The question Should developers accept overtime/weekend work/denied bonus payments? was closed as "not constructive" by a single vote. I'm just curious — what was wrong with it? No comment was left.

A question with so much attention might be more deserving of a bit of cleanup instead of an outright close.

It's also compounded the problem of Are 9 to 5 programmers looked down upon? being closed as a duplicate of it — even though I don't see any duplication — now it's the duplicate of a closed question, instead of just being considered on its own merits. Does that mean that one is equally "not constructive", or not?


It was originally closed as a duplicate of this question which was closed as "not constructive" and deleted. You should see this in its revision history.

Rather than cause confusion by having a chain of duplicates that led to a deleted question, I changed the close reason on the canonical question that's still visible to match the deleted question's close reason when it became clear it the 9-to-5 question was on its way to closure.

The question of whether overtime/working on weekends is part of a programmer's job description is a soft, no-content question: everyone has an opinion and it's a controversial topic. We've now have the same question asked, with the same lack of consensus, three times with a ton of answers that don't really teach anyone anything they didn't already know.

And questions attracting a ton of answers are the sign of a question that's not focused enough for the Stack Exchange. A yes or no question that actually has an answer should not be attracting 20 answers each time it's asked.

If there's a salvageable, constructive, and solvable question to be asked about the topic, it's better off reasked under the understanding if it turns into an argue-fest like these three it's going to get closed again.

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    Thanks for the info, I didn't previously see the revision history. As for "ton of answers that don't really teach anyone anything they didn't already know." -- well, I think that's your opinion. – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 0:01
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    As for building a site for "yes or no" questions, well, I don't think that's why most of us are here. – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 0:01
  • @Renesis That's correct, which is why questions like these don't work here. "Are 9 to 5 developers looked down upon?", "Is overtime part of the job?", and "Should developers accept weekend work?" are all yes/no questions. If they were actually solvable problems, they should have at most 2 answers. But they don't as people use them to opine about the situation. – user8 Oct 20 '11 at 0:06
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    So you want Programmers to be objective? You're also discounting the scale -- there is no way a question with that many views is going to get only 2 answers no matter what kind of question it is. People just can't help themselves. It happens on every question, really, proportional to the amount of views it gets. – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 0:09
  • @Renesis What I want is irrelevant: these the are the guidelines we have for the site. A yes/no question that's a honeypot for a ton of opinions from people who can't help themselves is exactly the type of question that doesn't work on Stack Exchange, which is why they get closed as not constructive. Stack Exchange is about providing definitive solutions to real problems, not providing opinions. – user8 Oct 20 '11 at 0:12
  • That's a straw man argument. Programmers is not intended by SE to be objective. I said nothing about the other guidelines. – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 0:13
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    In addition, I don't see how you are arguing for anything other than uninteresting questions. Interesting questions get views, views bring answers. No matter what the question is. A percentage of people just keep answering because either they don't read, or they think they are different enough. It's a statistical certainty. – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 0:17
  • @Renesis The difference isn't subjective vs. objective: questions can be definitively answered with subjective knowledge. Think of the objective vs. subjective difference like requiring valid sources (objectivity) vs. using yourself as a source (subjectivity). What source you use to answer doesn't change the merits of a question. – user8 Oct 20 '11 at 0:18
  • @Renesis interesting questions are welcome here; questions—whether they are interesting or not—where every answer is equally valid because there is no way to definitively answer the question are not. – user8 Oct 20 '11 at 0:23
  • Yes, that is true, but what it does change, is the dynamics around whether others will agree with me. In addition, it means that others may simply think I didn't go deep enough into the answer, etc. I agree completely that "real questions have answers", I just think that what that answer is is not readily apparent for subjective questions (even for SO questions this is often the case) -- especially to 100% of readers, which is essentially what would be required to keep the # of answers down. – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 0:24
  • This is not a case where every answer is "equally valid". That is pretty plain. – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 0:26
  • @Renesis The answer doesn't have to be readily apparent, otherwise it wouldn't have been asked. But there has to be an answer: a question that asks about a problem and provides specific criteria for testing the answers would be fine. "X is my specific situation. How can I do Y?" is testable: the OP can try out an answer and see if it works. "What do people think of X?" is not: humans don't have telepathy. – user8 Oct 20 '11 at 0:30
  • What I actually meant by that, is that even after it is answered, not all questions have objective criteria that can be performed for testing the answer. Telepathy is not required; is nothing to be said for experience? – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 0:34
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    @Renesis again, it's not about subjectivity vs. objectivity: subjective criteria are fine. In fact, most questions here are going to have subjective criteria because people are asking about their own personal situations. But there have to be real, testable criteria: there's no way to test what other people think without asking them. We can only speculate and opine otherwise. – user8 Oct 20 '11 at 0:37
  • Subjective is a rabbit hole. I think it's fine too, but if the criteria are also subjective you have to deal with the fact that people will disagree on whether they are "real and testable". – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 19:59

Although I tend to think of overtime questions as non-constructive for the same reasons Mark does, my main objection to them is that they're simply not on topic.

The FAQ now has a pretty little diagram for everyone:

Topic Map

Here's the thing: Overtime isn't a unique subject for programmers. Lots of programmers tend to think it's unique for them, just as lots of programmers tend to think that about almost everything, but it isn't.

You want to see overtime? Check out the finance section of a publicly-traded company at year-end. I'm sure they can tell you a few things about overtime. So can sysadmins, lawyers, researchers, and many others.

Overtime talk isn't in the "All Programmers" circle, it's in the "All Careers" circle. It's a popular topic, yes, we all know that - any "pet peeve" thread is going to be wildly popular - but it's not something that uniquely affects programmers and definitely not something that programmers are uniquely qualified to answer.

Because there seems to be such a large audience who wants to talk about general employment and workplace environment issues, some folks went and created an Area 51 proposal for it. It's called Professional Matters. Please support it so that there will finally be a non-controversial home for them on the Stack Exchange network.

P.S. The other problem with overtime questions is that they are massively duplicated. Every question is practically a carbon copy of the last, with the essential question being some variation of "Should I put up with overtime?" / "How can I say no to overtime?" and the essential answer being some variation of "Familiarize yourself with the local labour laws" and "Your employer doesn't own you, it's OK to work 9 to 5." It's quite frankly stultifying to read those same threads over and over again. At some point we have to step back and say to ourselves, you know what, I don't think we really need another question about overtime.

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    Yes, I am familiar with that diagram... (I made it). I can buy this argument, but that's not how it was closed. – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 5:29
  • @Renesis The community (not moderators) originally closed the question as off-topic: it was changed to duplicate after people complained it was on-topic because it had the word "programmers" in it. We can go back and reclose the questions as off-topic, but I don't think that's going to do anything. – user8 Oct 20 '11 at 5:37
  • @Mark you aren't adding anything new to the conversation here. – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 5:39
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    @Renesis If the problem is that it was closed for the wrong reason, but it should still be closed, I can resolve this right now by switching the close reasons. But if you're not interested in actually resolving the issue, this is just a waste of everyone's time. – user8 Oct 20 '11 at 5:47
  • @Mark I don't think there is anything to change because you still believe it to be "not constructive". You are the closer and that's your reason. I disagree with that reason; we don't need to change the close to off-topic just because I can buy it. My question regarding the overtime question has already been answered. I'm still confused about the other one as a duplicate, but I intentionally did not want to focus on that here, it's too new and I did leave a comment for the community on the question itself. – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 5:57
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    @Renesis Moderators act on the consensus of the community: if the consensus is that it's off-topic, not not constructive, then that's what it should be closed as. It was only changed because the community at the time of closure was adamant that it was on-topic because it was about programmers. – user8 Oct 20 '11 at 5:59
  • @Renesis: Sometimes questions fall under multiple close umbrellas. I've seen questions that all five can apply to (most of them being career questions). I think you're fighting an uphill battle claiming that the question was constructive either - what problem is it solving, exactly? But the specific close reason is honestly not as important as the fact that it's closed. If it's closed by community vote, then the official close reason might not even accurately reflect how everybody voted. Much ado about nothing, IMO. – Aaronaught Oct 20 '11 at 13:49
  • @Aaronaught I'm not actually fighting any battle. Just wanted to know what made it "not constructive". If I don't see it as not constructive, and there is no comment, it's hard for me to guess why it might have been closed that way. – Nicole Oct 20 '11 at 14:31

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