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.
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).
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 faq 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.