '14 at 16:36
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    @Caleb We discuss software here, not the art of persuasion. With that logic, this question would be on-topic for any SE site, since every site has experts in writing convincing answers. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Feb 27 '14 at 17:12
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    It doesn't automatically follow that questions about the field itself are on-topic. For example questions about code review processes are off-topic on Code Review. Questions about publishing computer science papers are off-topic on Computer Science (we refer users to Academia instead) — though I think research methodology would be on-topic on Computer Science (I don't remember it coming up however), which shows that it's a thin line. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 27 '14 at 18:11

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