This Question is prompted by the Choosing Mobile GIS applications for Android Tablets? Question on Main which received its 21st Answer today.

Such Shopping List questions are off topic at StackOverflow as per discussion at Why are "shopping list" questions bad? and Jeff Atwood's blog Q&A is Hard, Let’s Go Shopping!

However, here at GIS Stack Exchange quite a few of our most upvoted questions would be classed as shopping lists.

Should they, and the Question I referred to at the beginning, be closed?


3 Answers 3


I don't think we should close topics that are "shopping list questions". After all, this is a Q and A community, and sometimes it's easier and more valuable to get responses from other users other than relying on Google and biased "reviews".

I think there are some value to these posts, and they provide discussion among users - even if the technology may not be relevant in a year or so.

Perhaps we could construct a wiki with FAQ regarding technology, programs, etc and keep it updated as the years go by - and close redundant questions if it is already covered in the wiki.


I feel that there are multiple issues at hand:

Firstly, I don't believe that we should blindly follow everything that is followed at Stackoverflow. The nature of the community at SO & GIS.SE is very different, and so is the subject matter. There are many libraries & applications that do the same thing in General programming and Web development; In my experience, this isn't strictly true in the case of GIS. The output might be same, but there is a large spread, when you consider the process, ease of use, platform and Cost. Another reason to not be so pedantic, is that we have far fewer questions posted each day, and answering such questions is still manageable.

Secondly, we need to define what exactly is Meant by 'shopping question'. If the Question is 'What can I use to do X?' I feel that we should close it. Not because it is a shopping question, but because it shows that the OP has done no research.

If the question is: 'What are the advantages and disadvantages of various applications/Libraries that do X?', I feel that it is a good question. While some people might post a small, one line answer, the most highly voted answers tend to have a lot of information, which is the extract of the poster's experience and knowledge, and can serve as a wonderful storehouse of knowledge for users. The following Questions lie in this Category:

There is another class of related, Highly-voted Questions, that I have a problem with. These are basically just asking for a list of options. I feel that, though these posts have valuable information, and open your eyes to what is possible, they don't belong on GIS.SE. The following questions lie in this category:

In my opinion, just enumerating the elements of a list is not useful. What would be useful is if more information is present in each answer, detailing the advantages (& disadvantages) of that option over others.

I remember that stackoverflow had locked and preserved such posts, for historical reasons, instead of closing and deleting them. Maybe the Mods could look into doing so, for these highly voted old questions.

  • 1
    'What are the advantages and disadvantages of various applications/Libraries that do X?' - that is likely to be opinion based, unless accompanied by a quite specific situation. Highly voted, but almost totally subjective.
    – BradHards
    Dec 17, 2013 at 8:51
  • 1
    @BradHards Some subjective answers can be good if they explain the how and why. See: gis.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask Dec 17, 2013 at 12:07
  • 1
    Your distinction between the two types of shopping lists is far too subtle for me. Your second set of examples represent Q&A that are far too useful to be closed.
    – Martin F
    Dec 24, 2013 at 18:33
  • Another reason to not be so pedantic.. ..I will upvote that sentiment each and every time.
    – elrobis
    Dec 16, 2015 at 17:24

The Comment by @AndreSilva best reflects the way I have been handling old Shopping List Questions since asking this Question.

For old Shopping List Questions there was often considerable investment by answerers into providing some very comprehensive and valuable Answers, and that should not be lost, so I now flag them to request that the moderators convert them to Community Wiki. However, if I see an old Shopping List Question with no or only poor Answers, I may vote for it to be closed.

For new Shopping List Questions I am likely to vote for closure. The exception on a new Shopping List Question is when it is clearly written to go straight to Community Wiki. An excellent example of such an exception, is Comparison of open data portal solutions.

I will not attempt to define a Shopping List Question here because that has already been done by others via links in my Question, and there are certainly some grey areas that I think will be best left for each of us to exercise our own judgement on.


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