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From Ana, a Stack Exchange Community Manager in the previous question about changing the site name:

It took us a good while, but the Community Team has circled up and here's where we stand on your request to change Programmers.SE's name.

We agree that renaming this site is a good idea.

"Programmers" is an affinity group, whereas "Software Architecture" (for example) is an action and a discipline. It is entirely possible that changing the site's name will send clearer signals and prime new users to ask questions more consistently in line with what y'all would be proud to see and answer, particularly given where this site’s scope has solidified over the past few years.

So yes, we're open to proceeding with a name change. That said, we'll need to make sure the change makes the kind of difference you want it to, because we can't repeat this process again several years down the line. We gotta get it right this time. Last time the site was renamed, the scope was very much still in flux; by now, hopefully you can identify much more precisely what this site is about and commit to both a name and description and introductory materials that communicate this body of knowledge clearly and succinctly.

Here's what the Community Team needs before we can move forward:

  1. Tell us what you're proposing as the new site name.

    "Software Engineering" and "Software Architecture" both look like good options from where I stand. Let’s not turn this into a bikeshed discussion; we need well-considered options here, not a popularity contest - Coffee McWhiskeyface is right out. The ideal name will suggest at a glance what this site is about, without suggesting that it might be “fix my code” even a little bit.

  2. Lay out what the new site scope will be.

    Above all else, the scope needs to be simple. Seriously. No more than four bullets, no multi-line comma-separated lists, no gerrymandering - it needs to be easy for any new visitor who bothers to read and even mildly pays attention to what they're reading to know what they can and cannot ask about here. Eliminate ambiguity for a first time poster once and for all.

Let's talk again in a month.

Let's start answering the following questions:

  • What should our site name be?
  • What should our tour say? Specifically, the first paragraph below the site title that begins with "Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site..."
  • What should our Help Center's on-topic page say about what is on and off-topic? Note that what this site is about and not about also does appear on the tour.
  • 22
    I approve of this message ;) – ChrisF May 24 '16 at 19:00
  • 2
    @ThomasOwens: What is "Engineering Management?" – Robert Harvey May 24 '16 at 23:55
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    @RobertHarvey (Did you mean to leave that on my answer?) It's the application of economics, accounting, organizational behavior, product and project management, and leadership to engineering projects and organizations. – Thomas Owens May 25 '16 at 0:07
  • 23
    I like the idea of changing the name but can we keep the coffee cup? – candied_orange May 26 '16 at 6:01
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    I like the name change and I'm convincing it will help this community. Software Engineering seems to be a popular name. There seems to be also much consensus on the scope to remain mostly what it was. A possible new UI design seems to be a bit unclear still - maybe it could be further refined in a separate question. – Trilarion May 26 '16 at 12:07
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    Who voted to close this as primarily opinion-based? Yes, it is POB: that is intentional and good in this case. – user22815 May 26 '16 at 22:32
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    @Snowman: There's always that one guy that has that completely inane close vote reason.... – Nathan Tuggy May 28 '16 at 0:34
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    It may be useful to remind everyone the whole premise behind changing the site's name was that doing so would make it instantly clearer what's on-topic here. If we're just going to end up with 9 paragraphs explaining what can and can't be asked here, changing the name is pointless. – Evan May 28 '16 at 0:58
  • 1
    @CandiedOrange I second your idea... – Wintermut3 Jun 8 '16 at 17:46
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    @Trilarion The accepted community wiki answer here serves that purpose. It combines the most accepted portions of the top answers. – Thomas Owens Jun 10 '16 at 14:30
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    Quick pseudo-update (originally posted under the answer that led to this post): Sorry for the delay, but we may need another week or two. In addition to the "we're busy with multiple things at once" reason (which is both true and not at all unusual), it seems the fact that we're a distributed team has been no barrier to many of us recently getting sick all at once, which hasn't helped matters. We definitely haven't forgotten about the request, though! – Pops Jun 27 '16 at 20:40
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    @Pops Thanks. Can you tell us if what we have is sufficient to meet the things Ana was looking for? Or should we use this next week or two to do anything else? It seems like we're coming to consensus on most of the important things that we'd like to see. – Thomas Owens Jun 27 '16 at 20:42
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    @ThomasOwens It looks nice to me, both on its own and with respect to the guidance above, but huge caveat, I'm not that familiar with the history of this process and in this instance my opinion doesn't necessarily represent the rest of the team. I don't know of anything else you should actively be doing. Ana may have more comments in a few days. (I just read that back to myself and realized it's probably not as helpful as I wanted it to be... sorry. I'd rather be noncommittal than wrong, though.) – Pops Jun 27 '16 at 20:55
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    Just letting folks know we're not absentee, we just had a rather busy last 30 days. The direction here is really good; we'll be chiming in very shortly regarding some of the points that folks have made, and see where we can go from there. – Tim Post Jul 5 '16 at 16:50
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    @TimPost Thanks, looking forward to the next steps. – Thomas Owens Jul 5 '16 at 17:23

10 Answers 10

100

This answer is to summarize the requests for Stack Exchange in a single post. It is a community wiki, so if something else seems to be a consensus in this thread, feel free to add or edit it.


Name

Change to Software Engineering


Tour / Tag Line

Welcome

Software Engineering is a question and answer site for people involved in the Systems Development Life Cycle who care about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly. We don't address questions about debugging code or how to use specific tools in software development. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about software development.

Ask About

  • the systems development life cycle

Don't Ask About

  • writing or debugging code
  • support for software tools or packages
  • what to read, learn, buy or use
  • legal advice

On Topic Page

What topics can I ask about here?

Software Engineering is a question and answer site for people involved in the Systems Development Life Cycle who care about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly.

If you have a question about...

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

Please make sure that your question is not too broad or strongly rooted in opinions. If you have questions that warrant an extended discussion, feel free to come to chat.

Before asking, look around to see if your question has been asked. If you see similar questions, be sure to check out their answers and differentiate your question from other, related questions.

If you still aren't sure, you can ask about our scope on our Meta site. We have a curated FAQ on our Meta site. You can also check out our list of related sites within the Stack Exchange network.

  • 13
    A six-paragraph interstitial is a bit excessive. – Shog9 May 27 '16 at 22:51
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    @Shog9 It does look a lot smaller when put in the main site font, about half the length if I remember correctly (ie. 4 lines becomes 2). We've encountered this discrepancy before with the FAQ and On Topic page. That said, maybe we could remove the bullet points and just link to the On Topic page instead if you want it shorter :) – Rachel May 27 '16 at 23:44
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    @Shog9 As a side note, what does the ServerFault page contain that is custom? Is it the entire 6 section text, or just the area above the Ask Question box? – Rachel May 27 '16 at 23:47
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    IIRC, it's one short paragraph at the top. – Shog9 May 28 '16 at 0:24
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    "Q&A site for students, practitioners, and researchers of software engineering and related fields" I would not use the term 'students' as this would indicate that homework is relevant. I do know 'students' is linked to 'of software engineering', people less well versed in the english language will not. – Bent May 29 '16 at 11:37
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    @Rachel: New users never see that material. The interstitial page is the only chance we have to make our case to new users who choose to post random crap, either deliberately or out of ignorance. An interstitial guarantees that they can no longer claim ignorance. – Robert Harvey Jun 1 '16 at 19:53
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    @RobertHarvey I didn't realize this at first, but we can add /advice to the end of any Ask Question page to view how it actually looks for new users. I don't think the question you just posted addresses this at all, although in the comments I agree this page is very useful. I really don't think we need to air our old dirty laundry for new users with a list of what not to ask at this point though, and it should instead just be something short and simple that tells the user "hey we have rules! Read them before posting" – Rachel Jun 1 '16 at 20:35
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    @Rachel: I'm fascinated by the reluctance (by both you and the folks at SE corporate) to tell people right up front what they need to know to be successful at using the site. Which do you suppose is more frustrating: being told privately what not to do up front before asking, or being chastised publicly by gnat after asking? – Robert Harvey Jun 1 '16 at 20:48
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    @RobertHarvey I agree with you that we should have a short blurb about the Ask Question DOs and DONTs at the point of asking a question for users. What I think needs more discussion is the actual wording. The wording you proposed is great for a site titled "Programmers", however I am not sure that it is all needed for a site named "Software Engineering". I'd like to discuss that separately, and not mix it in with a summary of our Name/On-Topic changes for SE. – Rachel Jun 2 '16 at 14:27
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    @Rachel: The "What We're Not" section is already condensed as much as I think I can make it without losing information. You could lose the "So what can I ask" section, I suppose (I already told Thomas Owens I was willing to lose that section if it's solely about length and there is no other way), but frankly I think it's useful to state the scope in the interstitial. Remember, the interstitial is the only thing that new users are likely to see. – Robert Harvey Jun 2 '16 at 14:36
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    @Rachel: Finally, you seem quite confident that a name change and a name change alone will fix the problem. It won't. The name change is essential, but it requires more than that; it requires that users be informed when they ask a question, and the way you do that is by informing them. Frankly, I'm a bit puzzled why you're opposed to that. It can't just be about length. – Robert Harvey Jun 2 '16 at 14:43
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    @RobertHarvey I reread it a few times, and it doesn't go into our past history as much as I thought it did, and isn't bad in its current form :) As for length, I was thinking more in the context of the full /advice page. It would be nice if we could see how your text would fit into the existing page. This kind of page is definitely needed though, and I know I posted something years ago on meta.SE about how our ask question page should be more like reddits with a simple upfront list of dos and donts... – Rachel Jun 2 '16 at 14:48
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    Quality Assurance and Testing -> sqa.stackexchange.com – bish Jun 6 '16 at 8:41
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    I'm concerned that the proposed tagline, "... is a question and answer site for students...", will lead us to be inundated with homework problems. I'd recommend something more like "... is a question and answer site for professional software engineers and those interested in the field". – GrandmasterB Jun 8 '16 at 18:02
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    I would just change the order. "students, practitioners, and researchers" to "practitioners, researchers and students". Clearly, practitioners should outnumber the other two categories. – Trilarion Jun 21 '16 at 21:23
151

Software Engineering.

I think it's as good a site title as you're going to get. Here's why:

  1. It's not "Programmers," which smacks of people who write teh codez.

  2. Electrical Engineering's name change (from Electronics) was very good for them. It raised the quality bar on that site significantly.

The On-Topic page, Tour Page, or Whatever New Users See First™

Frankly, after watching this site for as long as I have, I strongly believe that we should lead with a brief summary of what we're not. We can caution people right up front while still keeping it light and friendly. Something like this:

Welcome to Software Engineering!

We'd love to help you out with your Software Engineering question. But before you ask your question, please read the important stuff below.

We don't do code troubleshooting here, so if your question is about how to fix your broken code or how to use your programming tools, ask it on Stack Overflow, making sure that you provide a minimal, complete, and verifiable example.

We don't answer survey questions, make lists of things, or engage in extended discussion here. We don't predict the future, find things on the Internet, provide customer support, or make product recommendations of any kind here. We don't know what project you should do next, what class you should take next, or what job you should apply for. We don't give legal advice.

Phew. That was close!

OK, So what can I ask?

You can ask Software Engineering questions directly related to the Software Development Life Cycle, including:

  • Software Development Methods and Practices
  • Requirements Engineering
  • Software Architecture and Design
  • Algorithms and Data Structures
  • Quality Assurance and Testing
  • Configuration, Build and Release Management

If it's not in that list, it's probably off-topic.

It's always a good idea to survey the landscape of a new site before participating. Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the site and its participants. We're not a forum; don't expect things to work the same way as other forums do.

Good luck, and welcome to Software Engineering!

Finally, this needs to be an interstitial page, something that is put right in front of people before they ask their first question, with a checkbox at the bottom that says

☑  I have read and understand this page. No, really. I have. 

ServerFault did something similar; we can do the same.

  • 12
    I rarely upvote (or downvote) an answer to a question that I have also answered. This is one of those cases. You address the "don'ts" very well which I think is important, and licensing is not on the on-topic list. You enumerate the guardrails we need to put up, and cite other Stack Exchange sites as examples that implemented those guardrails with success. Great ideas. – user22815 May 25 '16 at 0:52
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    This answer is beautiful. – enderland May 25 '16 at 11:07
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    Really like this. My only concern is 'Software Requirements'. I'd be worried it would be interpreted as 'what kind of software do I need to...'. Is there a different term that can be used for it? – GrandmasterB May 25 '16 at 20:28
  • @GrandmasterB: We could potentially link it to the Wikipedia article. – Robert Harvey May 25 '16 at 20:49
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    The scope of the site here seems drastically not in-line with what was requested; the "OK, So what can I ask?" section alone is 7 bullets and a little over a paragraph, as compared to the requested "no more than 4 bullets," and this answer suggests that even that is preceded by two paragraphs on what's out of scope. – Nex Terren May 27 '16 at 16:08
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    @NexTerren I agree, I think this is not good text for the On Topic page, which should be about what this site is, not what it isn't. I think something along these lines might be good to display when new users ask questions though, like what Server Fault has when a new user goes to ask a question. – Rachel May 27 '16 at 17:03
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    @Rachel: The sooner new users get presented with what the site is not about, the more likely they are to actually read it. After three to six sentences, the likelihood of them even seeing it degrades rapidly to zero. It doesn't much matter to me how this is accomplished, or where the text is placed, so long as what we're not is the very first thing they see after they click "Ask a Question." – Robert Harvey May 27 '16 at 17:07
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    @RobertHarvey I understand that, but most people that actively seek out the OnTopic page in the Help section usually go there because they already know something about SE, and want to know what is On Topic. I think this is a great idea to post on the Ask Question page for new users though. I know from my personal experience as a new user of many sites who doesn't like reading manuals, faqs, or help sections before I am invested in a community, this is where I would actually read and pay attention to the information. – Rachel May 27 '16 at 17:10
  • @Rachel as far as I understand interstitial is a separate feature that needs to have a dedicated request to be enabled for the site (example of such a request at Server Fault). In the past SE management seemed to be rather reluctant about enabling it – gnat May 27 '16 at 17:10
  • @Rachel: This text can go on the How to Ask page. Shog has already told me that this is a moderator-editable page, and it is the one that ServerFault presents as their interstitial. cc:@gnat – Robert Harvey May 27 '16 at 17:13
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    I've been thinking about this, and honestly I don't know if this will be needed after a name change. I'd like to keep it as a possibility if things don't improve, but I really think we'll see a huge difference from the name change alone, and this kind of thing would be overkill. Its great if we were keeping Programmers as a name, but unnecessary for Software Engineering in my opinion. – Rachel May 28 '16 at 17:18
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    @Rachel: It's absolutely essential. The current Help Center doesn't work because new users never see it, but even if they did, they will cherry pick it to make their question on-topic (I've seen it happen before). It's critical that we tell people what we're not, right up front, very specifically highlighting the problem areas, so that there's no possibility of mis-interpretation. Remember, we're trying to solve the problem of a high percentage of off-topic questions. The title of the site is a good start, but it's not enough. Don't lose your nerve now. :) – Robert Harvey May 28 '16 at 17:30
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    ... the problem with the term "We are not a Forum" is that most people coming here for the first time is they do not not understand what that means, even if they read it three times. Heck, in a specific sense, we are a Forum, this is just not a site where questions should be asked which lead to lengthy discussions. – Doc Brown May 30 '16 at 9:23
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    Quality Assurance and Testing -> sqa.stackexchange.com – bish Jun 6 '16 at 8:40
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    @bish: Only if they "discuss" Unit Testing and TDD in depth there. – Robert Harvey Jun 6 '16 at 14:18
42

How happy I am that this day has finally come! These are my suggestions, some similarities to Snowman's answer with certain omissions and value-adds.

Site Name

I favor the new site name, Software Engineering

I am neutral to the new site name, Software Development

I dislike the name, Software Architecture however as this can be considered a distinct subtype discipline of Software Engineering in general. The site is far more than just Software Architecture.

Opening Statement

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

Scope

Relatively the same with a few tweaks I would mildly suggest.

  • I am open to removing Software Licensing from on-topic. Snowman makes good points that these questions are problematic most of the time and often in that fuzzy legal area.
  • I am supportive of adding the following on topic scope statements like below

Continuous Integration, Deployment and Dev Ops Strategies

Software Release Management

These kinds of questions I think most people would agree if well formed would be a welcome addition to the site, however it would be nice to more explicitly state that this is a friendly area for such questions as well.

Questions I would like Answered

I think Project Management questions are a fuzzy area in the sites scope right now. Clearly if I were managing the build out of a data center this would not fall in the site scope. If I were a tech lead on an Agile Scrum team then that is well established as on topic currently. Agile and Project Management for software development projects in general are on topic at Project Management site.

Should questions about Agile, Scrum and other Project Management methodologies continue to be on topic or is this a distraction? If they should be on topic then were is the definitive line drawn in the sand? How do we accurately reflect this in our On Topic statement?

  • 1
    Wouldn't "Engineering Accreditation and Certification" fall into "career and education advice" which is off-topic? Or would you support making only those specific subtopics on-topic? – user22815 May 24 '16 at 18:08
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    I have similar questions. If you start stripping away things that are currently on-topic, but may have a better home on a different site (quality assurance and testing to Stack Overflow and SQA depending, methodologies and processes to Project Management, licensing to Law and Open Source, algorithms and data structures to SO for implementation and Computer Science for theory), you end up with requirements, architecture and design, and configuration management. Now that the network has grown, I can argue that there are better homes for just about everything in our on-topic list. – Thomas Owens May 24 '16 at 18:12
  • @Snowman I concede that point. It is a slippery slope. – maple_shaft May 24 '16 at 18:14
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    @ThomasOwens I think this isn't a slippery slope. It is well established that if I have a question needing help on an algorithm from a very very large community of programmers and software developers then I would ask on SO. If I want a smaller community of software engineers I ask here. If I have a theory question that has no substantial practical real world problem statement, it should be on CS. If it is a question about CS principles to be applied to a clearly articulated applied real world problem then I should ask here. – maple_shaft May 24 '16 at 18:20
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    As I said before, the only thing I said I was "open" to for removal was software licensing. – maple_shaft May 24 '16 at 18:24
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    Would you be open to changing “for professionals and students” to something that makes clear that non-professional enthusiasts are welcome, too? – 5gon12eder May 24 '16 at 22:42
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    Where Agile/Scrum/PM questions should go depends on the perspective that the asker wants. If it is the perspective of a regular team member, then here would be the right site. If it is more the manager/scrum master/product owner perspective, then PM.se would be a better site. – Bart van Ingen Schenau May 25 '16 at 9:41
21

I believe our scope is mostly fine already. I think the issues this site has are not related to scope, but a desire to devolve from Q&A to an open-ended, discussion-friendly forum-like site. In other words, a partial or total revert to the NPR days.

I fully support our current scope and focusing on questions that are narrowly-scoped and invite objective answers, or at least good subjective answers. We need to buck the trend of being known as "that place where you can ask about your green field or blue sky projects. These may be the types of questions that people need answered, but they are difficult to address in the Q&A format and are not interesting to the high-reputation users who provide the bulk of the useful answers on this site.

Clearly, our name does not help. It does not accurately reflect what this site is about. It invites questions that are not appropriate here. Furthermore, our on-topic list is on the longer side compared to other Stack Exchange sites. It may not be the longest, but it is not very concise nor does it accurately convey the overall theme of the site.

To address these concerns, I advocate for the following three changes (two requested in Ana's meta answer plus one more):

Change our name to Software Engineering

What is in a name? "First impressions." We are not about programming, nor are we a catch-all bucket for Programmers' issues. Look at our on-topic list: we are about software engineering. "Programmers" evokes NPR-style questions in my mind. "Oh, I am a programmer and I have a question about some random topic. This site is called Programmers. I should load up the crap cannon and ask my question here." Nope.

Refactor the on-topic list

Remember earlier, I said our scope is fine but the list is verbose.

  1. Software lifecycle: requirements, design, architecture, development methodologies, unit testing.
  2. Software configuration management strategies (the way it is now, but make it clear that SCM tool questions are off-topic)
  3. Algorithm and data structure concepts.
  4. Software engineering and team management and processes.

This is primarily a restructuring of the current list into fewer bullet points that are more closely related, but there is one important change:

No more software licensing questions. These tend to be problematic, resulting in a zillion comments about whether a particular question is on-topic or not, or whether a programmer rather than a lawyer can answer it. We should avoid the whole debate and make them categorically off-topic. Open Source SE is in beta but doing well, and covers the majority of licensing questions that are currently on-topic here. Closed-source licensing questions typically end with "ask the vendor" anyway.

Site UI Redesign

Change the site design to something that "looks" more like software engineering, not a programmer's desk. I am awful with graphics design so I cannot recommend much, but we need a change here. Something that looks unfriendly to someone who wants to post a code dump, or ask a broad blue sky question with zero useful information.

Conclusion

I think this site is pretty much set up to be a good, useful site. We just need some guardrails to help guide people away from the broad, opinion-based questions and more toward the interesting design and software engineering questions that are already on-topic.

  • It's odd to say the software lifecycle and software engineering are on-topic but QA, which is part of both, is not. It's scope gerrymandering which we were warned against doing. – Evan May 24 '16 at 17:38
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    @Evan it's about we stop pretending that we discuss QA topics as true testers would. I am an ex-tester and QA stuff I've seen here is... softly speaking not at the best level from QA engineer perspective. As a part of development lifecycle it's good enough but not as a part of a discourse focused primarily on QA. I rarely visit QA.SE but what I see there, is so much better fit. About time to stop hijacking topics that are better covered at other SE sites – gnat May 24 '16 at 18:12
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    @gnat Overlap is totally fine; convoluted scope definitions like "software lifecyle but not QA (even though QA is a major part of the software lifecycle)" is how we got into this mess in the first place. We might not be the best place to ask QA questions, but so what? Like Thomas Owens is pointing out, if we take out all the things w'ere not the best at answering, there's precious little left here to ask. Either we stop scope gerrymandering everything that you don't happen to like or we might as well just shut the place down. – Evan May 24 '16 at 20:01
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    @Evan agree that overlap is fine; the one implied by SDLC is good enough for us already. If site had really strong presence in QA topics I wouldn't mind even stating it explicitly... but it hasn't – gnat May 24 '16 at 20:10
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    I don't see the point in carving out an exception for a class of questions that rarely gets asked here to begin with. KISS. – user22815 May 24 '16 at 20:14
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    regarding UI redesign, best "redesign" I could imagine seems to be happened already - change to network wide rate limits. It's been over 3 weeks that I observe its impact and I can't believe my eyes, it feels almost as we're back to times prior to Spring 2014 in how debugging garbage is cut. Yes some stuff still leaks but so it was before 2014 and it was not very painful, and it is not very painful now. It's end of May and we aren't totally flooded by debugging garbage, unbelievable – gnat May 24 '16 at 21:55
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    @gnat I meant the UX: colors, images, look-and-feel, etc. not rate limiting questions. – user22815 May 24 '16 at 22:12
  • I know I know. It's just that the rate limits change I mention, it seems to serve the goal of proposed UI change (cut the debugging garbage) so well that I suspect no UI can ever do – gnat May 24 '16 at 22:14
17

On behalf of emeritus member MichaelT:


There's nothing wrong with the scope. The essence of it could be condensed to fewer bullet points, but such is of relatively minor consequence. The bullet points are more of an issue for moderators of other sites that check the help/on-topic before migrating... and the rare individual who read it before posting a comment of "belongs on Programmers."

The name, as demonstrated in the comments of https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/319375/ (10k link) is of some confusion to some people who post with the "but I'm trying to ask programmers this question." A name such as software-engineering or software-architecture may have give them second thought about where to post the question.

However, it should also be pointed out with the above question that this demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the Q&A model that SE uses - to the point that changing the name alone will not do it.

As mentioned in Usability issues for first-time Stack Exchange users - a micro-study the thing that new users (and lets be honest - a significant chunk of the 70% closed questions are from new users) look at is other questions without regard for the "on hold" status of the question. There was a podcast awhile back by Joel and David about the intent of [Closed] - and part of that was as a head on a pike. I'm sure SE employees would more easily dig it out than I can. The mini-meta survey demonstrates that this is completely failing. One can refine the scope and change the name till the end of time - questions will be asked like the ones that show up when you go to the front page.

This brings up an awkward realization - the way to make the questions go away from immediate view is to down vote them heavily. This leads to the "why are you all so negative" posts which are not at all fun to deal with, especially without moderator and community manager support.

If one wants to cut down on the off topic questions - close and delete the unsalvageable posts quickly. Gnat likes to point out that triage on Stack Overflow helps with this. Failing the ability to prevent questions from showing up on the front page with triage, down votes, close votes, and 20k delete votes are the thing necessary to cut down on the off topic questions that reinforce the perception that this is where one is to ask such questions.

This brings up another awkward realization - the active pool of close votes and 20k delete votes is on the decline. And to this, no amount of UI, name change, fiddling with the help/on-topic, or trying to make a one sentence thing to put in the tour will accomplish significant amounts. Moderators will likely need to step up and more than just close and ignore the off topic questions - close and delete them - preferably quickly. Instead of 70% of the front page showing questions that one shouldn't ask, 70% of the front page should be showing questions that one should ask.

One might want to consider adjusting the privilege levels for a few months after the redesign, giving 10k or 15k users the ability to cast delete votes on questions that are less than a few days old... and reviving the 3 vote experiment again. The front page needs to reflect the scope and the both the moderators and the community at large needs to step up and make the site match the vision of what they want to see.

If there isn't any change to how (and who) people cast close votes; or the duration that an unsalvageable question remains visible on the front page, serving as a model for how to ask another question - the results from this exercise in scope, name, and design will not likely have the intended effect of consistently reducing the number of off topic questions asked.

There is another problem with the 'scope' though. It isn't about the scope itself, but rather the question of where does one draw the line with primarily opinion and too broad questions. Even with a more concise scope of Software lifecycle, Software configuration management, Algorithm and data structures and Software engineering and team management as described by Snowman, there are still questions that are primarily opinion or too broad that fit within this area of topicality.

This seems to be one of the more difficult and overlooked parts in this process of a name change - and these are the questions that have given the people who actively curate and moderate the site the most headaches. Without any guidance (and I'm not going to offer any here), questions along the lines of "how should I lay out my Git repo" or "what patterns/algorithms should I use to solve some problem" will still be asked and still consume too much community moderation and curation time and still be a point of contentious debate on meta.

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    good food for thought. Made me wonder how comes that Server Fault pages aren't littered with "my servelet dosent work, help". Based on site name, they should be a natural target for half askers blocked at Stack Overflow, "my server isnt work and this is site about server I ask here about server why cant I. why you close! confusing site name!!!" – gnat May 26 '16 at 7:30
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    @gnat Server Fault has an active community that descends on those questions like vultures on a carcass. Programmers has never been that active. – user22815 May 26 '16 at 14:18
  • interesting. I can't see their deleted questions but closed ones do not indicate extraordinary active community - 8 of 10 newest closed questions I looked at turned out mod-closed – gnat May 26 '16 at 15:04
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    @gnat It's a combination of the name and the tag line. I worked in tech support for a while, and for a long time I would double-check the tag line of both ServerFault and SuperUser because I never could remember which site was which. ServerFault says "network admin", which immediately puts you in the right frame of mind. If they had been named "TechnicalSupport.SE" with a tag line of "Server Fault is a question and answer site for IT people", they would be a lot more like us. – Rachel May 27 '16 at 19:17
16

I like maple_shaft's answer, however wanted to write my own for reducing the on-topic page's wall-of-text since it's far too long for a comment on his answer.

What topics can I ask about here?

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

If you have a question about...

  • software architecture and design
  • development methodologies and processes
  • algorithm or data structure concepts
  • software release management
  • quality assurance or testing strategies

and it is not about...

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

Please make sure that your question is not too broad or strongly rooted in opinions. If you have questions that warrant an extended discussion, feel free to come to chat.

Before asking, look around to see if your question has been asked. If you see similar questions, be sure to check out their answers and differentiate your question from other, related questions.

For more details, please see our curated FAQ on Meta Programmers Stack Exchange.

To summarize changes

  • Replaced initial paragraph with tag line from maple_shaft's answer
  • Reduced on-topic list. Its not to say those other items are not on-topic, but they can be generally lumped together with a different bullet point or are a part of the broader common definition of "software engineering". I am tempted to remove the QA&Testing bullet point as well, but I'll leave that up to someone else.
  • Reduced the off-topic list. This is not to say those items are now on-topic, but I think they no longer will need to be explicitly mentioned in the On-Topic page as off-topic.
  • Removed or reduced a lot of the remaining text.

Scope should not change. Even licensing questions can sit in a gray area where if the specific question falls under the general umbrella of software engineering, it's OK, but if it's too close to "legal aid", it's off-topic.

  • Why not remove "students" and make it clear that users should have had formal training in Software Eng before using the site? – Ian Jun 13 '16 at 22:42
  • @Ian: Because that's not true. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 1 '16 at 9:18
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit, then change the rules to make it true! – Ian Jul 1 '16 at 10:52
  • @Ian: No. We are not elitists. Who better to help than those who need help? – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 1 '16 at 10:54
  • @Ian The students of today are the professionals of tomorrow. They're very important to keep a site growing and maintaining a healthy user base – Rachel Jul 1 '16 at 16:11
11

Site Name

I've started to come around to the name "Software Engineering".

Although I still have some lingering objections regarding the overuse of the term "engineering" in software development, I think that the benefits would outweigh my personal objections. It does bring to mind a professional-oriented site that caters to people that work throughout the software development life cycle, from business analysts to developers to managers to leads. It also pairs nicely with Computer Science, especially since both correspond to the underlying academic disciplines.

Tour and Tagline

Software Engineering Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, practitioners, and researchers of software engineering. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about software development.

I ripped this from sites like Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. I removed the portion about "expert answers on conceptual questions about software development" since that can be confusing and I don't see how it's necessary. I tended toward the wording used on Computer Science.

Software Engineering Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, practitioners, and researchers of software engineering.

The first line of the /help/on-topic page is just the first sentence of the /tour description, word-for-word.

On-Topic Page

I'm shamelessly stealing this idea from Robert Harvey, but I think that we should do some minor refactoring and link to appropriate Wikipedia articles that define terms. Unfortunately, I don't think that we can get this down to "no more than four bullets, no multi-line comma-separated lists, no gerrymandering". I think we can avoid multi-line comma-separated lists and gerrymandering, but the discipline of Software Engineering is broad. Being clear about what is on-topic and what is off-topic (and what sites support questions about things that are off-topic) is essential and helpful.

I think that the shortest reasonable on-topic list would be something like:

I removed "algorithm and data structure concepts", since I would consider that part of "software architecture and design". Evaluating and choosing various data structures and algorithms is inherently a design activity. I also removed "and testing" from "quality assurance and testing" since testing is one aspect of quality assurance, but we don't take all testing questions (such as, for example, writing or debugging unit test code). I also merged "software engineering management" and "development methodologies and processes" into "software process, methods, and management" since these three things are very tightly related.

Like maple_shaft, I'd like to talk about software licensing. I recognize how important the topic is, but when it was added and clarified, neither the Law nor the Open Source Stack Exchange existed. It is something that software engineers operating in a professional environment should be aware of and do need to work in, and the IEEE does bury a small section on "Legal Issues" (referring to trademarks, patents, copyrights, trade secrets, professional liability, trade compliance, cybercrime) under "Software Engineering Professional Practice". At the same time, the IEEE also puts things like "Employment Contracts", team dynamics, working in multicultural environments, reading, writing, and presenting under "Software Engineering Professional Practice" and these are definitely off-topic here.

I recommend removing the "software licensing" line. The Law Stack Exchange is graduating and the new rules for the graduation process will likely mean that Open Source won't end up closing in the foreseeable future. These sites can do a much better job of handling licensing questions (along with other types of questions) than we can.

  • understanding, writing, or debugging code (check out Stack Overflow instead) how to use specific tools
  • general workplace issues, office politics, and job hunting (ask on The Workplace instead)
  • open source philosophy, licenses, and open source communities (visit Open Source instead)
  • legal concepts, theory, and terms (check out Law instead)
  • what language/technology you should learn next, including which technology is better
  • what project you should do next
  • where to find a software library, tool, book, research paper, blog, forum, or other resource
  • product or service recommendations
  • career or education advice

The biggest change is that we start linking to Open Source and Law. Before we actually do this, we do need to consult with their communities and make sure it's OK. But since there are better sites, I think it's safe to punt these questions to the experts anyway.

Slight reordering of the things that are off-topic. We may want to check through the Meta questions that are currently linked and make sure they are correct. The biggest change is the removal of "personal lifestyle, including relationships and non-programming activities" - I'd hope that a distinct change to the site name would make this very explicit to visitors as your personal life is not Software Engineering.

We may want to also identify some other sites to point people to. We could link to Software Recommendations and Hardware Recommendations next to "product or service recommendations", as an example. There are also other sites that are related to software engineering that we don't identify as being off-topic (because it should be obvious) - Mathematics, Cross Validated/Statistics, User Experience, Information Security, Writers, Database Administrators, Code Review, Project Management (beta), Software Quality Assurance & Testing (beta), Computer Science, Engineering (beta), Law (beta), and Open Source (beta).

Other

I would like to see a theme change on the site. Something that is more professional. I like the general idea of diagrams and models, but parts of the site do seem cartooney. I'd like to be crisper, more like the other science and engineering sites.

I'd like to look at methods for linking to related sites. Adding them to a Help Center page, like /help/on-topic, may work, but it would make that page much longer. I'd like to try to make Help Center pages smaller and less dense. It makes sense to point people to sites that they may not otherwise know about. Perhaps a Meta question that is part of the would work.

Could we have a temporary box, similar to how the Law and Health sites do, but to talk about the changes? I suspect we'll have a summary Meta post after the name is changed, so just a brief overview and link to that.

  • I like your updated on-topic list, but I still think the off-topic list is far too long and could be greatly reduced. Also, I would prefer to have the tag line be about a subject, not a group of people. This site should be for students, practitioners, and researchers to obtain answers related to software engineering. – Rachel May 26 '16 at 13:59
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    @Rachel The tagline is almost identical to what Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and other professional sites use. If the site's title is "Software Engineering", I would hope that the questions and answers are about software engineering. If people don't get that...I don't know. – Thomas Owens May 26 '16 at 14:02
  • You're right, I'm probably just scarred from the overly broad name of "Programmers" and thinking in that context :) I think with a more specific site title, it wouldn't be as much of an issue. – Rachel May 26 '16 at 14:08
  • I really like the idea of a meta-faq post containing all the SE sites that are tangibly related to this one, and linking to it in the faq. SO, Workplace, Law, Code Review, Security, etc. This is something we can do on our own though, and we don't need SE permission for it. It just needs someone with some initiative to create it :) – Rachel May 27 '16 at 18:12
10

I am a software engineer. I use StackOverflow to solve my daily problems. I am surprised so many are in favor of renaming to Software Engineering, as I can only see it leading to confusion.

I come here to learn software design, but taking a glance at the questions I can see there is more: workplace issues, software best practices, coding techniques, licensing, and some more—mostly software or system requirements from what I can tell. Eliminating the workplace issues as off-topic or historical, I think Software Design or Software Architecture covers the site's core while permitting the fringe topics like licensing. I believe the site leans more towards theory, so I prefer design as I think it's more closely related than architecture.

Name: Software Design

I'd like to note that there are a number of questions about workplace practices for software engineers which may be why many favor the Software Engineering name. Some of those questions belong here, but a number belong on Workplace, and I'd rather a questioner had to research which site was the best place for her question than inviting the good and the bad here.

I feel a bit out of place declaring the scope of the site when I myself am an infrequent visitor, but if I may be so bold I would declare it as such:

  • Software theory, design, best practices, and techniques
  • Software architecture including software requirements and licensing

Ergo, off-topic questions would include:

  • Help debugging code (try StackOverflow)
  • What tool, product, service, language, thing (these don't work well with our Q&A format)
  • Questions with a social aspect (consider asking on Workplace)

As far as what the tour should say, I can't think of any changes other than the name:

Software Design Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professionals and students in software development and related fields who are interested in getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about software design.

  • I agree Software Design describes the majority of the scope...but it fails to address other aspects such as configuration management or project management. As a result I think SE is better overall. – gbjbaanb Jun 16 '16 at 12:10
  • @gbjbaanb Some of those things belong better on ServerFault or Workplace, and the scope should explicitly include the relevant aspects. I'm flexible on rewording or clarifying that since I'm not so familiar there; I'm happy to accept that feedback. – ricksmt Jun 16 '16 at 13:55
  • @gbjbaanb I'm choosing to focus on the majority case since I don't want to draw in poor questions. That's not a great experience for anyone. – ricksmt Jun 16 '16 at 17:07
  • What about asking the best way to implement something that is already designed? That would be out of scope of for "Software Design" but in for "Software Engineering". I think renaming to that descopes things we want to keep in. Aside from that, some of the things you listed I wouldn't consider in-scope for software engineering -- workplace issues (most questions with a social aspect) would belong in Workplace.SE and licensing (with regards to opensource ones at lease) would belong in OpenSource.SE (although it's still in beta); reasoning is these really aren't related to software engineering. – Captain Man Jun 29 '16 at 14:24
  • 1
    @gbjbaanb: That raises another problem: "SE.SE" And now what does "SE" refer to? Poor choice IMO. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 1 '16 at 10:55
  • @CaptainMan Implementation is out of scope for design, and I think that's an accurate reflection of the site's scope. Software implementation? StackOverflow. Hardware implementation? ServerFault. Workplace practices? Workplace. – ricksmt Jul 1 '16 at 18:16
  • @CaptainMan We agree on workplace issues belonging on Workplace.SE; I think you misread that portion. Licensing questions I could go either way: I agree it's a bit out of place here, but I don't know if OpenSource.SE covers the same breadth we do, and I'm not sure if there's a more appropriate site to send them to. If the community can decide in or out, I can change my answer on licensing, but I'm inclined to leave it as-is unless there's significant feedback. – ricksmt Jul 1 '16 at 18:23
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit well, its only an informal abbreviation anyway, what about SEng.SE (as in CompSci) instead? – gbjbaanb Jul 2 '16 at 0:10
  • @gbjbaanb: My point is that people are going to abbreviate, and it's going to cause confusion. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 2 '16 at 0:11
5

Site Name

Software Development

This site is not really about Software Engineering. Naming it so would only attract legions of buzzword-mouthing, non-programmers, wannabe-managers, and unexperienced-college-students.

In the worst case scenario it would kill all intelligent communication under a heavy layer of babbling about pigs and chickens, this could mushroom to the extreme point of making the site useless.

This site is opinionated, per se, and I come here to read those 3rd party opinions and use them, to a certain extent, to form my own ones. It needs this degree of freedom that may (now, but it didn't use to) feel weird in the SE galaxy.

Software Development is a proposal that ''maple_shaft'' made, but he's not really backing it. I do, and I wish more would. It keeps the same spirit as the "Programmers" moniker did. Not precisely technical, but... meta-tecnhical discussions about the craft of programming, designing, developing software.

  • 2
    totally agree. If I want to argue about naming convention de jure or read another answer telling someone they aren't doing aglie/tdd/oop right I can do that at work – Ewan Jun 25 '16 at 9:26
3

Just like most if not all prior answerers I like the current scope of the site as it is. To me, primary reason to participate here is pretty much covered in two bullets in Help Center:

  • software architecture and design
  • development methodologies and processes

First bullet is probably also on-topic at Stack Overflow (hat tip to Robert Harvey) but it doesn't help me over there, because these topics are difficult to find and follow at SO. Given that I am not interested in asking and answering code troubleshooting questions and that my interest in reading these is quite specific and limited, I essentially have no other option but Programmers.

As for the second bullet, it is probably also somehow covered at Project Management but, again, this doesn't help. I am primarily interested in these topics from perspective of a developer, not a manager, that makes it so much more comfortable to have them here, on a site where development and architecture concerns are firmly within site scope. Besides, my interest in "pure management" topics is rather limited and I am not fond of participating in the site which has these as primary focus.


Other bullet points (except for licensing, more on it below), I would be comfortable if these aren't mentioned explicitly but instead assumed to be okay in the context of "my" bullet points: requirements, algorithm and data structures, quality assurance and testing, configuration management, software engineering management.

I understand that such implicit inclusion may make Programmers less of a welcoming home for some "pure forms" of QA and algorithms questions but such questions don't seem to be going particularly well here anyway, which makes it more of a theoretical concern. And, which is probably most important, such questions seem to have solid coverage at other SE sites which have them as primary focus (SQA, CS, TCS).

Licensing questions seem a bit tricky. I haven't yet seen compelling explanation of their fundamental relevance to "my" bullet points. But on the other hand I haven't yet seen compelling explanation for opposite either.

Because of that I am not going to change my voting habits if licensing isn't listed explicitly. I just won't vote close these questions - or more precisely will handle them per current guidance. I may change this approach later if I find that some other SE site holds these questions really well (like it happened to career topics at Workplace) but as of now this doesn't seem to be the case.


For the sake of completeness - since this question asks about site name - I don't care about it.

I had some reservations on this in the past when I saw people expecting this to help us against floods of debugging garbage and I wasn't sure that this would help and it looked like in case if this fails, this could damage site image. "Look, these suckers changed name of the site they had for 5 years only because they were scared by debugging spammers. And, you know, this didn't help them, bwa ha ha."

But what I observe for past few weeks made me feel much safer about that. It looks like recently introduced network wide rate limits cut the flow of debugging off-topic garbage and do this fairly efficiently and that site name just doesn't matter.

In the light of above, whatever name site community picks I will be fine with it.

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