Going through @Gareth's list of candidates for closing, I find several topics that are asking about the best X, with X being software.
We're usually pretty liberal with product recommendations if it's software. It's difficult not to, because most I'm looking for an X that does Y questions cannot be answered otherwise.
Hardware with its shorter product cycles and usually much larger number of options is different, and many products are very similar, being based on the same components, making recommendations for one but not the other often rather pointless. And it's a lot more difficult to find some obscure piece of software, than some obscure piece of hardware you can actually buy. Just browse computer stores and the shopping sites: if it's not there, you can't get it.
AFAICT, we're happy to answer (and have) questions like:
- I want a software that does X
- I want X but for Linux
- I want something like X but without its annoying characteristics
- I want a tool like X but free
Several of the topics we are voting to close right now are very similar: I want the best X. Now, of course, it's subjective what's the best X is. But users have always voted on and accepted as answer what they liked most, i.e., according to their criteria, the best. Likewise did other users answer primarily what software they like most that fits the criteria (i.e. being an X).
As an example, consider https://superuser.com/questions/21155/best-quicksilver-clone-on-windows:
Wouldn't we tolerate it, if the user instead asked:
I'm looking for a tool that allows me to launch applications quickly (with hotkeys) using the keyboard? Doing basic calculations, note taking and creating new documents would be a plus.
And what exactly would be the difference? Quicksilver is a well-known program that does this (and more), so it's rather obvious what the user is asking about. In other cases, explaining what something does is far more work (and not any more helpful) than giving a well-known example.
And he doesn't want the tool someone hacked together in half a day, so he's asking for the best. But does this really make any difference? It's no different than asking to please not suggest crap that doesn't work. The user'll still try more than the most up voted tool (unless it's perfect for his needs) and accept the answer best suiting his needs.
In a way, I like questions like the example above even more than some of the more obscure software recommendation questions. Topics like these can help a lot of people and make them aware of competitors of something they're already using. Some of other recommendation questions are really only helpful to the person asking (even though they cannot be considered too localized). OTOH, they suffer from serious up votes for popular answers, giving newcomers little chance to be discovered.
So how is it we consider What's the best X? to be off-topic, but accept questions like I need recommendations for an X? Aren't they the same thing?