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Background: this question originates from a flag I raised and that was recently denied. The question asked about an alternative to a Windows software.

This topic has been discussed previously but the answers there do not seem any reasonable to me. Maybe they were in the past, before the Software Recommendations SE website existed. Now it exists, and it is going very well.

One of the possible reasons for closing a question or migrating it specifically says:

This is not about Ubuntu. Questions about other Linux distributions can be asked on Unix & Linux, those about Windows on Super User, those about Apple products on Ask Different and generic programming questions on Stack Overflow.

The rationale is: if it belongs to a different website, it should be migrated there. I don't think I need to convince you that software recommendations questions are suitable to the Software Recommendations website and they are perfectly on topic there. ;)

Why is this website not listed among those where OT questions should be moved? Why are software recommendations questions still considered on topic?

This puzzles me because those questions are both:

  • primarily opinion based (is GIMP a good alternative to Photoshop or not? And Krita? Wait, what about Cinepaint?)
  • too broad as there can be many possible answers (What is a good text editor for Ubuntu? Go figure which one will get recommended...)
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    I agree. We even have a softwarerecs.stackexchange.com – UniversallyUniqueID Jun 19 '16 at 12:17
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    I think we do need an explicit and clear policy regarding this so that we know what questions should be flagged. – edwinksl Jun 19 '16 at 12:24
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    "The rationale is: if it belongs to a different website, it should be migrated there." No, the rationale is: if it doesn't belong here, maybe it belongs somewhere else. We only send questions away if they don't fit here. Migrations are a lucky last resort, not the goal. – Seth Jun 19 '16 at 15:37
  • @Seth, ok point taken, but still too broad, opinion-based questions for recommendations do not belong here. – Andrea Lazzarotto Jun 19 '16 at 15:52
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    Hi @AndreaLazzarotto . Read carefully. OP is not asking for the best. How could it be opinion based? It exists or not. Actual question. – Jacob Vlijm Jun 19 '16 at 15:57
  • @JacobVlijm ah, well if you put it that way. So a correct answer to "Is there an alternative?" would be either "yes" or "no", without actually mentioning the alternative. A bit useless IMHO, but I agree in that case it would be suitable for this site. Still a bit borderline because that was probably not the answer the OP is looking for. :D – Andrea Lazzarotto Jun 19 '16 at 16:01
  • @JacobVlijm on a more serious note, the fact that a software is an alternative to another one is sometimes source of huge debates among people. I mean, there are people who do not consider GIMP to be a Photoshop alternative, just to make an example. – Andrea Lazzarotto Jun 19 '16 at 16:02
  • @AndreaLazzarotto well, if it exists, it might be useful to mention of course. Mention the existence of a package (or multiple) is definitely not opinion based. Not even if you mention pros and cons, as long as they are objective. – Jacob Vlijm Jun 19 '16 at 16:03
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Software recommendations are on-topic here, but I think we're too lax with them. I think we should apply softwarerecs.se's requirements.

Their help/on-topic page:

Good software recommendation requests have two components:

  • purpose — a task to accomplish, a user story
  • Some objective requirements — a minimum set of features

Please read our question quality guidelines before posting. Always state your requirements explicitly: even if you're asking for alternatives, we need to know which features you need.

We really should close questions that just go "I wan app like X." WTF is X? I might not use it, but I might know software that will fit your use, but I have no idea since I don't know what X's feature set is or which of those features you want.

  • I definitely agree on enforcing requirements to prevent low quality answers. – Andrea Lazzarotto Jun 19 '16 at 16:35
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    Which is something I was trying to push forward... guess how it ended. SPOILER ALERT: not pretty – Braiam Jun 20 '16 at 21:03
  • @Braiam I suspect you'd have much better luck if you tried again now - Software Recommendations has had a lot more time to mature since then (I think the major complaint then was that they haven't yet worked out the details, and I guess that won't be a problem now) – muru Jun 21 '16 at 5:29
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Questions asking for software recommendations are on-topic both here and on the SE site specifically for them. As Ubuntu is both on U&L and here. In fact it can even be more useful to have Ubuntu-specific software recommendations here as people will know where to find them, there is no need to migrate them to the site specialising in all software recommendations.
As it is not the case for Ubuntu questions on U&L.

  • primarily opinion based (is GIMP a good alternative to Photoshop or not? And Krita? Wait, what about Cinepaint?)

  • too broad as there can be many possible answers (What is a good text editor for Ubuntu? Go figure which one will get recommended...)

Software recommendation questions will be closed with one of these reasons if they are not specific enough to what exact features are needed. Or at least they should be in my opinion


An answer to the literal why question:

Because they are asking about software for Ubuntu and basically anything relating to Ubuntu especially the software that runs on it is on-topic here. That was just a thing decided in the rules. You are allowed to give specifications for Ubuntu software and have it recommended to you. Normally if you are specific too much then it's not 'too broad' and not just 'primarily opinion-based' (you should note that questions on software recommendations are closed with these reasons if they are not specific enough).

  • I think you are missing the fact that asking for "alternatives to X" is perfectly fine on Software Recommendations, as it should be. It is not fine here and I still can get why my flag was declined. – Andrea Lazzarotto Jun 19 '16 at 15:07
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    @AndreaLazzarotto: It is on-topic there, and here, that is all. On that site people can help to a more specialised degree in software recommendation, here more on the Ubuntu side. – user364819 Jun 19 '16 at 15:25
  • I understand that they are considered by someone to be on topic from the fact that the flag was declined. My question is "why", as explained in the title and in the body of the question. – Andrea Lazzarotto Jun 19 '16 at 15:59
  • Because they are asking about software for Ubuntu and basically anything relating to Ubuntu especially the software that runs on it is on-topic here. That was just a thing decided in the rules. You are allowed to give specifications for Ubuntu software and have it recommended to you. Normally if you are specific too much then it's not 'too broad' and not just 'primarily opinion-based' (you should note that questions on software recommendations are closed with these reasons if they are not specific enough). – user364819 Jun 19 '16 at 16:04
  • As terdon said, if you have a further problem with this please post a new thread explaining your argument. – user364819 Jun 19 '16 at 16:05
  • I have already stated that I don't want to argue with anyone. That is not the point of my question. Besides: your previous comment is more of an answer to my question than the answer above, because it addresses the "why". :P Your answer (without the comment) is kind of like "it is so because yes". You should consider integrating the comment in the answer. – Andrea Lazzarotto Jun 19 '16 at 16:08
  • @AndreaLazzarotto: Fine, I've added my comment to my answer. Happy now? – user364819 Jun 19 '16 at 17:37
  • Yes and I have upvoted your answer. Much better now. :) – Andrea Lazzarotto Jun 19 '16 at 17:38
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    "Or at least they should be in my opinion" said a voice in the vacuum. Check the software-recommendation with a shovel... no, actually a bulldozer is more apt. – Braiam Jun 20 '16 at 20:58
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You have a basic misunderstanding here:

The rationale is: if it belongs to a different website, it should be migrated there.

That is just wrong. The rationale on all sites of the SE network is that if a question is on topic on the site it was posted, it stays there unless the OP asks for a migration. That it could also be on topic somewhere else is irrelevant:

  • Don't migrate for the sake of migration. We only migrate questions because they are off-topic on the original site. It is perfectly possible for a question to be on-topic on multiple sites, but that is not a reason to migrate it elsewhere. As a general rule, if someone asks a question here, and it's on-topic here, it should stay here.

There are many sites whose scopes overlap. For example:

  • Bash questions are on topic here, on Stack Overflow, on Unix & Linux, on Super User, even on Ask Different if you're using OSX or on Server Fault if it's about system administration.

  • General Ubuntu questions are on topic here, on SU and on U&L.

  • A question about, say the latest super hero film would be on topic on Science Fiction and Fantasy and on Movies & TV.

The fact that a question would be on topic elsewhere is completely irrelevant when it comes to whether it is also on topic here. The close reason you quoted is used for questions that are off topic here and should instead be posted on one of the other sites. Not for questions that would also be on topic elsewhere.

Now, you may well have a point that software requests shouldn't be on topic here. I would probably agree with that position. However, they currently are on topic and that's why your flag was rejected. As far as I know, the only site on the network that explicitly forbids software request questions is Super User.

So, if you want to argue that they shouldn't be on topic here either, please open a new thread and present your arguments. As I said, I'd probably support you myself. Just be aware that you would be asking for a change in the site's scope, not for enforcing an already existing limitation.

  • «if you want to argue that they shouldn't be on topic here» My question is: why are they considered on topic since they clearly violate the rules about opinion based and broad questions. I don't care about starting arguments with anyone. If I get a valid motivation on why they are considered on topic here I'll accept that answer. – Andrea Lazzarotto Jun 19 '16 at 15:56
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    @AndreaLazzarotto not all software requests need to be either too broad or opinion based. Not if they are asked correctly. Personally, I would prefer to make them off topic, but they aren't so by definition. – terdon Jun 19 '16 at 15:58

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