Is this question OK for Programmers? How to be a successful programmer without a CS degree

To me "the essence of question" somehow does not feel quite right.

This in essence, is my question:

  • How do I objectively determine what areas of study, general knowledge, and other skills I would have gained through a CS degree that I may or may not be lacking in now?
  • How do I sort these skills in order of most importance?
  • What is the best way (over the next two years) to supplement my education to attain those attributes in such a way to match or even surpass the level of a CS undergrad from a top university?...

The way they are spelled now, first and third bullets of above seem to have nothing to do with programming. Also, third bullet doesn't look constructive - "what is the best way".

As for the second bullet - "...order of most importance?" - this doesn't look constructive nor even remotely specific. "Most" - not constructive. "Importance" - not specific.

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    Any particular reason you linked to the 6th revision instead of the question? – yannis Apr 25 '12 at 12:14
  • @YannisRizos referred specific revision to keep the quote from edit-erosion. Though, reference to the question wouldn't hurt either, I added it – gnat Apr 25 '12 at 12:17
  • You bring up a fair point. However my intention was that the three bullets are qualifiers that help direct the focus of the question for which it was originally marked as a duplicate for (programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/81591/…). That focus and direction, coupled with the lengthy context were intended to articulate the audience (people like myself) more accurately, thus making it a different question. All that said, I think you bring up a valid point that it might be better suited elsewhere. Suggestions? – Paul Hazen Apr 25 '12 at 13:22
  • @PaulHazen it would be helpful if you could state the question that is supposed to be supported by these "qualifiers". You mention different question but the way written now it looks like qualifiers are the question. – gnat Apr 25 '12 at 13:29
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    @gnat, that is true. I could have / should have been more clear. Despite the lack of clarity, I found a good answer to my question, and I feel strongly that future readers of both the question and the answer will be able to see why and understand the nature of the question. That being said, I'll add an update to the post in a few hours with very brief explanation of why it was picked, and a link to an explanation off site if people want to read more about why I made my decision (if that's acceptable behavior). – Paul Hazen Apr 25 '12 at 13:32
  • Btw, can anybody tell me why (even after I have informed the moderators) the change to my answer canNOT be reverted (it was automatically converted to a "community wiki", after 10+ edits; well, obviously i didn't know this would happen, but the answer is still a normal one and edited only by me)? – Dr.Kameleon Apr 25 '12 at 13:54
  • @PaulHazen that sounds like a good plan – gnat Apr 25 '12 at 13:56
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    @Dr.Kameleon you might be interested in this discussion at MSO wrt "auto-cw for self-edited posts" – gnat Apr 25 '12 at 13:58

I think not, but it was originally closed as a duplicate of https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/81591/in-the-absense-of-a-cs-degree-how-can-i-fill-in-the-gaps-so-to-speak but reopened by 5 members of the community.

I am inclined to agree with you that it's not a good question - despite, or perhaps because of, it's length. However, I think the OP has to be the one that edits it down to a more manageable length, otherwise there is a real risk that the essence of the question will be lost.

Once the question is edited, then we'll be able to make an informed decision on it's suitability.

I don't propose to close it again unless it gets new close votes from the community.

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    Thanks, I was writing the same answer. – maple_shaft Mod Apr 25 '12 at 12:18
  • for the record, one Meta discussion related to duplicate-close is this one: Require a link to the question it is a duplicate of (this was mostly about UI aspects than question content) – gnat Apr 25 '12 at 12:24
  • Hi Chris, I'm the OP of the question. After learning more about the purpose of "Programmers." I feel that at best the question I posted is on the fringe of "acceptable" according to the FAQ. Do you think that there might be a better forum it could be "moved" to? Or has the tremendous number of responses validated it's place in Programmers? I'm not leaning one way or the other on the issue. It's literally my first question on Programmers, and while ignorance is no excuse for misusing a website, I'm still just becoming acquainted with the intricacies of policy here. – Paul Hazen Apr 25 '12 at 13:16
  • If it makes any difference, I intend to select an answer in the next few hours. – Paul Hazen Apr 25 '12 at 13:17

It's getting flags and close votes now, so I've opted to close the question. Here is a summary of my thoughts:

  • Most of the body is a personal background. If such a personal background is necessary for the question, the question is most likely too localized. Questions must be relevant to a number of people, so if you have to explain, in great detail, your educational and occupational history, that indicates that perhaps your question is only relevant to the subset of people with a similar educational or occupational history and not appropriate for a Stack Exchange site.
  • There are multiple questions being asked. Although they are related, they are distinct enough that they should be presented as multiple questions, with the answer(s) to one driving the next. The three questions that I'm seeing are to first how to determine the difference between a math degree and a CS degree, how to prioritize the importance of the things missing in one degree, and methods for learning each of those tasks.
  • Questions about these topics have already been asked. There's not a single duplicate of this question, but each of the parts appear to have been asked. A example is this question about how to fill in the gaps left by not having a degree. Admittedly, it's not an exact duplicate, but a good question would include cross-references to indicate that the asker has searched the site, found and read related questions, and explain the differences as to why the answers to the related question don't work. This also goes back to my previous point about asking one question (or a small number of very closely related questions) at a time.

Given the current state, I wouldn't recommend editing this post. The substantial edits needed to salvage the question would invalidate answers that have already been posted. I would recommend going through the answers that you have now and thinking up narrower questions that can be addressed in a manner useful to a wider audience.

Overall, I think the nature of the questions is very appropriate for this site. However, the presentation of those questions is the driving factor leading me to close the question.

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    Excellent reasoning, I appreciate you taking the time to explain your decision in such a clear way. I'll see what I can do to break up the question. In particular I should have done a better job of abstracting the context so it would fit a broader audience because I truly believe a great number of people coming from a similar background have the same question(s). – Paul Hazen Apr 25 '12 at 14:48
  • I flagged the question because I thought it was WAY too localized. The sheer volume of personal background virtually guarantees that any decent answer that actually addresses the question(s) will benefit only the OP. As you stated, if the real questions are broken out and generalized, they've all been asked before. – Eric King Apr 25 '12 at 14:51
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    @EricKing Something to note is that just because there's a related question out there doesn't mean that it's a duplicate. Some things are situational, and as long as there's cross-referencing, it might be OK if it can be explained as to why the original question has not or will not generate an appropriate solution to the problem. – Thomas Owens Mod Apr 25 '12 at 15:04
  • Sorry to come back to this, right now I'm sitting in a room full of about 5-6 students whom I don't know, all of which are pursuing software development outside their major.Unanimously those present found both the question and the answers to be great resources. Just because these people find it helpful of course, doesn't mean the world at large will. I would urge you to look at the question from the perspective of a student who is passionate about coding, pursuing a different degree, and interested in learning more. I would think a wiki would not be the worst thing in the world. – Paul Hazen Apr 25 '12 at 18:16
  • I do however fully respect your authority here, and am thankful for your explanation, as well as your desire to see this community flourish. – Paul Hazen Apr 25 '12 at 18:17
  • @PaulHazen Like I said, I think they are very good questions. My only problem is with the presentation of them. The purpose of Stack Exchange is to organize answers to clear and specific questions. If this was broken down into smaller questions that referenced previous related questions/answers that were similar but not adequate, I would have not closed the question. – Thomas Owens Mod Apr 25 '12 at 18:33
  • Am I to assume then that even the wiki's need to be clear, specific questions? My understanding of moving a question to a wiki was that it was a good question, but failed to meet that particular criteria, namely being clear and specific. Could you point me towards some resources so I can better understand the intent of wikis? – Paul Hazen Apr 25 '12 at 19:10
  • @PaulHazen There are two questions on Meta.StackOverflow that should help you: here and here. Wiki posts must still be good (topicality, "good subjective", and so on) questions that are clear and specific, but have a lot of good, well-thought-out answers. There might also be some posts here on Programmers Meta about wiki posts, as well, that you might want to look for. – Thomas Owens Mod Apr 25 '12 at 20:36
  • @ThomasOwens I don't get it, why waste time on a question which get 31 upvotes and get reopened by the most contributer individual on programmers (pierre303) when there are so many really bad questions out there? – Mithir Apr 30 '12 at 5:33
  • @Mithir Flag the bad questions if they are so bad. I don't read every question. If it's not flagged or posted about on Meta, I maybe read a small fraction of the new questions posted on the site. I don't think any of the mods reads every single question. Also, just because people reopen or upvote doesn't mean it's a good question. In fact, leaving it open is just leaving a bad question with high visibility open, so it's just a broken window. – Thomas Owens Mod Apr 30 '12 at 10:34

Might as well throw my own answer in here... As I commented on the marked answer to the question, after thinking for a full day about this topic (felt really bad having my first question ever on Programmers get closed) I came to the conclusion that according to the FAQ my question does not belong on Programmers.

I maintain (and the community supported the claim by re-opening the question) that it is not a duplicate question. However I think the inappropriate locale takes precedent. That being said, I think there may exist a fair amount of confusion in the community here on Programmers, because from my observation there is a large disparity between what Programmers should be, and what Programmers is. By de facto standards, I think there's a lot of reasoning for keeping it on Programmers. By officially stated purposes of the site, it's absolutely out of place.

I don't have a preference one way or the other, so I hope the moderators are able to do whatever they collectively think is best. My one request is that you don't talk about the question I asked as a "bad question". Perhaps a "bad question for this site", but it is clear from the responses (and people who flat out said it) that both the questions, and moreover the answers, contain a lot of value to a lot of people.


Now that the question is answered, my chief concern is that the question and the answer remain discoverable by future people who might have the same question as myself (and I think there will be such people). So please moderators keep that in mind as you determine if it should be move, and if so where to.

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    You might be interested in my response. I disagree that this is a bad question. I even disagree that this is a bad question for this site. However, I think the primary problem is the presentation of the question and the difficulty of parsing out things that are relevant to the wider audience that is being targeted. – Thomas Owens Mod Apr 25 '12 at 14:07
  • @Paul For what it's worth, my first question was closed as well (and it wasn't anywhere near yours quality wise), it's not something to worry about. It's not a question that it's likely to be removed, closed questions are on a path to deletion, but we do like to keep a few high quality questions around even if they don't fit. I can't promise that it won't be deleted sometime in the future, if it gets delete votes from the community there's little we can't do, however it's highly unlikely that it will be deleted by a moderator. – yannis Apr 25 '12 at 14:16
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    don't feel to bad about the question being closed part, having a question remain open can be quite the achievement here, especially for a first question asked on the site. – Ryathal Apr 25 '12 at 14:17
  • @YannisRizos Thanks for the encouragement, makes me feel much better :) You as well Ryathai. – Paul Hazen Apr 25 '12 at 18:11
  • @PaulHazen I also find it hilarious that the reason for the question being closed is "This question is unlikely to ever help any future visitors" - but 31 visitors upvoted it... – Mithir Apr 30 '12 at 5:36
  • Yes.... As do I haha. I personally think it should have been closed because it doesn't fit within the official uses laid out in the FAQ... Because clearly this question applies to a great number of people in and out of my community. But oh well :) – Paul Hazen May 1 '12 at 0:48
  • @Mithir I up voted the question, because I appreciate the effort, but I strongly feel it's unlikely to ever help any future visitors. Up/down voting speaks to quality, close/re-open voting speaks to topicality and suitability, there's a reason we have two separate voting systems. – yannis May 1 '12 at 14:25
  • @YannisRizos I appreciate your moderation. Were this question to be reworded in such a way to be applicable/helpful to more future visitors, I still feel Programmers would not be the best platform for that. Would I be correct? If so, could you recommend another stack site I should post it on (a reworded question). Or is this kind of thing better suited for a personal blog (something I honestly cringe at)? – Paul Hazen May 1 '12 at 15:23
  • @PaulHazen I can't offer a better answer to that than Thomas. I don't think there's a more suitable SE site for it, its problems aren't unique to Programmers, too localized applies to all Stack Exchange sites. You could give Quora a try, completely different platform with reasonable quality when it comes to answers. A lot more noise than Stack Exchange, but it couldn't hurt to try. – yannis May 1 '12 at 15:45
  • Excellent pointer, I'll keep that in mind. I learned a lot from everyone's response, I don't feel the need to reword and repost, but for the sake of future questions that might share the same "localized" downfall, I wanted to know what was a more appropriate forum. Appreciate your input. And thanks again for the moderation, you guys make this site worthwhile :) – Paul Hazen May 1 '12 at 15:52

This kind of question is exactly why I wanted to create


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