Ask Different closes some questions as off topic and one broad category employed to keep the questions (and thus answers) highly focused on practical questions that have objectively verifiable answers.

One such close reason mentions asking for either a list of or discussion surrounding off site resources:

"Questions asking to recommend or find a Mac, book, tool, tutorial or other off-site resource are off-topic for Ask Different as they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam. Instead, edit this question to describe the problem and what research has been done so far to solve it."

This close reason is common to many sites, but those details / rules or norms may not apply here so we should have some discussion and explanation of when to use this and when not to use this.

For Ask Different, what exactly is a recommendation question?

5 Answers 5


Software Recommendation questions are allowed here and they will almost always be closed if they don't follow the guidelines for asking a good question in general and in specific listing detailed requirements:

More broadly, recommendation questions also should be closed as recommendations if they:

  • Ask for books that cover a topic - whether that topic is directly related to Apple or using Apple products
  • Ask for legal advice (how to read a contract, whether a license is valid or not, what words in licenses and contracts mean) - note: Asking where the license is or where the contract is would be on topic - just the application of outside expertise/interpretation makes this off-topic.
  • Ask for predictions about Apple (when will X be released, when will policy X change, when will processor X architecture replace processor Y, when will OS X replace OS X on product Z)
  • All manner of shopping questions
    • Where’s the best price?
    • Where’s the quickest shipper?
    • Who has stock?
    • Where can I get this in country or region Y?
    • What [ Mac | Phone | whatever ] is best for whatever grouping of people you care to ask about
  • Where can I learn to [program | record music | use this app | develop | market | network]?
  • Ask about Apple folklore or history (which in essence is a book / Wikipedia / fan forum request)

Not to be argumentative here (hah!) It seems that the definition of "Off-Topic" is fairly clear (IMHO) in that the subject matter is something that is open to interpretation, varies with your experience and/or level of expertise and can provide a multitude of "correct" answers.

The types of questions outlined in the description seem to be exactly the kind of questions you would want to start a discussion of the relative merits of the various solutions. Perfect for MacInTouch, Reddit or even Facebook. They want and need these types of questions to keep people coming back for more. Generating a lively discussion involving opinions is pollen to a bee to sites like that.

Whereas AskDifferent is designed to look for the canonical One Correct Answer to a specific technical issue. You should be able to look at the answers and go, "that one nailed the problem and provided the best solution." Which is why the user that asked the question is solely responsible for declaring the one answer as the one that worked.

Yeah there are often many ways to achieve the same desired result, and that can be down to opinion. But the only opinion that is acceptable is the one that works for the person who asked the question.

  • 2
    Well worded arguments and differing opinions are the reason for meta. Thanks for putting down these thoughts.
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 1:01

This is a good question and one that will be hard to definitively answer, although we could try to define, over time, what is and isn't covered by this particular close reason.

One type of question we do get regularly asked are those related to the legality of something. Of course legality may not necessarily refer to a potentially criminal action, but could refer to things such as breaching software licence agreements, or how one goes about breaking/cracking/circumventing something. These questions are inherently tricky and, because this site has a global audience, there is no way to answer them definitively as laws will differ in different jurisdictions.

I bring this example up because it could be argued that these types of questions should be closed as being a recommendation type question. Why? Because in a sense the OP is asking for an off-site resource that just happens to be "lawyer" or other similarly qualified individual who can advise or explain the legalities in their jurisdiction, or explain the meaning of a particular licensing agreement. If not an individual, then perhaps some other reference source, but either way amounts to wanting a recommendation to someone or something.

Obviously, some of these questions are clearly off-topic for various reasons, but others may be more difficult to differentiate because the OP is still asking a question about an Apple product or service and they may also have a practical problem to solve.

If as a community we can reach a consensus that these types of questions are recommendation questions, this would go a long way to providing a consistent approach that will be easier to educate others about.

That said, I'm open to opposing views.


We do have the software-recommendation tag. This might be a good place to talk about when that is appropriate.

  • 1
    Yes - those are generally on topic with a few exceptions. Off site resources are generally off topic with a few exceptions. Great point and link. Thanks
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 3:49

What about script writing?

(I know it appears outside the scope here, but hear me out for a second).

It could be argued that this is a recommendation to find an off-site resource for developer services. There are many questions where the questioner is looking to solve a particular issue with a script they have or they are stuck on the logic portion.

However, this morning, I ran across this example: Batch embed video files to html files (with Automator?). The author essentially lays out a scope of work for how this script should work essentially looking for delivery of a final product. It's my opinion that this should be closed because something this involved is why/how developers make a living and we're not a script writing service.

That said, I am not against anyone stepping up and writing this for free, I just think it's a recommendation/shopping question.

  • 2
    Very good point. I think scripting and automation questions should have a different close reason - MCVE - stackoverflow.com/help/mcve - Clearly, asking for a book or site to solve X is trivially off site resource, but legitimate scripting questions might need MCVE and “show your code” guidance developed on Stack Overflow.
    – bmike Mod
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 5:01

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