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We have questions like Does anyone know of a DBMS with global geospatial search? on the site.

Personally, I'm not sure if these are off-topic or on-topic. It seems to me like that question isn't really on-topic here, as it's more general and could be asked somewhere else, like on Software Recommendations Stack Exchange. But is it?

And even more generally, are software recommendations on-topic here?

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  • $\begingroup$ What is the objective measure for "best", and why would software recommendations be on-topic, but book recommendations on geophysics be off-topic? $\endgroup$ – Kenshin Apr 21 '14 at 2:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Mew Yeah, one of the problems I have with that post. And when you take "best" out of it, there's really no "right" answer to it. Seems more suited to Software Recommendations, but again, not sure. $\endgroup$ – hichris123 Apr 21 '14 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ @hichris123 would it have been better to ask "Is there any such software?" and, I realize now, I should have been more specific in the question itself. $\endgroup$ – kwknowles Apr 21 '14 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ I just spruced up the question because this is private beta (so it looks good on public release). I hope that's not bad form. $\endgroup$ – kwknowles Apr 21 '14 at 14:44
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Yes there's the subjective side of it - and lets face it, at least half of my answer is opinion.

Speaking generally about "software type questions", I think it depends very much on context. For example GIS questions would be on topic if the application is in the spheres of geology, meteorology, oceanography, or physical geography. Business applications (my day job) and human geography would be off topic.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree — computers and software are such a big part of many scientific jobs today that I think it would be quite limiting to prohibit questions about them. Indeed, it's one of my hopes for the site that geoscientists will have a great place to find and get help with tools (digital or otherwise) they are struggling with. $\endgroup$ – kwinkunks Apr 21 '14 at 19:58
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I think recommendations that require specialized knowledge or experience belong here and not on a general software forum. They will attract lots of wrong answers over there.

In the case of that particular question, the answer will most certainly come from an expert. The knowledge needed to answer is highly specialized. Knowledge of "polar search", for example, and why "multi-hemisphere" is a problem for almost all current DBMSs.

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I would consider a "general" software question off topic. But what is a good software for this or that earth sciences application would be on topic, as is, "how do I best use this [earth sciences] software?

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It seems that the general feeling of the answers is Yes, (Earth science) software questions are OK. I agree with this but I think that there is a difference between questions like "What is the best software for [x]" and questions like "How do I do [x] on software [y]*".

Questions that ask for a best software are very subjective. And those are hard to answer because they depend of the personal biases of the person asking and the people answering (like choice of operating system, preference for open-source, etc).

But asking "How to do this using that tool" is much more straight forward and a correct answer is possible. Those questions, I think, fit well on SE.

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