I fully support the clause of the SU FAQ that states that shopping/buying recommendations are off-topic. I'm a little confused about its scope, though.

Does it apply to questions that ask people to suggest free, open-source applications? That's not technically buying, but it's equivalent to a shopping/buying rec for a person with a budget of $0.

What about recommendation questions where the OP doesn't mention cost at all?

(I reflexively tried to apply the tag to this question, but that obviously has its own special meaning here. Is there a tag for posts about superuser.com/faq?)

Here are a few example questions:

There are plenty of these under and . (In fact, those tags have an intersection of sixteen questions.)

  • can you provide some examples of such questions? Commented Feb 12, 2011 at 15:51
  • @Jeff, I asked this question after seeing a few examples, but didn't save the URLs. I'll keep an eye out, though.
    – Pops
    Commented Feb 12, 2011 at 19:38
  • Though we've had shopping recommendations are not allowed clause in FAQ - I've never seen this being applied to software. Guess more so because most of software-rec questions generally ask for free/OSS
    – Sathyajith Bhat Mod
    Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 17:41
  • 1
    I, for one, would like to get some free, open-source hardware. PLZSUGEST!!!
    – Pops
    Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 17:45
  • Arduino ;) @LordT
    – Sathyajith Bhat Mod
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 12:02
  • @Sathya, heh, well-played (if not strictly literally accurate).
    – Pops
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 15:57

4 Answers 4


Shopping suggestions will be closed almost every time. However there is a tactful way in approaching a question when it come to purchases.

For example, instead of asking what IS the best product a better question would be "What technologies should be considered when purchasing a certain product. For example, I wanted to know more about laptop batteries since mine died. I didn't want to know about which battery was better than the another, but rather prompted for more information regarding what to look for in a good battery.

If anyone asks specifically for the how's, or the what's needed about specific devices relating to PC's and their hardware then the question will most likely not be closed, and more importantly, the OP will get a great answer to what they are really looking for.

Software (as you present for your examples) are somewhat of a gray area, as most software recommendations and/or the OP's desire is open-source. However, the same rule applies that if the questions are asking for "What's the best 'foo' software?" It will be closed. No matter if it's open-source or paid.

This is the main root, in my opinion, as to why shopping questions are so strictly monitored and closed. These type of questions bring no growth to the OP or the general public, but is rather just "fluff" that Super User and Stack Exchange will not be a part of.

I suggest following the same criterion when asking, editing, or voting to close when it comes to software/hardware recommendations:

  • Does the question ask for specifics?
  • Can a voice of opinion be backed up with hard facts?
  • Does the question ask "What's the best" instead of "How do I" or "Is there? " or "What do I need to know about". (Note that these aren't always the best either but I think you get the point)
  • Will answering/asking this question further my/others understanding of the topic at hand?

Shopping recommendations are normally off-topic because they have an extremely narrow scope where they would apply. Everyone has different requirements.

Suggesting free or open source applications would be along the same vein.


Does it apply to questions that ask people to suggest free, open-source applications? That's not technically buying, but it's equivalent to a shopping/buying rec for a person with a budget of $0.

I would say in general, yes it does -- the principle is not to recommend specific products, but to teach how to evaluate them technically.

(It is also very much OK to make specific recommendations along with the teaching but the teaching part has to be there. The worst case scenario is a link to a product; the best case scenario is a detailed explanation of how to evaluate, plus the pros and cons of several currently available options.)

Still, it depends on the question; did you have any specific ones you can link to.

  • I updated my post with a few examples, and I just came across this and this a few moments ago. You and KronoS both said pretty much exactly what I expected and wanted, though. At this point, I'm down to deciding which of your answers to accept. (Well, that, and which close reason to use; all but "exact dupe" seem to apply.)
    – Pops
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 15:56
  • @lord no contest, Kronos answer is way better! Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 23:06

Software recommendations tend to pass because they're often 'how' to do things rather than a straight off "What do I need?". Shopping recommendations are bad because firstly, they go stale (software doesn't in most cases), and they indicate a certain lack of homework.

I can dust off a two year old software rec question, and most of the software there would still be available in some fashion. I can't really say the same for hardware, if the answer is specific enough.

I'd note I'm 'guilty' of a few software rec questions, but generally they're useful/obscure bits of software, and they apparently don't exist (yet). In the one situation where the software was found, it was useful in at least 2-3 other questions.

I'd say a properly asked software question is nothing like a hardware rec question.

  • Regarding lack of homework, every time I run into a question like this it's because I have done extensive homework regarding a product that meets my requirements, haven't found one, and am hoping that I have just missed something.
    – Michael
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 17:47

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