In a previous episode “Can I ask for recommended websites?”, we concluded (in Angelo Neuschitzer's words):

No to Websites; Yes to Webapps.

I think the main difference between websites and software is what they are about.

Websites are about content. You read / write / look at or listen to content. Hopefully the site has features that allow that.

Software are about functions. You interact with it and want content to happen through your interaction.

More generally, by this reasoning, what is in-scope is software — behavior that you interact with. What is out of scope is data.

It's still not clear to me how to draw the line. Sometimes there is very close coupling between a data source and the software to query it. is rife with examples, such as:

https://softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/1668/detailed-google-map-like-software is what motivated my meta question: is it on-topic? Why (not)? Does it need to be edited?

More generally, when the purpose of a question requires both access to a data source and software to exploit it, how do we make the difference between questions asking for a data source (off-topic) and questions asking for software (on-topic)?

  • That is something I've struggled to come up with a good yardstick for and honestly I haven't Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 17:46
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    Generally I figure a data-source is something that has static data that you can call up whereas a web-app processes data input (possibly mixed with data from data-sources) but that is not a nice clear rule Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


I've been thinking about it too, and there is my answer:

TL;DR: When you don't know, it's on topic.

I believe people shouldn't judge on the difficulty of answering a question while judging it as on/off topic. A crucial pat played by software today is handling data. That does include finding and providing data to the users.

While data sets are clearly off topic, all software asking for a mean to use a given type of data set should be considered on topic. Providing an example of a data set necessary to perform the action you request from your software should'nt make anything off-topic.

Some questions, such as this one: Cafe-Library Ambiance Noise Generator may sound off-topic to many persons, because you would think it's asking for some data. It isn't. It is on topic. No matter how hard to find the necessary dataset might seem to us, people who know about the software should know where to find the data. They are recommanding software. They are on topic. They should stay. We shouldn't edit their questions.

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