Should How should I behave as a developer in a project that's headed for failure? be open or closed?

On the one hand, project failure is more common in software development than most professions, and it's not unreasonable to think there might be answers to this question that are specific to software development.

On the other hand, at the time of this writing there are 6 answers and IMHO none of them are particularly specific to software development.

My thought on reading the question was that it should stay open. But I would say every answer belongs on Workplace.

This is not uncommon on this site - the question could be answered in a way specific to programming, but it doesn't have to be. Should questions be required to have some magic phrase like "I am asking for factors unique to software development", and therefore this one should be closed for not having such a phrase? If it did have such a phrase, it would make it reasonable to delete answers that aren't specific to programming. But how would people know to include it? Does that, in practice, force people to edit it in to all such questions?

So, my real question, despite the title, is "What should are criteria be for deciding whether to close questions that have answers that could be specific to programming, but strongly invite answers that are not?" Whether that specific question should be closed would be a corollary.

  • 2
    It's definitely a borderline question. Protection might be the best option for it at this point. That would give it a chance to settle and a more programming appropriate answer could emerge.
    – user53019
    May 10, 2013 at 20:27
  • somehow, title of your question reminded me of "open for extension, but closed for modification" :)
    – gnat
    Jul 18, 2013 at 16:11

4 Answers 4


I think that the question should be closed because there are too many possible answers for the question to be a good fit for the StackExchange Q&A format.

There are probably dozens of things that a program could do or not do when they are on a "doomed" project. There will also be disagreement about whether some of those things should or should not be done. Additionally, there will be disagreement about which things are most important.

The above dynamics lead to too much noise and not enough signal.


I think it is safe to assume all questions on this site should be answered in the context of programming. If the OP indicates it is not, suggest another site.

Although programmers may face the same project/workplace issues as other professions, I don't believe they are exactly the same. Programmers have to deal with a lot of stereotypes and othere perceptions of our field. Where else will the most introverted junior level employee make a matter of fact statement in a technical area and a room full of executives will look at him or her as a bragadocious know-it-all? What do you expect from the "computer guy"?

We have to go out of our way to be more tactful and sometimes this is due to the fact we may not be good at it. Here is part of the accepted answer:

Communicate your concerns in the most concise and non-confrontational way possible up the management ladder. Summarize the risks, but do not try to impose your conclusion on them.

Would anyone from the sales department have to go this far our of their way to not disturb the management? I've been at companies driven by the sales staff and you better be the loudest person in the room to get your point across. If you didn't defend your answers/suggestions, you'd get crushed.

This site isn't always going to provide concrete questions and answers by anyone's definition and certainly not software developers. Pardon the stereotype. Just assume it's in the context of programming because I have no intention of making that statement for every question and answer.

  • 1
    Unfortunately, I don't think it's safe to assume all questions on the site will be answered in the context of programming. A recent example is this question (Related Meta Workplace discussion - for a little bit more context see my answer there).
    – yannis
    May 19, 2013 at 15:36
  • 1
    @YannisRizos - If a question gets transferred from another site, I'm still going to answer it on this site as a programmer unless it is just too far off.
    – JeffO
    May 21, 2013 at 17:19

My suggestion (which is different than most sites handle this, I believe), is that we should:

  1. Implicitly assume all questions, by virtue of being posted here, always are asking for programming specific answers.

  2. Ideally edit questions that need it, to add an explicit request for programming specific answers.

  3. Delete answers that are not reasonably specific to programming, even if they were posted to a question that didn't have any wording restricting it to being programming related. But be somewhat generous in interpreting this (i.e. - if an answer says "The problem is your hardware is too slow" it's probably O.K., if it's "quit immediately, then throw yourself a party" then probably not).

  • "Delete answers..." - could you please explain in more details how you expect this to be done?
    – gnat
    May 12, 2013 at 17:03
  • @gnat - I'm not saying we need to delete all such answers, I'm just saying it gives us a reason to flag them for deletion when we see them. Now when there are answers that technically answer the question as written but don't relate to programming (as often happens on borderline questions) all we can do is down-vote them, but people are reluctant to lose reputation down-voting answers and some still up-vote, so currently there isn't much we can effectively do about such answers.
    – psr
    May 14, 2013 at 18:03
  • well don't get me wrong, I'd be more than happy if this would indeed give us "reason to flag them for deletion" but it doesn't and, given how it's spelled, I really doubt that such an answer deletion criteria will ever be reliably (read: having overwhelming community consensus) considered clear enough for flagging: "not reasonably specific to programming ...be somewhat generous in interpreting this..."
    – gnat
    May 16, 2013 at 7:05

I think that lately there has been so much energy spent on deciding what should or should not be allowed on stack exchange, that its value as a place to get answers has been diminished.

Just look at the number of upvotes on the topic in question. 216 upvotes, and 63 favorites as a I write this. Clearly the members and users of the site feel that the topic is valuable. Shouldn't that count for something?

  • 1
    Well, I can't say that I didn't expect downvotes -- I knew that this was a hard statement. But if we're being honest with ourselves here, lets examine the question: Why does stack exchange use moderators? I think that answer would be "Because moderation adds value to stack exchange." (and I agree with, BTW -- moderation has made the site more valuable). So then, back to my answer: If moderators are there to make the site more valuable, and that question has garnered so many upvotes and favorites (hence, it's been judged valuable), does it make sense to close it?
    – JMarsch
    Jul 22, 2013 at 13:53

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