I am referring to this question:

I can see that one of the moderators stepped in and added some guidance for answers, but it sure doesn't look like anybody took it seriously, and the question itself seems like a pure "pet peeve" poll.

Is there something I'm missing? What redeeming value is there in a question like this? How is it any different from simply asking "What do you hate about being a programmer?"

Questions about dealing with specific impediments are great - I even answered one about getting better requirements, that being the #1 item on the list in Joel's (accepted) answer. Of course, the 3 line blurb there is (no offense to Joel) really not going to help any programmer be better at his/her job, whereas the former targeted question at least has a chance. The "stressors" question is really just yet another bitch-fest, pardon my French.

Ordinarily I'd just flag these questions, but since it's already picked up a ridiculous number of votes and been touched by at least one moderator, I figured it made more sense to ask for clarification.

  • 1
    Couldn't agree more and am surprised it only has 2 close votes.
    – Walter
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 16:00
  • 2
    I saw the original question and that it had been edited by another moderator. As it didn't (and still doesn't) have any flags it's simply not on my list of posts to look at. Perhaps that's my mistake.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 16:21
  • @Chris: This question isn't necessarily just for the moderators, it's for the entire community. Like Walter, I'm surprised that the community didn't close it immediately - perhaps they saw the moderator edit and considered that to be a pass.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 16:36
  • Related: programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/3732/… (and closed) (FWIW, I hate both questions, but allow that for whatever reason these are among the topics that folks really wanted P.SE to exist for - whether they can be shepherded into some useful form or not is going to depend largely on how much effort the community (including moderators) wants to put into cleaning up cruft... (including responses such as my answer to the first question))
    – Shog9
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 19:15
  • How could I have asked a better question? The answers really were helpful, I thought. Commented May 13, 2011 at 10:59
  • @Matthew: In an ideal world it wouldn't be necessary to tighten up every question; unfortunately, in practice, the culture here is one that will quickly seize upon any opportunity to engage in poll behaviour (post one-liners or sequences of one-liners and vote indiscriminately). A targeted question on a specific form of stress unique to programmers would be great (we've had several), or a question about quantifying the various forms of productivity loss (as opposed to the more generic "stress") would also have been pretty useful. I'd be interested to know how you feel you've been helped.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented May 13, 2011 at 13:30
  • @Aaronaught I should have phrased my question better. It was helpful to get an overview of the categories of stressors. Stress burns me out more quickly than most, so I was asking for wisdom in where boundaries are needed. I can figure out how to set those boundaries, but I have trouble seeing clearly where they are needed. You can't get that information from a question on a specific form of stress or quantifying efficiency. Commented May 13, 2011 at 13:41
  • @Aaronaught Furthermore, I know how to work efficiently and produce high quality results. So, neither a specific stressor nor performance quantification were the goal of my question. Commented May 13, 2011 at 13:43
  • @Matthew: On the one hand you say that stress burns you out, on the other hand you say it's not an issue of productivity. Which is it? If it's not about productivity then what is "stress"? How do you categorize it? Given that everybody has a different definition of stress, and everybody has wildly different tolerances to different influences, there is no possible example that wouldn't be correct for someone. Introverts are frustrated by chatter; extroverts are frustrated by solitude. If the goal of your question was to get a list of everyone's, then it's not a useful goal.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented May 13, 2011 at 13:58
  • 1
    @Aaronaught I see what you're saying. Perhaps a better question would be that of how an introvert should pace themselves (by way of managing stressors) so as to remain most productive for the long haul. Rather than productivity 10-1-1-1-2-3-4 = 22, productivity 4-4-4-4-4-4-4 = 28. I did not make that clear in my question. Commented May 13, 2011 at 14:09
  • @Aaronaught Would that be a question less likely to be closed? Commented May 13, 2011 at 14:10
  • 2
    @Matthew: I can only speak for myself, not the community, but to me, that is a way better question because it demands more than just an "I'm stressed out by X" answer. I also think that, based on the revised definition, you could do away with the nebulous stressors term entirely and define it in terms of time and attention management (since every productivity loss attributable to another person is generally either due to distraction or quantifiable wasted time).
    – Aaronaught
    Commented May 13, 2011 at 14:32
  • @Aaronaught Thanks for your take on it. Commented May 13, 2011 at 14:59

4 Answers 4


I first looked at the question after it had been flagged: when I saw it, it had a couple of relatively decent answers and a couple of bad one-liner answers. I edited the question to try to get it away from being a list and to add the guidance.

Sometimes that works, sometimes that doesn't. In this case, it didn't look like it did. I've gone through the question and deleted all the answers that were clearly one-liners ignoring the guidance set out. If there are any other answers that clearly miss the point of the question, flag them as not an answer.

I personally think there is a potential for some good advice there: the question isn't just "What do you hate about programming?", it's "what are the things that cause stress for programmers, and how can one manage them?" But I'll leave it to the community to decide if the question needs to be ultimately closed.

  • +1 for deleting the one liners.
    – Walter
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 21:45
  • I completely agree with this.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 22:33
  • I think the key guidance in the question is what can we do to fix these situations? which keeps it from being a random rant-fest. Commented May 14, 2011 at 8:32

I wasn't originally intending to answer my own question, but after some offline discussion it's become apparent that I should clarify what I think is wrong with the question:

  1. The wording is vague. The definition of "stress" and "manage" is unclear, and indeed, if you look at the answers you'll see that different people had different interpretations. Some thought of it in terms of productivity, others thought of it in terms of anxiety/job satisfaction, and not surprisingly of course, many considered it to be any kind of frustration.

  2. It doesn't provide any criteria for evaluating the rightness or wrongness of an answer, which is one of the main litmus tests for constructiveness. Although the moderator note says to "back it up", neither the question nor the note really explain how one is supposed to back up such an answer, since stress is a very personal issue.

  3. Although it is technically aimed at solving problems, it's not trying to solve a single problem, it's trying to solve an arbitrarily large set of problems. That's extremely broad, and reminiscent of discussion forum mega-threads.

  4. There's an entire category of specific questions here that could be asked - how do I manage unrealistic expectations, how do I gather better requirements, how do I solicit user feedback, how can I limit my other duties, etc. All great questions by themselves, but this überquestion lazily asks for a hasty summary of every possible productivity factor, which (a) may discourage more specific questions from being asked, and (b) really doesn't give answerers a good opportunity to provide much substance or context.

So take your pick. It's either too vague (NARQ), too broad (NARQ), too open-ended (NC), or a mass duplicate of all of the other , , and questions combined. That's a lot of reasons to close.


I see nothing in that question or the answers that only pertains to programmers. Voted to close.


Difficult for me to say. It was certainly a low signal/noise question but there was some signal in there. Joel's answer I think is useful enough to redeem a lot of the original question's faults.

  • 1
    No offense to Joel, he's a good contributor, but I don't really think his answer goes into any real depth with any of the specific items - it just has a lot of items, most of them obvious. I don't think there's anybody who just learned about the stressful effects of a lack of respect or inappropriate deadlines from reading his answer. It's just telling people what they already know (or believe) and the upvoters are nodding their heads in agreement.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 22:03
  • @Aaronaught good point. On the other hand, there's a difference between knowing something and being able to clearly enumerate it. Like, say, the definition of "stressor". The enumeration itself is valuable in that sense. Commented May 12, 2011 at 22:18
  • I'm not sure that the enumeration really helps to define anything. Take the definitions in my answer and apply them to his points; which ones match? It seems to vary; there's no consistent definition being used (except for the hopelessly trite "things I don't like"). His answer is well-written and all, but did it teach you anything or solve a problem for you? That's what we're supposed to be here for.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 22:26
  • @Aaronaught I definitely see your point of view and its merits, I just don't find it completely compelling. No worries :) Commented May 12, 2011 at 22:40

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