Many questions that ask explicitly for software, hardware, data, and other recommendations are closed at GIS Stack Exchange as being primarily opinion-based and/or for lacking focus.

Examples of such questions can be found using the , , and tags.

Many Stack Exchange sites, including some that are MUCH smaller than GIS SE (measured by number of questions posted), are very explicit in their Help that such questions are not for them.

For example:

  1. Arqade
  2. Ask Ubuntu
  3. Bicycles
  4. Electrical Engineering
  5. Engineering
  6. Network Engineering
  7. Programmers
  8. Project Management
  9. ProWebmasters
  10. Server Fault
  11. Software Engineering
  12. Stack Overflow
  13. Super User
  14. Travel

And an example of the text they use is:

Some questions are still off-topic, even if they fit into one of the categories listed above:


4.Questions asking us to recommend or find a book, tool, software library, tutorial or other off-site resource are off-topic for Stack Overflow as they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam. Instead, describe the problem and what has been done so far to solve it.

Do you think that GIS Stack Exchange should borrow content from one or more of these sites and put it into the equivalent part of our Help?

3 Answers 3


It would be a sad day when we ban questions about product, service and learning material recommendations. I fail to see how these questions are off-topic or bad for the site.

GIS is a vast field, and it is not possible for one person to know everything, or even have an idea about the various possibilities of GIS, and where to learn this. It helps when you can pick the brains of various Experienced GIS practitioners and get differing and varying inputs from them.

If one wonders if they are real questions, I'll point them to this page, which says:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

I grant you that it is possible that these kinds of questions might get low quality, one line answers; But that is the fault of the answer, not of these questions. W shouldn't penalize the Questions for that.



We have several years worth of examples where such questions have been asked and answered without being closed as off-topic.

As our site is primarily for professionals within the niche world of GIS, I think recommendations from other professionals are very valuable, and so long as a question passes all the other usual criteria it should be on topic.

Super User caters to quite a different audience than GIS.SE (SU is more casual, more general and more popular by at least an order of magnitude), so I can understand their desire for a more stringent criteria for on topic Q&As.


As I have argued, my sense is that we should differentiate GIS.SE from SuperUser or StackOverflow in terms of close policies.

A lot of the close policies in SU and SO are motivated by the difficulty dealing with the large volume that swamp these sites. In SU for example, if you ask about the iOS version of a software, you will be closed because it's supposed to be Apple questions, even though it's a software question and would be on topic before the spin-off or if you are talking about the PC version. Is there a logical justification for this kind of scoping? IMHO, I haven't seen a solid one except that by narrowing down the scope, the Apple questions can be better handled by a specific interest group and the SU less crowded.

Now for GIS.SE, I think the situation is the opposite of SU (or SO). Volume is probably far from being a hazard.

I am not arguing for GIS.SE to cater to low quality, undecidable questions. Rather, I am arguing not to following SU and SO in trimming useful things before we have much to trim. If we are swamped by book-recommendations questions, I think a better approach would be to remove duplicates until the point we have to totally ban these questions. IMO, we shouldn't do it by borrowing the SU philosophy, unless there is proven or conceivable benefit.

More importantly, I would second the other answers in that utility to the GIS professionals should bear equal weight value as compared to decidability and quality issues. I think these two are not always contradictory. SO is largely successful/useful because the programming questions in SO are constrained to be answerable/decidable (as compared to other open-ended forums). Hence, decidability in a sense can be viewed as a condition for utility, in the programming context.

Should decidability be the ultimate criterion?

I think most of the time for current SE websites, but not always. For philosophy and mathematics, e.g., it can be impossible. People have to cite and say, according to the school of Russians or, ..., because no one can definitely answer yes or no.

Well, this is becoming open-ended.. and probably well beyond my depth. But I would argue against borrowing this criterion from SU in the OP.


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