15

The Help Center says this:

and it is not about...

career advice, salary or compensation,

... but it links to an answer that cites this question as being an acceptable question:

Can someone find a job as a programmer without an education?

Which is closed.

The Tag Wiki says this in its body:

Questions about developing one's career can be asked as long as they invite the unique insights of a programmer and are specifically about developing one's career as a programmer.

Please note that most career advice questions run the risk of being closed for being too broad or impractical: try to make yours a good subjective question.

Please also make sure your question has the proper scope. If your question can also be applied to other jobs then it's not really something that uniquely applies to software development and isn't on-topic here.

proper scope for question

More information about career development questions:

But it says this (not encouraging) in the Tag Wiki Excerpt:

99% of questions with this tag are off-topic and will be closed. Study other questions under this tag closely that aren't closed before asking your question, if you want any chance of it not being closed. Closed questions add up to a possible question-ban disallowing you to ask further questions. Questions about steps one can take to develop one's programming career that require the unique insights of other programmers.

Finally, we have a custom close reason that seems to provide no room for exceptions:

Questions seeking career or education advice are off topic on Programmers. They are only meaningful to the asker and do not generate lasting value for the broader programming community. Furthermore, in most cases, any answer is going to be a subjective opinion that may not take into account all the nuances of a (your) particular circumstance.

So how does one identify an on-topic question for this tag? Do they even exist?

  • 1
    "Please answer for your region/city/country only" => this "acceptable" example is a blatant poll / list, which makes it a very bad fit for help center and, conversely, a very good fit for deletion (just look at some of the answers there, typical poll items "IvoteBush", "IvotePutin", bleh!) – gnat Feb 19 '14 at 6:02
14

They do exist. (I picked one of my own answers since it was easy to find)

Career advice made loads of sense when we were "Not Programming Related". It continued to make some vague kind of gibbering sense thereafter...right up until The Workplace became established to take care of the general cases. We still occasionally see a specialized case that's both "programmery" enough for us and at the same time general enough to be of future use to the community and those googling for it.

Fundamentally that's why it's a problematic thing. What are the odds that someone will find one of our "good" career questions via a search engine (even our own) and not just ask yet another extremely localized, poorly articulated, and/or hugely broad career development question? Pretty highly tilted toward the "lousy" end of the spectrum from where I sit.

Given that The Workplace is going to launch soon, they have the metal to stand on their own. That said, they are also not our toilet bowl. (For future reference, trying to use Software Recommendations as the next dumping ground for a rather similar kind of question asked in the same vague terms will be met with scrutiny).

So the question is, how do we as experienced, professional programmers (for various modes of experienced and professional) deal with our future peers coming to us for advice on how to proceed? Chat is great but that 20 rep is both a gift and a curse. We can't hoist everyone who asks a career related question into chat, that'd make the lower bound for chat participation pointless. So here's what I propose:

  1. Write out a comprehensive guide to becoming a professional programmer. Several of these exist already: (Thanks for finding it, @MichaelT IIRC) Joel on Software, Coding Horror, Scott Hanselman, innumerable books, podcasts, the list goes on. What I propose is a good heuristic for reading all this stuff.

    Bad career questions (of which the vast majority are) tend to boil down to "Decide this for me". The economy is a big, howling tumblebeast of a thing and that's scary to people with no work experience and little of idea of a career trajectory and precious little reliably good advice from the academics they have access to. So they want a sure thing. Java or C# or C++ or whatever. Nothing has ever been a sure bet outside of intelligently honed skill and thoughtful, polite gall.

    Obviously what I propose is a bunch of work but it's got to be better than continuing to keep relentlessly closing these questions with no other options.

  2. Be much more precise about what we mean by "Career advice" and similar topics. And I mean be really precise. Where the hell is the line? We need to very precisely define it. I'd use first example I gave as a decent starting point. It's clearly applicable to all programmers generally and stands a decent chance of staying relevant (particularly as universities kill off CS departments) Here's another from the old, old days that's still alive.

  3. Make sure we know exactly what is on-topic on the Workplace and Freelancing before we even try to suggest migrating things there. Explain the difference between off-topic for this site and off-topic for the network at large. Most career questions fall into the latter but some are only in the former. We need to be clear as to exactly why these aren't good questions for this site or this network as appropriate. "This won't appeal to future visitors of the site" and "This narrowly applies only to you" need to enumerated somewhat I think. It's obvious to us but to many who are not familiar with how the network operates or what it's goals are (concise, accurate, timeless googleable content), the words we use seem very arbitrary and obtuse. There's a particular flavor of newbie argument that goes "But someday it might be useful to someone!" seems valid but isn't. It goes against the idea that we are a concise source of information with singular, authoritative monoliths enscribbled with the writings of the mad geniuses of the ages rather than the cleaved fieldstone of such monoliths, forcing much searching and anguish for no gain.

  4. Edit the hell out of the Career Development tag to serve as the gateway to as much of this as we can might be a good option in corollary to item 1.

I think career advice does have a place here. It's a small place, but a place nonetheless. It just needs to be very, very clearly defined as to the what, hows and whys of the particular advice we are willing to give.

2

While general approach to the tag has been thoroughly addressed in another answer, I would like to focus on a question used as an "acceptable" example in Help Center. As far as I can see, in its current shape it does more harm than good, by misleading the readers into couple of wrong beliefs.

"Please answer for your region/city/country only" - this part of the question makes readers believe that poll / list questions are acceptable. The very presence of this part makes low quality answers look legitimate and acceptable:

  • Personally I wouldn't hire someone without a masters degree, unless they could document some relevant experience and had very good references.

  • In some minor companies in my country (Brazil) you can get a job, but due to some laws you'll get difficulty to be promoted, because to work in some positions, the laws require some education degrees.

  • I would hire that developer if he can show me the his abilities and prove that he is the one that my job needs through interview directly. Of course, it's difficult if his resume does not show any interested information.

Answers quoted above are purely opinionated, brief "polling entries", lacking an explanation and effort, making very wrong impressions on what kind posts are welcome at Programmers. Advertising posts like these through Help Center looks harmful and misleading.

Can someone / Would someone even consider part of the question shifts it into Yes/No territory with all its known issues:

Stack Overflow is not just a 'get an answer for me' place, it's "Produce quality content that is useful for people who follow". In the case of your question, the second part is lacking...

When asking a yes/no question there are one of two possibilities:

  1. You really want a yes/no answer. If this is the case, and you don't need anything else to answer your question then it means the answers will be inherently low quality. An answer that only says "Yes" or "No" (in addition to not meeting the minimum length) would be of very low quality. SO answers expect more.
  2. You don't actually want a yes/no answer, in which case your real question is not actually a yes/no question, and you're hoping that people will determine what your real question is. For example, someone might ask, "Can I do [...]?" when what they really meant to ask was, "How can I do [...]?"

Almost all yes/no questions I've seen fall into case 2; they should be edited into a question that isn't really asking for just a yes/no, it should be asking to explain something. (Even if it has a yes/no in there somewhere.) Note that just adding "Explain" at the end isn't really a good way to go about this; you should refactor the question on a more fundamental level...

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