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Questions about drawing software appear periodically on this site, and get either closed as off-topic or closed as duplicate of this one, which is again closed.

I think that this state of affairs is unsatisfactory for the following reasons:

  1. Certain types of software recommendations are now considered on-topic, and I think that drawing software is definitely a software that "solves a practical problem that is specific to academia or teaching", and the fact that questions of these kind pop up every now and then is a sign that this is a problem felt by many academic users.
  2. Closing a question as duplicate of a closed question which cannot be updated is useless.

My proposal is then that of considering, once and for all, drawing software recommendations on-topic according to our current policy on software recommendation and reopen this question and the others that are not duplicate.

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    Completely agree. I would even argue that they are already on-topic under the policy you linked; I don't understand why this question was recently closed.
    – cag51 Mod
    Jan 24 at 13:48
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    @cag51 Yep, the policy that we have should be enough, but I thought of writing this anyway for a while to make it explicit, given that certain questions continue to get closed (and, for the moment, I wanted to avoid to reopen a whole set of questions unilaterally).
    – Massimo Ortolano Mod
    Jan 24 at 14:00
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    I disagree that drawing "illustrative figures" or "complicated block diagrams" are problems "specific to academia or teaching" (see industry). On the other hand, the impact and utility of having (at least some) such questions is probably greater than that of the N+1-th instance of some common category of questions.
    – Anyon
    Jan 24 at 16:02
  • I do think we were a bit hasty and motivated by the pandemic when this guideline was made. We should probably review the quality control expectations on softwarerecs.SE and incorporate something similar going forward (see softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic and softwarerecs.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/336/…) since they have some more experience with "what works".
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Jan 24 at 16:23
  • @BryanKrause I don't think we were too hasty: the pandemic just made more evident a discussion that was more or less happening anytime a user posted a question about software. And most of the software requests that we receive are well defined. Moreover, for this specific case, producing good diagrams for papers and presentations has become more and more important, and we should be able to at least give some advice.
    – Massimo Ortolano Mod
    Jan 24 at 17:38
  • I'll note that some similar questions, depending on phrasing, are closed for being "shopping questions".
    – Buffy
    Jan 26 at 21:36
  • So, Matlab questions will be on topic? I guess the point is I'd like to see you put a fence around this so it can be more meaningfully discussed. Feb 13 at 0:26
  • @ScottSeidman No, they won't. We're discussing about software recommendations.
    – Massimo Ortolano Mod
    Feb 13 at 4:18
  • OK-- more accurately, software recs for data analysis, signal processing, greek translation, taking attendance in a classroom, ..... I don't understand the need to specifically carve out an exception for drawing. If the need to open up software recommendations as on-topic, let's do this once, and not in dribs and drabs. Feb 13 at 19:54
  • Though I'm personally fine with leaving them as off-topic. Feb 13 at 19:55

2 Answers 2

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Yes, we should allow questions requesting recommendations for software which focus on completing tasks important in academia, including drawing software.

As Federico Poloni mentions in the linked Meta post

Using software to teach, do research and write papers is a part of our work....Suppose you need to find a good linear algebra book; would you ask a linear algebra expert, or a "book expert"?

To be considered on topic, such questions should be properly scoped as outlined by SoftwareRecs.SE. Questions should include:

  1. A purpose — a task to accomplish, a user story
  2. Some objective requirements — a minimum set of features
  3. Manifest relevance to a large swath of academia -- i.e., questions about drawing figures generally would be disallowed (not specific to academia), as would questions about diagrams showing submerged baskets (only relevant to a certain subfield).
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    Opening up the site to things that are "important" to academia instead of "specific" to academia is a massive change. That would, for example, include most of politics. Jan 24 at 22:14
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    To me the key point isn't that drawings are "important" for our work, but that we are the experts when it comes to making figures for academic talks/papers. If we don't know, who would? Using this criterion, making academic drawings on-topic does not imply that politics would become on topic. Since this is CW, I expanded the quote to include that part of the rationale.
    – cag51 Mod
    Jan 25 at 21:03
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    But, I would maybe add a third criterion to the scope: applicable to a large swath of academia. Using the language above, I think questions about C++ or DocuSign would be on topic, which I don't imagine was your intent.
    – cag51 Mod
    Jan 25 at 21:08
  • @cag51 Please don't hesitate to improve the answer. That's why it's a community wiki.
    – Ian
    Jan 25 at 21:09
  • OK, took a stab at a third criterion.
    – cag51 Mod
    Jan 25 at 23:20
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    The third criterion is not very clear at what is allowed ... Jan 26 at 20:54
  • Improvements welcome….
    – cag51 Mod
    Jan 28 at 22:09
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This site should continue to be limited to topics specific to academia. Drawing, and drawing software, are part of academia, but they are also part of all other industries. Questions about drawing software should go where they have traditionally gone: https://softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/drawing?tab=Votes

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  • I bit of overlap between SE sites is not necessarily harmful. I'm not sure that it's a good thing in this specific case (i.e., allowing questions on drawing software), actually, but I disagree with the general principle outlined in this answer, namely that this site should not concern itself with anything that may come under the scope of another SE site. If I've misunderstood your position, then please let me know. Jan 25 at 19:23
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    @TheAmplitwist You've misunderstood. Other sites are irrelevant. Not being specific is the problem. See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/14470/… Jan 25 at 20:00
  • Ah, okay. I understand what you mean now. Thanks for responding! Jan 25 at 20:04
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    I agree -- and point out that the most useful drawing tools are going to be field-specific, and not academia-wide. A list of drawing tools would also be just that -- a list. If we were to do this, why wouldn't we just make it a community wiki and have people keep adding to it, and then further questions would point to this as a duplicate. Feb 13 at 19:49

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