Questions like Is there an alternative to HTML Web Sockets, now that Firefox 4 has disabled them? always give me pause.

This question was asked January 4. To me, it is clearly suited better for StackOverflow than Softwareengineering, since it is an answerable programming question, not a question about programmers or about the development process. But, I say "grey area" since clearly the poster thought it was appropriate and most of the community haven't felt concerned with it remaining open on Programmers.

My question is, what do we do about questions which do fall into some sort of a grey area between StackOverflow and Software Engineering?

When I see a question like this, I have three options:

  1. Vote to close as off-topic, or at the very least to post a comment saying it's better suited there.
  2. Answer (mark as community-wiki if I'm also voting to close)
  3. Leave it

If I'm unable to answer, my inclination would be to choose #1, to help the user find a better forum for obtaining an answer.

However well-intentioned that would be, when the question is in a grey area, it's likely to cause some to think I'm just being unhelpful and better off just leaving the question alone.

In addition, once it's been around for 2 weeks, it seems more people are inclined to let it stay simply because it has longevity and answers.

Any advice for this situation? Am I being too sensitive? Could we benefit from a clear description of the difference between SO/Software Engineering in the "How to Ask" note on the Ask Question page? Are there any other ways in which we could reduce this grey area?

3 Answers 3


If you think a question would have a better home elsewhere and the migration route isn't available (none are at the moment) then flag it for moderator attention. Explain where you think it needs to go and if the moderators agree they can move it.

If there is a migration route (there might be at some point), then just vote to close as "off topic" selecting that site as the target. Other users with close rights will see that flag and either back you up or vote to close another way.

I wouldn't worry about marking your answer CW. After all if it does get moved your answer might get up-votes on the target site.


I think the first thing is to accept that there are some questions which do fit into neither camp and will end up getting closed. There seem to be plenty of questions which are migrated because they're subjective but are actually to general (that is not programmer specific enough) for here.

In the instance you state though I think it's almost the opposite, I think it could sit happily on either site. It's subjective enough that it works here (there is no out and out right answer but plenty of options) but it's technical enough that a lot of that subjectivity can be debated in a very black and white way so I suspect SO would be fine with it too.

Based on that and the fact it's getting answers I'd leave it, though I might add a comment suggesting that the user could also ask it on SO and might get some additional useful responses.

More generally though I'd not move/close something unless either (a) it was an out and out bad fit here or (b) it was getting no answers and you felt that the questioner would benefit from it being moved.

  • +1, good point about the answer fitting into either site, and suggesting the user could ask it on SO too.
    – Nicole
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 18:12

For questions in "the grey area" my feelings are to try the following in this order:

  1. Answer it.
  2. Leave it alone (if I can't answer it).
  3. Migrate it to where it has a better chance of getting answered.

I still haven't figured out that community wiki thing, including how to find it. All I know is that I lose the ability to get badges for each answer of mine that gets "lost" in wikiland.

  • You do get Nice Answer etc badges for CW answers, but they don't count for tag badges.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 13:23

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