This blog post just popped up in my rss reader and I thought I should post something about it.

Basically the blog post is about how questions asking people to identify something for them is not a good use of se. The is basically for questions where people ask other people to identify a certain script for them, based on features that we want.

In this question, it looks like we agreed that we should make catch-alls for different categories of software (e.g. forums, blogs, etc.). I think we should take that a step further and institute the following policy on script recommendation questions.

  1. They must be community wiki.

  2. Script recommendation questions can not have super specific requirements (e.g. "I need a forum script that can integrate with a blog and that has uses php and has the following list of features:"). Instead, the question must be asking for a list scripts that are a certain type of software, e. g. "I need a q&a script".

  3. You must propose new looking-for-a-script questions on the meta first, so the community can evaluate them, and make sure that your question is a good one.

I'm against removing looking-for-a-script questions completely, because I think that when they meet these guidelines they are helpful to users.

Thoughts? NOTE: When we work out a solution to this, we should update the faq.

  • 1
    This growing fixation on close-all/catch-all solutions is going to make it impossible to ask almost anything soon, while some of the same people involved are simultaneously complaining about lack of engagement and confusion over Webmasters' topic coverage. (Which I do agree is poorly-defined.) Maybe you–collectively, not specifically Christofian–should focus more on what you do want to see rather than not. – Su' Feb 29 '12 at 23:31
  • @Su' I posted this because Jeff Atwood made a blog post essentially saying that looking-for-a-script type questions were off-topic in any se site, not because I'm trying to get rid of practically all of the questions on webmasters.se – user6901 Mar 1 '12 at 0:16
  • Not all, not nearly. Read Phil Pursglove's comment first of all, which Jeff weirdly ignores. Then his response to badp. Note he repeatedly mentions things like "vague, half-remembered." Not exactly equivalent to "I have X clear requirements." These things are evaluated per-case not summarily closed. Jeff's opinions are important and yes "don't let your community tell you what to do" but also don't rush into doing everything he says. The comments are almost universally against him. – Su' Mar 1 '12 at 2:25

I don't think most of the questions fit what Jeff is talking about. A Webmasters' question that would fit what Jeff is talking about would be "I came across a CSS framework a while back that had these characteristics... Can you help me find what it was called".

I think we have hardly any of that sort of question, and even if we did, people are probably asking because they really want to know, not because of idle curiosity, like it is with books, say.

I think there is a range of questions. At one end of the range you have "I have the following extremely specific requirements, which no-one else will ever have. Please do all the work for me because I'm too lazy". At the other end of the range is "I'm looking for a good CMS. Can you recommend one?". I think the questions at either end of the range should be closed down. Those in the middle are OK. So here are some tests for good questions which we can apply:

  • Are the requirements too broad or too narrow?
  • Have you done some investigation already?
  • (Any others?)

So to finally get round to addressing the suggestions in the question.

  1. Probably in many cases, particularly when the requirements are tending towards the vague, but not too vague.

  2. Agreed.

  3. I disagree. I think the existing system where they get flagged, commented and maybe closed is fine. If someone then wants to complain they can come to meta.

Updating the FAQ - yes, if we get consensus. And the tag wiki too.

  • I think that there isn't much difference between "I remember a cms that had a easy to use admin interface, was themable, and had the ability for users to upload photos; can anyone tell me what it is called" and "I'm looking for a cms that had a easy to use admin interface, was themable, and had the ability for users to upload photos: anyone have any suggestions? – user6901 Mar 1 '12 at 20:00
  • @Christofian: Any CMS that can't be themed, doesn't at least claim to be "easy to use" or doesn't let people upload media probably isn't even going to survive long. So sure, it fails my own earlier question about this. Now look at this question. That is specific enough(though not too localized) to be an interesting topic. – Su' Mar 1 '12 at 21:38
  • @Su' hows this for a better example: "I remember a php based forum script that allowed users to upvote posts, and that had a reputation system; can anyone tell me what it is called" and "I'm looking for a php based forum script that allowed users to upvote posts, and that had a reputation system; anyone have any suggestions?" – user6901 Mar 1 '12 at 21:42
  • The difference is that if the questioner wasn't misremembering what they found before there's an answer to the first question and there may or may not be an answer to the second question. – paulmorriss Mar 5 '12 at 13:03

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