I am a moderator on Stack Overflow. I got tired of getting into extended conversations with people who read the phrase "practical, answerable problems that are unique to software development" as tacit permission to ask their off-topic questions.

There were also specific complaints that things like "requests for library recommendations" are not specifically called out in the Help Center as closeable offenses.

So I added the following section to the Help Center/On Topic article there:

Some questions are still off-topic, even if they fit into one of the categories listed above:

  1. Questions that lack sufficient information to diagnose the problem. Describe your problem in more detail or include a minimal example in the question itself.

  2. Questions about a problem that can no longer be reproduced or that was caused a simple typographical error. While similar questions may be on-topic here, these are often resolved in a manner unlikely to help future readers. This can often be avoided by identifying and closely inspecting the shortest program necessary to reproduce the problem before posting.

  3. Questions asking for code must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results. See also: Stack Overflow question checklist.

  4. Questions asking for homework help must include a summary of the work you've done so far to solve the problem, and a description of the difficulty you are having solving it.

  5. Questions asking us to recommend or find a tool, library or favorite off-site resource are off-topic for Stack Overflow as they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam. Instead, describe the problem and what has been done so far to solve it.

  6. Questions about general computing hardware and software are off-topic for Stack Overflow unless they directly involve tools used primarily for programming.

  7. Questions on professional server, networking, or related infrastructure administration are off-topic for Stack Overflow unless they directly involve programming or programming tools.

I propose that we do something similar for the Help Center/On-Topic article here on Programmers, but using the close reasons that we have here (not the ones on Stack Overflow). This page is editable by moderators, so we don't need SE permission.

I floated the idea to one of our mods, and he said that we need some community consensus before we do this. So that's what I'm asking for. I hope to avoid conversations like this one, and maybe even have a few people simply refrain from posting such questions here and wasting everyone's time.


1 Answer 1


This is the original Help Center page, with some minor changes. It turns out that most of the Off-Topic subjects are already covered here, so I just added a couple of new ones to cover the missing cases:

  • where to find a software library, tool or other resource
  • a product or service recommendation

Additional updates:

  1. Removed "Freelancing and Business Concerns" from the on-topic list.

  2. Removed "software engineering" in favor of more specific topics, many of which were already included.

  3. Clarified "Programming Tools."

  4. Added "Legal Assistance" to "not about."

  5. Changed "resume help" to "job hunting" at the request of The Workplace mods to prevent people with resume critique questions from thinking they are on-topic there.

  6. Shortened the subjective questions portion, since it's better addressed on the dont-ask page.

What topics can I ask about here?

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

If you have a question about...

  • software requirements
  • software architecture and design
  • algorithm and data structure concepts
  • development methodologies and processes
  • software engineering management
  • quality assurance and testing
  • software licensing

and it is not about...

  • general workplace issues, office politics, and job hunting (check out The Workplace instead)
  • implementation issues, such as code fixes (ask on Stack Overflow instead)
  • coding tools, such as compilers, debuggers, and IDEs (ask on Stack Overflow instead)
  • what language/technology you should learn next, including which technology is better
  • what project you should do next
  • what book you should read next
  • where to find a software library, tool or other resource
  • a product or service recommendation
  • career advice, salary, or compensation
  • personal lifestyle, including relationships, and non-programming activities
  • legal assistance

...then you're in the right place to ask your question!

Please make sure your question uniquely applies to programmers in general:

proper scope for

Subjective questions are allowed, but subjective does not mean “anything goes”. Please keep it professional. If this is a question you'd be uncomfortable discussing with your colleagues in a work environment, it's probably not appropriate here, either. For more information about subjective questions, please see the Help Center page about what not to ask as well as the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and Real Questions Have Answers blog posts for details and examples

Please look around to see if your question has been asked before. It’s also OK to ask and answer your own question.

If your question is not specifically on-topic for Programmers Stack Exchange, it may be on topic for another Stack Exchange site. If no site currently exists that will accept your question, you may commit to or propose a new site at Area51, the place where new Stack Exchange communities are democratically created.

  • 2
    what project you should do next, and what book you should read next, could be consolidated into "What project, book, new language, career path or other life decision you should take on next" - or something to that degree. I see what you're doing here, but this is really long, I'll see if I can find other opportunities to condense it over the weekend.
    – user131
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 6:52
  • 1
    @TimPost Do you also see this as a good opportunity to reduce or remove the "what about subjective questions" section? It's better addressed in the "don-t ask" page. I think that page should be linked to here, but it would make this page less intimidating if that duplicate content wasn't there. What do you think, though?
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 9:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .