Next week we will receive an avalanche of questions migrated from SO.

We have a lot of questions not related to programming jobs if we drop the "programming" word.

Nothing new so far. But we need a way to manage them.

Some questions are closed already and many of them need to be closed. But many questions are falling into a black hole of SE.

Where to ask a question about workplace, co-workers, ergonomics, business policies, management practices, ethics on work, career guidance, personal development, etc. when the question can be applied to every office work?

IMO we should direct users to follow/commit some proposals to get approved and later we can migrate those questions to another SE site.

We could avoid closing every off-topic question because "programming" is just incidentally present on it. We can close when it's totally off-topic.

In fact every question closed as off-topic should be followed with a comment where the OP or other users can get answers about that. It can be one of the trilogy sites or a graduated site or a beta site or a proposal on commit of definition phase.

  • What proposals can we use to direct some off-topic questions (closed or not) of Pr.SE?

  • What proposals should be created to settle those questions?

  • What questions should we direct to sites/proposals? Or better yet, can you help with the effort to selecting and advising users to try a new proposal/site.

I started with these proposals: Organizations aspects which I created to achieve this purpose and Office work and desk jobs.

These can be used too:

Of course when the question is about these topics but has a strong relationship with programming jobs, it's on-topic on Pr.SE. I'm not proposing a new definition for off-topic, I'm just proposing better handling with the same criteria.

  • So why are we getting dumped on by SO questions? Why not just let them live their off-topic lives on SO? Why do they HAVE to be migrated?
    – Walter
    Commented Dec 10, 2010 at 23:29
  • 1
    @Walter. I'm totally against to dumping SO trash here. I'm almost sure that this won't happen. But Pr.SE was created to settle professional questions not related with coding. So it's time to Pr.SE receive those questions. Some sites was proposed to unburden SO. If questions are well selected there is nothing to complain. I invite you to join on this discussion: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/71731/…. We dump our off-topic questions to other sites either but now we will have a better tool to migrate them.
    – Maniero
    Commented Dec 11, 2010 at 1:30
  • @bigown - thanks for the link. That was really helpful to understand what the thought process is for migrating questions.
    – Walter
    Commented Dec 11, 2010 at 2:13
  • @bigown - are the moderators the people who are going to actaully migrate the questions from SO or will that be open to all users over X rep?
    – Walter
    Commented Dec 11, 2010 at 2:29
  • 2
    @Walter 3k users will be able to migrate like they always have been, there will just be a new migration target. A discussion started on meta about which existing posts should be migrated, so it's possible they'll do one bulk migration when programmers launches, but SO users will be able to migrate individual questions either way Commented Dec 11, 2010 at 7:52
  • 1
    I guess what my concern is that we may not have good visibility to what questions are migrated from SO and will have to go through the "avalanche" as we find them and determine if they need to be merged/closed/deleted. It would be nice to have something in the tools tab that gives us a list of migrated questions that we can go through versus finding them as we browse the site.
    – Walter
    Commented Dec 11, 2010 at 17:20
  • 2
    @Walter: There's always visibility, a migrated question will say in large print at the bottom "Migrated from Stack Overflow".
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Dec 11, 2010 at 19:05
  • 1
    I cleaned up the sea of links, and looking at the actual proposal names... man, there is an unbelievable amount of crap on Area 51. I'd be very careful of directing people to some of those proposals because they're going to be merged or s--tcanned by the team before they ever make it to beta.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Dec 11, 2010 at 19:15
  • You have come up with many reasons to close or not entertain the volume of questions that (will be quite light) from SO. Programmers.se is about being helpful.
    – user131
    Commented Dec 11, 2010 at 21:19
  • 3
    @Tim: Uh, Programmers.SE is about software business and practices. All SE sites are "about being helpful", but Programmers.SE is not a garbage dump for whatever you need to get rid of on Stack Overflow (at least, not anymore).
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Dec 11, 2010 at 23:35

4 Answers 4


It's hard to even begin to answer a question like this because so much of the history of this community is steeped in the "anything goes" philosophy that it originated with.

Many of you may view me as being pro-moderation, but I want to remind those people that I argued against the merging of proposals like testing and architecture and software law into Programmers.SE because it was diametrically opposed to the community's collective mindset, not to mention the proposal's original stated purpose. I was in favour of it remaining as a free-for-all. Nevertheless, that merge happened, primarily because the team was not satisfied with this being a water cooler, and so here we are.

I don't want to try to define in this answer what the site's scope should be. My aim here is merely to highlight the identity crisis that this community still hasn't quite put behind itself, which must be resolved before it can successfully put anything into policy.

Let's start with what's in the FAQ today:

  • Software engineering
  • Developer testing
  • Developer tools and techniques
  • Practical algorithms and data structures
  • Design patterns
  • Architecture
  • Development methodologies
  • Quality assurance
  • Software law
  • Code golf & programming puzzles
  • Freelancing and business concerns

This reads like the description of a site for professionals. Indeed, I'm sure that many of us (although certainly not all of us) want it to have a professional, if quirky, tone.

Now let's look at the top 15 questions:

  1. Will high reputation in Stack Overflow help to get a good job?
  2. Does giving a developer a slower development machine result in faster/more efficient code?
  3. What is the good/bad decision you made in your mid 20's about your career
  4. Make a big deal out of == true?
  5. Stuff every programmer needs while working
  6. What's your favourite quote about programming?
  7. What's the most absurd myth about programming issues?
  8. What's your experience with female programmers?
  9. Will programmers be around in a few years?
  10. Why are so many programmers arrogant?
  11. What are the worst false economies in software development?
  12. Do people in non-English-speaking countries code in English?
  13. What is the (craziest, stupidest, silliest) thing a client/boss asked you to do?
  14. I've stopped coding for fun, is this a bad sign?
  15. How can a new programmer impress the software engineer (boss)?

Two of these are closed; if you go further down the list (I won't, in order to keep this long-winded post as short as possible) you'll see that fewer than 1/10 questions are actually closed; #9 and #10 are outliers in that respect.

So let's now ask the question: Which of the top 15 (or indeed, top 25 or even top 100) questions actually fit into any of the sub-topics outlined in the FAQ?

  1. Could maybe be lumped in under "Freelancing and business concerns"
  2. Nope.
  3. Definitely not.
  4. Nope.
  5. Double nope.
  6. Nope.
  7. No...
  8. Eh...
  9. Er...
  10. Dear lord no.
  11. Also maybe "business concerns".
  12. Nope.
  13. Triple nope.
  14. Nah.
  15. No.

To be clear, I am not saying that these questions are all off-topic or don't belong here - only that they don't match any of the topics listed, and that is bound to lead to confusion over what's actually on topic here.

Perhaps what's actually needed are a few more topics in the list, such as:

  • Coding style (#4)
  • Software Career Development (#1, #3, possibly #8 and #14, #15)
  • Software Project Management (#2, #5 with major edits, possibly #8)

Other questions in the list do seem to be "programmer" specific (to varying degrees) but can only really be classified as "general interest", "poll", or even "rant".

So there's a definite impedance mismatch here. Officially, you guys are saying that this site is for the professional working programmer, the senior developers and maybe a few of the juniors, people who are looking to broaden their software skill set beyond just coding. Ostensibly, it's a Q&A site for developers truly committed to creating better software.

But the questions and votes tell another story. Even if we rule out the rants and jokes in the questions and answers - the ultimate removal of which is an unenviable task that is nowhere near complete - the site appears to cater to the casual programmer or even the aspiring programmer. People who are just getting into software and are frustrated or confused. People who want to reach out and exchange stories and water-cooler chat with other programmers and maybe learn a little bit in the process. It's like the "Programmers' Pub". I'll take the Language Holy War with a side of Pointless Bitching, please. And do you have Cartoons on tap? No matter, a bottle is fine.

Again, I don't want to be prescriptive here. If that is to be the scope of the site, that's okay. It's also okay for people to occasionally argue about whether or not a specific question reasonably fits in scope. However, it's very unhealthy for the community to be split down the middle on what the site is supposed to be about. Programmers.SE is a confused adolescent, just about to graduate with no idea what to do next. Will it be an exciting but hollow affair with Mrs. Robinson, or an uncertain, awkward bus ride into the horizon with Elaine?

I'm sorry to be so dramatic, but Programmers.SE seems to have effectively become center stage for the epic and probably never-ending battle between inclusionists and deletionists. Stack Overflow isn't about to dump its problems on you, it already has dumped its problems on you. And because you no longer have the trusty metaphorical lanterns of code and objectivity to help you navigate through the proverbial fog, I don't think you can continue to play both sides the way that Stack Overflow did. A few migrated questions are not going to make a lick of a difference when most of the frivolous questions are already originating here; you guys have to decide what you're going to be when you grow up, and you have to decide fast.

I would love to write out a long list of examples of questions that should be closed or redirected to an Area 51 proposal. But right now, I have no idea which of the Area 51 proposals you've listed are actually supposed to be off topic here. There are already so many questions here about career advice, project management, interviewing, freelancing, brain power, etc., almost none of which are closed, that you can't start applying a bunch of arbitrary scope rules to new questions and expect them not to end in kicking and screaming.

If you want a broader scope than what's spelled out in the FAQ, then you need to broaden the scope. You need to come up with a definition that actually encompasses all of the subjects that are being talked about here today and currently considered on topic. You need to revise the FAQ. Normally this all would have been settled in Area 51, but Programmers.SE did a 180 halfway through, which makes matters more difficult.

And if you actually want the scope to be what you currently have prescribed, then you need to start enforcing it on existing questions before you can even talk about what you're going to do with new questions. Start by closing the most massively-upvoted off-topic questions. Then observe patterns and see if it makes sense to point people to new or existing Area 51 proposals. Then consider deleting the off-topic questions so that they're not sitting in the top 50, confusing the hell out of everyone.

Either way is fine. I have no personal axe to grind here, no serious investment in this site one way or the other. Serious questions, fun questions, professional questions, newbie questions, I don't care. But I don't think you can do this piecemeal; you need to take a holistic look at what this site is / should be, because otherwise you will have people bickering over every single closure and migration (sort of like... right now).

I admire your efforts to develop a policy here but just don't think that the community is ready for it. Maybe Tim is right and you should just wait and see how things play out, although, speaking as a relative outsider, it doesn't look like that's been a very effective strategy so far.

Evidently, based on some of the comments in here, part of the community does not even agree that there should be rules. If you want to talk about restricting the scope, then you've got your work cut out for you; before anything else, you're going to need to address this sub-community directly and come up with some sort of compromise (or just lay down the law, whatever works).

My personal suggestion is to start with the hopelessly vague elevator pitch. "Sharing wisdom" communicates precisely nothing about who you are. If somebody's able to come up with a meaningful pitch that gets decent support, then maybe you'll have your answer as to what the scope should be.

That's my absurdly long-winded two cents. Take or leave it. Thanks for reading, if you got this far.

  • +1 I agree that we need to redefine P.SE. The problem is that we see P.SE differently. I think P.SE defined itself...
    – user2567
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 0:51
  • It basically did define itself, @Pierre. The current scope has little if anything to do with the Area 51 definition. I'm not necessarily proposing to go back to the original definition, or even to redefine it at all; I'm just calling for some clarity and consistency on what the definition is. Obviously the moderators will have trouble accomplishing that without the support of the community; at the same time, the community should try to respect that the moderators (and the SOIS team) probably know what they're doing.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 0:58
  • @Aaronaught: I'm sure they know what they are doing and they did it pretty well till now judging by the huge success of the project.
    – user2567
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 1:04
  • 4
    Depends on how you define success, @Pierre. I'm not saying that this site isn't or won't be successful, but I don't think it's exactly what the moderators - or the SOIS team - truly want it to be. I don't speak for them, of course, but if we measure success only by popularity then a site resembling Yahoo Answers would be a success. In terms of activity level, this community is super. In terms of self-governance, it's rather lacking. "Success" to me is the ability to hold those two in balance, since they tend to be at odds with each other.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 1:09
  • @Aaronaught: Yes success is subjective.
    – user2567
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 1:16
  • I understand your confusion, trust me. But let's take what you're suggesting to its logical conclusion. Given this recommendation, I could get a few dozen of my friends, post nothing but kitten and kitten-related questions on TheoreticalCS.SE, and have the scope of that site redefined to Kittens (or at least kitten-related CS questions as a compromise).
    – user8
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 1:31
  • Stack Exchange sites are prescriptive by design, regardless of how loud a portion of its audience is. At best, this would be a reversal to how Stack Exchange sites are governed: granted, Programmers.SE is already a case-study in that, but it's not something we should be unilaterally doing.
    – user8
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 1:32
  • 3
    @Pierre: success is not subjective. Saying something is subjective (i.e. everyone's viewpoint is equally valid) leads exactly to the anarchy you've been proposing. Success is contextual and is dependent on the people making the decisions (SOIS): your version of success is not the version of success that matters.
    – user8
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 1:37
  • 2
    @Mark: yes that's exactly how I see the world. People have different views, and I respect them all as soon as they respect and don't hurt anyone. Viewpoint can be equally valid, depending on the culture, history, personality, and much more factors. That's one of the first thing you learn when you are in psychology. "anarchy" is not the word I would use. "community driven" sounds better.
    – user2567
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 1:46
  • @Mark: maybe I misunderstood the plans and goals of SOIS. I'm a bit confused since the VC are in. Maybe this is something you can clarify? My understanding is that SO websites were governed by some non profit organization, but I may have missed something.
    – user2567
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 1:50
  • @Mark - If you reject all things subjective, then what are you doing here in the first place? Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 1:51
  • @Jason I'm rejecting the notion that how one defines success is subjective. It's very straightforward to define objectively-based success and moderation criteria while still allowing subjective answers to questions. Equivocating the two, such that one is dependent on the other, is what's causing the problem.
    – user8
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 2:02
  • @Mark: please disregard my last comment, I though you were the Mark from the SOIS.
    – user2567
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 2:03
  • @Mark: success is subjective because it is defined by a goal. You agree we can have different goals in life right? Then we will define success differently.
    – user2567
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 2:05
  • 2
    @Mark: I'm not taking a position on what the scope should be. I have a position, obviously, and many people probably already know it, but it's just not appropriate to be turning this thread into another argument about the scope when there are already so many previous scope questions to choose from. The important thing to me, right now, in the context of this question, is not what the scope is, but that the scope is actually clearly defined. If the scope is to be restricted, great; in that case the mods have a huge mess to clean up before they can rely on the community.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 2:52

We have a lot of questions not related to programming jobs if we drop the "programming" word.

So don't drop the "programming" word.

Yes, it would be great to have an active SE site to discuss the non-technical aspects of being a programmer, perhaps in common with non-programmers. A sort of general office life site - OfficeSpace.SE or FugitivesFromTheCubiclePolice.SE, anyone? - would be great, and could be a migration destination for questions from here, or directly from SO.

However, we don't have such a place. We do have a balkanised, low-traffic set of sites floating about in Area 51; but (a) they're still in Area 51, and (b) even if they graduated, i wouldn't consider them much use, because they're so specialised.

Even if we did have such a place, many (not all) of the questions ...

about workplace, co-workers, ergonomics, business policies, management practices, ethics on work, career guidance, personal development, etc

... are actually more programming-related than you might think. Say Alice has a problem with her boss telling her to cut corners in her code to get work done faster. Sounds like a generic problem, right? Wrong! Because a central thing to discuss here is the tradable quality hypothesis, which is a software-specific idea (i'm not saying it can't apply elsewhere, but Martin Fowler was talking specifically about software when he framed it). Or Bob is griping about how his coworkers keep fiddling with work he's done. A generic problem? No! Because we can talk about collective code ownership, and whether Bob's team does and should have it. I could go on like that all day.

Would you kick those questions to a generic site? Because that would be a mistake.

  • 1
    Questions that look generic but receive programming-specific answers are already allowed on Programmers. Questions that look generic and don't receive any answers that require a programmer's insight or expertise to answer are the ones that do not belong.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Aug 3, 2011 at 13:42

It really depends on the context of the question. I thought a few times about starting a very definitive proposal for office politics, but I lost enthusiasm once I realized that such a site would be quite depressing, perhaps toxic to the depressed.

If a programmer finds his way to our site asking for help, I'd hope that the first question we ask is 'can I help' versus looking for reasons not to help. Granted, some questions that have been asked are just in outer space, but according to our community (if votes mean anything), most questions are on topic.

If someone finds a new incarnation for a question, I'm fine with that, it just increases the chances of others finding the site. If someone attempts a breaching experiment that I feel is harmful to our community or goes against our purpose, I'll vote to close it. Example here. I've done such experiments myself, simply by picking up litter in Singapore. There are constructive ways to do most anything.

I think you might be underestimating the power of those of us that the system has learned to trust. If the question is off topic, it will be closed. It may take a few days, but it will be closed.

Perhaps you were expecting faster results? If so, why?

  • 4
    Tim, look at the top 100 questions and tell me honestly that even half of the off-topic/unconstructive ones are closed.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Dec 11, 2010 at 23:37
  • @Aaronaught: Tim is talking about helping people, you are talking about rules.
    – user2567
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 0:12
  • Yes, @Pierre, communities need rules to survive. Stack Exchange is not an anarchy. As I said already to you, all of the SE sites are about helping people, and all of them have rules. This one should not be any different. The goal of Stack Overflow Internet Services is to create an information resource, not a social network.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 0:18
  • 1
    @Aaronaught: Where did I wrote that we don't need rules? I wrote Tim & you have different concerns. Apparently Tim will put more value to helping people (regardless the question is offtopic or not) than the rules. That's all I said.
    – user2567
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 0:20
  • 1
    Just helping people in anyway is for a forum. People have extremely difficult to understand the difference between a Q&A and a forum site. SE sites has success because they aren't forums. Rules are important here. Helping people means to provide good content. *Big" content can be found in another place.
    – Maniero
    Commented Dec 14, 2010 at 19:21

So let me get this straight. Stack overflow dumps all of their unwanted questions onto us, which causes problems. And how is our moderator proposing we act? We dump the problems onto still other sites, most of which aren't finalized yet. Sorry, but the solution here doesn't lie in perpetuating the original problem. Nor do I like the idea of having 20 different sites where a programming question could belong.

Can we please stop trying to turn programmers.se into stack overflow with subjective questions? I come here because moderation tends to be less anal, but lately even that doesn't seem to be the case.

I propose that we adopt a "the buck stops here" approach. If a question clearly belongs elsewhere, move it there. If a question clearly doesn't belong anywhere, then close it. That's far more humane than creating an increasing number of sites to send unwanted questions rather than dealing with them.

  • "Less anal moderators" is not a sustainable topic for a topic-based Q&A system like Stack Exchange. If you want a general discussion board that's mostly unmoderated, try Yahoo! Answers or Quora.
    – user8
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 1:40
  • @Mark - I never claimed to want an unmoderated, general discussion board. I want a moderated, programmer-focused Q&A site just like you. We're just arguing about degree. Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 1:56
  • @Jason Yet that's what you're asking for. The scope of the site is already defined: software development questions that don't clearly have one right answer that fit within pre-defined moderation criteria (the topic list and six subjective question guidelines as defined in the FAQ). Moderators and community members are beholden to that. You're asking for people to ignore the scope of the site because you don't like it.
    – user8
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 2:05
  • @Mark - Wow! It's truly insightful of you to make this many conclusions about my views based on my saying "less anal". Tell me something, I'm confused about my political orientation but I know I believe in "more happiness". Do you think you'd be able to extract my political beliefs from that? Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 2:23
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    The second paragraph of your answer really seems out of place... I kind of agree with the rest, but Programmers.SE basically is supposed to be "Stack Overflow with subjective questions" - the first line of the FAQ actually says Programmers - Stack Exchange is for expert programmers who are interested in subjective discussions on software development! How else would you define it?
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 2:56
  • @Aaronaught - I don't know, but it isn't "stack overflow with subjective questions". Mainly because under that definition, programmers.se wouldn't really have a purpose. I mean there really isn't any reason why stack overflow can't support subjective questions. It needs something above and beyond subjectivity. I'd say the current theme seems to be that programmers.se is for "questions beyond the code". I think that's a step in the right direction. Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 3:09
  • "Subjective" is a poor definition on its own, sure, but really the word is just a proxy for software questions that aren't directly about programming, and those subjects (such as, let's say, architecture or project management) are subjective by nature. So by all means let's define the scope of Programmers.SE in more specific terms, but the "subjective face of Stack Overflow" is perfectly adequate as a quick-and-dirty way to describe the purpose of this site.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 3:27
  • I'm not proposed to dump our problems to other SE sites. Bad questions must be closed and deleted, period! Off-topic questions could be migrated to other sites. Eventually some of these questions will be closed on new place, but we can't decide what content is good to other sites. Obviously we need a good criteria to decide when and where dump our good off-topic content. If you follow the discussion on MSO, SO won't dump all of their unwanted content. Many questions will be deleted there. Some unwanted questions will stay there. The questions dumped here could be closed here either.
    – Maniero
    Commented Dec 14, 2010 at 19:32

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