59

This site is called programmers.stackexchange, while the FAQ states that this site is about "conceptual questions about software development".

Since a large number of people never read the FAQ, or don't read it before posting, this means we have a community of people that think the site is about Programmers, but a team of moderators that try and maintain a site on "conceptual questions about software development".

This causes a large number of unhappy people who don't understand why their questions, or other questions they think are good, get closed, downvoted, etc

So my suggestion is to either rename the site to something that matches it's FAQ, like softwaredevelopment.SE, or change the FAQ so that this site is about Programmers, not software development only.

Personally, I hate the suggestion of renaming the site. I want to participate in a site about programmers, not software development. But as long as the site is called one thing, and the FAQ states another, we're never going to be at peace.

Edit #1

I have been told by a few different users to create separate specific requests to try and implement these changes, so

Edit #2

Since posting this, I have learned the history behind the site scope change, and doubt SE will ever allow it to go back to simply being a Q&A site for programmers to get answers from other programmers

So please, change the name of the site to something that better reflects the site's scope to stop the number of frustrated and confused users we have posting bad and off-topic questions.

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    I don't see it happening. It will brake the site SEO-wise, and that's enough reason for the powers that be to shoot down the suggestion. But +1, because you are absolutely right. It's not just the name, it's the design as well. I'm no expert but P.SE seems to have the most playful design from all sites that are concentrated on professional expertise. I've been a devoted Hugh Laurie fan since his Blackadder era, but I really don't see where his hand writing fits in a site on conceptual questions about software development. – yannis Jan 27 '12 at 17:37
  • @YannisRizos I re-worded my question to try and focus more on the site name / faq not matching and less on actually renaming the site. I don't want to rename the site and would downvote myself if that's what this question was about. – Rachel Jan 27 '12 at 17:41
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    But +1, because you are absolutely right That was a real upvote :), you are right the site name doesn't match the faq. – yannis Jan 27 '12 at 17:45
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    Would it be possible to change the display name but not the domain name of the site? So the top says something along the lines of "Software Concepts" but the domain still reads programmers? – World Engineer Jan 27 '12 at 18:22
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    @WorldEngineer It is probably more than just the name. The entire site design was built with Programmers in mind, not Software Development. – Rachel Jan 27 '12 at 18:30
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    Those sample questions that you provided weren't closed because they didn't match the FAQ. They were closed because no one here can provide a reasonable answer or they don't fit the SE model. The first is asking for a list (lists are frowned upon on any site), the second and third are dependent on the individual and not meaningful to a large audience, the fourth is a general business question that depends on organization (it's not always true), the fifth is a company culture question that can be said about a number of jobs...(to be continued) – Thomas Owens Jan 27 '12 at 19:15
  • ...the sixth is a business question and not exclusive to software (I can't tell you the number of times I've heard a systems, electrical, or mechanical engineer ask for a more powerful computer than the default config), and the seventh is a getting to know you question that would be frowned upon on any SE site. – Thomas Owens Jan 27 '12 at 19:16
  • @ThomasOwens I'll remove the list because they're things not everyone agrees on, and I want to stay focused on the main issue of the site name and FAQ not matching. I disagree with you about them not being meaningful to a larger audience, especially the question about just graduating and feeling like you don't know how to program. They are questions that I have personally found useful, or are the sort I would like to know the answer to (for example, I'm a 9-5 programmer and rarely have time for hobby projects, and recently wanted to approach the boss about buying a better computer). – Rachel Jan 27 '12 at 19:30
  • The three questions that remain are also poor examples. The first applies equally to any supervisory position and not exclusive to software developers, the second is dependent on the contracts signed and is something that one should discuss with a lawyer (and not other software developers), and the third is about an individual's career development and not likely to be of use (unless there happens to be another developer in the exact same situation with the exact same goals). (to be continued) – Thomas Owens Jan 27 '12 at 19:34
  • You're arguing from two points here. The first point you are making is that the name doesn't match the FAQ - I agree that is indeed the case and should be discussed. The second point you are making is that the scope of the site should be changed - we tried to have more "fun"ish questions when Programmers started and it didn't work out and the broader-reaching questions go against the theme of asking questions to experts in a particular field, so attempting to go back is something you can argue, but I wouldn't count on happening. – Thomas Owens Jan 27 '12 at 19:35
  • @ThomasOwens They are two different options for the same problem, not two different topics. I want to either rename the site, or reword the FAQ to make the FAQ match the site name. I don't want both. – Rachel Jan 27 '12 at 19:45
  • @ThomasOwens And I am leaving those 3 links there because I feel they are good examples. If I have a programmer working under me who doesn't listen to me, I'm not going to a careers site for answers, I'm going to a programmers site. A question can be related to Programmers AND to Careers, it's not an either/or option. There's a huge difference between managing an employee and managing another programmer. I've done both. If I have questions about if I own code or not, I'll check with other programmers first to see if I have a valid case to take legal action on. (cont.) – Rachel Jan 27 '12 at 19:55
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    i.stack.imgur.com/ociNc.png says it all. If it applies to more careers than just software development, it's out of scope. If it applies to a group of people too small, it's out of scope. If you can justify why any closed question can be answered with the unique experiences of professional software developers, I'd be more than happy to read it and vote to reopen if I agree with it. But those questions apply to multiple careers and can be answered just as well by non-software developers or require experience beyond that of the typical software professoinal. – Thomas Owens Jan 27 '12 at 19:59
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    let us continue this discussion in chat – Rachel Jan 27 '12 at 20:17
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    @YannisRizos A new question would just be a duplicate to this one. – Rachel Jun 19 '12 at 13:13
27

No answer so far states the opinion defined in the question, so I am posting one

The site name matters.

It is the first, and sometimes only thing someone judges a SE site by, so I feel it should accurately represent what the site is about.

If a descriptive site name does not match its content, then the site is not at its full potential since they are losing what could potentially be a large part of their user base. The loss could occur because the content is not what the user expects, so they leave, or it could occur because users actually searching for a site like the one you provide are not finding your site, or maybe are seeing it, but are assuming it is something else.

Cooking.SE is a site about cooking, Databases.SE is a site about databases, and Bicycles.SE is a site about cycling, however Programmers.SE is NOT a site about programmers. It is a site about conceptual, whiteboard-styled software development questions.

The best analogy I can think of is creating an Athletes.SE, which is only for conceptual questions about sports, while questions about athletes themselves, or technical questions about sports are off-topic. It's very confusing, especially to new users.

So either change the site name to something like softwaredevelopment.SE to accurately reflect what the site is about, or change the site scope so that this is a Q&A site for programmers, about programmers.

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    I agree with you. If we don't change how the site communicates with the newcomers (including by its name), we will continue to create confusion & frustration. – user2567 Mar 1 '12 at 19:18
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    @Pierre303 You're still around! I thought you left, and have missed your voice/opinion on P.SE – Rachel Mar 1 '12 at 20:35
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    Made even more confusing by the tons of old questions that are about programmers instead of software development, but haven't been closed. – Izkata May 1 '12 at 2:51
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    @Izkata Please flag any old off topic question you find so we can close them. – yannis May 24 '12 at 0:11
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    Wait. Did you just accept your own answer because nobody else agreed with your opinion? :P – Dynamic Jun 19 '12 at 13:14
  • @Dynamic I sure did :) The original question got a lot of upvotes (in fact, its in the top 10 most upvoted questions on meta), however no answer posted actually agrees with the question. Users kept telling me all the answers disagreed with the question, and that the question votes didn't count as agreement since they could mean they just agree with the question, not the proposal, so I felt the need to post an answer agreeing with the question as well to prove this proposal actually does have support – Rachel Jun 19 '12 at 13:17
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    @Rachel But you proved that it had support by asking the question. Being the OP, adding an answer doesn't show support, since we already knew what you thought. – Dynamic Jun 19 '12 at 13:20
  • @Dynamic That's what I thought too, but some moderators kept telling me differently so I posted an answer supporting the proposal – Rachel Jun 19 '12 at 13:23
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    The actual name of cooking.se is "Seasoned Advice." There's no databases.se, but there's a dba.se called "Database Administrators." I haven't spent much time there, but I suspect that questions about database administration would be on topic, random questions from database administrators not so much. – Caleb Jun 26 '12 at 3:48
12

This isn't the first time the name of the site has been questioned. See here and here. Part of the confusion/problem comes from the origin of the site. Originally, it was supposed to be a home to those fun questions about programmers that were closed on Stack Overflow. However, that wasn't a good fit for the Stack Exchange site. So this site became focused on the more subjective, non-coding questions that are faced by those in the software development profession (see here for a discussion about software engineering).

I agree that the name is a poor reflection of what the site has become. However, the FAQ and Meta discussions, not the name of the site, is the true reflection of topicality and appropriate questions. I would suspect that most professions have found this site to be more helpful than a site about programmers/programmer culture - I know I have.

I do also agree with Yannis's comment - changing the (domain) name will probably have an impact on SEO and the automated indexing. That's far outside my area of expertise, but the great thing about SE sites is how quickly they are indexed and appear in searches - I've searched for additional information to include in posts that I know exists, and come across the question I was answering as a top hit. Doing anything that compromises this would probably be a bad idea, for the Good of the Internet.

Personally, I think the best thing for us to do would be to improve the FAQ and identify key Meta discussions that went into defining the site. Something to be careful of (and Yannis and I had this discussion) is increasing the size of the FAQ - it's already long compared to other sites. Ultimately, the FAQ needs to clearly define the scope (it does an OK/solid job right now) regardless of what this site is called or looks like.

I suppose there are a number of questions to ask, and I think a Stack Exchange employee would be the one to have to answer them:

  1. Is it technically feasible to change the name and domain name of a Stack Exchange site, while preserving all of the content?
  2. What damage, particularly to the indexing and SEO of the site, would be done by changing the domain name? Would any damage be done by simply changing the name and look of the site without changing the domain name?
  3. Is it acceptable to have a site name that is different than the site's domain name? There are some examples of minor differences, such as "cstheory.se.com" having the full name of Theoretical Computer Science, but there is no precidence for having a domain name "programmers.se.com" and a site name of Software Development (as an example).
  4. Is it possible, feasible, and appropriate to totally rebrand a site post-launch to reflect a change in direction?
  5. Would doing any of the above set a precident for other current or future SE sites that is inappropriate?
  • I love the answer posted to the 2nd link you posted about changing the site name: "Assuming the site goes live and gets "Server Fault levels of traffic" then we'll get a "proper" domain." – Rachel Jan 27 '12 at 19:16
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    @Rachel That was true when the answer was posted. The model for how SE sites work changed since then and now sites only get X.stackexchange.com domains, unless an outside organization buys a domain and points it at the site. – Thomas Owens Jan 27 '12 at 19:19
  • I see, I always wondered why some sites were called x.stackexchange.com and others had their own domain name. – Rachel Jan 28 '12 at 1:33
  • Also, +1 for pointing out links to similar questions. I hope that if enough users voice their opinion on the confusion caused by having a site named differently from whats in the FAQ that someone will finally do something about it. – Rachel Jan 28 '12 at 1:33
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    @Rachel Here's Jeff Atwood's post-mortem on MSO about taking the "high traffic = proper domain" option off the table. – user8 Jan 28 '12 at 3:14
  • @MarkTrapp I'm all for that, I prefer the x.stackexchange.com naming convention anyways since it's easier to find other SE sites. I found cooking.se just by guessing :) – Rachel Jan 28 '12 at 5:05
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    You could keep the domain and change the name. – Dynamic Jan 29 '12 at 13:48
8

If we were going to execute a name change, how would we do it?

It's fairly clear that the domain would be the last think to go. And nobody really feels comfortable enough to just pull the trigger, albeit for valid reasons. So what can we do to test the waters?

I think the answer is to do it gradually. Once we agree (with some value of agree) on a name that would fit, we could start by grafting it onto the current site title. And by title, I mean the HTML <title> tag.

Suppose we all agreed that "Software Development" was the name we wanted. We could then change the title to reflect that. This can be done by appending to the current title.

Programmers on Software Development

Afterwards, or maybe at the same time, we can change the site banner to reflect the same thing:

Programmers

on Software Development

The important thing would be to figure out if it actually made a difference. I am not sure how we could go about doing that, but it's important that we figure that out, I think. If over time it turns out to be well received (say after 6 months), then switch the text around in the title and the banner.

Software Development

for Programmers

This way the change isn't very drastic, and people can see it coming and become acquainted to it. If all this works out, only then we should consider changing the domain. Heck, maybe we'll like one of the intermediary names so much that it sticks. But if nobody likes it, it's easy to just revert it back to Programmers.

Anyway, I personally don't know if a name change is something that must be done. I am just considering how it could be done if it ends up being the right thing to do. Also, the examples are just examples.

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    I agree that the change should be done gradually, and the domain name should be the last thing to go. In fact, you don't even have to get rid of it at all. I know DBA.SE used to be Databases.SE, and for quite a while both domain names worked. I'm not sure when they removed the Databases.SE domain name, but I just checked now and its no longer active. – Rachel Jun 7 '12 at 15:17
7

This site, as it is now, is for programmers. Programmers do software development: that's our expertise. Similarly:

  • Cooking.SE is for cooks who have questions about cooking
  • DIY.SE is for DIYers who have questions about home improvement
  • Bicycles.SE is cyclists who have questions about cycling

We could change "software development" to "programming", but that minor change doesn't seem to match the level of disagreement presented.

And to clarify, the way the site is now isn't due to a team of moderators constantly enforcing new policies on a site that nobody in the community wants: the site's scope and position statement were adjusted two weeks after the site went into public beta, now almost 18 months ago.

The site scope hasn't changed since then, and the site's been doing fine since:

  • We're routinely either number one or number two in new 200+ users
  • We've been in the top 10 SE sites for traffic, answers, questions, and % answered since launch
  • Our closure rates are in line with the rest of the network
  • We've handled thousands of flags from hundreds of community members who are interested in maintaining the site's scope as it's written now

That is all to say that the site, as it is now, most people—particularly newer active users—get and understand. There are still a few who choose to ignore the vast majority of Programmers's history and focus on some outdated idea of a much more broader site than what launched, but a site name change isn't going to suddenly change their minds.

That's not to say tweaks here and there to clarify points in the FAQ aren't welcome: they are, and we've adjusted the FAQ accordingly. But the old version of Programmers (so-called "Not Programming Related"), where anything a programmer might be interested in is on-topic, died an ignoble death in September of 2010.

Programmers is dead. Long live Programmers!

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    The thing is a programmer isn't necessarily a software developer. A programmer can be a hobbyist, student, teacher, junior, code-monkey, or any number of other titles. And many questions that are interesting to programmers are not necessarily about software development, and these questions keep getting upvoted by our community of programmers who they they are good questions, but closed by our moderators or users who think they don't match the FAQ. – Rachel Jan 31 '12 at 20:53
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    @Rachel The FAQ is a summary of what is on-topic and off-topic, it's not a normative document. I'd like to think you'd give your fellow community members more credit than saying they blindly follow the FAQ when determining if something's on-topic, but the scope of the site has determined what's in the FAQ, not the other way around. For the issue about popular questions getting closed, check out the latest blog post. – user8 Jan 31 '12 at 21:04
  • My point is, the site name does not match the FAQ. People come to the site (or migrate questions here) expecting one thing, but the FAQ clearly defines something different. This causes users to become frustrated when their question, or other questions they think are good and related to programmers, gets closed as off-topic. I simply want the site name to match the FAQ. Our site is not a site for programmers about programming, it is a site for programmers about software development. There is a difference. – Rachel Jan 31 '12 at 21:17
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    @Rachel Which is exactly what is presented in the FAQ: "Programmers — Stack Exchange is a site for professional programmers who are interested in getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development." The audience is programmers, hence the name. I don't see the confusion. – user8 Feb 1 '12 at 2:15
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    The confusion comes in because the site name usually represents both the audience and the topic. For example, programmers.se is a site for programmers about software development is like saying cooking.se is a site for cooks about recipes. This is different from saying cooking.se is a site for cooks about cooking – Rachel Feb 1 '12 at 14:58
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    @Rachel I recognize there's a difference between cooking and recipes, but every site on the network is defined by who the site is for and what is on-topic for that site. On Server Fault, every question a sysadmin dreams up isn't on-topic. On Cooking.SE, all cook questions aren't on-topic, either: recipe requests are even off-topic. On Programmers our audience is programmers our topic is software development. We can change "software development" to "programming" to match Cooking.SE's line, but I don't see how it's going to be much of a panacea. – user8 Feb 1 '12 at 20:59
  • I think Rachel's point is that programmers is to cooks is to DIYers is to cyclists; whereas programming is to cooking is to DIYing is to cycling. Therefore this site should be programming.se; the name programmers implies it's about the people who program (specifically computers, by inference in today's world), not about the process of programming. Personally I think she's right, but that it's inconsequential. The problem could be alleviated with a byline on the web site heading, e.g. "The art of programming for programmers". – Lawrence Dol Feb 4 '13 at 20:44
  • @Rachel: Whether a profession or amateur, someone who programs a computer successfully is still a programmer in the broader sense of the word. This site is not limited to professional programmers. But this site is for programmers who have questions about programming (which don't fit the requirements for stackoverflow). – Lawrence Dol Feb 4 '13 at 20:46
  • @SoftwareMonkey That is my opinion as well, but try telling that to the guys who run the site... (example) – Rachel Feb 4 '13 at 20:52
  • @Rachel: I think that the key is that programmers is for questions about programming, not just any old thing that some programmer happens to be involved/interested in. Personally, I think that the "expert" requirement is good to set the tone, but hopelessly meaningless in terms of objective value. I have watched StackOverflow.com fall into the toilet since its inception, now inundated with junior level RTFM and LMGTFY questions. – Lawrence Dol Feb 4 '13 at 21:17
  • FWIW, I was an expert (assembly) level programmer long before I was a professional... and even then I didn't know squat. I think one should have to pass a coding test before being allowed to post on either site. – Lawrence Dol Feb 4 '13 at 21:19
  • @Rachel: Also, expertise is not to be equated to professional - being a professional programming just means I get paid to do it as my profession, and does not ensure that I am particularly good at it. Just as athletes who compete in the Olympics must be amateurs (though more recently that's more a technicality than an actuality due to endorsement deals and such). I've met many a "professional" programmer who has no business being in front of a keyboard. – Lawrence Dol Feb 4 '13 at 21:52
5

I think it's OK not to worry about stuff like that. I mean,

just look at the Trilogy and their FAQ's

  • "Stack Overflow is for ...people who write code because they love it..." (FAQ)

    Do they feel the need to rename site to "Coding Lovers" or rephrase FAQ to "...discussions about stack overflow"? I don't think so

  • "Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users" (FAQ)

    Do they feel the need to rename site to "Power Users" or rephrasing FAQ to "Super User is for super users"? I don't think so

  • "Server Fault is for system administrators and desktop support professionals" (FAQ)

    Do they feel the need to rename site to "Desktop Support" or rephrasing FAQ to "...for discussions about server faults"? I don't think so

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    The three sites you mentioned are part of the original trilogy. If you look at the other sites spawned using the Area 51 process, the domain name, site name, and area of topicality are in general alignment with each other - something that exists, but is more confusing here. Rather than comparing Programmers to SO/SU/SF, it should be compared to SciFi and Fantasy, Gaming, Theoretical Computer Science, Mathematics, Unix and Linux, and so on. – Thomas Owens Jan 27 '12 at 19:04
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    Now, I'm not saying you don't have a valid point (I especially agree with your first sentence), but I believe that taking the hand-picked and groomed sites launched by Jeff and Joel (along with a couple of other people who served as a kind of sponsor for SU and SF) is a bit misleading. – Thomas Owens Jan 27 '12 at 19:05
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    The biggest difference is those sites don't go close-happy on questions that match the site name, but not the FAQ. Its kind of like making a Cooking.StackExchange site but only allowing questions about Recipes (yes I know there's already a cooking site, and no they don't allow recipe questions) – Rachel Jan 27 '12 at 19:05
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    @ThomasOwens your reference to Area 51 process makes a pretty good point. As far as I know this process was quite err special for Programmers in the sense of major change in topicality which could make our deviation justified – gnat Jan 27 '12 at 19:12
  • Yeah...Programmers is a rather special case. However, how much time should SE employees spend with our little special case? Honestly, there are a lot of questions (technical and business) that need to be answered, and only a few people can answer them. – Thomas Owens Jan 27 '12 at 19:18
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    And the only reason I worry about it is we get a lot of users who are upset that their question, or another question they thought was good, got deleted. If you browse programmers meta, you can't avoid finding at least one question about this sort of thing. It's because the site name doesn't accurately represent what this site is about, and the misunderstanding causes many frustrated users to leave. SE advertises that they are community-driven site, but the community doesn't fully understand what this site is about. – Rachel Jan 27 '12 at 21:08
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    @Rachel Having your question closed isn't a pleasant experience in any case, especially if you're a new user. I've seen people get really upset that their off-topic Facebook user support questions got closed even though SO has a Facebook tag and is listed as the destination for Facebook developer support. The topic shift here at Programmers has caused a fair amount of strife, but we have a community that understands what the site is about now. Educating new users can and should happen, and for the most part we do okay. – Adam Lear Jan 28 '12 at 0:34
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    @Rachel But there will always be people that suffer from the "herp derp oh look a textbox" syndrome, and no amount of renaming the site or amending the FAQ is going to fix that. – Adam Lear Jan 28 '12 at 0:35
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    @AnnaLear "herp derp oh look a textbox" - Thanks for the t-shirt idea! :) – yannis Jan 28 '12 at 12:48

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