I get the impression we're falling into the trap of closing what may be a good, on-topic post for our site simply because the question contains a few trigger words that light up that part of our brain that tells us a post doesn't fit our format. It's easy to fall into that trap, and I've definitely caught myself reaching for the close vote button before really seeing the potential. This is why I closed the question and then doubled back by editing and reopening the post.
Software recommendation vs evaluation
While it's true that software recommendation questions are off-topic, questions about how to evaluate software, software that applies to a workplace problem and not a job function, may not necessarily fit into the definition of being off-topic.
Most Stack Exchange sites mark software recommendation questions as off-topic because they:
- Tend to generate a lot of spam
- Tend to attract answers that aren't backed with facts, references, or specific expertise.
- Tend to become obsolete once a cooler software solution comes along.
However, software evaluation questions are of a different breed. They:
- Tend to attract answers supported by facts, references, and specific expertise.
- Tend to explain why and how.
- Are more than just mindless, social fun. (It takes more effort to explain how to evaluate something or what steps to take to select the best solution).
So far, I get the impression we didn't 100% close this post because we thought it was a "shopping question" but perhaps instead because interviewing blurs the lines between a workplace problem and a job function.
Is "Interviewing" a Workplace problem or a "specific job function"
Here's where things get a little complicated. We know that "interviewing" is 100% on topic on The Workplace, while "construction" and "software development" and "project management" are definitely off-topic. We've concluded that questions about a specific job function are off-topic and that only workplace problems are on-topic.
But isn't interviewing also a specific job function? Isn't interviewing a job function of human resources or perhaps a job function of any managerial role? I've often thought that if our site can claim one professional group as it's true experts, that it would be the human resources folks.
Thus, if interviewing is on-topic -- if the specific job function of successfully interviewing candidates is on topic -- then it stands to reason that evaluating tools that help a person be a better interviewer may also be on-topic.
We should evaluate each question on our site based on its own merits. Deeming this off-topic simply because someone might ask about power tools, or computers, or the best shoe polish to use to shine one's shoes before an interview, that feels a bit like cutting off our nose just to spite our face. We would surely close those latter questions, but if the only reason we can find for closing a post is that others might ask something else off-topic, that seems misguided and not good for our site's overall health.
If human resources questions are off-topic because questions about hiring candidates also is a job function, then what is this site really about? At some point, there needs to be a common-sense approach to determining what is and isn't on-topic. Sometimes there's not really objective criteria we can look at when defining the borders of our site topic. The lines oftentimes get pretty blurry.
Hope this helps!