This question is a re-iteration of the Area 51 - question about "Would Devops-related SW recommendations be on-topic on DevOps?", in which this question was asked:

One of the reasons for the DevOps proposal is to have a common place for asking a variety of kinds of questions which as a whole wouldn't be on-topic for related sites like StackOverflow, SuperUser, etc.

SW recommendations would normally go to softwarerecs.stackexchange.com, but would it be acceptable to have them on DevOps as well (if they are DevOps-related, of course)? IMHO yes, for the same reason.

To clarify, quality criteria similar to those on softwarerecs.stackexchange.com would apply, for both questions and answers (eventually updated as needed for Devops-specific scope, if needed).

Since the quoted question does not have an "accepted" answer, I wonder what the correct answer (not opinions ...) to that question is, now that this site is in (private) beta.

PS: Is there a CI tool that guarantees no regressions in the branch quality level? is another example.


3 Answers 3


There are three potential pitfalls with these questions:

  1. No actual problem to be solved. This is a show-stopper: if there's no problem to be solved, then how does anyone know if they have a solution? The question becomes subjective or unbounded: "list me all container engines" or "what's your favorite build manager?"

    Fortunately, most of the folks who need to ask these questions do have an actual problem they're looking to solve - they've just assumed that the solution will take a particular form, and thus produced an X-Y question. Demanding that all recommendation questions describe the problem to be solved side-steps this issue.

  2. No actual solutions. This is the one where every spammer descends on the site to post links to their webpage in response to these questions, and is strongly encouraged by pitfall #1 - if you're just looking for a list of things, "this is a thing" becomes a valid (albeit terribly unhelpful) answer.

    Ruthlessly culling answers that don't describe a specific solution to the problem in the question avoids this issue.

  3. Out-of-date answers. This is slightly less of a concern for software recommendations; you know that "best price/capacity SSD" is gonna age pretty fast, but an answer that describes how to configure a certain software package to solve a specific problem could potentially remain valid for years.

    Critically, focusing on the how rather than the what makes it much easier to determine when an answer has gone to seed; if you've avoided pitfalls #1 and #2, you'll be well-prepared to handle #3 as well.

Thus, my advice is to allow these questions for now, keeping these pitfalls in mind and also the guidance found on Software Recommendations' Ask page:

Tell us...

  • ...the task you want to accomplish
  • ...your requirements for that task
  • ...what you already know about software available for this purpose

Then, write a specific and to-the-point title

One caution: avoid a rec-question gold-rush. It's really tempting, when these sites are just getting started, to post a bunch of fake "recommendation" questions for software you already use, mostly as a way to get to know what everyone else is using. These are worthless long-term, and set a bad example for everyone who follows - if you're bored & just wanna know what software your peers are happy with, drop into chat & ask them!

  • 2
    Well... It's that straightforward. Nothing I describe here is easy - it requires constant vigilance. But, nothing good comes easy.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 0:28

No matter how much "I" would like such questions to be considered as NOT off-topic (= on-topic?), looking at it with a perspective like "Building a repository of high quality Questions and Answers", the answer is something along the lines like:

Those kinds of questions are to be considered as off-topic.

Some more details to better explain this answer:

  • Consider the Drupal Answers site (= DA.SE), and know that in Drupal there is a famous answer to mostly any question, which is like "There is a module for it!" (modules are like plugins, and anything you do in Drupal requires custom or contributed modules).
  • But, a question like "Is there a module for it?" is consider as O.F.F.-topic (no typo, I repeat: O.F.F.-topic).

It took me a while to understand why that was the case for DA.SE. And many, many of my (upvoted) answers to questions about "module recommendations" (question like "Which module can I use to do X or Y in Drupal?") got deleted (not just closed ...) as off-topic.

After digging deeper in the SE-concepts, I have learned that on many sites similar software recommendations are also considered as off-topic, mostly with an explanation like "they are simply not a good fit for Q&A sites".

My recommendation

  • Option 1: Teach users who ask questions about SW recommendations to rephrase their question to How to questions about the actual issue they want to address. That kind of questions leaves plenty of room to post answers that are ... about SW recommendations that may be a perfect fit.

  • Option 2: Promote questions about SW recommendations to be posted on the SE-site that is dedicated to only that, i.e. ... Software Recommendations (disclosure: I'm a reviewer there ...)!

  • Option 3: Consider the Software Recommendations site as a possible migration target for any such questions on DevOps that get closed as off-topic. But make sure that only high quality questions are considered for such possible migration.

  • 1
    To complement: "they are simply not a good fit for Q&A sites". Mainly because they attract spam or one liners saying "Use X, you'll be surprised how awesome it is". which may be true at time of reading, but not 6 month later, and then you see old question bumped on the homepage each time a newcomer think he can earn rep by adding his own brick to this question.
    – Tensibai
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 13:41

I don't think a blanket correct answer to this question exists.

Some argue that such questions are simply not a good fit for Q&A sites. That'd be a blanket statement. The very existence of Software Recommendations proves they can be a good fit for a Q&A site and, more importantly, even by StackExchange standards.

Ok, so what makes a software recommendation question on-topic or off-topic on a particular SE site?

  • on SO all such questions are off topic
  • on Software Recommendations there are pretty clear guidelines for both questions and answers
  • on DevOps - still TBD presently

And even if the context of the recommendation question is very specific and well defined, making it a good fit for Software Recommendations it still doesn't necessarily mean it should be off-topic here. If it's DevOps related it should IMHO be on-topic on DevOps - after all one of the reasons for DevOps is to be a one-stop shop for all DevOps-related Q&As, see Isn't duplicate of server fault? And maybe http://meta.devops.stackexchange.com/questions/3/should-we-start-moving-on-topic-questions-from-so-and-serverfault-to-here

Looking at it from a different prospective: to have some decent odds of getting quality and timely DevOps-related software/tool recommendations a lot of DevOps experts would have to also be fairly active on Software Recommendations. Meaning less time spent on the DevOps site itself :)

Finally, the most important category of software recommendations questions I'd like to see on-topic on this site are the not-so-well-defined context ones which wouldn't make it on Software Recommendations or some other SE site:

  • DevOps related
  • maybe with connections to other posts covering in one way or the other the specific aspect for which the request for the recommendation is made
  • even if not particularly tied to a specific application context (OS/language/framework/etc) - they can still be valuable for reference from wider scope questions (culture/guidelines/process/etc) which I believe we'll see on this site

Also I think we shouldn't necessarily expect a correct answer from these questions. Or non-opinionated answers. Just like on Software Recommendations the answers will be opinionated and it's perfectly OK to not have an accepted one.

Assuming in the end software recommendations won't get banned on this site additional meta questions would take care of the actual guidelines of declaring them on/of-topic.

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