Can we stop closing good questions simply because they could be applied to more than just programmers, if the answer is something that would be unique to developers, or if the question itself is valuable to programmers in general?

For example, this question about obtaining feedback from an external developer got closed because the question could be asked about any profession, however I feel the answer for a contract developer is very different than the answer for a contract builder.

As another example, this question about handling junior programmers could apply to more than one profession, however I feel it is valuable to programmers in particular because it is fairly common practice to have a senior programmer work with 1..* junior programmers.

These are just examples. I am not trying to get these questions re-opened (although I have voted to re-open both of them).

I love the image in our FAQ since it does sum up whats on-topic and what isn't pretty well, however some questions that could fall in the All Careers circle are quite good questions for programmers, or should be answered differently by a programmer.

Many users follow the lead set by our moderators and more active users, so I want to ask you guys to please consider the possible value of a question to programmers and software developers, and if there are answers that would be specific to programmers only, before voting to close.

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    I dunno...seems like that opens up the "Eating x food... as a programmer " can of worms again. – Michael K Feb 2 '12 at 21:16
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    @Michael No, it doesn't because no reasonable person would argue that a programmer, or anyone in the software industry in any capacity, eats food differently than any other human being. – Thomas Owens Mod Feb 2 '12 at 21:30
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    The reason the "as a programmer" rule came about was because of this very type of question. "What's the best chair for a programmer?", "What's the best desk for a programmer?" - While they appear to be unique to programmers, it doesn't take much thought to realise that they're not. – ChrisF Mod Feb 2 '12 at 21:47
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    No reasonable human being would make the distinction between a senior programmer working with "1..* junior programmers" or a master stone mason working with 1..* apprentice stone masons. The diagram says it all - and as programmers we should all be aware of the horror of scope creep. – David Perry Feb 2 '12 at 21:49
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    It feels like we are having the same discussion at least once a month. That's fine by me, but could someone please explain to me why The Workplace proposal is still at 50% of its commitment phase after 10 months? – yannis Feb 2 '12 at 21:57
  • @ChrisF I'm in agreement that I don't want to start up with "best X as a programmer" questions. But I do find questions interesting when they relate to things a programmer frequently has to deal with – Rachel Feb 2 '12 at 22:27
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    @Rachel - I wasn't say you were wanting to. I was just saying that it's a very fine line and that due to question like we've identified perhaps it's better to err on the side of closure. – ChrisF Mod Feb 2 '12 at 22:43
  • @ChrisF I guess I disagree... I feel it's better to leave something open if it's a fine line. Leaving it open will help that person get an answer, and possibly provide answers to other programmers asking something similar. Closing it will simply make users frustrated and upset, and I feel is contributing to the bad reputation that Programmers.SE seems to have. But I accept your point of view and will agree to disagree with you :) – Rachel Feb 3 '12 at 15:04

This is a little bit of a tautological request: there are always going to be things that programmers deal with that are similar or overlap with other professions. The fact that it might overlap with another profession is not grounds for closure, and the questions you listed weren't closed for that reason.

But this specific issue has come up before, and as Jeff mentions there, you must make a case that your question requires the unique perspective of programmers.

A question that fails to do that is not specific enough, and it's not on-topic here. The vast, vast majority of the time people don't to do that: they assume that—by virtue of asking as a programmer—it's on-topic and the answers will be uniquely programmer-centric.

But we're not special flowers: the majority of issues a programmer will face in his or her lifetime—or even in his or her career—are not programmer-specific. Erring on the side of "well there could be a programmer-specific answer" is the road to ruin, and re-scopes the site from "a site for programmers" to a "a site for general advice that happens to have programmers on it". That's not expertise, that's Yahoo! Answers with less teens.

We don't need a scope change: we need more heroic editors. What I'd love to see is people editing questions that attract close votes and flags to clearly explain what specific unique programmer expertise is being asked for. Why can't it be answered by anyone else? I don't think that's asking for the moon, and it'd do a whole lot to improve the quality of the site without having to close as often.

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    We don't need a scope change: we need more heroic editors. What I'd love to see is people editing questions that attract close votes and flags to clearly explain what specific unique programmer expertise is being asked for. (deserved to be bold) – yannis Feb 2 '12 at 22:14
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    I'm not asking for a scope change, I'm asking for more thought before voting to close just because it might apply to more than just programmers. I know many people already do this, but many others simply see if they can replace "programmer" with something else, and if so vote to close. This question was more for active users than mods - you guys are OK for the most part. Good answer though, especially the last paragraph. – Rachel Feb 3 '12 at 12:21
  • And personally, I doubt I'll browse a general career Q&A site so would miss many of the interesting questions regarding team dynamics which I feel are important to any programmer. – Rachel Feb 3 '12 at 12:21
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    @Rachel Team dynamics is an organizational behavior/organizational psychology concept that would be appropriate for The Workplace or CogSci depending on the specifics. Very few team dynamics questions are exclusive to software developers. They become appropriate only when a software developer can offer unique insights or when it applies to software development (team dynamics on a Scrum team, or how a team can improve their processes using Mercurial). – Thomas Owens Mod Feb 3 '12 at 14:52
  • My biggest problem is not being able to make those heroic edits. Often, the asker doesn't provide enough information to run with. I'm not going to put words into their mouth, so there needs to be something to work with for me to be able to make those edits. If you don't add comments or sufficient detail to let your question be salvaged, there's not much that can be done. – Thomas Owens Mod Feb 3 '12 at 14:53

Go commit to The Workplace

It's been lagging, and while we have some excellent referrers it needs to get pushed through and into beta. After that we can see how well it works and if it is suitable bucketing for these kinds of general questions.

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    Problem is I'm not interested in general workplace questions. I'm interested in questions about programming team dynamics and interactions. – Rachel Feb 2 '12 at 22:24
  • @Rachel Programming team dynamics and interactions are on-topic here. Follow Mark's answer and create questions that directly relate to the viewpoint of a programmer. – Josh K Feb 3 '12 at 15:42
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    I think the fact that this is still in commitment and has been there a while shows a general lack of interest in a site designed for general workplace issues, people want programmers to answer their questions not random people that may not understand why multiple monitors is helpful... Also the existence of that site has no bearing on what is on topic here, if there is sufficient demand from users to have questions like those listed be on topic they should be on topic. sites can and do overlap, algorithm discussions is a great example as they fit here and SO and maybe more sites in some cases – Ryathal Feb 3 '12 at 15:51
  • @Ryathal: I think that multiple monitors as a developer tool could be written well enough to be asked on Programmers. I'm trying to be specific to the original question, maybe you would like to start a new meta question? – Josh K Feb 3 '12 at 18:06

I like the idea of having a more clear test that can be applied, but I don't think "answers might be different for programmers" is the right test.

What about a test of "Could this question be answered effectively by non-programmers?" Put another way, "If no programmers answered questions on The Workplace, would you still get a good answer if it were migrated there?"

Your first example would meet that test. An accountant isn't going to know what exit interview questions to ask about someone's development process, other than "what do you think about our development process," which I'm pretty sure they've already thought of.

Your second example wouldn't meet that test. That could be answered by anyone supervising people doing sub-par work against their suggestion.

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    I agree about the topicality of the first question, and it's unfortunate it was closed as off-topic. But it's really just asking for a list of questions, and is better off closed as "not constructive" or "not a real question". – user8 Feb 2 '12 at 23:08

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