I want to solicit recommendations for a computer algebra system that accomplishes my technical requirements as well as fits in with some specific hardware limitations. Is this considered on-topic? If so, what tag would be appropriate?

I'm aware that this sort of question is definitely on topic on other SE sites but I'd prefer the advice of the MSE community over others.

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    $\begingroup$ So the downvotes mean "not on topic"? $\endgroup$ – Brian Fitzpatrick May 16 '15 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ It should be mentioned that soliciting recommendations for software would appear to be perfectly on-topic for Software Recommendations. $\endgroup$ – user642796 May 17 '15 at 3:47
  • $\begingroup$ @ArthurFischer As I mention in my question, I'm aware of other SE sites where this question is on topic. My question is whether or not this type of question is considered on-topic here. $\endgroup$ – Brian Fitzpatrick May 17 '15 at 3:54
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, you mentioned that such questions are on topic on some sites, but it wasn't clear to me that you were aware of the SE site whose raison d'être was software recommendations. $\endgroup$ – user642796 May 17 '15 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ Also, don't ask for things you can find in the tables at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_computer_algebra_systems $\endgroup$ – GEdgar May 17 '15 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ @GEdgar why not? I'm well-aware of that list but my motivation for asking is to see what other members of the community like and use. I guess I don't see the difference between a question like this and the numerous reference-request questions on the site. $\endgroup$ – Brian Fitzpatrick May 17 '15 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ Have you considered Wolfram Mathematica? $\endgroup$ – Mr. Brooks May 19 '15 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Mr.Brooks: not an answer to the meta question. $\endgroup$ – GEdgar May 20 '15 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @GEdgar: Also not presented as such, as it was a comment. $\endgroup$ – MPW May 25 '15 at 3:15

In my mind such a question should be treated similarly to questions asking for textbook recommendations. That is they can be on-topic, but only if asked carefully.

The key to making such a question work is making it specific regarding the math (yet not your personal circumstances). If you have some specific math-problems, or a class of problems, you want to solve and ask for software to do this, this can be a good questions.

Technical "limitations" can also be mentioned (hardware, OS, price, etc.)
[Yet I would try not to put too much emphasis on them. ]

By contrast, an overly general and vague question like "What CAS would you recommend for a graduate student interested in algebraic geometry?" is not good.

For the tags: the mathematical subject to which the problems you want to solve belong, and possibly

  • $\begingroup$ I take it from the downvotes on my question that not everyone would agree with you? $\endgroup$ – Brian Fitzpatrick May 16 '15 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ This is a possible interpretation, although it would not be the best way to vote, in my opinion. Votes on a discussion questions should normally be on the merits of having the discussion and the quality of the call for discussion. (Put of course some also think otherwise so one never knows.) $\endgroup$ – quid May 16 '15 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ Somehow I've managed to accrue >10k rep and still have no idea what voting on meta means. $\endgroup$ – Brian Fitzpatrick May 16 '15 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ +1. Also, other useful tags are (symbolic-computation) and more narrow (computational-algebra). $\endgroup$ – Alexander Konovalov May 28 '15 at 21:52

I think it depends on what those technical requirements are. Something like "numerical precision in excess of IEEE 754" might be off-topic, whereas something like "ability to recognize ideals in arbitrary field extensions" might be on-topic. At least that's how I would see it.

  • $\begingroup$ (+1) too. I think for carefully formulated questions of the 2nd kind, MSE would be much more appropriate than e.g. stackoverflow.com. The chance of such question being answered on MSE would be much higher. Seen this from some questions about GAP being asked here and there. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Konovalov May 28 '15 at 21:58

You have to understand that the purpose of stack exchange is for people to gain reputation points for their resumes. Not everyone, but many. Thus, asking an opinion-question with no right or wrong answer will not generate an answer that can be classified as correct or not and for the system to work you need verifiably correct or incorrect answers. I've had my own questions banned for something as innocuous as "Please recommend a good book on doing C# graphics." Oh the humanity! That question is soliciting a... gasps OPINION. What to do when someone asks for an opinion? That's the real reason for SE. It's like proof for your resume that you are an asset to your profession. I hope I'm not being cynical, because I'm sure a lot of people out there really do post because they love their field of expertise and aren't looking for a job. I'm just trying to fit this "NO OPINION QUESTIONS...EVER!!!" into my view of the world.


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