I was going to ask the following question:

Are there any benefits of gaming laptops to the non gamer?

After seeing the list of "questions with similar titles", I saw that a question asking: "best laptop for programming" was closed as off topic.

Although a shopping recommendation question in reality, I am not looking for discussions/opinions but some specific thing that might be too extraneous for non gamers, or if it might be better, as experienced programmers might be able to tell.

I am wondering if this question can be phrased in a way that is acceptable. (I am trying to make a choice between Macbook Pro and Alienware M14x. I need a unix based system for my work, so if I go for Alienware, I might have to install ubuntu.) I was reading the FAQ, and although I may make my question specific enough, the headline defeats me "... is for expert programmers who are interested in conceptual questions on software development." And this question will probably be offtopic

If there is no place for such questions on any SE site, then pointers to other places where reliable answers to these questions can be received will also be appreciated.

2 Answers 2


As you noted, shopping recommendations are off-topic here (and across the Stack Exchange network): they just don't impart any real knowledge, and usually only help the original poster. The blog post, Q&A is Hard, Let's Go Shopping! goes into this in pretty good detail:

But consider the voluminous amount of information you need to even begin properly answering a shopping question:

  • What is your budget?
  • Where do you live?
  • What are your preferences?
  • Which alternatives will you consider?
  • When do you want to buy?

Let’s say the question asker provided all that information. Fat chance, I know, but let’s pretend for a moment they did — and we were able to provide the perfect, ideal shopping recommendation to them. Even if that was the case, technology moves so rapidly that the best shopping recommendations will be utterly obsolete within a year! What’s the point of a bunch of labor intensive questions that provide only temporary benefit to a limited (some might say Too Localized) audience? There isn’t any.

Instead of trying to ask for a hardware recommendation, think about the core problem you're trying to solve. To quote the famous axiom:

Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.

Create a question that teaches someone how to fish; that is: ask how to determine what computer to buy. What things should one look for in a computer for programming? That is a question that would fit SE's general guidelines for questions, and would impart real knowledge.

However, there's another catch to ask a question on Programmers.SE: it needs to be specially served by programmers answering it. That is, only a programmer could provide the best answer.

So general questions about how to select hardware aren't on topic here: for that, you may want to try our sister-site Super User instead. If you do believe your question can only be answered correctly by other programmers, make sure your question explains why.

  • 1
    Note that there is already a "how do I know what computer to buy" question already on Super User.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jul 1, 2011 at 12:02

I think this question has the potential to be phrased well and perfectly suited for Programmers, but this is what I'd like to see before it is posted:

  1. State the computer specifications - While it's a fair assumption that people know what a MacBook it is, we're not going to read the Apple website just because you didn't want to. Stating the specifications in question will make this applicable in the future.
  2. What kind of programming are you doing? - As an extension from stating the specifications you're after, we need to know how you will be using your computer. Are you running lots of simulations performing a multiple of memory accesses? We would be looking at the cache sizes here.

If you address these two points, I believe this would be a good subjective question.

  • 1
    Even with a perfect list of requirements, it's still not on-topic here: recommendations are just too localized. See Q&A is Hard, Let's Go Shopping.
    – user8
    Jul 1, 2011 at 7:19

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