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Proposal: Software Recommendations

One of the reasons "shop for me"-type questions are generally disallowed on SE sites is outlined well in Q&A is Hard, Let’s Go Shopping!:

..technology moves so rapidly that the best shopping recommendations will be utterly obsolete within a year! What’s the point of a bunch of labor intensive questions that provide only temporary benefit to a limited (some might say Too Localized) audience? There isn’t any. That’s what we concluded, and we explicitly disallowed shopping questions in the Super User FAQ

This site is essentially a "shop for me" site for software. It seems to me that after a year (if not sooner), the site will be filled without outdated answers. As SE is all about creating canonical answers, this means that it will quickly contain irrelevant and/or misleading information.

For overly-broad questions such as "What is a good photo manager?" (if such questions are allowed) it will get out of date relatively quickly, while for specific questions (such as "What is a photo manager that will wirelessly sync and remove old photos from my iPhone 5s, and automatically back up files to Google Drive?") it may take longer to become obsolete, but it will still happen.

This is especially problematic as a good portion of SE users come by and ask one question, (maybe) accept an answer, and are never seen from again. It doesn't take long to dig around on SO or any other SE site and find questions where an answer was accepted a year or more ago, is now obsolete, and there's another, newer answer that has significantly more upvotes. This is on sites that explicitly try to ban the types of questions that lead to that situation, while this site is only about those types of questions.

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    questions where an answer was accepted a year or more ago, is now obsolete, and there's another, newer answer that has significantly more upvotes in terms of relative vote numbers, my experience has been the exact opposite. a good portion of SE users come by and ask one question, (maybe) accept an answer, and are never seen from again sounds like a good proportion of satisfied customers then. – pnuts Jan 11 '14 at 1:05
  • Problem exists on StackOverflow too, for instance: stackoverflow.com/questions/1783405 First answer is obsolete, second answer is a recently-added feature which is much better. Scores are inverting little by little, but it will take time before the obsolete answer becomes second. – Nicolas Raoul Feb 3 '14 at 2:42
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I'd think a good idea might be to take some inspiration from the Android Stack Exchange's meta question about obsolete questions: When in doubt, EDIT!!

If editing is inappropriate, or the end result of necessary edits would make the answer less complete, then other options should be considered:

  • If the post is obsolete, downvotes and correcting/expanding comments are appropriate. Votes are important on Stack Exchange, even downvotes.
  • If the post becomes potentially harmful as a product of its obsolescence, it should be edited with a warning explaining why "You shouldn't do this anymore" and/or flagged.
  • "If the question becomes potentially harmful": I think using a flag is the best way in most cases since it is easier and quicker than editing. But in most cases an explenation should be viewed alongside with the flag too. – felixd Jan 11 '14 at 0:51
  • @felixd Yeah, after thinking a bit, I agree. I've edited it now to remove the "possibly" part. – dotVezz Jan 11 '14 at 1:18
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I would suggest a feature request: a broken link que. There are other uses for this but It would be particularly useful for this. The basic functionality would be that all posts that have links would be periodically checked for broken links, those with broken links would be added to the que for review. The users with enough reputation would then edit, flag or delete. This could be enhanced by making broken links flaggable.

  • This isn't a request for this site. This is generic request for "stackexchange". I think you should take this to Meta. – Ira Baxter Jan 16 '14 at 5:51
  • agreed, It would be nice for the entire stackexchange, but it is essential here. As for taking it to meta, I am still missing some details. – hildred Jan 16 '14 at 5:53
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I don't think the questions will outdate there, because in order to make reasonable recommendation request, you need to give your operating system and at least a bit information about hardware.

Let's assume the site exists for 15 years and there are some recommendation questions for Windows95. Will they outdate? Well, the recommended software still does what it did years ago, in the same version, on the same hardware. You know that it's quite an old machine, and recommending newer software makes no sense because they will not run in such configuration.

I'd be for keeping such questions, and protecting them to prevent newbies from posting. Old 486 computers are probably used only by hobbiests and in North Korea, but that doesn't make the questions being outdated, only extreme niche.

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    One of the top example questions is about something running on Ubuntu Linux, we will need to carefully edit those to include a version number as this answer here suggests. – chx Jan 14 '14 at 6:12
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    I agree: in most cases, the best photo editor that worked on Win95 on a Pentium 10 years ago is still the best photo editor that works on Win95 on a Pentium. However, when Windows 8 first came out, there was a start menu replacement. Soon after there were a few, and now there are many. For the sake of argument, let's assume the first one released is no longer the best answer, but the question was asked when there was only one answer, and as a result it was accepted. That is the situation I'm asking about. – gregmac Jan 14 '14 at 21:42
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In some cases, a software could be obsolete, but it could still be useful. That does not mean it should be downvoted, right off the bat.

If this is not true, then ask about all the "obsolete" COBOL programs that are still used in the banking industry.

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This is pretty easily solved. Each answer gets a date stamp (as they generally do now on stackexchange sites). One reads the answer as, "As of the date stamp, user X thought software Y was good for question". Now, answers get old. If they are still relevant, they will maintain a positive vote count over time.

If not, presumably old useless answers will get downvoted, and new answers will come along.

COBOL will likely be around forever as a first answer.

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