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This post is a supplement to the Help Center Article of the same name. That article, in a nutshell, describes questions that are either too broad, too opinionated, or too discussion-oriented to make good questions.

This article describes the specific categories of questions that you should avoid asking. Where can you ask them instead? Try The Whiteboard, if you have 20 reputation or more.

Coding help

If you need help writing or troubleshooting code (or using the tools), ask your question on Stack Overflow, not here. Read "What topics can I ask about" before you ask your question there.

Review my design

We don't review entire software designs; that's a discussion, not a question. If you have a specific question about your software design, ask that.

What is the name of this thing?

Questions that ask us to name things or provide word definitions are just requests for search engine help, which we don't provide here.

Which way is best?

The way that best satisfies your software's requirements.

Because you already understand the detailed specifications for your software project, you are in the best position to answer the question "Which way best meets my functional and non-functional software requirements?"

If you can clearly define what "best" means to you specifically without simply restating "best," then your question might be suitable for asking here. Otherwise, you're just trotting after a herd.

Convince my boss/coworker

We're not here to help you win your argument.

Customer service

If you have a question about how a company or organization's product is licensed, priced, serviced, released, etc., ask the company.

Legal Advice or Licensing

Ask a lawyer, or one of our sister sites like Law or Open Source.

Where do I find...?

We don't help people find things here. We don't know where you can find that highly obscure paper/product/whatever. You have access to the same tool we do, which is Google.

What do you recommend?

We don't make product, service or technology recommendations of any kind. Try here or here, but read their Help Center first.

What should I learn?

We don't know that. We can't predict the future, and your personal circumstances are too specific to make a good question that can benefit everyone.

Is [technology] popular/dead?

We don't know that either. Even if we did, any answer we provide would become useless a week from now.

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    Answers go in the answers. :) – Aaron Hall Apr 12 '16 at 21:54
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    I don't like the phrasing Programmers is a Software Design site. If you're not asking a specific question about Software Design, you're probably in the wrong place. Plenty of what's on topic isn't design. Requirements aren't design (but they are related, at least). Quality assurance and testing aren't design (but again, somewhat related). Development methodologies and processes aren't design. Configuration management and engineering or project management aren't design, either. Saying that Programmers is about software design is easy, but it's very incomplete. – Thomas Owens Apr 13 '16 at 1:04
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    @ThomasOwens: The phrase "conceptual questions about software development" isn't going to cut it anymore; it's far too vague, and our message needs to be much more focused if we're going to have any reasonable expectation of people staying on topic. If you have better phrasing, I'm all ears. – Robert Harvey Apr 13 '16 at 1:26
  • related FAQ: Why was my question closed or down voted? – gnat Apr 13 '16 at 10:41
  • @RobertHarvey I agree with it, but it's hard to come up with a focused sentence when the scope is so broad. Any phrasing needs to encompass everything. – Thomas Owens Apr 13 '16 at 14:15
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    @ThomasOwens: See my new phrasing. – Robert Harvey Apr 13 '16 at 14:41
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    if you replace the phrase "Coding help" with "Programming help" then it's pretty easy to see how ridiculous this site name is. – Tommy Apr 14 '16 at 2:41
  • Your post is fine (especially now, after you edited the headings), yet I wonder what you are going to do with it - just link to it in a precanned comment whenever a question is asked which falls under these categories? – Doc Brown Apr 15 '16 at 6:46
  • I'm suprised THIS too wasnt closed as not constructive. – Craig Wayne Apr 15 '16 at 12:04
  • @DocBrown how can it be fine, it just tells it straight to askers of 20+% questions that their topics aren't appropriate. At SO meta this attitude was complained about as negative, at TWP meta they label it as unwelcoming. It's so hostile to break love between help vampires and rep whores like that, isn't it – gnat Apr 15 '16 at 12:10
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    @DocBrown: It is going to be my go-to post for the handful of people who just looked at the word Programmers, said "I are a programmer" and stumbled into here yelling "quiet, I can't hear!" The reality is that it's easier to describe what our scope is by explaining what it isn't. I also hope that we can keep the Meta link for this post on the front page. (hint hint, moderators). – Robert Harvey Apr 15 '16 at 14:57
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    @DocBrown: I agree that we shouldn't use it as a bludgeon. Remember WSOiN? – Robert Harvey Apr 15 '16 at 15:14
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    @RobertHarvey: no, I did not know that post before. This makes me wonder what makes you believe your question above will perceived differently than that deleted "What SO is not" question? – Doc Brown Apr 15 '16 at 15:45
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    @Ewan: "Which way is best" is "Primarily Opinion-Based," unless you can make your question more specific. "Review My Design" is "Too Broad," unless you can make your question more specific. Neither of these has to do with topicality; they have to do with specificity. The notion that your question has to be properly scoped is not a new idea; this concept is followed by all of the Stack Exchange sites, not just this one. Asking good questions is hard, but you still have to do it. – Robert Harvey Apr 15 '16 at 20:39
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    I suggest to rename "Google help" to "Search engine help". Although the most popular, Google is not the only search engine. Many people use duckduckgo or Bing (and probably other engines that I haven't mentioned). – sakisk Apr 20 '16 at 9:24
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Upon skimming your headers to see if they would apply to my questions, my first instinct was to think wait some of those are actually on-topic! until I read your detailed notes. Perhaps we could clarify some of the header areas?

Review my design

We don't review entire software designs; that's a discussion, not a question. If you have a specific question about your software design, ask that.

Gut response was "Wait we do offer opinions on software design!" but the final line does cover that. Perhaps we could make the header specific to generic design reviews, like Generic feedback on my entire software design?

Which way is best?

The way that best satisfies your software's requirements.

Because you already understand the detailed specifications for your software project, you are in the best position to answer the question "Which way best meets my functional and non-functional software requirements?"

If you can clearly define what "best" means to you specifically without simply restating "best," then your question might be suitable for asking here. Otherwise, you're just trotting after a herd.

Once again, my gut response on reading the header was "Asking which way is better in regards to performance/memory use/readability/etc is on-topic!", but see that is covered in the final line of the description. Perhaps header can be changed to something like Which way is best (with no clarification of what "best" means to you)?

What do you recommend?

We don't make product, service or technology recommendations of any kind. Try here or here, but read their Help Center first.

A lot of questions here ask "What do you recommend" without being about a specific product/service/technology/etc. We should specify that in the header line, like What Product|Service|Technology|etc do you recommend?"

The idea is that most people won't read the entire post line-by-line, but will rather scan the headers to see if each section would apply to their question. If they think it does, perhaps they'll read the detailed part. Clarifying the headers would help prevent the whole "this is stupid, why am I even bothering" response when something is taking too long online, and would probably increase the success rate with users that actually read and retain the information.

And last of all on this section

Name that thing
Questions that ask "Is there a name for this thing" are just requests for Google help, which we don't provide here.

I thought based on the last meta post I saw about this, "Name that thing" is on-topic providing it was not a "What should I name this thing/class/object/etc" type of question.

I know from experience, that often being a new programmer there are a great number of terms we just don't know, and it is very hard to find the "proper" term with Google. Once we do find the right term though, it's very easy to google what you need to know, so find this category very useful as a new programmer, or even as an experienced programmer learning a new area.

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    So your only gripe is with the headings? :) I don't know how to solve the "Name that thing" problem; I concede that having a term to attach to a concept can be really useful, but I have little interest in being a Google Help Service, and many of these questions have no answer, so the signal to noise in this category of questions is really, really low. Allowing them to continue to exist drives people to ask more of them, and I just don't think that should be our site's primary focus. – Robert Harvey Apr 14 '16 at 18:19
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    @RobertHarvey Yes, I think my only real gripe here is with the headings :) I think you did a good job at providing concise details, with pointers of where to go for those who care. In regards to naming things questions, I think they are OK if you are asking for an industry-standard name for something common for a lot of developers, but they are primarily opinion based if you are looking for something for just your own use (or your team, or your company, etc). Sometimes identifying the difference can be tough though since the question asker often doesn't know. – Rachel Apr 14 '16 at 18:35

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