From my experience, a lot of software recommendation questions could have been on-topic, had they dropped the word "I want/Is there an app".

So in general, a question like this is off-topic:

Is there an app that can let me do something?

but this is on-topic:

How can I do something?

Which to me it looks like theoretically, most software recommendation questions could be edited into an acceptable state, with minimum change required.

Besides, changing that does NOT change almost anything other than how the question looks: Potential answers like "I know an app called XXX that can do this. Here's how you can use it" keep popping up, which essentially just treated the question as it has originally been. It's especially common if the task the OP wants to accomplish is a bit complex, or just beyond the ability of regular tools (like adb or Titanium Backup or so). This phenomenon somehow indicates that both kinds of questions are intrinsically identical.

The same can also be done in a reverse way, i.e. an on-topic question could falsely be closed for using bad words, for example this question.

Its previous title was

Audio manager to pan one app left and one app right

which unfortunately attracted a few close votes for it. When Dan Hulme pointed it out that the question was mostly fine and should not be closed, I agreed and changed the title to

Route the audio from one app to the left channel and that from another app to the right channel

You see, the body and the tags were left intact, but the question dramatically "evolved" to a new species state which is a decent one.

So, assume we get another pair of "intrinsically identical" questions at the same time, are we still going to close one for off-topic while keeping the other? (Assume we're not going to close as duplicate).


1 Answer 1


I think it's important to look past the words the questioner happened to use, to see what the intent of the questioner is, and I wish close-voters would put a little more thought into that. This isn't 3-2-1, and you shouldn't lose everything just because you happened to use the magic word "app" in your question.

Recommendation questions are opinion-based. They ask for lists of answers, and they tend to get spam answers as a result. The answers are less useful than Google Play search results, because they go out of date quickly. This is why we don't like them on the site.

Which is the best music player?


Is there a good third-party SMS app?

These are simplified examples of bad questions. What kind of answer will they get? A million answers saying "I like such-and-such app, it's the best" with no justification. An answer with a one-off copy-paste of Izzy's app lists, which will slowly go out of date or need editors to keep updating it over time.

I have a bunch of CSV files in Google Drive and I need to download them when they change and add the results up. Is there an app for that?


I play games on my tablet with my kid "helping" sitting on my knee. He often grabs the rim of the tablet and pokes the volume button and makes it really loud. I need the volume buttons turned off when I'm playing a game. Is there an app for that?

This doesn't seem like a "recommendation" question to me. What kind of answer will it get? There still might be more than one. It might say, "Use such-and-such app, it can do this out of the box," but more likely, it'll say "You have to install Pushbullet or IFTTT to find out when the file changes, then use Tasker to schedule downloading them and open Excel for Android to load the CSV files," or "You need a custom ROM for this. Lineage can do it."

The difference is, you can replace "Is there an app?" with "How do I solve my problem?" without really changing the meaning of the question. In the recommendation questions, you can't do that. I think that's the crucial difference. If I find a question like this second pair of examples in the close vote queue, I'll typically make that edit so that people don't close the question, but I don't think the edit should be needed. Just because someone thought an app is the most likely solution to their problem, that doesn't turn a good problem-solving question into a recommendation question. I think we should all apply that test in our head: can I replace "is there an app?" with "is there a solution?" without changing the meaning of the question.

  • 5
    I don't think the edit should be needed is fine in principle but IMO it is better to edit to a) maintain uniformity with CV reason b) prevent Why is my question closed but a similar question is open kind of questions from users. +1 for the suggested test
    – beeshyams
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 9:22

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