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Proposal: Software Recommendations

One of the main reasons that asking for product recommendations on the SE network is prohibited is because of the possibiilty that it is very easy to spam these questions with product recommendations.

If this site makes it all the way to a public beta phase, I believe it will need to be very heavily moderated and monitored, otherwise it could become a spammer's playground.

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    Agreed. However it is not impossible. It will be necessary to define some firm boundaries for what is acceptable. – Chenmunka Nov 13 '13 at 18:45
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    The other issue is that every single question and answer, with few exceptions, will be out of date in a matter of months, or at most, years. – MikeTheLiar Nov 14 '13 at 20:42
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    I concur. It would be almost impossible for a moderator to discern spam from an actual answer. The only way way would be to create an un-moderated site, but that would be a bad solution for three reasons. The first is that it would be impossible to tell a genuine answer from spam, that it would be chaos, and lastly it would be very un stack exchange like. – Anthony Nov 17 '13 at 0:37
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    So somebody comments and says "this is outdated" that is highly voted, People can use their common sense and look for something else. – barlop Nov 21 '13 at 15:19
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    Regarding spam, really not hard to spot. Remember the threads on superuser recommending software. I never saw a spam suggestion and if there was, it would not have been highly voted. And if anybody saw it was spam they'd comment and say so, and flag it. There could be threads on, say, image editors, and recommendations could be done from that list. There could also be a rep level required to post there. – barlop Nov 21 '13 at 15:20
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    As noted by @mikeTheLiar, questions will go out of date as fast as software versions go out of date. 1) The moderators can keep on top of this by closing questions when they are no longer appropriate. 2) Old questions and answers do drop down the list quickly. 3) People can suggest edits to old questions to update them. The last of these could lead us to having a number of community wiki questions - lists of recommendations for different types of software. – Chenmunka Dec 2 '13 at 12:40
  • And, what if a question has outdated answers, will a new question be a duplicate, or not? – Bernhard Jan 5 '14 at 11:15
  • And questions on SO don't go out of date? Many are of the form of "I have Foobaz 7.2, how do I enable the barzoom?" Just wait 10 years and see how many are really useful. Most of this is technology of the moment. If you want something with long term validity, go to physics or computer science sites. I think it would be fine if people understand that a recommendatation is valid as of the date posted, and of diminishing value as it gets older. – Ira Baxter Jan 31 '14 at 4:08
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Perhaps this site should have a policy like meta's that upvotes and downvotes indicate agreement or disagreement.

If a spammer starts recommending his product, his product may initially have few votes, but if it's a truly bad product, eventually will get lots of downvotes.

Let's say you also limit people to naming one product per post, with a motivation for why it satisfies the requirements stated by the original poster.

A spammer should then also get downvoted for the low quality of his post if they just say "XYZ is great!", because they have not posted a motivation for recommending the product.

Of course, this also assumes that the original poster stated a good set of requirements:

  • "What is the best operating system?" would probably be closed as far too broad, because it has no requirements.

  • "What is the most secure open source operating system for internet servers?", with an additional set of requirements in the body of the question, is a lot better.

A good question must have a fairly specific set of requirements for the product, so that a good answer is possible.

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    Yeah this. Besides, if a "spammer" posts a link to his software and it meets the OPs requirements, what's the big deal? – Devil's Advocate Dec 28 '13 at 15:15
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I think there needs to be a no-exceptions policy that every recommendation much disclose the connection, whether that is "I wrote it" or "I just read the documentation".

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Stack Exchange already has features in place to deal with spamming, votes, flags and ultimately human moderators.

With such a huge programming sister site, Stack Overflow, with Programmers, et al hot on Stack Overflow's heels, it wouldn't be hard to find people to moderate and stamp out spamming.

The real issue will be arguments over opinions, as it is a site dedicated to asking for opinions and if the reputation (and I mean this in the fondest of all possible ways) of Programmers is anything to go by, there could be some, erm what is a nice way to put this, colorful exchanges with participants on such a site, if it makes it to Beta.

  • Of course Stack Exchange already has features in place, but the human factor is the biggest issue. Since recommendations are verboten on any other site, I worry that this proposal will attract people with a more lenient slant than on other SE sites. That's especially concerning because the pro-tem moderators will be picked from the pool of existing users, so the site will need moderators who aren't afraid to close and delete with extreme prejudice. I also think this question raises a good point -- answers should be very detailed. – LittleBobbyTables Dec 2 '13 at 14:09
  • @LittleBobbyTables Stack Exchange is competent at selecting strong pro tempore mods, also remember the community team sticks by a site closely when it first goes beta. I still think it's the problem of getting community consensus generally over such a subjective area within programming, I am pro the site, but aware that this will be an... erm interesting hurdle, judging by how demure our programmers are on other Stack Exchange sites :) – user94064 Dec 2 '13 at 22:55
  • @LittleBobbyTables recommendations are not always off-topic. I hang out on Drupal Answers SE, and people often ask for - and get- module recommendations. I'd say it works well there. – Free Radical Dec 13 '13 at 6:00
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That is why we should encourage very specific questions.

Too broad questions like How can I edit an image digitally? or only opinion-based questions like What is the best Operationg System? should be closed.

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    That doesn't solve anything. Take, for instance, your example question here: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/60887/…. A guy could just come in and say, "Try Product XYZ, it's the best!", and then go through every imaging question and answer in the same fashion. It doesn't matter if the question is specfic or not, they're all still prone to spammers since every answer is a recommendation. – LittleBobbyTables Nov 14 '13 at 19:41
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    By "spammer", I assume you mean the recommender has an undisclosed affiliation with the product he/she recommends. While this is indeed a concern, it is not the end of the world. If the product actually matches the askers requirements, that's IMHO something I could tolertate. And if it is irrelevant or useless, downvotes should take care of it. If the same irrelevant or useless product is recommended as a response to a lot of imaging question, a pattern emerges that can be dealt with by moderators. – Free Radical Dec 13 '13 at 6:07

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