I propose that we redefine what constitutes an off-topic question. Currently, we define a question that does not 100% apply only to software developers as a profession as off-topic. Lately I have seen questions that are of relevance to the community regarding career and job decisions closed as "off-topic" because the nature of the question can also be applied to another profession.

It is my belief that, given the nature of our field, certain questions are applicable in a different sense to us than to a general-purpose career. For example, questions regarding flexible hours, or telecommuting, or overtime have a different context for programmers than for, say, a salesperson. Advice which could apply to general careers may not always apply to developers.

For this reason, I propose that we redefine the concept of off-topic so that general-purpose career questions are valid for the site as long as they are approached from the perspective of a programmer. What I mean is a general career question would remain off-topic, but a question regarding, let's say, how to negotiate flexible hours or telecommuting or how to deal with a micromanaging supervisor should be allowed because the answers and reasons are different for programmers than for other professions and the advice given should directly relate to programmers instead of being generic advice.

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    Define "off-topic" as something that could apply only to a brain surgeon. PROBLEM SOLVED!
    – Shog9
    Aug 19, 2011 at 20:54
  • I've asked a very similar question before... meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/1697/…
    – user281377
    Aug 22, 2011 at 20:35
  • Definitely need examples. Also, I think the "100% only" is not held up by real experience in my opinion. There are many questions completely allowed here which are perhaps similar to other questions but have enough specific attributes to programmers that the question is on-topic here.
    – Nicole
    Aug 23, 2011 at 16:29
  • Good idea. Not going to happen. Aug 25, 2011 at 14:11
  • Here are a few examples: programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/14706/… programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/74913/…. These examples did not take long to find! Aug 25, 2011 at 16:55
  • @Rice Your first example contains mostly generic answers. The second one I agree could be reopened, though I'm not sure about overriding 5 users who decided it should be closed when as it stands now, the answers aren't really going into how to fix things. They're building a list of things that stress programmers out. Is that really useful in the long run?
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 25, 2011 at 18:50
  • There is also this on about handling interruptions. Programming is one of the professions where interruptions can be extremely disrupting to productivity.
    – Jay Elston
    Aug 28, 2011 at 15:27
  • @Jay that's a perfect example. The advice given to that question should be specific to programming, because of the nature of our profession (that is the overall idea I am trying to convey - generic career advice isn't always applicable to programming) Aug 28, 2011 at 20:11

2 Answers 2


Do you have any examples of general career questions that did not attract generic answers but were closed anyway? We can (and should) review them for reopening. When a question looks general but generates programmer-specific answers, it is already on-topic.

I don't think negotiating flexible hours or dealing with a micromanager are problems that require unique programmer insights to solve. There are hundreds of sites out there that cover possible solutions.

We don't want to repeat generic advice here just because it might apply to a programmer or the person who asked the question happens to be a programmer. We are not Career Advice Stack Exchange and unfortunately there isn't one right now at all. There are a few proposals on Area 51 such as Professional Matters where more general questions could thrive, so I suggest following that proposal to see that niche covered on Stack Exchange.

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    Couldn't those questions be kept here until said SEs open, the way general music questions were asked on guitar.SE, and then later moved to music.SE? Aug 22, 2011 at 2:00
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    @Rei Questions were moved from Guitar.SE to Music.SE because the guitar site was struggling and ended up getting closed. Programmers isn't in the same boat. We are in no danger of running out of good, software development specific questions. I think widening our scope to cover generic career advice would be a mistake. Also, I think not including such questions here will hopefully encourage one of the general career proposals to gain traction.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 22, 2011 at 2:11
  • @Anna I agree that not including such questions could help the other ones gain traction. I'm looking forward to Professional Matters taking off, and I'm also hoping that PM gets better over time. Might I make a suggestion though - any time a question gets closed for off-topic and there's a better Stack Exchange (even if it's in beta or just a proposal), might someone post a link to the appropriate page? It might help some of these get off the ground. Kind of like "we don't accept this here, but if you're interested in this, help out this proposal"? Is that acceptable to the SE community?
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Aug 22, 2011 at 12:26
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    @Thomas A couple users have already been doing that and I think it's a great way to spread the word about those proposals.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 22, 2011 at 13:34
  • @Anna Cool. I haven't yet, since I wasn't sure if it was too spammy. If it's acceptable, I might start. Is there some kind of line as to when it's acceptable? Some questions are a bit of a gray area (especially between here and PM, where software PM questions are on topic on both). I'm assuming if it's not appropriate here, provide a link to where it is, otherwise just answer/vote as appropriate?
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Aug 22, 2011 at 13:37
  • @Thomas That sounds about right. I don't have a problem with pointers to other sites in any situation so long as you're pointing the poster to the right site. :) For PM, we can also migrate questions that would do better there, so it wouldn't be out of place to flag them.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 22, 2011 at 14:04
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    Great answer. I'd like to add my personal opinion that if you (the asker) look into questions like "dealing with a micromanager" deep enough, you can often figure out the programmer-specific parts and ask that instead.
    – Nicole
    Aug 23, 2011 at 16:26
  • The point is that asking for flex time is different for a software professional because of the nature of our field, than say the receptionist asking for flex time or to telecommute. There are different concerns applicable to software developers, different reasons, different selling points that require input from other developers and not general people working in other professions. Aug 25, 2011 at 14:14
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    @Wayne Please show an example of a question that looked generic and got programmer-specific answers but was closed anyway.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 25, 2011 at 14:18

I agree with the OP that career questions should definitely be part of this site. It seems that career questions may or may not be on topic depending on what moderator sees the question.

I generally feel that these Stack Exchange sites should err on the side of being inclusive when it comes to edge cases unless there is another Stack Exchange that is definitely a better fit.

If you have a question that pertains to programming as a career, I think we have a great pool of talent here to provide answers and a great audience to appreciate said answers. I am strongly against closing these questions.

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