History questions are on topic on Software Engineering, but have proven to be particularly troublesome:
- It's not uncommon for history questions to get closed (and re-opened, and closed, ...)
- It's not uncommon for history questions to not show any (or very little) prior research.
- It's not uncommon for history questions to generate highly speculative answers.
We had a history week in last year's contest. As an example of how troublesome history questions are, even the winning question didn't escape an early closure1. Furthermore, almost every answerer in my request for feedback for the contest identified the tag as particularly troublesome.
At the same time though, the history tag has given us some exceptional questions. A few random examples:
- What software programming languages were used by the Soviet Union's space program?
- What were the “core” API packages of Java 1.0?
- Where does the term “Red/Black Tree” come from?
It seems to me that the majority of programming history questions are either exceptional or crap, with very few being somewhere in the middle of the quality spectrum. This makes the whole category a very interesting beast, and one that needs special treatment. My questions are:
- Do history questions offer value to the site?
- How do history questions pass the "practical problem" test?
- What should our general guidelines for them be?
Related past discussions:
- Are programming-related history/trivia questions acceptable on P.SE?
- Is curiosity allowed on programmers.stackexchange.com?
- How can historical questions be on topic?
- Are word origin questions on-topic?
- Content Dispute for “Why do programming languages, especially C, use curly braces and not square ones?”
1 Don't get me wrong, early closures are good, especially when they lead to the question getting improved and re-opened.