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We ask questioners to state their requirements as specifically as possible. "Free" is a common requirement. SU is full of questions that are worded to be on-topic: I need to solve XYZ problem with these constraints; any solution must be no-cost.

On one hand, it's a common constraint. On the other, any mention of cost implies a shopping request. Also, it is a "personal" constraint that is tangential to the site's subject area.

We are currently whittling away [freeware] and there was previously an effort to eliminate [free], which also suffered from having way too many possible meanings. We will be left with a substantial number of [freeware] questions that are deemed on-topic but have a no-cost constraint.

There are several ways to deal with these.

  • Leave the freeware tag; perhaps strengthen the wiki summary to dissuade off-topic use (which is sure will be highly effective :-) ).

  • Replace it on those questions with a more precise tag, like [no-cost] or [cost-consideration] to use for otherwise on-topic questions that have a cost constraint.

  • Decide that the concept of cost is not appropriate for a tag; it can just be mentioned within the question.

Personally, I don't think this kind of tag is useful in matching the right expertise to the question. Mentioning cost constraints within the question should be adequate. Every characteristic and constraint doesn't need to be in a tag.

Other people's thoughts?

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    Heh. I have a dislike of cost as a tag on software recs, simply cause it splits up the pool of solutions in a non technical, and to me, arbitrary way. I have a clear bias though, so I'll leave it to clearer heads, and the community to make a case against it in detail ;). – Journeyman Geek Jan 4 '15 at 3:32
  • @JourneymanGeek - Your bias is based on facts and experience so no reason to recuse yourself on that account. – fixer1234 Jan 4 '15 at 3:39
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    I also dislike the tag; personally If I answer a question like this the fact it's paid or free software isn't relevant to me; it still solves the question don't tie my hands if you want a problem solved – Ramhound Jan 5 '15 at 23:24
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    How could this possibly be a useful tag? It's only even relevant for product recommendations, which are off-topic! – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 13 '15 at 2:05
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Well personally I think its not a good tag.

Firstly software recommendations aren't really on topic here, especially where on topic product recommendations are essentially problem solutions. Whether software is built in, freeware, commercial software, or handed to you in exchange for 2 pounds of toenail clippings ought to be irrelevant, especially for someone looking for pre-existing answers.

Secondly it splits up 'best of breed' solutions by something I consider arbitrary - I'd rather have them in one place and choose based on my own cost benefit analysis.

The one person who's likely to be cost conscious might be the person asking the initial question, but to me, the right place for that is in the question itself.

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    I knew it would come in handy. Almost enough to get me some software. Can you post a link to where I can make the exchange? :-) – fixer1234 Jan 5 '15 at 0:02
  • These drive me nuts: "I need a solution to do X" and we say "OK easy, product Y will do it exactly as you've asked" and they say "Yeah I knew about that, that's not acceptable because it costs too much". Like someone's wallet size makes the answer suddenly less useful? :) – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Jan 12 '15 at 18:31
  • @Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 The problem is that too many pieces of software that should cost $0.00 (after tax) instead cost something. Sometimes something that costs $0.01/ea is a problem because it is needed for 10,000 machines, and neither the person implementing the solution nor the skinflint management will pay the $100 (plus tax, which could make it $3000). Sometimes a solution that includes a cost has been seen and disregarded because it has a cost. To the person asking, that does make a cost-included answer unhelpful. Unless you're willing to (financially) fix broke, you can't fix broke. – killermist Jan 12 '15 at 23:48
  • @killermist The asker's financial situation is not a technical problem, and often (usually) not offered by the asker in their question. The answers are also not just for the original asker. Not accepting an answer amongst several as the 'best' due to cost is one thing, but to dismiss and not give credit to (or worse, downvote) an answer due to cost is silly, but it happens, more often than it should. – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Jan 13 '15 at 13:24
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Cost constraints on answers appears to me to be a meta-tag.

We are actually trying to hash this out over on Worldbuilding primarily with our science-based tag, which indicates that answers should be based in hard science as currently known and understood. (In that sense, it's a bit like SO's language-lawyer tag, or RPG SE's rules-as-written tag, or SciFi's canon tag.) The discussion has flowed back and forth, and I'm honestly not entirely sure how I feel about that one.

A tag like "free" to impose constraints on the answers poses much the same problems.

A good measure in my mind for whether a tag is useful is: can you say "I am an expert in tag-name" without making it sound silly? "I am an expert in windows-7" is a reasonable thing to say, if perhaps rather broad. "I am an expert in data-recovery" is also similarly reasonable. How reasonable is it to say "I am an expert in free" or "I am an expert in freeware"? What about "I am an expert in solutions-that-cost-less-than-X-amount"?

Based on that line of reasoning, tags which place cost constraints on answers (when product recommendation questions are off topic to begin with, at that) should not be tags. Such constraints instead go better in the questions themselves; for example, a data-recovery question might say "I am willing to spend a maximum of about $1000 on getting my files back". Otherwise, simply in the name of consistency, if we allow a tag like "free", we will also need to allow tags like "less-than-1000-dollars", "less-than-2000-dollars", "less-than-500-euros" and so on. That cannot end well.

Hence, at least at the moment I feel that cost constraints on proposed solutions are a bad use of tags and other constraints on answers expressed as tags should be used sparingly.

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