Check out Does dedicated maintenance work hamper a programmer's career?. I was reading the answers with interest, and considering adding my own, when I realized that the question had been tagged as a duplicate.

"No problem", I thought, "let me just head to the original question". I was a bit surprised to find that the linked question in the duplicate tag was https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/108085/how-do-i-get-myself-out-of-a-dead-end-programming-job. This question, in turn, was flagged as a duplicate in its own right, and tied back to How do you break out of the role of a code maintainer?.

Here's my problem: the things I wanted to post, which are basically some seldom-discussed strengths of maintenance programmers, wouldn't make sense as answers to the second or third questions I listed. The second question makes a bunch of statements about a "bad" job (lack of structure, obsolete tools/methods) that don't involve maintenance programming, and it would be odd for me to provide an answer dealing with the topic of maintenance programming.

The third question starts with the premise that maintenance programming is inherently bad, and it's not my role in responding to contradict the premise. (If someone on a travel site asked, "what's the quickest way to get out of Wilmington, DE?", an answer telling the person about reasons to stay would be most unwelcome.)

The people flagging the first question as duplicate apparently made an assumption, namely that "maintenance programming" equals "dead end". I don't agree with that, and even if I did I wouldn't expect this assumption to be baked into the moderation rules of this site.

The people flagging the second question were a bit more reasonable. Both questions are basically in the spirit of "help me find a way out". Taking things one step further, I'd say that question #1 is a pretty interesting one, whereas questions #2 and #3 are fairly mundane, and even borderline inappropriate. If someone really doesn't know the names of a few job sites or technical recruiters, I don't think this is the proper venue for finding this information out, nor is ordinary jawboning about one's job very welcome here.

1 Answer 1


So there's a couple of things to touch upon.

First off, you said:

The people flagging the first question as duplicate apparently made an assumption, namely that "maintenance programming" equals "dead end".

No, the OP started with that assumption: "So half my current work experience would count for naught in the long run." And there are other comments within the question that make it clear the OP does not consider maintenance work to be valuable.

Whether or not that attitude is correct is immaterial in this case - it's the OP's bias.

Next up:

I'd say that question #1 is a pretty interesting one, whereas questions #2 and #3 are fairly mundane, and even borderline inappropriate.

And the answer here is "Nope, all of them are off-topic." Career and education advice are explicitly off-topic for the site.

So that brings us to whether or not the correct close reason was picked on that question.

We (the community) could have gone "Off Topic -> Career advice" and been done with it. But in this case, we have a chain of related questions that mostly answer the essence of what was being asked. Jalayn's and Demian's answer address what the OP was asking given the OP's biases.

So closing as duplicate is seen as a kinder response since we're linking the OP to an answer that ought to help their case.

Understandably, you feel you have a different perspective and wish to provide that. That kind of brings us back to the fact that the question is off-topic regardless of how well the duplicate matches the question.

You have a few options:

  1. You can flag the question and make the argument as to why it should be re-opened. If you've read this far, then you know the key points the mods will want to see addressed to explain why it's different and why it's on-topic for the site.

  2. You can edit your thoughts into one of the existing answers. Both PDR and Dan have fairly "pro-maintenance" stances in their answers and I suspect your thoughts would blend in with that.

Ultimately though, you're arguing that the duplicate close vote is an "abuse of the duplicate tag" (per your question title). And I disagree with that stance. The question is off-topic for the site. We have reasonably close questions with answers that address the OP's concern. Closing as duplicate is well within normal duplicate usage.

  • On that first quote you cited: when I read one thing within a question body that's a potential answer to the question itself (i.e. the title), I assume that the poster of the question is providing information that hints at that answer, but leaves room for another answer. That's very common, and different from a question that assumes a potential answer in asking something else. I do see that all three questions are off-topic, but I don't think "being nice" excuses much. I suggest that we should point people to the correct forum for their questions, not to another poorly-framed question. Aug 1, 2014 at 19:00
  • @gnat - thanks for the links!
    – user53019
    Aug 1, 2014 at 19:03
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    @user1172763 - Have a look at the answers in meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/5839/…. I understand the points you're making, but what you're suggesting doesn't align with the guidance we're following from StackExchange.
    – user53019
    Aug 1, 2014 at 19:06
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    @user1172763 "we should point people to the correct forum" - I don't think Programmers community is anyhow obliged to do this. I for one participate here only to learn from on-topic posts and participate in these and I have no slightest idea nor desire to find out where off-topic stuff should go (except that it shouldn't be on this site)
    – gnat
    Aug 1, 2014 at 19:07
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    @user1172763 In general, we get frustrated when people from another stack exchange site suggest reposting a question here without understanding our scope. It would be rather irresponsible and hypocritical for us to say "go post over there on this other community" if we are not fully aware of their norms and rules about what is accepted and not. It is the person asking the question's responsibility to find the right place to post it that is accordance with that communities policies. If they want advice as to where it might go, specifically ask for it and we might be able to give some guidance.
    – user40980
    Aug 2, 2014 at 18:35

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