I recently asked this question which got very bad responses from the respectable moderators and moderators-to-be of this very good site.

My question was something like "how to deal with a colleague when having repeating design confrontations", people said it's off-topic, and even not related to software or programming.
You can notice that after Yannis' remarks I edited the question to be an entirely different one.

I accepted it being closed, but I got to some questions, which I read kind of the same:

"how to deal with a boss that only seek to please users"

"I have a colleague who makes bad decisions - what to do?"

"How to make management do the decisions we think are right"

I think all of them are good questions, why is mine so bad? I think they all deal with team communication.

I hope you will see this question not as a rant, but as a real and honest intent to improve my questions and make them better, and also choose the right type of questions in the future.

  • 1
    you are not the only one who is confused, this may be of some interest to you: meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/2987/…
    – smp7d
    Feb 2, 2012 at 15:18
  • The question is still salvageable (imho). My comments were on the rantish first version, just saw the second version, and it's quite an improvement. But still off topic. The comment by @ThomasX is right on the money, give us a couple of actual examples of the competing designs, so we can evaluate them. You can either improve the question, or better yet ask a new one. The trick is, make it about the design, not the behaviour. Don't even tell us which design is hers, and when you get a thorough technical answer proving that your design is better, just send her the link to the question.
    – yannis
    Feb 2, 2012 at 16:30
  • (cont...) We have absolutely no way of telling if your colleague is overreacting, being overly emotional or if you are presenting the situation to your favour and just vent a bit. But we can certainly evaluate competing designs, and arm you with technical reasons on why yours is the better one (if it actually is). The first version of the question describes a very delicate situation, one that ultimately has only one answer: discuss the matter internally, either with the whole team or your manager, depending on your organizational structure. But that's not really an answer, is it?
    – yannis
    Feb 2, 2012 at 16:32
  • Yassou Yanis, what you suggest is right, focusing on one problem at a given time will be more on topic and may even give the results we wish for. After saying that, I still think that developers should accept the fact that some times they have flaws in there designs and listen to criticism. I agree that sometimes she may be right and we wrong, but I asked this question because she was confronted with articles all the time, and she resisted that, so what you suggest will just be more of the same, so thus is why it is a behavior issue and not a specific design issue.
    – Mithir
    Feb 2, 2012 at 16:43
  • (cont...) I'm not arguing against your point, I get your point totally, I'm just saying maybe I cant modify this question so it will pass as programmers topic
    – Mithir
    Feb 2, 2012 at 16:49
  • 1
    @YannisRizos on a more private note, Chris answered here that if the bad question gets good responses it may not be closed, so maybe closing this kind of questions prematurely robs the community of some fine answers
    – Mithir
    Feb 2, 2012 at 17:17
  • @Mithir Well, if you can't revise it, you may consider creating a chat room for it... I can't promise that people will be interested and you'll get a discussion going, but you never know :) And, ChrisF did write that it's a very fine line... For what it's worth, my close vote was on the first version of your question, from experience OPs who post rants never come back and revise... You proved me wrong, this time, obviously. As for the second version, I'm torn. Probably wouldn't cast a close vote, but probably won't cast a reopen vote as well... Confused. :)
    – yannis
    Feb 2, 2012 at 17:22

3 Answers 3


Some questions get to survive because they hit the perfect storm and got 10+ up votes almost instantly while avoiding mod attention to get closed pre-5 votes. Then they manage to get a good answer, so they are allowed to stay even though they don't meet the "Uniquely related" part.

  • manage to get a good answer that's a good point. Eg to me, good answer was the only reason to hold on close vote on the last example listed in the question
    – gnat
    Feb 2, 2012 at 13:51
  • finally someone says it. Is this the point of SE sites (as they are community oriented) or is this counterproductive? Seems like this could be abused.
    – smp7d
    Feb 2, 2012 at 15:19
  • I wont totally buy the +10 instant upvotes. For a question to be off topic, the moderator should close it all together. It happened to me, question were closed with in 5 min by moderators. Someone's got to make decision. It leave a big question mark in the moderator role? There is not just one such question! There are tons of them.
    – TheTechGuy
    Feb 2, 2012 at 20:58
  • "Some questions get to survive because they hit the perfect storm and got 10+ up votes almost instantly": so a question that is not acceptable according to the site's guidelines but gets lots of votes will not be closed?
    – Giorgio
    Apr 30, 2012 at 7:25
  • @Giorgio if its a borderline question, yes it gets to stay. blatantly off topic questions would still probably be closed, but its unlikely they would ever get that many votes anyway.
    – Ryathal
    Apr 30, 2012 at 12:24

While they might be good questions unless they deal with team communications as it specifically and uniquely affects software development and developers they are off topic for this site.

If you read the FAQ you'll see this diagram:

enter image description here

Your question falls squarely in the "All Careers" circle (well actually the "All Careers that involve working with a team" circle, but that's nit-picking).

While there might be a unique software development aspect to this you have to make sure you bring it out in your question so that it moves into the blue "All Programmers" circle. If you can do this then there's a good chance your question will get reopened.

The other questions you have linked to may have done this or elicited answers that do this. However, it's a very fine line and one we are clearly not getting right.

Now whether the solution is to change the FAQ or not I don't know.

  • 2
    these questions were asked by programmers to be answered by programmers, if I write my questions in The Workplace site, I would have to make an introduction about how software teams work and such... these questions got replies from programmers who understand these situations on a daily basis. anyway, I guess this discussion is futile so nevermind... :)
    – Mithir
    Feb 2, 2012 at 10:15
  • 1
    While I don't dispute that - however, would you expect a question on which chair/desk to have as a programmer to be on topic or off topic?
    – ChrisF Mod
    Feb 2, 2012 at 10:22
  • I get it, my question can be made for any creative team, not just a team of programmers
    – Mithir
    Feb 2, 2012 at 10:35
  • 4
    @Mithir Also the discussion is not futile. This site needs people with good questions to ask to survive. There site can, and should, evolve to change and adapt (to a certain extent) the definition of a "good question".
    – ChrisF Mod
    Feb 2, 2012 at 10:56

The acid test I use is:

  1. remove / replace all the phrases feeling like for-programmers, as-a-developer
  2. review the remainder

Let's see how it works using your examples.

  • your question. Fails the test - nothing programming-related in the remainder:

    We have a situation in our team in which one member prefers his own ideas no matter what problems it has.

    When confronted with issues about a specific work he made - this teammate can get very protective and does not see the problems.

    In a result, this is a serious work issue for our team, because in the end some of the teammate's work will fall through to the end-result, and it will damage our work result.

    Should we confront the teammate about his overall behavior?

    Should we go the boss and tell him we can't deal with it and it's hurting our work results?

  • "boss that only seek to please users". Passes - no amount of my acid can wipe out:

    Automatic Reference Counting for iOS programs. This is a major improvement over the manual retain/release calls one previously had to use. The code is easier to write and easier to maintain. The changeover itself is likely to produce some crashes. But once those are worked out, the number of random weird crashes is likely to go down.

  • "colleague who makes bad decisions". Passes - because of:

    M:M relationships are being stored in the database as a comma-delimited string rather than using a conjunction table to hold the relationships

  • "decisions we think are right". Fails - nothing programming-related, nothing at all
    Saved only by clearly programming-related answer. And by the fact that it isn't damaged (yet?) by another dozen of not so good answers that somehow just tend to stick to off-topic questions like that.

    prototyped/implemented things my way ahead of time (on my own time) so that when a decision meeting comes, we could say: "Well, this already written code..."

Not that passing the test necessarily guarantees the question is good. Rather, failing it indicates that question is likely bad.

  • So I was just missing one simple example and this whole ordeal would have been avoided?
    – Mithir
    Feb 2, 2012 at 17:12
  • well with relevant programming-specific example "smoothly integrated" into the question you'd certainly avoid quick close-vote from me, that's for sure. Like it is with "colleague who makes bad decisions"
    – gnat
    Feb 2, 2012 at 17:20
  • I'll try to use this hack in my future questions, thanks :)
    – Mithir
    Feb 2, 2012 at 17:22
  • @Mithir well you have my blessing for that. :) Just don't forget, "Not that passing the test necessarily guarantees the question is good..."
    – gnat
    Feb 2, 2012 at 17:25

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