Lets face it... software recommendation were never good questions for Ask Ubuntu, and don't tell me "but they are popular"... the popular questions got their popularity because they are too broad or fit lots of questions, not because they were good. But let me not rant about that and lets see what our soft rec guide says for questions:

Scope, Scope, Scope.

If a question is too broad it'll attract a large quantity of answers which will likely lower the overall quality of the question due to the impossibility of sifting through each. However, if the scope is too narrow the answers will only pertain to a very small audience resulting in many narrow scoped questions about similar topics and a fractured solution overall.

So, where you make that line? When is too broad or when is too narrow? This is confusing! You must set what you expect of the recommendations, always. Who cares about audience, you want something that is useful to you. That another question is done slightly different is not your problem, is the other asker problem because he didn't like your preferences.

Narrow scope, get targeted and high quality answers.

When you embark on any question, make sure you outline what features you're looking for - or what your end goal/ideal solution would be. Simply stating "What games are available on Ubuntu?" will be too large of a scope and ultimately will be too long to assert any value from. Instead you may wish to ask "Where can I find games for Ubuntu?" to obtain a list of sites that provide gaming services compatible with Linux. Another alternative would be to asked about certain game genres, like "What Real Time Strategy games are available Ubuntu?" or "Native First person shooter games?". While most video gaming questions should probably be asked on Gaming Stack Exchange.

Apart of being contradictory with the previous paragraph, the Gaming.SE guys will kill us! They don't want game recommendations nor list questions. BTW, the example questions would irremediably end in big list:

  • Where can I find games for Ubuntu?

    In the software center or Steam, duh? (also it is constantly updated)

  • What Real Time Strategy games are available Ubuntu?

    just look for RTS in the software center or Steam, will ya? (both gets an updated list)

  • Native First person shooter games?

    (I had to ask in The Bridge what was this and they even didn't know, take a hint. I presume native here means that runs in Linux, but whatever) What? FPS? Just look!

Broaden scope, help all the people!

When asking for questions like "Photoshop Alternatives?", or "What music players are there other than Banshee?" consider making your question a little broader in scope. "Graphic Manipulation Software for Ubuntu?" appeals to a larger audience and can be used as a canonical answer for other such recommendation questions. "Music Players for Ubuntu?" will also include Banshee as an answer, but it will also provide a list of additional music playing software. This alone is worth it's weight as it's a complete solution - a "generic" question that can be used as a reference point going forward.

Again contradicting. You want well scoped or just a run of the mill "please giv meh da list!", just decide yourself! The example questions are irremediably asking for list:

  • Photoshop Alternatives?

    Any software that claims being Photoshop alternative will fit.

  • What music players are there other than Banshee?/Music Players for Ubuntu?

    There are thousands of music players, you know? Just counting those that use mplayer/2 as backend... uhhh...

  • Graphic Manipulation Software for Ubuntu? (BTW, is there someone aware that there's a difference between vector and graphic manipulators?)

    Couldn't just be easier just to google around or look in the USC? Why are you asking for a list?

Now, lets examine the body:

"What music players are there other than Banshee?" consider making your question a little broader in scope (...) appeals to a larger audience and can be used as a canonical answer for other such recommendation questions (...) will also include Banshee as an answer, but it will also provide a list of additional music playing software.

Yeah, but I still don't like banshee. I will not accept banshee as answer and I would include it in the question so when the answerer ask me "Y U not accept my A?!" he knows that he's at fault because he didn't read the questions. I'm looking for X characteristics that I know banshee don't have, why should I broad the scope just to satisfy your morbid likes? I'm looking for X software with A, B, C, D characteristics, it's so difficult just to provide an answer to this? (seriously, that's what any sane OP will think, I do.)

This is what makes most soft-rec lying around just bad questions.

but it will also provide a list of additional music playing software

Are anyone reading the FAQ? Really, I have suspicions. The help/dont-ask says "every answer is equally valid" is within the should not ask. And any. music. player. is not a good question by our FAQ.


When asking for software recommendations you're essentially prompting a poll of the community. The Stack Exchange software which Ask Ubuntu runs on has a mechanism to assist with community polling implemented as one of the features of a community wiki. Flagging the post for conversion to a Community Wiki will allow a moderator to review the request and take any necessary actions. In addition it may help to remind users that they should limit only one proposed solution per answer to make true use of a "poll".

That sounds exactly like shopping recommendations which are prohibited network wide last time I read about it. BTW, Community Wiki is not an "anything goes" flag just to ask about ponies or unicorns (yeah, we know you love them, but don't ask about them), either the question falls within the scope or not and should be closed accordingly. CW were not meant for bad, poorly asked, polls questions. Check Aarobot answer on MSO for more about this which is the base for SE blogpost. This flags also adds to the load to the mods flags, while they should be doing something more productive.

So, where I want to conclude. Just close them all. ALL. Don't allow new nor old being safe. We are redefining our scope with retroactivity. The message should be "Hey, there was upon a time where we allowed this, but not more so don't use it as example". Doesn't matter how popular, upvoted, helpful you consider it, is a poll not a Questions & Answer. Doesn't fit what Stack Exchange was built over and they spread thin our resources since people continue asking them. Lets get questions that inspire us to write about something more interesting, that would help to solve someone real problem and attract more experts.

If you want them, they at least must follow a well defined set of rules (like Tim Post's in Soft-Rec) and any old question should be closed accordingly.

Moderators should abide by our decision here and close them since it's tiresome to VTC by all the community that already reached some consensus.

BTW, let not migrate our old closed Software recommendation questions to softwarerecs.stackexchange.com, since ours are very, very crappy and those guys would not want them.

  • 2
    Whoa, that's a long post. And I agree. There's actually Software Recommendations site on private beta phase. If it graduates, that's the right place to migrate recommendation questions.
    – Olli
    Feb 10, 2014 at 17:19

1 Answer 1


what is the purpose of Ask Ubuntu?

In a nutshell we are here to provide answers to questions - and occasionally provide answers that you really didnt know in the first place.

The software-recommendation tag provides an interesting dilemma. Just occasionally you may ask yourself a very general question - hopefully with a well defined boundary. This boundary would normally limit the number of potential answers to a bare minimum.

Lets give an example:

This is a general question for a specific purpose. Software-recommendation fits this well and more importantly there are just a few possible answers.

Now lets look at the number of views - an impressive 53,000 views in less than a year. So there are thousands upon thousands of people who are having the collective same general thought - I'm looking for a power saving app - please recommend me something.

Now lets look at the reverse situation which hits the dilemma I mentioned above:

352,000 people have again had the same collective general thought - impressive!

From a question & answer point of view - this question is poor - no defined boundary with too many possible answers.

Thus what to do?

From simply a views point-of-view this question is one of our highest rated questions. From the edits, it is well maintained.

So should we close each and every software-recommendation question?

Well no is the short answer.

Software-recommendation has a purpose - to answer those questions that are general enough but with a defined boundary.

Our FAQ covers this:

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

So what should we do with historic questions?

This sort of thing has been often discussed previously - our current evolved thoughts is to leave open this sort of question but highlight clearly in the question the following text:

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. While you are encouraged to help maintain its answers, please understand that "big list" questions are not generally allowed on Ask Ubuntu and will be closed per the FAQ.

We have also been evolving the policy to close new questions that could lead to lists.

In conclusion.

Software recommendation can and does play a purpose. Any question tagged as such should not immediately be closed. We should - collectively - as a community look very closely. Does such a software recommendation lead to a long list? Does it have a defined boundary?

Once you've decided upon those key questions - then as a community you should cast your collective ballot - to close or not to close.

Lets not close simply because a question has a specific tag.


Moderators should abide by our decision here and close them since it's tiresome to VTC by all the community that already reached some consensus.

The problem I have here is that this statement puts a moderator immediately beyond the community. We are community moderators - we are part of the community and have the same ability to share our views and should have the same judgement to encourage the community as everyone else have. The power to blast shut a question should not be taken lightly - nor should this be done on a whim.

Closure of such historic questions should be through community involvement - cast your 5 ballots by 5 respected (through their reputation) fellow community members. In that way, we get the benefit of closer community involvement in making decisions.

  • I wasn't talking about an specific tag but the whole "software recommendation" stuff. As I said, view != quality, and obviously any of those answers I find them elsewhere (I wouldn't ask that kind of questions myself independly my needs). The software recommendations are wasting our resources in general.
    – Braiam
    Feb 10, 2014 at 22:32

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