I have seen several questions on WPSE that, in essence, solicit answers as follows:

  • Use X Plugin
  • Use Y Plugin
  • Use Z Plugin

(Reference this meta question for a discussion of just one of such questions.)

My question: are these answers useful, or do they miss both the underlying point of the question and also the purpose/objective of WPSE?

As I understand it, the purpose of WPSE is to develop a definitive information and problem-solving resource for WordPress. Questions that are answered as above have two problems, IMHO:

  1. They provide a link to a Plugin to solve the problem, but focus on the Plugin itself rather than on the method of solving the problem. Plugins can and will change, but the underlying method implemented by the Plugin is far less likely to change.
  2. Answers that differ only by the recommended Plugin merely dilute the community's ability to determine a definitive answer to the question.

A Better Approach

In such situations, I think a better approach would be:

  1. Use a single answer to describe the method to solving the problem
  2. Then, within that question, list any known Plugin that uses the method
  3. As applicable, list pros/cons of each Plugin

Wouldn't this approach result in far more useful answers, and also further the objective of WPSE to provide a definitive resource of information?

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I agree. As a slightly related note: Each time you recommend a plugin again find the duplicate and drop a close vote or flag the question. –  toscho Apr 10 '12 at 20:07
    
I also agree. I am almost always against using a plugin to solve a particular problem, from a developmental standpoint, and if I recommend a solution that includes a reference to a plugin it would almost always be preceded by reference to the method in which works towards solving that problem. I know of two such instances where I am still looking for more concrete information, but where a particular plugin time and time again is mentioned in its place. No discredit to the plugin author of course. But I'm down with where you're going with this! –  userabuser Apr 12 '12 at 18:27
    
Another guideline learned today, thanks Chip! –  brasofilo May 30 '12 at 20:49
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