On the main StackOverflow site, the on-topic help states:

Questions asking us to recommend or find a book, tool, software library, tutorial or other off-site resource are off-topic for Stack Overflow as they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam. Instead, describe the problem and what has been done so far to solve it.

And when the topic was discussed on GDSE, the following point was raised:

The user is asking for a web link.

If we assume the download is accessible, it seems to me like good answers would follow the following format:

You can download X from the (X/Company Y) website. Just follow this link for the download page.

It seems as if it would be rather difficult to post a good answer, with out providing the link. This creates a Catch-22; it can not be considered a good answer if it does not hold with out the link. We have a very strict policy with this, to prevent good answers becoming bad answers due to link rot.

Are resource request questions on-topic here?


3 Answers 3


Resource recommendation questions can be very useful, and are good for the community to have (I'm thinking of Physics.SE in particular here), but there needs to be an accompanying policy. I think Physics.SE's policy is ideal - not only must a link or title be provided, but an explanation of why the resource is ideal is important as well. I would suggest adopting a similar policy. This leads to an answer having more information than just a link, which reduces the problem of link rot (though not completely; the answer is still dependent to some extent on the link). Another option would be encouraging the use of the wayback machine on the websites, as this also would minimize the problem of link rot. Also, consider resource recommendation questions aren't just for websites - books, papers, videos, etc, can also be recommended.

Tl;dr, resource recommendations can be incredibly useful, and their deficiencies can be minimized.


As we are still in Private Beta at this point, many things are still in flux. This is one of the areas that is still undergoing shifting lines. Generally on Stack Exchange sites such questions, commonly called "shopping lists" questions, are not a good fit. We've come to recognize that resources is one of the topics that educators have to deal with on a continuing basis, and are not set on how to handle this.

That being said, link rot is still an issue, no matter where the lines get drawn. If at all possible it is still a better idea if the question can be reworked to make it about how to evaluated potential resources than about "what is available?"

Granted, there are always going to be hidden gems that are difficult, if not nearly impossible, to find without someone in the know to point them out. Yet a good Google session will reveal many resources, and the problem then becomes a choice. One instructor's choice may be driven by the school's policies, their familiarity with different tools, and a host of other considerations. The resources they select under those conditions may not be suitable for different situations, and their evaluation of them has to be taken in light of unknown factors that drove that choice.

On the other hand, if in answer to a question, we can define the essential elements that are important in a pedagogical frame, then the one who asks the question, as well as others who find the question later, have the insights that help them to select the best resources for their unique circumstances. That avoids link rot, avoids "shopping list" concerns, and raises the value of both the question and the answers.

I am only one voice, and, as said, this is still a work-in-progress. You can post the question and see how well it goes. Or, you can see if it can be re-factored, and avoid the issue altogether. As a third option, you can pause and wait for other voices to weigh in on the issue here.

The chat room associated with this site, Computer Science Educators is also a place to join in a free discussion on these formative issues. We're still small, and there may often be limited activity in the chat room, but you can visit there and look for others every once in a while.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't have a resource request question that I'm trying to vet, I happened to see one & given my experience w/ other SEs, thought it was worth some meta debate. The beta status is certainly a factor & SEs do tend to change over time. On the other hand, it can be tedious to fix bad precedent down the road. Would it be better to refocus such questions on the pedagogy to begin with? $\endgroup$
    – Pikalek
    Jun 9, 2017 at 15:34

Our closest sister site, matheducators.SE, permits them, and I believe that finding good resources for specific problems provides self-apparent (obvious) value to our site and its users. Matheducators is an older site, and the fact that they have not gotten rid of these questions (and consistently upvote them) is very telling.

Not every question can be answered definitively for all time, since the world keeps changing. A good resource find can make a world of difference to classes of kids, so I think they should be permitted. (To be clear, my ultimate loyalty here is to students, and I believe that this consideration is more important for a teacher development site than an unresolved general SE debate.)

If we are a SE for teachers, and this is a clear teacher need, then as long as the resulting discussion appears to remain productive, I am all for it. If, as we grow and develop, we see that the quality of the discussion goes down in these instances, then we would have to revisit the issue.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .