Why was the caret used for XOR instead of exponentiation?

Seriously though, this question asks for a specific reasoning - it doesn't encourage (nor would I accept) subjectivity or conjecture. It has 4 re-open votes, but I'm a little surprised it was closed to begin with.

There seems to be a bit of a pandemic for closing questions that aren't black and white on Programmers - which is strange since this is the place to ask them (versus SO) so long as they are on-topic.

"Requirements, architecture, and design" seems to apply well here. Further, the example off-topic reasons don't remotely apply to the question.

What gives?

  • my close vote was not for opinion based but for too broad. Per my reading question as currently written invites an open list of answers, especially its closing part: "the reasoning could be different for the various languages, so information in any regard would be insightful". In that sense it doesn't look like about history – gnat Sep 23 '16 at 6:17
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    @gnat: you "forgot" to add in your comment that the topmost answer proves your first instinct was wrong. No open list of answer, instead an explanation in historic context. – Doc Brown Sep 24 '16 at 7:41
  • @DocBrown this is only because relatively quick closure blocked the question from getting into hot network list. Otherwise you would observe a bunch of SO lemmings happily dumping their answers addressing every little thing one can squeeze from vague "the reasoning could be different for the various languages, so information in any regard would be insightful" – gnat Sep 24 '16 at 7:53
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    @gnat: honestly, we don't know that. But we were very lucky the OP was persistent enough to ask here on meta if his question could be reopened. Other people often react differently - lots of them just leave the site when they get the impression their questions are closed overhastely (don't get me wrong, I agree perfectly to you we should close crap as quickly as possible). – Doc Brown Sep 24 '16 at 8:10
  • @DocBrown answer you like so much was posted before close, what is so lucky about reopening – gnat Sep 24 '16 at 8:13
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    @gnat: I am not talking about the fact the question got reopened - it is lucky we did not lose someone from our community who seemed to have understand perfectly what this site is about. – Doc Brown Sep 24 '16 at 8:16
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    @DocBrown if you feel so much lucky go ahead and reopen its twin at SO (posted likely by OPs classmate doing the same coursework) – gnat Sep 24 '16 at 8:19
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    @gnat: that other question is obviously off-topic on SO, and would also be here. To understand why, one has to care for the details of the questions and not only for their headlines. But I am sure you are smart enough to understand the differences by yourself. – Doc Brown Sep 24 '16 at 8:24
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    @gnat I'm not a student. Please stop making assumptions about me :) – Qix - MONICA WAS MISTREATED Sep 26 '16 at 20:19

I read your original question, your question here on Meta, and the comment chain on Robert Harvey's answer. After reading everything, I casted a reopen vote on your question.

It's been a while since we've visited a discussion of history questions and their topicality, but I still agree with the answers presented in the last discussion, and I really don't see a reason to reopen the topicality discussion, since we've had plenty of luck with history questions - they tend to produce well researched answers that bring together individual knowledge and information from multiple sources in a way that is very searchable. All of those are positives.

Also, this isn't the only site to have a solid set of questions about the history of their field. Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, and Statistics all do it well, too.

However, that doesn't mean that there aren't improvements that can't be made to the question. My biggest problem after reading everything is that it doesn't actually answer the question you are interested in. But that still doesn't mean that it's not a good question.

You left a comment on Robert's answer that states you are interested in language design. This information is not presented in your original question at all. It may not be intuitive, but Stack Exchange is not about you getting an answer to your question, but about providing a repository of questions and answers for other people (I think there is some discussion on Meta Stack Exchange about this, but I'm not able to find it right now). This question isn't that useful for someone else who is designing a language and wondering if they should use a caret for XOR or exponentiation - they would have to interpret the history in their own way.

I also don't think that this is the best community to ask language design questions on. We do have some people with this background here - Eric Lippert comes to mind. However, consider the intended audience of this community: professionals, academics, and students working within the systems development life cycle who care about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly (or, in simpler terms, practitioners of software engineering or software craftsmanship). Considering that they also accept history questions, the community at Computer Science may be better suited to answering questions about programming language design - traditionally, programming language theory is a branch of computer science. However, just because it's on-topic there doesn't mean it is off-topic here. I do think that wording it more about your design of a programming language rather than a history question may have been better here, since as people who care about creating and maintaining software, we do have a stake in languages that are easy to use and maintainable.

All in all, I've reopened the question. I don't see any reason to keep it closed. There's also no discussion regarding removing history from this site's scope, as long as it's related to the history of software engineering or software craftsmanship.

  • I've tried following all the discussions over the past 6+ months about site scope and don't remember history ever coming up as being on-topic. Can you link me to that meta discussion? I seem to remember almost all the discussion focusing around the point that questions need to be related to the SLDC. – enderland Sep 23 '16 at 3:03
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    @enderland I'd have to dig around to find it, but it was stated several times that the scope was being clarified, but not changed (at least without further meta discussion). We were OK with removing licensing from the list of things that were on-topic because Law and Open Source do it better. We last discussed history in 2013 and decided it was on-topic. – Thomas Owens Sep 23 '16 at 3:06
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    @enderland I found some discussion here with Shog about it. I also said it in this comment, so it must have come up before August 12. I'm sure if you look in chat and in Meta posts between July 22nd and August 12th you can find some more references to the fact that the actual scope wasn't changing, just how the scope is being presented to be more clear and easily understood. – Thomas Owens Sep 23 '16 at 3:14
  • To be fair, the question wasn't actually closed as off-topic... It was closed as primarily opinion-based, which I happened to agree with. Now it may be true that subsequent answers can prove that a question is not really opinion-based, but we can't rely on some fictional, as-yet unposted answers to determine question subjectivity. We have to go with what we have. – Robert Harvey Sep 23 '16 at 3:15
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    @RobertHarvey Are you proposing closing on-topic questions because no one here may be able to answer them? If we close it before an answer, how do we know if there is a good answer. I think it requires moderation to remove low quality answers, answers without sufficient explanation or sources, or opinions. If a question can be answered by someone with experiences and knowledge rather than personal opinion, the question simply cannot be primarily opinion based. – Thomas Owens Sep 23 '16 at 3:18
  • If we close it before an answer, how do we know if there is a good answer. -- You can make that argument with any subjective question. In fact, more than one OP has tried to make that argument with me to justify their subjective questions. The essential point stands: you can't evaluate a question based on the answers it might receive. – Robert Harvey Sep 23 '16 at 3:19
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    @RobertHarvey A question about history (that actually happened, as opposed to what-ifs) can be answered objectively. It has to be, since it happened. However, it may go unanswered because no one has the information or experiences needed to answer it. Just because people may post opinions doesn't mean that the asker should be punished. – Thomas Owens Sep 23 '16 at 3:22
  • What are the other subject-matter exceptions that are not part of SDLC that are still on-topic here? Is History the only one that's left? (I note that History is not one of The Four Bullets™) – Robert Harvey Sep 23 '16 at 3:23
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    Also, since when did closure of a question constitute punishment? Closing questions has never been about that. I've spent a lifetime (in SE moderator years) trying to convince people to not take closing personally (especially on questions that have been asked and answered), and here you are advocating the opposite. – Robert Harvey Sep 23 '16 at 3:27
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    Discussion continues here. – Robert Harvey Sep 23 '16 at 4:04
  • Thank you Thomas, and thank you for the stack recommendation - I didn't even know it existed. – Qix - MONICA WAS MISTREATED Sep 24 '16 at 1:57
  • @RobertHarvey you may probably enjoy this discussion: Question put on hold for absolutely no reason. "There seem to be pandemic.." of (coursework?) questions involving exponentiation sign recently – gnat Sep 24 '16 at 2:30

Programmers (soon to be Software Engineering) is primarily about questions directly related to the Systems Development Life Cycle (but not code troubleshooting or requests for specific code):

enter image description here

The question you cited fits squarely into the category of "computing history" questions, and the subcategory "curiosity questions." Knowing why the caret was chosen will have absolutely no positive impact on anyone's ability to successfully navigate the Systems Development Life Cycle.

Nor is Programmers the place where you go to ask your questions that are too subjective for other sites. It hasn't been that site for quite some time now.

  • Then why isn't that made abundantly clear in the help docs? I never decorated my question with any sort of moniker, either. Also, why doesn't the close vote reason reflect this? I believe you are one of the close votes, as well. – Qix - MONICA WAS MISTREATED Sep 22 '16 at 23:15
  • Then why isn't that made abundantly clear in the help docs? -- Because the Help Docs aren't designed to make things abundantly clear. One of the most contentious negotiations with SE for the new site name was to get the On-Topic description down to four bullets. As you can see by the picture above, it's not possible to clearly delineate the scope in four bullets. – Robert Harvey Sep 22 '16 at 23:20
  • That makes absolutely no sense. – Qix - MONICA WAS MISTREATED Sep 22 '16 at 23:20
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    You're right, it doesn't. – Robert Harvey Sep 22 '16 at 23:21
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    why doesn't the close vote reason reflect this? -- Because sometimes the close voters get the close reason wrong, or they simply don't want to bother performing the necessary calculus to make the close reason more specific. If you believe the close reason is incorrect, flag the question for moderator attention, and explain the problem. – Robert Harvey Sep 22 '16 at 23:21
  • (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ Why doesn't any of this make sense – Qix - MONICA WAS MISTREATED Sep 22 '16 at 23:22
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    Because you're wanting the site to be something that it isn't. Wouldn't be the first time someone's done that, and it certainly won't be the last. – Robert Harvey Sep 22 '16 at 23:23
  • That's what this site has always been, though. Where do these types of questions get asked now? – Qix - MONICA WAS MISTREATED Sep 22 '16 at 23:23
  • Not every question has to have a home on the SE network. I've seen questions similar to this asked on Quora with reasonably good results. – Robert Harvey Sep 22 '16 at 23:24
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    To folks who want to ask curiosity questions about syntactical decisions in programming languages that were made 30 years ago, yes, this site is now useless for that. I daresay, though, that the folks who have SDLC questions will find the new site a welcome change. – Robert Harvey Sep 22 '16 at 23:27
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    That's a straw man. These sites have a very specific scope (especially this one, which begs for a highly disciplined scope), because people have a tendency to co-opt them for reasons that don't fit the site's intended purpose. It's for the same reasons that we don't allow people to post advertisements or discussions: they are a distraction, and drive away the subject matter experts that might otherwise be attracted to sites with a clearer and tighter focus. – Robert Harvey Sep 22 '16 at 23:33
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    Further, we've had complaints for years from people who are confused about Programmers' scope, a scope which largely derives from its historical precedent of being the site where questions go that Stack Overflow does not want (i.e. a trash can). By tightening the scope to a very specific subject matter area, we hope to bring the experts back to the site who can share their knowledge about that subject area without worrying about the noise. – Robert Harvey Sep 22 '16 at 23:35
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    I'm glad that you got a decent answer to your question. But it still doesn't have much to do with the SDLC. Why didn't you mention that you were creating a new language in your question? – Robert Harvey Sep 22 '16 at 23:41
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    I don't know where you all get the idea that history is off-topic here, since it's not. – Thomas Owens Sep 23 '16 at 2:54
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    History can be thought of as everything that isn't happening right now. That isn't what is off topic. What's off-topic is anything that ONLY has value from a historian's perspective. Simply having value from a historian's perspective doesn't make it off topic. Doesn't make it on topic either. So it would need another reason to be on topic. Doesn't matter if the OP frames it for a historian or not. So the ugly history of waterfall that led to agile is on topic. The reasoning behind Java being named after an island that exports coffee is not. – candied_orange Sep 23 '16 at 5:10

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