This question is closely related to:

I thought the requirements for software recommendation answers were clear (at least to me), but a comment on a recent moderator flag leaves at least my own understanding in doubt:

its a web based tool that solves the issue so should be treated as a software rec. it tells us why the tool might solve the problem so its maybe okayish. delete it when link becomes dead.

Addendum: The second link is to our canonical answer. The answer discussion and comments talk about the need to provide a solution. Although the answer has been heavily upvoted, the example it contains is basically just an advertisement for the software. It is loaded with general information unrelated to a specific question, and lacks a solution to anything. I added a sample solution to the example so that it meets what we say is the minimum requirement. However, the edit was rolled back. So our canonical answer is apparently that a solutionless answer is the goal.

Let me re-frame the issue and see if there is consensus.

Software lists are undesireable

Q: Name an application that has this feature.That would be off-topic because the answers would be a list of software titles. Many questions worded "How do I solve XYZ" are intended or interpreted in exactly that way, and the result is a list of software titles.

  • Is it only such a question that is off-topic, or does an answer that is nothing more than a response to that question meet the definition of an answer on SU?

    • From the first link, above, my impression was that a software title alone, or with a nebulous assertion of applicability, would not be considered an answer.

    • However, we routinely advise questioners, whose desire is a software list, to circumvent the system by asking a "How do I solve XYZ" question, anticipating a software list for answers.

These seem mutually exclusive. Which one reflects SU policy?

Answers should be solutions

Q: How do I solve XYZ?andthe question has an [Excel] tag.Nobody would accept as an answer, "You can solve that with Excel, here's a link to where you can buy it, and it has these other great features."

If the same question lacked an Excel tag, someone could recommend a solution using another application. That answer would need to contain a link to the software and probably some general information about it, but the primary thing it would still need is the solution to the question. And yet, we seem to routinely make an exception that lack of an application tag eliminates the need for an actual solution.

  • Is an answer that just recommends an application, even with an assertion that a solution can be achieved using it, ever an acceptable answer without containing an actual solution?

  • If the question is a wink and a nod circumvention of a request for a software list (thinly disguised as a "How do I solve XYZ" question), are software list answers acceptable or must they include a solution to the question asked?

  • Does the "not an answer" flag include solutionless answers?

3 Answers 3


"Try my tool that I made!" - No.

"Here's how to use a tool I have a personal interest in to acheive what you want. Insert instructions here." - Yes.

  • Hi Michael, can you please edit your answer to expand on it? Specifically, please underline, bold, make blink, change colours and magnify the last three words in your second response? Thanks for helping make Meta a better place for answers! </thanks> Mar 16, 2015 at 15:58
  • Agreed, but this doesn't really address the question. Your "yes" and "no" examples aren't the issue. The question is more about 1) an in-between situation, where the answer includes a bunch of information about the software, indicating that it is a tool for the job, but not an actual solution to the question, and 2) what are the ramifications of "no" in that case? Should any answer that does not include an actual solution to the question be flagged as "not an answer"?
    – fixer1234
    Mar 16, 2015 at 19:45
  • @CanadianLuke I regret to inform you that our glorious website does not offer such frivilous options such as underline, blink, and change colours. I have made bold the aforementioned "last three words" in an attempt to satisfy your request. I hope you accept this partial effort has sufficiently fulfilled your request. Mar 16, 2015 at 23:05
  • @MichaelFrank Alright, time for a new Meta question to enable those features, for this specific question... ;-) Mar 17, 2015 at 22:10

This question originated from a number of Meta discussions. I can't recall an exception to the guidance for what software recommendation answers should contain. The issue was what to do about answers that don't follow those guidelines.

Numerous posts seemed to indicate that link-only answers (which would include software recs), are unacceptable (including Help: Why are answers deleted: "barely more than a link to an external site").

Many other posts discuss that an on-topic question should state a problem to solve, not request a list of software titles, and an answer should describe how to solve that problem. From the same "reasons for deletion" help topic: "Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question". So a link-only software rec answers only an off-topic question.

Which led to the basic issue: to be an answer, must a software rec describe how to solve the problem? If it doesn't contain a solution, is it not an answer (subject to the "Not an answer" flag)?

It turns out that the bottom line has already been answered. Lots of good discussion:

The gist of the discussion is that this flag deals more with "category" than quality. Its main use is for things that are the wrong type of post (something other than an answer). The primary tools for dealing with poor quality are votes and comments.

Theoretically, link-only answers could be subject to deletion, except we seem to hold software recs to a different standard.


I see it something like this . . .

The Question:

Is the question asking for solutions, or is the question asking for spam :-) that has to be one of the problems.

1) If the question asks outright "What Program do I use to convert GPT to MBR" Every marketeer with a program to sell comes in and drops in thier program, then we kick them out for being spam.

2) If the Questioner asks "How Do I convert GPT to MBR" It is pretty much the same question, skirts the rules of begging directally for a program, in this case it could generate the same results.

3) If the question is "How to convert GPT to MBR WITH . . . some program" Then there is no list of recomended programs, only proper instruction to use whatever program it is both parties will be referring to. No skirting, and any program listing is going to be, "You would be better off with...", or "it is easier or cheaper with. . .", even though the answer should (somewhere) be specific to the program specified.

4) if there is a 4 , it goes here :-)

IMO The whole things is rediculous the rules for not allowing program recs, because you cant do SPIT without programs , the whole OS is full of them, and they are rarely the best choise. There exists 5000+ other forums and Q&A where you can legitimatly ask how to do something, without going to a different site.
It may reduce some spam, but why should people have to go anywhere to get simple computer answers?
(I could go on about that , but it would do no good).

I think the important part is not the question that people found using a search engine, but the answers themselves.

The Answers:

1) This (arbitrary) program . (ppphhht thanks jerk, real helpful)

2) With this (arbitrary) program you would , select the disk you are intending to convert, in the activity menu you select Convert GPT -> MBR (yea ok, I can tell you have done this before, you expert!)

3) When I converted partitions From GPT to MBR before, I used this (arbitrary) program , and everything worked out good.
First You should always Back-Up any disk prior to converting it.
Even backup all your disks in case you make the misteaks my brother did.
A MBR partition will only be 2Gig in size, so if your disk or array is larger then . . . .
BLA bla Bla bla bla bla
20 pages later . . . in the activity menu you select Convert GPT -> MBR
This process takes a lot of time . . . . Bla bla bla

IMO it is the user experience, the full and complete answer from someone (anyone) who has done it, who knows the ins & outs , the flaws the fails, and the problems.
While that can be be spammed in (creative spam) the marketeers stand out like a sore thumb, and never mention all the possible problems.

As far as things becomming Obsolete?? What manner of rediculousness thinks that is an issue with computers is is ALL going obsolete all the time.

Uhh something like that, I am sure this needs edting.

  • I don't think I disagree with any of this, but I'm not sure of the conclusion. Are you saying 1) Questions requesting program lists should be on topic, or to be on-topic, the question should state a problem and specify the application? 2) For an answer to be acceptable, it must contain at least the basic instructions for the solution to the problem specified in the question?
    – fixer1234
    Mar 15, 2015 at 20:40
  • Yes, I think that user oriented programs to solution computer user problems , should be on-topic at SU. Without having to falsely rearrange the wording. . Yes, I think if you have a specific program in mind, it should be in the title , the tag, and the question, and answers will be mostly that program. 2) For an answer to not be spammy, or spam inducing, it should have "User Experience" the how-to, a whole answer.
    – Psycogeek
    Mar 15, 2015 at 20:54
  • Another point IF SU is "not exactally a forum" If each person does ONE answer, Then the whole trail of posts that you would see in a forum, that provided the whole How-To 20 posts of forum dribble later, needs to be in the one answer. The usual back and forth between peoples that finnaly gets to the whole, will be in one post.
    – Psycogeek
    Mar 15, 2015 at 21:04
  • But regarding answers, does that mean it's required or just preferable? Bottom line, should I be flagging solutionless answers as not an answer (or some other designation), or are they acceptable? If acceptable, how much non-solution information do they need to contain? Is a statement that "I've used it before to solve that problem" enough? What about a widely used program the OP didn't know about--would an acceptable answer be "Everyone uses SuperDuperBlarnt for that purpose; [link here], RYFM"?
    – fixer1234
    Mar 15, 2015 at 21:07
  • 1
    From my understanding , answering with a "software recommendation" is fully allowed. my The Answers #1 is not acceptable, #2 is ok, and #3 is great. Also remember what lands in the review quoe, gets herassed easier. OH MY it is a new user. OhOh the answer is short. Should we do something about it ? Uhh That is the usual tough calls.
    – Psycogeek
    Mar 15, 2015 at 21:11
  • I am not sure I agree that all new users write short answers. I have a problem with ANY incomplete short answer honestly. Even people with thousands of reputation can write a horribly short answer
    – Ramhound
    Mar 16, 2015 at 22:39

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