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seems like a highly questionable tag to me, yet it’s collecting questions.

On other Stack Exchange sites, most notably Stack Overflow, software recommendations are explicitly banned, since they age badly, admit more than one right answer (opinion based), etc.

I can see the appeal of such questions but I think we should decide as a community how we deal with them.

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Allow questions

As mentioned in the question, I do see the appeal. And just because Stack Overflow banned them doesn’t mean we have to follow the same hard line. There are certainly both pros and cons to allowing them, and maybe Stack Overflow actually got it wrong, and the pros outweigh the cons?

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    $\begingroup$ I voted for this one, mostly for cases of "I need to do X and I've tried tools Y and Z. Neither of those suffice because of reason W. Are there any other tools that do X while avoiding W...". Certainly the pure "give me a list of tools for X" should be discouraged, that's what google is for. $\endgroup$ – Devon Ryan Jun 14 '17 at 10:57
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    $\begingroup$ @DevonR Yes, a pure list of software names is discouraged, but a list of tools with reviews and discussions is encouraged and is actually better than recommending a single tool. The best recommendation comes from those who are familiar with multiple similar tools and know their pros and cons. $\endgroup$ – user172818 Jun 14 '17 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ Usually we do not recommend single tools but more than one tools but at the end of the day it is also the duty of the OP to check that in Google. Tbh in omictools page one will find plethora of hits for software recommendations that performs for specific functionalities. Having said that still users ask and then people with more knowledge and expertise either direct to citation based or review based article. $\endgroup$ – vchris_ngs Jun 16 '17 at 9:41
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Something in between: allow the tag and the questions but set some guidelines. I propose the following:

  1. Be specific. You need to clearly state your needs and the specific features this program should have. There's a great post on Software Requests Meta with their guidelines which is worth a read. Basically, they boil down to:

    • Explain what you want the application for. What will you be using it for and in what context. If it is to be a replacement for something you're already using, tell us what that program is and which of its features are essential to you.

    • Specify what operating system the tool you are looking for should work on.

    • State whether you are willing to pay for it and, if so, what your budget it.

    • Give a clear list of specific features the application must have.

  2. Ask for one tool, not many. Questions like "What tools are available that can do foo" are off topic since by definition, their answers will be long and unmaintainable lists. The only exception is cases where foo is something very specific as listed in point 1. above.

  3. Ask for a specific tool and not for people's favorite. So, instead of "What's the best tool for foo?", you should ask something like "I need to do foo (where foo is specific as described in 1.), is there any program available that can do it?".

So, as long as the questions are specific, not too broad (lists) and not opinion based, I think we should allow them.

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Ban the tag, close the questions

One course of action would be to proceed like Stack Overflow, and to close such questions and ban the tag altogether. We might even be able to create an automated message along the lines “This type of questions is discouraged here” when somebody tries using the tag.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think this would make this site miss the opportunity of very useful answers. The answers will of course age, but updates are welcome, as well as newer answers. $\endgroup$ – bli Jun 15 '17 at 7:44

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