Straight from the FAQ:

Programmers — Stack Exchange is a site for professional programmers who are interested in getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development.

What constitutes too basic a question for this site? Having seen a question on the basics of "How does if/else work internally in all programming languages?", I have to ask where does one draw the line on a question such as this? Knowing conditional branching is more or less fundamental knowledge one must have to write programs.

Should questions about the fundamentals of programming be considered on-topic?

  • 3
    truly basic questions are fundamental ones... which could bring another problem, "Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much." (faq) To me, "if/else" question rather falls in this category
    – gnat
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 15:19

1 Answer 1


Use this as an example, a mistake I made in the early days of my joining the site: How Does A Compiler Work?

That is a very basic, broad question. Why?

  • There are literally entire books written on the subject.
  • You usually have to go to college to get fairly good at making a compiler.
  • If you Googled that, you would actually get pretty decent results.

A more specific, more constructive question would have been "What is the difference between lexing and parsing?" or "What is a parsing tree?". At the same time, these questions are easily Google-able too, and probably would get closed.

Fundamental programming questions should probably get closed, because it is probably either:

  1. Easily Google-able.
  2. Requires an entire book to be explained.

If you can find a question that doesn't apply to either of those, it's probably pretty decent. Unless, of course, it's highly opinionated.

  • One of those two things is true of nearly every question here. Is that really where we want to draw a line? "Easily Google-able" is very subjective and "requires an entire book to be explained" depends very much on the level of explanation. I'm not at all convinced that your example couldn't have been answered with a couple of very high-level paragraphs and a bunch of links to books.
    – pdr
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 12:42

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