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One of the most elegant descriptions of the scope of Programmers.SE came from Thomas Owens in chat:

Picture Programmers like a small conference room with a whiteboard. No computer, no books, no papers. You write your question on the whiteboard and experts walk by. Someone sees one that they can answer, they stop in and help.

Modify the top of the help/on-topic on the site to put this in the description.

Currently the text reads:

What topics can I ask about here?

Programmers Stack Exchange is a Q&A site for professionals and students in software development and related fields who are interested in getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development.

If you have a question about...

Modify the text to read (italics bit added to show difference - not intended to be in final):

What topics can I ask about here?

Programmers Stack Exchange is a Q&A site for professionals and students in software development and related fields who are interested in getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development. Questions are ideally those which can be answered as if one was standing in front of a whiteboard with no access to a computer, reference books, or documentation.

If you have a question about...

The intended goal is to try to send a message (to those who read it) of "asking questions about debugging and how to fix this error from a compiler completely goes against the spirit of the site."

I'm not sure this type of message can be bit in the site tour.

  • I too think that this exposition could be reworded. For my custom close reasons, I have started to describe the scope as “questions on software development concepts” rather than “conceptual questions about software development” – what differentiates us from SO is not the topic of software development, but the conceptual level. I think the noun emphasizes this better than an adjective, and might be easier to understand since the “concept” word has now become the second most grammatically important word of that phrase after “question” – amon Sep 3 '15 at 23:05
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    Regarding the precise wording of your addition: Adding a conjunctive, a gerund, and a negation might not make the scope easier to comprehend, especially for non-native speakers. A more direct “This site concentrates on questions that can be answered with just a whiteboard, not on those that require access to a computer or to reference documentation” could perhaps be better, but also has a chance of confusing people to think we're a whiteboard-golfing community, with a chance of less-focussed question still being acceptable :S – amon Sep 3 '15 at 23:07
  • this quote was integrated to MSE guidance: Which computer science / programming Stack Exchange do I post in? – gnat Sep 16 '15 at 15:40
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IMHO this won't change anything. People who come to "Programmers" for asking debugging questions are too ignorant to care for the site rules - they either don't read them at all, they do not understand them or they do not take them seriously. Adding more text to a rule they currently do not read or understand will not make more of those people obey the rules.

And I would not be astonished if a big number of those people who ask debugging questions on Programmers are so unexperienced they believe such question can be answered in front of a whiteboard, with no access to a computer.

  • agree that no amount of guidance, no matter how clear, is going to stop help vampires determined to dump their stuff into question box. Many of them already ignored guidance at SO and were blocked there and all they are interested in is only circumventing the SO question block. Proposed edit may be of more use for those who vote on questions, up or down, close or leave open, to help them make their mind on how to vote – gnat Sep 19 '15 at 21:35

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