I feel too many questions are being closed, voted to close, and people are being pointed toward Project Management inappropriately. PM.SE is still a beta site, and isn't doing stellar in the metrics. I think people are being too hasty, so here are a few points to consider:

  • Software project management is a part of software engineering, which is explicitly listed as something that is on topic. Admittedly, there are no single, universally accepted standard definitions of software engineering, but project management topics are explicitly addressed in two knowledge areas of the Software Engineering Body of Knowlege (Software Engineering Management, Software Engineering Process), and the SWEBOK is the closest thing that exists to defining what is and is not a part of software engineering that I'm aware of.
  • There's a large body of work built exclusively around managing and controlling software projects. Work by people such as Barry Boehm, Thomas Glib, Steve McConnell, Frederick Brooks, and Watts Humphrey focus on software projects. There are also organizations such as the SEI and CSSE dedicated to software (and systems) engineering. I searched Amazon for works about "mechanical engineering management" and "electrical engineering management" and couldn't find very many resources related specifically to these engineering fields. Of the engineering fields that I looked for, I found specific resources about civil engineering management and systems engineering management (systems engineering being a combination of mechanical, electrical, and/or software systems).
  • Tags related to project management are popular here already. Nearly 500 questions are tagged . Nearly 300 are tagged . Nearly 200 tagged . Some less popular tags include with 17 questions, with 11, with 17, and with 39.

Although there is nothing precluding software project management questions from PM.SE in their FAQ, I don't think it's wise to migrate questions to that site nor close questions that are about software project management until PM.SE is out of beta. If a question is applicable to a software-intensive project, I think it should remain here. If it's a question applicable to a project that involves software (a systems engineering project) but is focused on the software side, it should also remain here. Other questions are debatable, but I see no reason to splinter the software engineering management questions to a site that isn't even open yet.

  • 1
    Do you have any specific examples of questions that were migrated or closed incorrectly?
    – user8
    Jan 4, 2012 at 20:52
  • @MarkTrapp I can't find any migrated questions right now, and I don't know of an easy way to search. This question sparked this post. I saw at least 3 or 4 other questions today (not sure if they were posted today or if they were just active today) where a comment directed the asker toward PM.SE with a strong implication that the question was off-topic here. The problem is more comments/off-topic votes/down votes, not moderator migration.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Jan 4, 2012 at 21:02
  • @MarkTrapp Although it's a bad question on any site because of its wording and lack of specificity, questions like this one that are explicitly about software project management are not off-topic here. I couldn't salvage that question if I tried all night, so it probably should be closed, but it's an example of people pointing the asker to PM.SE for questions about software project management.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Jan 4, 2012 at 21:05
  • I think we need to separate the two issues "migrating to beta sites" and "migrating pm questions to PMSE". And PMSE is not doing that bad, especially comparing with other beta sites, according to these stats.
    – yannis
    Jan 4, 2012 at 21:27
  • As for the first question, the only comment towards PMSE was mine, and it read: "I think that's a question more suitable for Project Management Stack Exchange...". I don't think there's strong implication that the question was off-topic here, I used subjective terms. As for the four upvotes the comment gathered, well I have no idea. Voted to close because to me it's a bad question - not really wanted to migrate it to PMSE.
    – yannis
    Jan 4, 2012 at 21:30
  • @Yannis Yours was one of the better comments and I didn't mean to imply that your comment was a bad one. A few comments I considered flagging, since they were not only bad advice, but bordering on rude. If I see those questions float up again, I think I will.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Jan 4, 2012 at 21:53
  • Oh I didn't take it personally :) You should flag comments, especially rude ones, and you should also consider adding your own comment and letting people know that pm is actually on topic. It clearly is, and if people would prefer it wasn't, there are better ways to express themselves.
    – yannis
    Jan 4, 2012 at 21:58
  • As the author of that first question, I can explain why I post it on programmers instead of PM SE. Simply put, there is A LOT more activity and people willing to give Agile advice here so I KNOW that I will have a quick and accurate answer most of the time on programmers. But I guess if it's something that needs to change we will all need to make the switch.
    – xsace
    Jan 5, 2012 at 19:45

4 Answers 4


These questions fall into the more general category of questions that might be a "better fit" for another site, but are not off topic here either. I can't find a reference at the moment, but it was my understanding that the policy on those is not to close, that closing should be reserved for topics that are clearly off topic here.


Speaking in broad generalities, the value of Stack Exchange is to get answers from experts on a subject: it's why we don't have one site for all questions and have 80+ sites all targeting specific types of people. One of the first questions one must ask when determining if a question is on-topic is, "Is the audience of this site experts in the topic of the question?" If they aren't, it's not a fit.

When a question is off-topic here and a possible good fit for another site on the network, we consult with the destination site's moderators and see whether they think the question would do well on their site. If they say "yes, it'd be a perfect fit!" we migrate it. If they say "nah, it's not going to do well", we leave don't: either it gets closed for any number of reasons or it stays in hopes a heroic edit or answer can save it.

On the other hand, if a question is on-topic here and on-topic on another site, it's the asker's choice: if they ask it here, it should stay here, if they ask it on the other site, it should stay on the other site.

To get into specifics, the key issue is whether any specific question is on-topic here: we're a site for Programmers, not Project Managers, and our expertise is in programming. While there are a number of project management-related issues that are programmer-specific, there are a ton that aren't. That's why Project Management.SE was created.

That is, just because programmers might use a project management technique like Kanban or Agile does not automatically make it on-topic here. If there's something particular to the problem that specifically requires a programmer to answer, by all means it should stay here. Otherwise, Project Management.SE is a perfectly fine candidate for migration.

To that end: the example you provided, What do you do if the Product Owner is ill?, lacks any indication on why it necessitates the expertise of a programmer and not an actual project manager.

If it can be revised to clearly explain that connection (and I do not mean simply adding "(as a programmer)" to the question), by all means it should be done. Otherwise, it's perfectly reasonable to migrate it away.

And speaking in generalities again, the default action—when you see a question closed that you think shouldn't be—is to always, always edit it to make it clear why it's on-topic. A question that is attracting close votes, flags, or comments saying it's off-topic is a question that needs to be revised to be made better and more plain why it's on-topic. As a community-run site, we can't just assert questions are on topic without clearly expressing the specific problem in a way that convinces others it is, in fact, on-topic.

  • 2
    we're a site for Programmers, not Project Managers, and our expertise is in programming. I'm not entirely sure I agree. The expertise of this site should be all facets of software development. Looking through the top all-time users, we have a large number of managers, freelancers, coaches, architects, engineers, and even a CEO or two. The expertise of this site is not programming, but software engineering. The "whiteboard" issues - requirements, design and architecture, process, business, quality, licensing. Things that don't (usually) involve code, compilers, and IDEs. (To be continued...)
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Jan 6, 2012 at 13:53
  • 2
    The first thing that needs to happen is to throw away this "we are programmers" mindset. We aren't all programmers. I'm trained as a software engineer specializing in process/project management, and other people here have no formal education in any aspect of software. Today is the first time in a while that I've even opened an IDE at work. It takes a lot of different skills to successfully build a software system. So unless topics are going to be removed from what's considered on-topic and a new site proposed to fill the gaps, the "we are programmers" mindset must change. (To be continued...)
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Jan 6, 2012 at 13:58
  • As someone who is very familiar with software engineering process and project management, I can, with absolute certainty, say that managing a software project is very different than managing other project types. That's not to say that there are things in common that are more appropriate to project managers of all types. Things such as work breakdown structures, Gantt charts, PRINCE2, return on investment, and resource allocation are common to both. The fact that it's a software project doesn't really make that much of a difference. (To be continued...)
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Jan 6, 2012 at 14:02
  • There are things, however, that are unique to software projects. For example, applying Six Sigma or Lean to a software project is very different than applying those same techniques to a manufacturing project. Software cost estimation is different than systems cost estimation, and different techniques have been developed, studied, and enhanced for those purposes. Just like "from a programmer's perspective" doesn't necessarily make a question about what food to eat on-topic, saying "on a software project" doesn't make a project management question on topic. (To be continued...)
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Jan 6, 2012 at 14:04
  • The statement why it necessitates the expertise of a programmer and not an actual project manager relies on the idea that the expertise of this site is programming, which I'm holding to be false just by looking at the top users. Sure, we've all probably programmed and most of us probably enjoy it. It's not the expertise of a programmer that we come here for, but the expertise of someone who has worked on a software project as a requirements engineer, an architect, a designer, a process specialist, or a project manager (To be continued...one more, I think).
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Jan 6, 2012 at 14:09
  • For most questions, I think it's safe to assume that if it would generate different answers based on the type of project (and most would), the person asked it here because they wanted the expertise of software experts - people who, collectively know about all aspects of the SDLC, business, economics, behavior, leadership, and software management. If it's answerable, but overly generic, or if it becomes clear that it's about non-software-intensive projects through edits or comments, that's the move criteria. Otherwise, you just fracture the software development community even more. (One more)
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Jan 6, 2012 at 14:14
  • 1
    That's what I think it's about - fracturing the community. Given the community here, there are people with expertise from across the spectrum of software development topics. If you start sending the managers to one site, where does it end? The architects and designers to another? The process experts to another? Empirical software engineers to yet another? Everything's interrelated on medium-to-large software projects, so it makes sense to keep everything related to software development centralized in one location, so the experts and professionals can provide their perspectives and insights.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Jan 6, 2012 at 14:20
  • @ThomasOwens If you don't think the audience of this site is programmers or that the purpose of this site is to be about questions directly related to programming, I'm not sure what I can say because it's so completely irreconcilable with reality. The proper place to create the site you want is on Area 51, not in a dozen comments on a response to a question about the official policy regarding project management questions on Programmers.
    – user8
    Jan 6, 2012 at 14:22
  • 1
    There was such a proposal created by me, created in the early days of this site when it was more of an off-topic garbage bin for Stack Overflow. The proposal was closed and rolled into this site due to overlap in topics and users, after this site added topics such as development methodologies, software engineering, and business concerns to the list of acceptable topics and got better than GTKY and "favorite X" questions.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Jan 6, 2012 at 14:29

It might be worth considering that you don't always want the most specialized expert possible to answer your question, if you yourself are only in a related field. If I have a question about some math typically used by programmers, I don't want it answered to a god-like level of purity by the world's leading mathematician in that area, I want an answer from a schlub programmer who, though he knows the answer, is as blissfully ignorant of how it relates to topology and group theory as I am, and I'll know what the heck he's talking about.

I'm pretty sure for project management questions, I don't want answers that assume I've read the top 200 project management books in the world and am familiar with the Humptey, Schmeyburg, Dumpty metric, I just want to know what those Scrum guys do in real world situations.

Even if the same people post on Programmers, at least when they do they'll know their audience.

Of course, PM.SE may be a place where programmers who aren't unusual knowledgeable about project management can read happily, in which case there's better reason to migrate them.

But I think it's quite possible that people might intentionally want project management questions answered on Programmers rather than PM.SE, and even that people googling something who understand the distinction might prefer those answers.


Initially I was going to suggest that migrating questions that are more on topic to PMSE than here, was actually a good thing and it would help PMSE kick off as a full site sooner.

Then I found a couple of MSO discussions that seem to support your view. PMSE is not doing that bad, according to my interpretation of the stats, but I wouldn't say it's doing particurarly well either. So, at this point I'm rather confused :)

I think it would be easier to clarify if we want to migrate to beta sites first, and discuss PMSE later. Sites that somehow overlap with PSE will keep popping up, and any stance should be adjustable, but let's clarify that part first.

When (and if) PMSE comes out of beta, I'd prefer it if we migrated all non programmers specific questions there, and limit our PM scope to questions that can only be answered from a programming perspective. But that's a future discussion.

  • Whether a site is going to get out of beta (and, based on everything I know and have been told about how the beta process works, there is very little chance PM.SE will be shut down) is irrelevant to whether a question is on-topic here. We're not "Programmers and Project Managers (unless PM.SE gets out of beta).SE"—or worse, "Programmers and everything else (unless the topic is on a graduated site)"—we're Programmers.SE.
    – user8
    Jan 5, 2012 at 19:10
  • And to the general issue about why migration paths aren't set up for beta sites: community-based migration paths are dangerous (as we're all aware here on Programmers with SO's migration path to us); they're not set up during the formative stages of a beta site not because the site might shut down, but because betas are the process of bootstrapping their communities and unregulated outside influence is counterproductive to that goal. We moderators can and do work with beta moderators to ensure anything we migrate to them is going to work on their sites.
    – user8
    Jan 5, 2012 at 19:14
  • @MarkTrapp We're not "Programmers and Project Managers" - Well I feel we are, a bit. There are quite a few PM questions that I feel are not unique to programmers. But right not I won't really take the time to find examples, as I wrote in the answer it's a "future discussion", one that I may not care enough to participate in - I'm not arguing what you're saying, what I'm saying is that we are a little bit lenient with PM questions that may not be exactly on topic and I like that. But when PMSE graduates, let's migrate...
    – yannis
    Jan 5, 2012 at 19:27
  • @MarkTrapp As for the migration paths: I assumed as much. Bad wording in the answer, I can see why you though I implied migration paths have anything to do with the beta shutting down. Removed the sentence, there wasn't really any point to it, thanks for taking the time to clarify that. as we're all aware here on Programmers with SO's migration path to us :)
    – yannis
    Jan 5, 2012 at 19:32
  • 1
    PM.SE was created specifically because general PM questions don't have a good home anywhere on the network: they have never been on-topic here. Project management questions that are specifically about programming and require (operative word) the unique insights of programmers are on-topic here, but the few specific examples provided thus far are general PM questions that require the expertise of project managers, and have always been off-topic here. So if these are what we're talking about, we're talking about a change in scope.
    – user8
    Jan 5, 2012 at 19:48
  • If there are specific examples of badly migrated or closed project management questions that are specifically about programming, by all means let's talk about those. But arguing adding "as a programmer" or saying "well I'm a programmer asking about it" is enough to make it uniquely about programming doesn't fly, and it's less relevant—not more—when there's a perfectly valid alternative site for such questions.
    – user8
    Jan 5, 2012 at 19:50
  • @MarkTrapp Argh! I know :P I happened upon other PM questions that strictly speaking are off topic here, but I was extremely lenient with them because there isn't a better home for them, and so did others (they are open). I can come up with a list, and vote to close/flag but I'm choosing not to, don't want their blood on my hands, although I think you know that I generally am pretty agressive in cleaning up. I could be wrong, and those questions survived because they are perfectly on topic. Either way, I think they are off and ordinarilly I'd do something about it, but not for PM questions
    – yannis
    Jan 5, 2012 at 19:57
  • @MarkTrapp when there's a perfectly valid alternative site for such questions Not until PMSE graduates (imho). Until then, I'm intentionally avoiding cleaning up PM questions. Please don't take this as an invite to go hunt PM questions... And let's not waste any more time on this, I'm keeping stuff out of the discussion and that's unfair to you.
    – yannis
    Jan 5, 2012 at 19:59

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