This question about finding anti-spam tools for a smaller system has just been posted:

How do I identify spammers?

I've voted to close, with a custom reason, that it's off topic because it's a request for resources.

Questions like these have been found not to work on other sites (Stack Overflow and Programmers specifically) because:

  1. They attract spammy answer from people promoting their wares.
  2. The answers go out of date as technology changes.

Should we have this specific close reason here?

If not should we allow such questions?

I don't think there a reason why an external resource can't be answer - it may be the only way to solve a problem - but the question should be along the lines of:

I have this problem how do I solve it?

3 Answers 3


No, “this is a request for external resources” is not a good reason to close a question. That's not to say that a request for external resources is automatically on-topic, but the fact that a question can be interpreted as a request for external resources does not automatically make it off-topic. If a problem is best solved by applying an existing tool, so be it.

Questions like these have been found not to work on other sites (Stack Overflow and Programmers specifically)

(And Super User as well, but not Apple or Unix & Linux.) The reason why they didn't work isn't because these questions are intrinsically bad, but because the community of these sites has decided not to engage in the necessary moderation. Questions that call for existing tools require active moderation, with more quality enforcement than sites like SO and SU are willing to perform. On Software Recommendations, we've established guidelines for questions and answers, and we enforce them — we close questions and delete answers that don't meet our minimum requirements.

They attract spammy answer from people promoting their wares.

Some question types attract spam — for example, any question that mentions SSL certificates acts like dung to flies. That's not a reason to make all questions about SSL certificates off-topic on Webmasters.SE or Security.SE. On Software Recommendations, we systematically delete answers that just say “use this product its great”: answers must relate to the question specifically. If an answer demonstrates how the product solves the problem in the question, whether the answerer is affiliated with the product becomes moot.

The answers go out of date as technology changes.

That's no more true than for any other kind of question.

A problem like How do I identify spammers? is best solved by using existing tools and methodologies to recognize and suppress spam. The fact that some answers might recommend existing tools doesn't somehow make the question off-topic. As long as the question is about solving a specific problem, which this one is, it's fine.

Bad tool recommendation questions tend to be bad for reasons that are already covered by the standard close reasons. Too broad applies to questions that have requirements that are so general that a lot of methods would work and there isn't enough information in the question to prefer one method over another. Unclear applies to questions whose requirements are not precise enough. The two close reasons often overlap, so you even get to pick.

There is no need for a specific close reason. And there definitely should not be a blanket close reason that throws the baby with the bathwater.

  • I ponder whether "It better belongs on softwarerecs.SE" wouldn't be the better reason for deeming it off-topic. We can of course accept requests for non-software resources but that question in particular seems to only barely fit our topics while being spot-on on softwarerecs.SE
    – SF.
    Aug 1, 2014 at 17:35
  • What about if the "external resources" are not tools?
    – Braiam
    Aug 3, 2014 at 5:03
  • @Braiam It depends. The case in question here was solving a task with software, so that's what I dealt with in my answer. In a nutshell, “where can I find X?” is not suitable for SE, whereas “how do I do X?” is. Aug 3, 2014 at 10:32
  • Exactly what I think, fair enough.
    – Braiam
    Aug 3, 2014 at 14:38

Yes they have been found not to work on a lot of other sites but on at least one (SoftwareRecs.SE) it has been very good - for a beta anyways. However I think because that is quite different that probably that kind of question should be redirected to SofwareRecs.

It is in some ways a fine line; it is very on topic here except for being an external resource request. Despite that I think any tool requests can usually be just slotted over to SoftwareRecs - if they are good enough quality ofc.

  • 1
    I disagree. My experience with Software Recommendations is that it works in terms of moderation, but not in terms of answer quality. The questions we get on SR.SE would be best asked and answered by the applicable community, usually Stack Overflow or Super User. If a question is about software tools that are intended to be used by community managers, moderators or the like, it is best asked here. Jul 30, 2014 at 1:39

I use "too broad" as the close reason for questions like, "Does a tool for X exist."

Of course, when the question is taken literally, the answer is simply "yes" or "no" - but in practice, as you noted, it's a request for resources and so there could be any number of equally valid answers.

screenshot of "too broad" close reason description

Rather than adding a separate close reason, would it do to edit the description of "too broad" to more clearly encompass this category of question?

  • 1
    Not really. "Too Broad" should be used where you need to write the equivalent of a book to answer the question.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jul 29, 2014 at 23:26
  • 1
    @ChrisF The close reason description begins, "There are either too many possible answers..."
    – Air
    Jul 29, 2014 at 23:28
  • 4
    @ChrisF AirThomas is perfectly correct. “Too broad” covers two cases: that a complete answer would be too long, or that there are too many possible answers. The latter case applies here. Jul 30, 2014 at 1:37

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