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There have been a few questions lately about improving the guidance and clarity of what this site is about. We rely heavily on the FAQ for this guidance, but over the past year, our FAQ has become longer and longer as more caveats, exceptions, commentary, and other things that seem important at the time gets added.

What can we do to get the FAQ into a state that's clear and easy to read?

Note: this is solely about rewriting the FAQ with the current scope. If you want to suggest changes to the scope of the site, please propose it in a new question.

Also note we can't change the entire FAQ: just the first part (up to and including "Can I use comments to discuss the topic of a post?").

  • I just got done ripping off your FAQ. Now you tell us there is a new version coming out? It's the age old problem of software piracy: keeping pace with the real thing. – Caleb Oct 14 '11 at 22:12
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    @Caleb I'll sell you a long-term support contract for only $14.95/month on a two-year commitment. – user8 Oct 14 '11 at 22:24
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Looking through the other FAQs, many are starting to use what's been called the "Super User style": explaining right up front what's on-topic and the exceptions to that list:

Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users. If you have a question about …

  • computer hardware *computer software

and it is not about …

  • videogames or consoles
  • websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress
  • electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer
  • a shopping or buying recommendation

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

I think we should follow that. I also think we should drop much of the commentary, as it only clouds the issue related to what's on-topic and what isn't. For example, it's difficult understand all the caveats and exceptions to the career advice policy and whether or not any specific question meets the criteria.

Other parts of the FAQ, like the note about comments, are explained elsewhere.

So here is what I'm proposing instead:


Programmers — Stack Exchange is a site for programmers who are interested in getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development. If you have a question about…

  • algorithm and data structure concepts
  • design patterns
  • developer testing
  • development methodologies
  • freelancing and business concerns
  • quality assurance
  • software architecture
  • software engineering
  • software licensing

and it is not about

…then you're in the right place to ask your question!

Please make sure your question uniquely applies to programmers in general:

proper scope for question

Please also look around to see if your question has been asked before.

What about subjective questions?

Subjective questions are allowed, but subjective does not mean “anything goes”. Please keep it professional at all times. If this is a question you'd be uncomfortable discussing with your colleagues in a work environment, it's probably not appropriate here, either.

All subjective questions are expected to be constructive. How do we define that? Constructive subjective questions …

  • inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.
  • tend to have long, not short, answers.
  • have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.
  • invite sharing experiences over opinions.
  • insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.
  • are more than just mindless social fun.

Questions that do not meet enough of these six guidelines will be closed as "not constructive." Please see the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective blog post for more details and examples.

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    +1 because I like the bullet-point idea. Its much easier glancing through highlights than of reading walls of text – Rachel Oct 14 '11 at 0:31
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This is the current editable portion of the FAQ (feel free to use as a template for suggested improvements).


Programmers - Stack Exchange is for expert programmers who are interested in conceptual questions on software development.

This can include topics such as:

  • Software engineering
  • Developer testing
  • Algorithm and data structure concepts
  • Design patterns
  • Architecture
  • Development methodologies
  • Quality assurance
  • Software licensing
  • Freelancing and business concerns

If your question is about programming tools, please ask on Stack Overflow instead.

While subjective questions are allowed, subjective does not mean “anything goes”. Please keep it professional at all times. If this is a question you'd be uncomfortable discussing with your colleagues in a work environment, it's probably not appropriate here, either.

All subjective questions are expected to be constructive. How do we define that? Constructive subjective questions …

  • inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.
  • tend to have long, not short, answers.
  • have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.
  • invite sharing experiences over opinions.
  • insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.
  • are more than just mindless social fun.

Questions that do not meet enough of these six guidelines will be closed as "not constructive." Please see the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective blog post for more details and examples.

Can I ask career advice questions?

No, unless your question is specifically about software development and requires the unique insights of a programmer. Most career advice questions run the risk of being closed: try to make yours a good subjective question.

Please make sure your question has the proper scope. If your question can also be applied to other jobs then it's not really something that uniquely applies to software development.

proper scope for question

Please also be aware that we will not delete your career advice question after you receive answers if you change your mind about having asked it. Think carefully before you post a question full of personal or otherwise sensitive information. If you don't want something to be publicly revealed, consider not posting it on Stack Exchange.

What about other programming related questions?

Please note that the following subjects are considered off-topic here:

  • What language should I learn next? (Unless you have a specific requirement and don't know which language meets that requirement.)
  • What salary/wage should I ask for/expect? (Too localized to your place and time)
  • Which technology is better? (e.g Java/C#, Eclipse/Netbeans, iPhone/Android)
  • Please critique my resumé. (Unless you have a specific question about a software development part of your resumé. Questions about resumé formatting and style are always off-topic.)
  • What project should I choose for fun/college/course/thesis/practice? (Too localized, inviting a list of equally valid answers, and usually not meeting the guidelines for good subjective questions.)

For more discussion on these subject see the question where these topics were discussed on our Meta site.

Can I use comments to discuss the topic of a post?

Comments are useful for getting clarifications, but extended discussions detract from the question and its answers. If you'd like to discuss anything related to programming with other expert programmers, please use our chat room.

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