This is indeed triggered by a question about a user friend PGP email handler. This is not the first time I see an OP giving specs for their specific needs and asking the community for help finding a solution with the characteristics they need. I feel this is making us their search engine.

Here's a question asking for a blacklist for a specific case, and another one asking for IDS recommendations.

How do we feel about these questions?


My stand is that such questions are mostly not a good fit for the site.

Such questions might encourage the I feel this is the best product for xxx situation type of answers. Voting on such answers might become influenced by the popularity of the product, instead of the quality of the explanation or even whether the product is a good fit for the situation in the first place. Thus, not constructive.

Such questions might also be too localized.

It might be too localized to a point in time. Who knows if a better product might be developed in the future? Maybe the recommended product is discontinued? This might also lead to link rot, which isn't a good thing. It might also be too localized to the asker's situation to be applicable to any one else.

  • 2
    Agreed. TL for being temporally localised, NC for being subjective. Plus the value of most answers ends up being the links, which tend to rot eventually anyway.
    – Polynomial
    Mar 17 '13 at 18:14
  • +1, but I have to say that a lot of questions are localized to a point in time. Questions on Cryptography algorithm strength will likely be laughed at in 10 years, as will VPN questions, etc. Link rot would be a problem, but then again as people find different solutions we can have more updated answers to reflect newer technology, this is a good example of such a question on stack overflow
    – MDMoore313
    Mar 28 '13 at 14:05

I feel this is making us their search engine.

Yeah, well, that and half the questions on Stack Exchange.

It's better to have a question with precise requirements than a question that is so vague that you can't answer anything useful.

Such questions should generally be closed as “not constructive” when the requirements are too vague. When the requirements are precise enough, these are worthwhile questions, but answers recommending a specific product are often not very good either because product choice tends to be down to personal preferences or habits. It's usually better to edit the question to make it less of a “catch this fish for me” and more of a “teach me how to fish”. Make the question ask what the important criteria are to select a product.

That being said, don't go too hard on questions that end up being product recommendations. Sometimes a recommendation from someone with more experience is exactly what you need. Answers like “I used X in a 1000-user shop, and it was good, but it couldn't handle the load when we increased past 10,000 users, so we tried Y and Z, and Y had better support from the vendor” are valuable.

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