Here is an example of a question that is strictly related to the workplace -- the topic is essentially meta-programming.


And here is another one:

Does it work when a developer is the project manager's boss?

Notice both questions are extremely similar in topic, but the first question has been deemed off topic and closed while the second seems to be just fine.

I'm a little confused where the line (if any) is drawn. Can someone explain the difference between the two questions to me?

2 Answers 2


The line is vague and blurry and comes down to how you and other community members place the question on this diagram (which is prominently displayed in the FAQ:

the off-centre target that is our goal

A lot of questions do fall outside the blue area, but there are some general sounding questions that do fall inside it as they do require the expertise and experience that only another software developer can bring. It's difficult to describe what such a question would look like and I don't always see it even when others point it out, but they do exist.

I don't know why one question attracted close votes (and possibly flags) and the other didn't, but clearly at least two community members thought that the first question didn't fit.

There isn't a "one size fits all" solution to this problem. Each question must be taken on it's merits and treated individually. What you should consider doing (in no particular order):

  1. Edit the question so that it does fit - but without losing the intent of the author.
  2. Vote to close where the question cannot be made to fit. Flag if you have less than 3,000 reputation.
  3. Vote to reopen where you think a question has been incorrectly closed. You may want to discuss in in chat or here on meta to get other user's views. If absolutely necessary flag it for moderator attention. Please note however, that you are more likely to get a question reopened if you have edited it to correct the original defects.

So, if you think that https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/154565/where-does-a-technical-programmer-fit-in-and-what-does-the-title-mean was unfairly closed, do items 1 and 3 above.

Equally if you think that Does it work when a developer is the project manager's boss? should be closed, do item 2 above.

  • +1 for the graph. If it's about the workplace AND about programmers, then it's fine for P.SE in my mind.
    – haylem
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 21:42

Some questions are allowed because business and freelancing concerns are on topic provided they relate enough to programmers that answers would be sufficiently different because of that.

Also and more importantly "We are not a perfect example of our own rules." Though the relevant post that explained this in detail has been deleted unfortunately. Essentially being able to find a counter-example is not justification that something is allowed, its evidence that rules are sometimes loosely enforced (particularly with older content), however they may still be enforced on any examples you find or future questions.

  • 3
    The problem is I find counter-examples all the time. This is just one of many examples. I see it across the board too. I asked a question on SO recently about RDF and Jena that got closed as off topic because it included design patterns. However, there are countless questions about even more general topics, for example, branch prediction, web-development best practices, and preventing infinite recursion on graphs, which remain. It certainly makes you feel cherry picked when your question is closed for [what seems like] no good reason. I'm just trying to figure this mayhem out. Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 20:39

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