There is some controversy about this question. There have been multiple questions about non-disclosure agreements. A quick look at the tag shows that many of them are open, even though just as many of them are not specific to software development, a requirement recently clarified and enforced.

However, there can be little doubt that non-disclosure agreements are extremely relevant to programmers, and there is currently no other place to ask such questions on StackExchange.

Should P.SE allow, in general, questions about NDA that apply to programmers, even non-exclusively? If not, what should P.SE do to make it clear to people reading grandfathered-in questions about NDAs that the same question, asked today, would be considered off-topic?

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    Unique does seem to have some problems as a standard. One could argue that software development isn't unique to software development.
    – psr
    Dec 10, 2012 at 19:57
  • I have locked the question on the main site. It was originally closed by 5 community members, reopened by 5 community members, and then close again by 5 community members. It had some reopen votes again, yet there's been no justification as to how it fits within the scope of this site as its been currently defined in the FAQ nor any suggestions as to how to address any shortcomings in the scope of this site that have been accepted by the community. It appears to be a contentious issue.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Dec 12, 2012 at 0:45

2 Answers 2


No, questions that are not unique to software development or require the perspective of a professional in the software development community do not belong on this site.

Per our FAQ:

Please make sure your question uniquely applies to programmers in general:

Programmers Audience

Questions that do not apply unique to professional software developers nor require knowledge or skills that are unique to those working in the software development profession are off-topic here. Non-disclosure agreements do not require the knowledge, experience, or expertise of professionals working in software development and are therefore off-topic for our site.

At one point, this question was flagged for possible migration to The Workplace. We pinged their moderators, who brought it up for discussion in their site chat. The Workplace tends to not accept questions that are legal-oriented, and the moderators did not accept the migration request. Therefore, it remained here and closed.

Older questions that are still open do not mean that it is OK to ask similar questions. If they are old enough, have enough interest, and have valuable answers, it might be OK to historically lock them. This lock prevents all editing or voting and indicates that the question is no longer a good example of an on-topic question, but contains information useful to our community. Other questions should be closed to properly reflect the scope of our site.

Part of the reason why old questions may not have been closed is that the community never voted to close them and no one flagged them for moderator review. The review queues are a recent addition to help solve some of these problems and make questions with close votes more visible to users who can handle them.

Note that some questions may not have a home on the Stack Exchange network at this point in time. A lack of a better place does not mean the question can be asked anywhere and remain open. A Stack Exchange site is supposed to draw on a community of experts, in our case, experts about software development.

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    However NDAs do seem to be a big part of professional life for a programmer so it's not unreasonable to discuss them here. Do EULAs/licenses belong here or are they legal questions? It seems a bit ridiculous to say that the GPL is off-topic for programmers! Dec 10, 2012 at 22:35
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    @MartinBeckett A license is not an NDA. In the normal course of my job as a software engineer, I've had to evaluate various software licenses and determine if I'm capable of using them in a project. It's also necessary for an engineer to need to choose a license when they are releasing a project (professionally or personally). When I've had questions about an NDA, I've always consulted a lawyer or a legal department. I would also say that EULAs are off-topic - they are generally written about applications and not libraries for use exclusively in the realm of software development.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Dec 10, 2012 at 23:50
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    @ThomasOwens I don't think the choices you personally have made about when to consult and not to consult a lawyer are relevant to this question. When making license decisions perhaps it was a mistake not to have consulted a lawyer then, too. (Who can say but a lawyer?) The fact that license decisions apply to more than just software development, but are frequently a source of confusion among programmers makes it an excellent comparison to the issue at hand.
    – kojiro
    Dec 11, 2012 at 0:13
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    @kojiro My (and other's) professional experiences are relevant. If, as a professional software engineer, I am expected to understand software licenses (such as the GPL, LGPL, BSD, MIT) in order to do my job, then that is a strong argument for including them on as something that is on-topic on this site. These license types tend to apply only to software developers. The use of NDAs apply to the general relationship between employer and employee or contractor and client (by definition off-topic, see the diagram). EULAs exist between the distributor of the software and the end user.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Dec 11, 2012 at 1:04
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    If you want to make an argument for EULAs, that's potentially debatable under the vague "freelance and business concerns". However, in cases where I've had to include an EULA, I've always been handed a standard corporate EULA from legal. Perhaps someone with more experience in the business side of software development can weigh in on that issue. If answers are often prefixed with "I am not a lawyer, but..." or contain wording similar to "you should consult a lawyer", it's probably beyond the scope of our site.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Dec 11, 2012 at 1:07
  • @ThomasOwens Would you have a minute to read through the answer I just posted and share your opinion on it? I think that graphic was only meant to help define what makes a career-advice question on-topic or not, and wasn't meant to be used for all questions on this site. Also, I think the OP's question fits perfectly in "freelancing and business concerns" as it is seeking an answer specifically from a programmer about some freelancing charity work he has been doing
    – Rachel
    Dec 12, 2012 at 14:49

Yes, I think your question should be on-topic here because it falls under "freelancing and business concerns", which is on-topic per our FAQ

The key factor that I think makes this "freelancing and business concerns" question suitable for the site is that it is specifically seeking an answer from a professional programmer. If it were seeking legal advice I would say it's off-topic, but it appears to be seeking an answer from a programmer, not an answer from a lawyer, which I think makes it a valid "freelancing and business concerns" question.

The graphic Thomas references from our FAQ was created to help define what makes an on-topic career question, and was not meant to be applied to all questions. I'm not sure when that got changed in the FAQ, however your question definitely does not apply to "all careers" or even "most careers". In fact, I doubt it applies to "all programmers" either, however I would say it applies to more than "Just You", so you're safe from being "too-localized".

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    asking an answer of a programmer isn't enough of a justification for a question to be acceptable, a programmer has to be able to provide a good and correct answer, and that isn't true of this question.
    – Ryathal
    Dec 12, 2012 at 18:14
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    The "specifically seeking an answer from a professional programmer" argument is flawed, what the asker is looking for is irrelevant, what's relevant is if the question can be fully and unambiguously answered and judged (or voting fails) by software developers. Remember the prime objective is to build a high quality resource, what the asker is looking for is secondary... Don't really have an opinion on whether the question in question is on or off topic, but your argument here would create a precedent for a whole lot "as a programmer" questions, questions that we really try hard to avoid.
    – yannis
    Dec 12, 2012 at 18:57
  • @Ryathal I agree that "seeking an answer from a programmer" is not not enough of a justification for the question alone, however since the topic of the question is "freelancing and business concerns", I believe those two facts combined make this question OK for the site. We include "freelancing and business concerns" as on-topic in our FAQ because we are able to provide expert answers on that subject matter. Sure not all programmers are experts on freelancing and business concerns, however some are, and we wouldn't include that in the site scope if it wasn't the case.
    – Rachel
    Dec 12, 2012 at 19:04
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    @Rachel the only freelancing and business concerns that are on topic are those best answered by programmers, "how do I make an LLC?", "what is an appropriate price for traveling expenses?", "what is the best way to make a home office?" are all off topic but freelancing and business concerns, but they aren't unique to programmers or require expertise a programmer, this question is no different.
    – Ryathal
    Dec 12, 2012 at 21:17

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