The FAQ discourages tool recommendations - it specifically says that this site is not for tool recommendations. Tool recommendations tend to be localized (localized in time - because one version of a tool may be very different from another. Localized in applicability because if the requirements aren't well expressed, then the "best" tool for you may be merely average for most people.) Tool recommendations are difficult to generalize for everyone - every requirements set is very specific.

The counter argument is questions that are reasonably specific and well formulated. please feel free to insert other examples; I know there are many We get a lot of questions about tool recommendations. I've been perhaps overly enthusiastic about discouraging tool recommendations.

Area 51 says we need to raise the number of questions asked here/day in order to graduate from beta. I admit that I'm concerned about the discouraging effect every time I vote or comment to close a question. I believe that that part of the value of a site is consistent culture, and one of the fair ways to ensure that is to make the FAQ correspond to the behavior. But I'm concerned that we're (I'm) discouraging potentially enthusiastic participants.

It appears this isn't the first time we've contemplated this question before.

Rather than continue my quixotic crusade to follow the FAQ, I thought I'd ask the meta question - which do we want? The PM:SE described by the FAQ, or the PM:SE that we're getting? How much effort should we devote to preserving the PM:SE we want? Is there a way of bounding tool recommendations that conforms to the SE: model of voting for the best answer to a generalized question?

Someone asked for references: Q1

  • Recommendation questions are frequently Gorilla vs. Shark questions.
    – Todd A. Jacobs Mod
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 1:24
  • 1
    Are either of the answers below acceptable? If not, maybe it merits more discussion. Prepare for feedback! Ready, aim, comment!
    – Todd A. Jacobs Mod
    Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 21:13

2 Answers 2



Should we accept tool recommendations?


Recommendation Questions Equal Low-Quality Questions

While there are occasional exceptions, in general tool-recommendation questions (and shopping questions in general) are low-quality questions. They may be low quality for a variety of reasons:

  1. Too specific to the individual use case, and unlikely to help others.
  2. Too general, and unlikely to be applicable to anyone else's specific use case.
  3. The questions often reflect no research or individual effort, and basically amount to "I don't know how to use a search engine" or "please do my research and critical thinking for me."
  4. Are almost infinitely open-ended, and basically amount to an opinion or popularity poll.
  5. Typically amount to asking for fish instead of attempting to learn fishing techniques.

Recommendation Questions Don't Encourage Experts to Participate

The Q&A format is designed to attract expert responses, for whatever value of "expert" you'd like to apply. That means questions should be interesting to the pool of potential answerers, and elicit answers that are meaningful to future visitors. Responding to opinion polls or acting as a search-engine proxy does not attract experts, and the value to questioners is also...well, questionable.

This comment by Mark Wallace highlights the issue well:

[I]magine asking your lawyer, "Do people actually write briefs? I'm just looking for the critical parts of being a lawyer".

By allowing questions that treat project management as a commodity (I'll take half a dozen successful IT projects and a large milkshake, please!) rather than as a professional discipline, we're encouraging people to treat PMSE as a substitute for learning about project management. PMSE should not become a dumping ground for "plz giv m3 d4 pr0j3ct pl4ns" questions.

This doesn't mean all questions have to be expert-level questions, or that entry-level questions and answers aren't welcome. However, high-quality questions and answers make PMSE a better Q&A site, while recommendation questions usually fit a discussion format better.

  • Very true! Thanks for weighing in. The draw to PMSE and other Stack Exchange sites is that they draw in experts, or alternatively, people who are really enthusiastic about learning the field and who are willing to put in the effort to be awesome! :)
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 2:36

Your Tool Recommendation Assessment is Correct! :)

Your assessment of these questions is both very thorough and very accurate. Tool recommendation questions don't help further the goals of making the Internet a better place, and they don't help create great content that would attract other expert level project managers to our site.

There are still some open tool recommendation questions, from the early days, that haven't yet been closed. Feel free to cast a close vote if you see a post that can't be edited and improved. This will put that post into the review queue so others will see it.

I noticed that our community tends to judge a tool recommendation question on how well they're written and how much detail is involved. Our community's approach has always involved examining each question on its own merits, and that makes this community one of the best in Stack Exchange in my opinion.

I see you and other members of our community stepping up and helping out with edits, close votes, helpful comments and suggestion for improving posts, and participating in the review queues. This is exactly what a Stack Exchange site needs to survive and grow!

If a question has enough detail in it to where it looks like an interesting problem, it seems our community will accept the question. There was a recent question about gantt chart creator tools for JIRA that attracted no close votes. I considered closing it, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was missing something, considering earlier, 4 close voters took care of closing https://pm.stackexchange.com/questions/9214/tool-for-yearly-for-overview-with-filtering-by-task-and-person.

After looking at the answers, I'm not 100% sure the gantt chart question should remain open, and I suspect it will attract some spam until it gets closed. I'm also not sure the answers will be helpful to anyone who lands on that page from Google...

Statistics are looking good!

It's easy to misinterpret the questions per day statistic. While we might look at that and think "we need more questions", what we really need is more professional project managers and agile professionals who have real, actual problems they need to solve. This is the only way to increase the questions per day metric without destroying our awesome track record of generating good quality content. Allowing content that doesn't attract visitors only serves to harm our visits per day metric, which is key to gaining more followers. It's also looking really good. :)

I can tell you that we are still growing at a pretty steady rate. We're at 2,200 visits per day right now! More and more people are finding our site from searches about problems they're facing in project management. That means the content is useful. Even though that content grows slowly, that content attracts more and more people every day! If we keep posting useful content, even at 1 question per day, we'll eventually build more and more content to where we grow even more.

What we need next is to figure out exactly how to get people to use this site in their daily work. How can we turn PMSE into something that we just don't simply want to use and instead be something that we have to use. How can we turn it into something that our clients have to use as well? Hope this helps!

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    I think that one of the things we need to explore is PMI as a stakeholder. There is a very nice overlap between the stuff they publish (thorough, book length, abstract) and the stuff we work (brief, pointed, pragmatic). I think we should begin the conversation with a discussion of how to get PDU for participation here (we need a proposal), and then extend it to how can we build on the relationship. I suspect there are other partner organizations (Possibly conferences?) that we could explore.
    – MCW
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 11:18
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    That sounds like another meta post. :) But getting PMSE embedded in other processes is a way to get people using the site. We also have contractors, consultants, and agile coaches who could also sell the idea of PMSE as a tool for the folks they work with.
    – jmort253
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 3:17

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