Proposal: Software Recommendations

Presumably there will be requests for recommendations that we would not want to answer.

Questions like "What's the free word processor that opens fastest on Mac Mavericks?" are obviously OK. "What's the fastest SHA1 password cracker for breaking into my bank?" is definitely dodgy.

Where do we draw the line? "What's the fastest DVD ripper for 2-pass OGV compression?" could be borderline depending upon the copyright laws in different jurisdictions.

Do we need a line? Do we need a clear rule? Do we just let the community moderate itself?

  • This question has been repeatedly edited by several people since I first posed it. The answers and the comments to them refer to various intermediate states of the question. My use of the word 'best' in the original post was deliberately consistent between the 'obviously OK' and the 'Suspicious' questions. It was not intended to be a question about "Is 'best' a valid question" although it seems to have become so. I am pleased that such a level of discussion has occurred at this stage of the community's development. Let me say that I agree, 'best' is not a recommendation, it is a review.
    – Chenmunka
    Feb 3, 2014 at 20:45

2 Answers 2



Why is "What's the best DVD ripper?" a borderline question? I teach Information Security for a living. Part of my job is to teach people to use software like Metasploit. Metasploit is a vulnerability scanner. In the hands of the wrong person it could be used as a prelude to attacking a network. I teach how to use it for legal, legitimate penetration testing.

Further, what if you found out that "What's the best freebie word processor?" was asked because the individual asking is planning to use the word processor to write a virus? Is it still obviously okay to answer the question?

It is not our place to determine what someone is going to do with a piece of software they ask about. Unless the specifically state, "I plan to use DVD ripper software to violate copyright laws," we should apply an innocent until proven guilty approach. Am I automatically a murderer because I own knives, a car, or a gun?

  • This is precisely my point. Do we need a line? Any software can be used for illegal purposes if you try hard enough. I wanted to get the opinions of others as there may be some people wary of litigation or other external interference.
    – Chenmunka
    Nov 14, 2013 at 12:48
  • And my point is that just recommending a piece of software to someone does not make you a criminal or an accessory to a crime. The people that are worried about answering this question will not, and those that do answer the question know that this is the case.
    – Everett
    Nov 14, 2013 at 12:50
  • 1
    I agree with your point. I don't mean to convey otherwise. My concern lies in the perception of others with much narrower minds. Does the site need to moderate its recommendations? I would hope not.
    – Chenmunka
    Nov 14, 2013 at 13:15
  • This is already an (occasional) issue on Stack Overflow - people sometimes ask how to do dodgy things. They usually get an appropriate answer though. Nov 29, 2013 at 8:40

I don't think that asking for the best ... are good questions.

Look at the current example questions. Often they don't just ask for the best (which is heavily opinion based) but for free alternatives, the existance of a software getting a task done or a list of software solutions that might suit.

All that can be answered in a constructive manner.

  • 5
    If the site is called Software Recommendations then that implies it is specifically for asking for the best. They are the questions you will get.
    – Chenmunka
    Nov 15, 2013 at 14:24
  • 2
    @Chenmunka: I agree with juergen that the word "best" should be avoided, because it means opposite things depending on your tastes. For me, best is command-line. For my friend, best is 100% visual. Be specific, never say "best". Feb 3, 2014 at 3:04
  • 1
    @Chenmunka It's absolutely vital, if this site is to work, to close questions asking for “the best X” on sight. A viable recommendation question asks “how do I do X”, not “what's the best X”. Feb 3, 2014 at 17:41

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