I have a problem that I need solved, and it may require the recommendation of software. How do I ask these type of questions so that they aren't closed?

Note: This is for reference to point users who ask questions that will incite recommending software. We generally do not advocate users asking for software recommendations, however there are times that a question requires the recommendation of a piece of software.

If you're looking to answer a question that may involve recommending software, please read this post first.

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2 Answers

up vote 32 down vote accepted

There are two ways to generally ask questions of this nature. The Good and the Bad.

How NOT TO ASK questions that may require a software solution:

  • "What the best software?"
  • "Can you recommend me a program that does ?"
  • "Give me a list of pieces of software that do !"
  • or this question's sister: "Is there something that does ?"
  • "What is an alternative to ? I don't like it."

These questions are not useful to the general community and lead to "fluffy" link only answers. They really don't solve any problems (the main focus of this site) and it's hard to filter what is good and what isn't when there are 10+ answers all at the same rough vote count.

How TO ASK questions that may require a software solution:

First of all: Do your research. Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before? Do you even have a real problem you need to solve? And if so, have you attempted to solve the problem yourself? Instead of assuming a solution, ask about your problem instead.

So, if you did your research and you can describe the problem to us, then here's how to ask:

  • "I have that I don't know how to solve. I've already tried X, Y, Z, but those programs don't work because this or that. How do I do this?"

  • "I have that doesn't work anymore. How do I troubleshoot or fix this?"
    With these types of questions, make sure that you're as detailed as you can about the issues. If you just say "My program doesn't open!" and that's it, it will be closed. Also, be open to other pieces of software that may solve your problem.

These questions are problem-based, and lead to useful answers. There may be recommendations of software in the answers, but those answers should also show you how to solve the problem as well.

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Be prepared that some of the recommendations will perfectly answer your question as stated to conform to the rules of the site, but still not be right for you. That alone is no reason to mark them bad answers by downvoting. This site is not your personal computer troubleshooting service, but a public Q&A site where your question will help many others as well in finding a solution to their similar problem, including those willing to install third party software, to run the solution in a virtual machine or emulator if absolutely necessary, or to pay for software, possibly unlike you. –  Daniel Beck Aug 8 '12 at 4:57
    
Related: What is the XY problem? –  kinokijuf Aug 19 '12 at 12:21
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So basically just rewrite it to be syntactically much longer, but semantically identical? Isn’t being unnecessarily verbose undesirable? –  Synetech Sep 24 '13 at 19:44
    
@Synetech I think you're missing the point here. The goal is to stray away from Opinion based questions/recommendations (i.e. reddit style) and migrate more towards questions that ask for technical details. These question may illicit actually recommending something, but if done right, it's not in the form of "Hey What's the Best Software that I can use to turn my kitty into a magical .gif that talks and wrestles with godzilla"? –  KronoS Sep 24 '13 at 19:55
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Who you kidding? The contrived example in your comment aside, the before and after examples in your posts above are the same question; one is simply longer than the other. Voting to close simply because of their word choice when you clearly understand what is being asked is silly and pedantic. If you don’t like the words they used to phrase the question, then you can edit it. –  Synetech Sep 24 '13 at 20:39
    
@Synetech are you suggesting we allow for Product recommendation questions? –  KronoS Sep 24 '13 at 21:15
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I’m suggesting the argument against them is specious, and moreover, discussing how to work-around the policy against them is a waste of time. Like I said, if you don’t like the wording of the question, you’re free to edit it; there’s no reason to close it and force them to edit it, and waste time for no reason. If they’re someone who will stick around and learn how to ask questions “properly”, then they’ll learn better from seeing how you edited their question. If they aren’t the type to stick around and learn, then telling them to edit it is pointless and helps no one else with that question. –  Synetech Sep 24 '13 at 22:27
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@Synetech The idea here however isn't just to 're-write' the question with a different wording, but rather looking for the root problem, and ask about that instead. Hopefully that's clear in the post, but if not feel free to edit it. It is community wiki after all :) –  KronoS Sep 24 '13 at 23:05
    
@Synetech I'm of two minds. Editing the question to an "I have a problem to be solved" variant is positive if you have some grasp on what the actual problem is, but it is possibly a waste of time. The other side of this is that the user should be sufficiently competent to read the rules and be capable of self-editing, and if they can't, screw 'em. A lot of the time, I will convert titles from statement/whatever to questions, hoping that the user will understand that using not-a-question as a title was an error. Retooling an entire software recommendation is wasted time. –  killermist Oct 23 '13 at 21:55
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You can go to http://softwarerecs.stackexchange.com and ask!

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The website is in beta and most of the recommendations questions Superuser wouldn't be acceptable even on that website –  Ramhound Apr 2 at 19:56
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