For starters this is not a repeat of the "Why are so many questions closed" and other similar posts.

The answer to these earlier questions was that the site was not moderated initially and there was a large one off cleanup effort. That answer no longer applies.

In my opinion this forum still closes far too many seemingly sensible questions. The moderators seem to be actively looking for excuses to close questions, for, minor breaches which only they seem to detect.

If I want an answer to a purely technical question I would post it on StackOverflow or ServerFault. This site is meant to be (at least it is advertised as!) more general site about programming as a profession and the practice of programming. And as such questions about career choices, contract vs. permanent, how to interview, choosing one development platform or language over another would seem to be in scope, yet, these questions are regularly closed.

Given the set of all allowable questions on StackExchange if we take the set of allowable posts on Programmers then subtract the set of allowable posts from StackOverflow and ServerFault this seems to leave a vanishingly small set of questions.

Fully expecting this question to be closed before anyone can comment!

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    can you provide specific examples of these "sensible questions" that are closed? Also, did you read the faq and blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective ? – Jeff Atwood Oct 7 '11 at 3:18
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    Looking through your recent history, are you referring to these questions? Is an “associate engineer” the same as a “junior engineer”? and Learning path for web developer .NET or Java – user8 Oct 7 '11 at 3:31
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    Yes among others. I thought they were sensible enough questions to deserve posting an answer - its very annoying to have them closed as you answer. You have to admit that there are significantly more questions closed on this forum that on comparable "stackexchange" forums. As a moderator on StackOverflow I myself have closed questions. Mostly its a case of redirecting the question to a better forum, and, sometimes the question is just rubbish or wildly off-topic. But this doesn't seem to be the case here. – James Anderson Oct 7 '11 at 3:45
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    @Mark -- the questions referred to would seem to fit into the catagories "Freelancing and business concerns" and "Development Methodoligies". Also they were "good enough" questions to attract some sensible answers. I re-iterate what question's would be un-acceptable on stackoverflow yet acceptable here, and, how would the average poster know which questions would fit into this catagory? – James Anderson Oct 7 '11 at 3:55
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    Judging by the number of similar posts and comments I am not the only one who perceives a problem here. The "self moderation" which works so successfully on the other exchange forums seems to be failing here. – James Anderson Oct 7 '11 at 4:07
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    @JamesAnderson Minor clarification: you're not a moderator on Stack Overflow. You have access to some moderator tools, but the term "moderator" is typically reserved for users with a diamond and full moderator access. – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 7 '11 at 6:06
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    @James With regards to Anna's comment above, diamond moderators alone have the "binding close vote" ability. Otherwise, users above 3000 rep (on graduated sites) have standard close-vote ability. – Nicole Oct 12 '11 at 3:40
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    @Everbody -- I have just voted to close my own question -- hypocrite that I am! But I feel the point has been made, and, I would like thank the moderators for taking the comment seriously, and, also for genrally doing a pretty good job. – James Anderson Oct 13 '11 at 8:56
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    "The moderators seem to be actively looking for excuses to close questions, for, minor breaches which only they seem to detect." --- this pretty much sums it up perfectly – user29776 Oct 13 '11 at 20:25
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    @動靜能量: The monarch in the UK is titled King or Queen. There were never an emperor there, though some of these persons also had the title Emperor/Empress of India, from 1876 to 1948. Nowadays (and actually already for some centuries), most of the actual power in the UK lies in the elected parliament and the government determined by it. – Paŭlo Ebermann Oct 27 '11 at 23:51
  • @Paulo -- not only that, we chop off their heads if we dont like them! – James Anderson Oct 28 '11 at 1:49

I've also noticed an overzealousness on the part of the moderators. Yes I agree that the focus does need to be on good quality answerable questions but I've always viewed programmers as a more freeform environment than StackOverflow, it includes deeper questions and sometimes more subjective questions. I see it as much of a community site as a Q&A site.

I first started reading here BECAUSE of the sort of questions that are regularly getting closed. I like knowing some of the more specific scenarios, I feel that they can provide a worth of their own to see the issues and questions. I feel that for the more individual scenarios it used to provide good, if varied, advice and was a good place for people to improve their abilities and understand of the wider area that affects programmers. I've even enjoyed reading a few of the holy-war tagged threads, the older ones survive but I could never see another one being allowed to start these days.

I strongly feel that here Q&A needs to stand for "Queries and Advice" as much as "Question and Answer", if things don't change I see this turning into StackOverflow 2 rather than something that stands on its own.

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    "Queries and advice" is decidedly NOT what Stack Exchange is about. Other sites like Reddit or forums are better suited for it. This is not a matter of a site defining itself. It's a matter of staying true to the primary purpose of the entire network. – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 12 '11 at 2:21
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    @AnnaLear SE Sites like Cooking, Fitness, SciFi/Fantasy, etc, etc, etc seem to be better off for their mods not choosing that particular hill to die on. – user29776 Oct 18 '11 at 16:45

I'm going to mainly address the concrete examples that you left comments on because as you mentioned, there have already been questions here that have addressed the general issue.

Before that, I'd like to just first add an aside to the issue of the number of questions being closed: there are about 13% closed questions on the site as of today, which is on the high side but around the amount that are closed on Web Applications (~11%), English Language & Usage (~10%), and Android Enthusiasts (~10%).

I mention this because this number, as predicted, has consistently gone down over the past few months. One would expect the number to stabilize or go up if the problems haven't been addressed. Cleanups take time, and they aren't over yet.

Secondly, an average poster knows whether a question would fit here by reading the FAQ. The FAQ is a great resource for making sure you understand what a site's about before posting.

If you miss something or make a mistake, it's not that big of a deal because that's what moderation's for. Moderators and other members of the community are generally more than willing to help explain what's on-topic and what isn't. This might happen more often on Programmers due to the relationship with Stack Overflow, but most people seem to get it and most questions do just fine here.

Now to the specific questions:


This question asks about a specific job title and whether or not it's the same as another one. You left a comment saying, "please leave this open although there is no possible answer to this as job titles vary from organization to organization and even within organizations."

It could've been closed for a different reason, but I'm not sure where the disconnect is or why you think this question should remain open if you yourself believe it doesn't have an answer. We're a question and answer site: we're in the business of providing answers.

Learning path for web developer .NET or Java

This question asks two different things:

  1. How many web servers run Windows
  2. Which is more useful for a web developer: .NET or Java

The first question is a bit unanswerable: none of the existing answers even touched on it. One even dismissed it as being a nonsense question.

The second one isn't really constructive: .NET and Java both enjoy large portions of the web development market. The answers don't really converge on something that indicates this comparison is answerable in a definitive way:

  • One guy says "Java rules! But decide for yourself."
  • One guy who says "Nobody says no to .NET"
  • A third guy who says ".NET rules! Java sucks!"
  • A fourth guy says "Nobody compares these two anymore. Why not learn both?"

What is someone supposed to learn from this?

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    Out of the 15 most recent questions this morning 10 were closed. (That was so overwhelmingly obvious that it made me come here assuming you are already discussing it.) While this might well be according to whatever was decided here on meta.P.SE, it still strikes me as notable. Isn't there something wrong when two thirds of the questions are considered wrong? (Please consider that I know what would be the obvious first answer to that question. Take the fact that I still asked it as a sign that I think this answer isn't enough to get me rid of the nagging feeling that something is wrong here.) – sbi Oct 12 '11 at 8:09
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    @sbi Except 2/3s of the questions here aren't considered wrong: ~13% of the questions on Programmers are closed, not 67%. It's never been even close to that high. You can create any arbitrary time period to support any narrative you choose: did you know in the last half hour, 2 out of 2 questions were closed? Oh my god, every question on Programmers is closed! This site is doomed! If there are specific questions that are closed that shouldn't be, let's talk about those. But selectively ignoring and emphasizing data to support a predetermined narrative is going to fall on deaf ears. – user8 Oct 12 '11 at 8:15
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    You might want to read my comment again, especially the last two sentences. And then you might want to delete your rude, aggressive, and impolite comment, hang your head in shame, and try again. Thank you. – sbi Oct 12 '11 at 8:53
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    @sbi I'm sorry I didn't address the concerns presented in your comment sufficiently: let me approach it from a different angle. I agree with you that there's something wrong if two thirds of the questions on a site are considered wrong. But that's not the situation we have on Programmers: so we're not talking about the same thing. We can keep talking past each other about the general state of the site, but it's going to be far more productive if we focus our attention on specific examples of questions that were wrongfully closed. If there's something wrong, let's fix it. – user8 Oct 12 '11 at 9:01
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    If you insist that it is not 67% then consider that, this morning, 20 of the most recent 50 questions have been closed, which amounts to 40%. (And this is not some arbitrarily picked stretch of time, it is the whole last month, so please don't do what you accused me of and bring up some other time span.) If you agree that 67% are wrong, but think that 13% isn't, then what about the current 40%? And it's not just statistics either, that's worrying me. I see questions closed here recently that are very similar to some which got great answers. – sbi Oct 12 '11 at 9:21
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    @sbi If you think there are questions that are wrongfully closed, let's discuss those specific questions. Create a meta question about them. Arguing over the past month about how to calculate the percentage of closed questions on the site has gotten us nowhere. So let's talk about something concrete and tangible: if there are questions that are closed that shouldn't be, what are they? Why are they on-topic here? – user8 Oct 12 '11 at 9:31
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    I already said that this might have been reasonable for individual questions. ("While this might well be according to whatever was decided here on meta.P.SE, it still strikes me as notable.") Sigh. I don't feel like you really want to address my concerns, replying with non-fitting off-the-shelf arguments instead. But P.SE isn't my main concern on the SE network, so I will end my discussion here. HAND. – sbi Oct 12 '11 at 9:50
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    @sbi To see what's wrong we'd have to analyze which questions are closed and why. Either we (as a community) are too close-happy or we get too many questions that are ill-fitting for Q&A in general or Programmers specifically. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle. – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 12 '11 at 11:58
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    @AnnaLear: Really, what's wrong with you mods? Is this so hard to understand?! For three comments now I have referred to pure statistics, several times even saying, essentially, "yes, maybe those closings were rectified individually by the current letter of the law", and, except for one tiny remark about the quality of some questions I have seen getting closed (which I now regret bitterly), I have only asked whether such statistics shouldn't make us frown. – sbi Oct 12 '11 at 12:27
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    @AnnaLear: Nowhere have I said "you definitely need to close less questions!!!", I have only asked whether this close feast shouldn't be a cause to stop looking down our noses at all the "bad" questions and reconsider. Maybe the solution would be to make it clearer what would be acceptable and thus draw less bad-quality questions? Or maybe less questions should indeed be closed, since users want to ask them, and ask them here, where they have a good audience. I don't know. But throwing away 40% of your input over a considerable amount of time ought to make you suspicious, don't you think? – sbi Oct 12 '11 at 12:28
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    @sbi Err, I was agreeing with you. I'm sorry that I didn't make that clearer. We should examine which questions are getting closed and why and see what can (or should) be done about that. The statistics are a sign that something's up, but we need to figure out what that something is. – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 12 '11 at 15:17
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    @sbi To what we've been trying to say, in the past when a type of question ostensibly considered off-topic keeps being asked, we reconsider the community consensus on them. Two recent examples were "name that thing" questions and book recommendation questions. We can reevaluate what we're closing, but we can't do that just looking at statistics: we need examples and discussions about specific questions. – user8 Oct 12 '11 at 18:53
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    @AnnaLear would it be possible to include stats on what % of questions get closed by mod vs. closed by members, for this site and other SE sites (for comparison)? I hate to harp on this, but this is the only SE site where I even know the names of the mods. (and I tend to think a good mod is like a good referee or offensive lineman... ) – user29776 Oct 13 '11 at 20:54
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    @tuckfard That depends on how many closed questions I find. There's no way to retrieve that sort of information from stats, so I'd have to check each individual question. That said, I normally agree... but with a caveat that active mods aren't a problem in and of themselves. Active mods doing things wrong are a problem, and we're here to find out if we are. – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 14 '11 at 0:59
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    The real problem is that the typical user of Programmers wants something different than the moderators/high-rep users do. They want what everyone who originally committed to the proposal wanted—a place to discuss things that are off-topic for Stack Overflow. Everyone who has tried that and seen it fail doesn't want that. But until that disconnect is properly addressed, you're going to be closing a lot of questions. The current mods seem to be intent on denying reality rather than addressing it, and it's not helping. People keep coming to Meta.SO and asking where they can ask their questions. – Cody Gray Mar 1 '12 at 18:54

How about asking better questions?

Your first mistake: calling this a "forum." It's not a forum; it's a question and answer site. The SE network was designed specifically to avoid the kind of mindless chatter you see on other forums.

Take a close look at those forum environments. On reflection, have you ever found any of them really useful to you at all? Can you count on the fingers of one hand the times when posting to a forum really gave you a timely, meaningful answer to your problem?

Recently, I googled "Ford Taurus 2005 won't start when hot." Do you know how many matches there are? One million, five hundred and sixty thousand. Do you know how many of those matches actually impart useful information? Exactly zero. Well, zero in the first two dozen matches anyway.

Why is this? Because those matches go to forums, where dozens of people have posted the same question over and over again, and hundreds of people have posted countless useless answers to that question, including

  • "I have the same problem, any idea?"
  • "Mine starts but I have this other problem."
  • "Mine always starts, I don't know what your problem is."
  • "Mine only starts at Disneyland."
  • "I like turtles."

    And so on.

The Stack Exchange network is a known solution to a known problem. The question and answer format is carefully crafted to encourage the posting of high-quality material, and specifically designed to discourage useless conversations.

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    But that is exactly what StackOverflow is for. If you cannot ask more general questions here then whats the point? Whereas I agree we don't want religious wars and unanswerable questions like "Why is C better than LISP" - but I think most people come here "following" more general questions migrated from StackOverflow and expect a bit more latitude. – James Anderson Oct 12 '11 at 15:43
  • @James: There's a long and colorful history behind all of this, going all the way back to the Community Wiki wars. I'd tell the story, but the margin in this web page can't contain it. The short version: Programmers.SE was becoming the toilet bowl for all of the crappy questions that Stack Overflow didn't want, and the criteria for a good question is the same here as it is anywhere else in the network, subjectivity notwithstanding. See blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective – Robert Harvey Oct 12 '11 at 15:49
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    Not suggesting you make this an Open House. Just relax the rules a tiny bit more than on the other "*Exchange" sites. – James Anderson Oct 12 '11 at 16:01
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    Perhaps the fact that the "top 0.10% this month" poster, that is the single most up-voted poster for this month managed to get a question closed should give pause for thought. There is no question that his post should have been closed according to the strict letter of the law here. But the fact that such a "respectable citizen" got it wrong indicates a serious mis-perception of what this site is about. – James Anderson Oct 12 '11 at 16:11
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    One of the more common misconceptions is that popularity equals quality. Were that the case, we could simply dispense with moderators altogether, and rely on voting to determine topicality. – Robert Harvey Oct 12 '11 at 16:25
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    @JamesAnderson Programmers isn't hurting for questions and is "surviving" nicely (IMHO). Let's suppose that we can relax the rules. Why should this site operate under a more relaxed rule set than all the other SE sites? Beyond "it's fun to discuss things", why do we need that? What's wrong with a focused, useful set of Q&A? – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 12 '11 at 19:38
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    @Anna -- StackOverflow - technical questions about programming, "English" - meaning and usage of English language. Programers -- 10 line FAQ covering diverse and unrelated topics. What exactly are we focused on? – James Anderson Oct 13 '11 at 1:31
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    @JamesAnderson Programmers has one of the most detailed FAQs I've seen on SE. I'm not sure where the disconnect is, to be honest. "Conceptual questions about software development topics" seems fairly clear to me. Programming practices, software design, etc. are all on topic, but we still need answerable questions in the "please explain X to me" sense. I don't know how our FAQ right now still encourages questions along the lines of "what job should I take" or "what is the best language ever". – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 13 '11 at 1:42
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    @JamesAnderson Since quantity doesn't always equal quality, I would personally welcome a more restrictive, focused, and clearly defined FAQ even if it resulted in fewer questions but brought with it a higher overall quality of questions. I agree that we need to better define and explain the focus of the site, but I'm at a loss on how to do that at the moment. – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 13 '11 at 1:43
  • @Anna - I really appreciate the difficulty here. The topics in the FAQ tend to be a little fuzzy around the edges, its easy to recognize a really good question, and, easy to recognize a really bad one. Its the fuzzy "maybe/almost on topic" area that's the problem as it boils done to personal opinion and judgement. The main thrust of my gripe is that while the moderators are rightly striving to improve the quality and relevance of this site they may be discouraging useful contributors who could add considerable value to the site. – James Anderson Oct 13 '11 at 1:53
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    @JamesAnderson I see your point, but how can we address that? If useful contributors are put off by closings of questions that aren't a good fit for the site, would they really be good contributors or are they only interested in contributing to questions we don't want to keep in the first place? – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 13 '11 at 1:55
  • @JamesAnderson I agree that a front page full of closed questions gives a horrible first impression. I think the answer is in continuing to clarify the site's scope and purpose and for individual questions to be discussed and either closed or reopened. It may also be that one the days when we get more "bad" questions than usual, we don't get enough "good" questions to balance out the front page view. Either way, specific "should this question be closed" talks are very helpful and IMHO far more beneficial than general complaints. The more specific discussions we see, the better off we'll be. – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 13 '11 at 2:01
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    I think I speak for all moderators here when I say that we're always open to discussing site scope or closures either here on meta or in chat. – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 13 '11 at 2:02
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    I can't emphasize enough that the way to getting answers to your questions here is to ask better questions in the first place. I am a mod on StackOverflow, and we have strict rules about what we allow there also. But if a question is an especially good one, I might let it slide even if it's not quite within the rules. But this is exceedingly rare; the sad fact is that there might be one question in a hundred that meets this bar. It takes time, thought and effort to write a good question, and most people don't make the effort. – Robert Harvey Oct 13 '11 at 2:42
  • I am not actually complaining about my questions being closed. I tend to answer rather than ask. But I find it dis-spiriting to to spend a few minutes composing a reasonable answer to what I though was a reasonable question to find it has been closed in the meantime. – James Anderson Oct 13 '11 at 8:52

What is expected by most programmers coming here and what is expected by moderators and site owners are not in sync.

Apparantly the main problem is that there are no easy way to tell those programmers that it's not a good place for their questions. This leads to confusion, frustration, and dozens of question like yours. With the same answers.

So I guess until every "non site matching" programmer in the world leaves this site frustrated, we will keep having those question posted, again and again.

Until the subset of programmers that match the site's goal remains, alone.

To make it short: like it or leave it.

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    why not just rename the site "Moderators" :-}. – James Anderson Oct 13 '11 at 1:53
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    @James Anderson: LOL! Ouch, my side hurts! – Jim G. Oct 15 '11 at 1:46
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    "Like it or leave it"? That's not what happened when USA fight for Independence. That's not how the Democracy government fight the Qing dynasty exactly 100 years ago. That's not how the people are, just let all the corporations take their money (I, for one, was charged by Washington Mutual for $5 every month silently because I don't use an account and don't check it, and they advertise: free checking account, and added $5 purchase warranty service without my approval, and drained $110. When Chase purchased Washington Mutual, their answer was: we can only access data for up to 90 days) – user5487 Oct 19 '11 at 22:17

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