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[Headnote: in a few places I think linked examples would be nice, but I can neither think of nor find good ones. These are indicated by a "()" after a phrase. Please feel free to plug one in if you think of it. Thanks.]
The State of Tool-Recommendation
Many questions come to us which presume the existence of a tool which will solve the querent's problem. These questions are often problematic: often XY problems, often too broad, often primarily opinion-based(). These, and more, are the reason that recommendation ("shopping") questions are non grata in all of the SE sites().
Until recently RPG.SE had an explicit, local policy allowing for recommendation questions. This policy was recently debated in meta--largely in the context of the game-recommendation tag--and revoked. It appears that many users did not realize that removing the (local) policy allowing game-rec questions--the larger "allow recommendation questions" policy--would also be the undoing of tool-rec questions.
I confess to being one of those surprised by tool-rec questions losing the support of the now-defunct "allow recommendation questions" policy. I had followed the conversation with my eye toward game-rec questions. I also confess that had I understood better at the time the "allow recommendation questions" policy that ramification might have been obvious. (Though maybe not.) Yes, the policy that allowed for game-recs also supported tool-recs; tool-recs thus lost their support when game-recs did.
Nevertheless, from the answers and comments to many of the above-linked and from recent meta discussions we see that there is a desire in this community to provide assistance to these querents.
Cribbing largely from meta discussions had at softwarerecs.SE--pointed out by @AngleoFuchs--I put forth the following proposal:
Tool-Recommendation Question Guidelines (Proposed 10/2015)
Recognize that successful Tool-Recommendation questions contain two essential components: a goal to accomplish and a set of requirements to be met.
Question Content must describe - the task you're doing when you find yourself having trouble; the "user story"
ways in which your current 'solution' succeeds and fails--what it does and doesn't do
other things you've tried
what you hope to achieve--a desired feature list
what you absolutely do not want--things that would cause you to reject a solution untried
what level of tech is acceptable/allowable: pen-and-paper, laptops, online, must run on phone-only, &c.
what budget you have
Recommended Question Format:
- "What is the best tool to ?" Is to be avoided. Prefer "How can I ?"
- Don't say you're looking for a replacement for X; tell us what you do with X that you're hoping to do differently/better.
- Feature requirements should be listed in order of importance, with a clear distinction drawn between must-haves and gee-that-would-be-nices.