Visitors to our site are taking the words "who care about delivering software responsibly" in our tagline as evidence of question topicality. Witness:


Well technically it is about software engineering... just not coding. According to the description on the Tour page, this site is not just about coding, "Software Engineering Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professionals, academics, and students working within the systems development life cycle who care about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly." I'm a professional that cares about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly. This may not be a typical question here but I would argue that it's not "obviously" off-topic.

This is the second time I've seen this happen, which means it's already happened more than twice.

  • I pinged a CM to update the tagline that appears on external places (the Stack Exchange All Sites list, migration targets, etc.). Any mod can update the Tour and Help Center, but I think they should be in sync, so I'm holding off on editing until I hear back from the CM team. – Thomas Owens Mod Jan 20 '17 at 14:07
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    Looks like the tagline was updated in the back end, so I'm now updating the Tour and Help Center. – Thomas Owens Mod Jan 21 '17 at 18:55
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    @ThomasOwens: thanks. This is IMHO an improvement. Only a slight one, but at least it did not get worse. The new tagline is still containing the first half of superfluos requirements, and it still misses to give a clear statement against coding issues, but at least it is significantly shorter than the old one. I think this is the best we can expect from the SE headquarters. However, I have my doubts if this will resolve the original issue mentioned by Robert. – Doc Brown Jan 21 '17 at 22:15

Well, I am with you here, Robert, but not just for the reason you gave. The whole description is

too damn long

it is not surprising people read only the first half of it and forget about the second half.

Here is the full text:

Q&A for professionals, academics, and students working within the systems development life cycle who care about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly

The part saying the site is for "professionals, academics, and students working ..." is IMHO 100% superfluous - honestly, if someone is not actually working in the SDLC, does that mean he cannot ask or answer questions here as long as they are on topic? I am sure all of you agree we don't want to exclude anyone here who does not fit into this narrow scope. Same for the part "who care about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly" - this is superfluous for the same reason.

What remains is a text which should express that we expect questions and answers to fit to the SDLC, except the coding part. Gnat reminded us that all SE sites tag line start with the word "Q&A site for <some folks>", I missed this initially. So this leads to a short tagline which is very similar what you originally suggested:

Q&A site for those who are interested in questions directly related to the SDLC (except coding issues).

The part about coding is important to make a clear distinction from Stack Overflow.

So no distracting noise, nothing which makes twisting or misinterpretation so easy as the current tagline, and nothing which is so long that people probably have forgotten the initial words when they reach the end of the sentence.

(However, remembering how long it took and how hard it was to convince the SE team to bring the site-name-and-topic-description change online the last time we did it, I can understand why we don't make everyone happy with such a change request again.)

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    current tagline seems longest at SE sties list with 171 chars. For comparison second longest has 161 char and third 136 – gnat Jan 15 '17 at 8:58
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    @gnat: thank you, as I suspected. I guess it was a consequence from this (IMHO overexcessive) discussion about the topic of this site during the name change phase. – Doc Brown Jan 15 '17 at 9:04
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    Could make it even shorter by dicing up the original text: "Q&A about about creating, delivering, and maintaining software for those working within the systems development life cycle." The rest is just fluff. – Blrfl Jan 15 '17 at 14:08
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    @Blrfl "Q&A about" won't work (this is what probably killed original Robert's tagline, quite a pity that SE folks weren't clear about it). Mandatory (yes, mandatory) format of tagline seems to be "Q&A for <some folks>". For example "Q&A for voters down, close and delete" – gnat Jan 15 '17 at 19:47
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    @gnat Okay, so "Q&A for those who create, deliver and maintain software within the systems development lifecycle." This week it could be "Old questions resurrected and dragged to the front page by the Community 'bot." – Blrfl Jan 15 '17 at 20:44
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    @gnat: thanks, edited my question accordingly. – Doc Brown Jan 17 '17 at 8:45
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    @Blrfl: I don't like "create, deliver and maintain software" in that tagline - I think we don't need this part. If someone does not create, deliver or maintain software, he can still ask and answer questions here as long as they are on-topic. – Doc Brown Jan 17 '17 at 8:47

I don't think there's much we can do or anything that we need to do.

They are taking one phrase out of a larger document and twisting it. Interviewing and hiring is clearly off-topic - interviewing and hiring is not part of the systems development life cycle, it's not part of any of the four bullets that are on-topic, and we make it clear that career and education related questions are off-topic.

Anyone who reads the full one-sentence tagline ("Software Engineering Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professionals, academics, and students working within the systems development life cycle who care about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly.") should not be confused that questions need to be about working in the systems development life cycle. If there is anyone who doesn't know what that means, we link to Wikipedia's page.

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    Ahem, I recommended a more specific tagline, but it got lost somewhere during the site rename. – Robert Harvey Jan 12 '17 at 18:17
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    @RobertHarvey details about how they bent your original tagline (which to me looks so much better than "responsibly" handwaving) and shut discussing this are at this 10K link. " ...that sounds like Spolsky won yet again" – gnat Jan 12 '17 at 19:23
  • @RobertHarvey I don't see how "and not code troubleshooting" in the tag line would have made it clear that questions about interviewing don't belong here. I haven't looked at the numbers, but I've seen far fewer code debugging questions here even without those particular words in the tagline. Or, at least I've had to fast-delete far fewer code troubleshooting questions since the name and new Help Center went live. – Thomas Owens Mod Jan 12 '17 at 19:46
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    The issue is not with the absence of "but not code troubleshooting, but with the presence of "who care about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly." Surely that qualifies everyone's questions. :) – Robert Harvey Jan 12 '17 at 19:48
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    @RobertHarvey I still don't understand. The part you keep quoting ("who care about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsible") modifies a different part of the sentence ("professionals, academics, and students working within the systems development life cycle"). You can't cherry-pick one part of the sentence. If it's not about a professional, academic, or student working with the software development life cycle and relating to creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly, it's not within scope. Can anyone actually argue that hiring is part of the SDLC? – Thomas Owens Mod Jan 12 '17 at 20:15
  • You can't cherry-pick one part of the sentence. -- I know. But that's exactly what new users are doing. – Robert Harvey Jan 12 '17 at 20:18
  • @RobertHarvey They are, but I don't understand what you are proposing we do. Any time you have a sentence, people can cherry pick portions it to twist it. The Help Center got much clearer (if you read the whole thing) and much shorter (to make it easier to read the whole thing). Can you identify a single change that you're proposing that can't be picked apart? – Thomas Owens Mod Jan 12 '17 at 20:21
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    @ThomasOwens: Yes, remove the whole "who care..responsibly" bit from the tagline. It does nothing to refine scope, and derails those who might benefit from its absence. – Robert Harvey Jan 12 '17 at 20:22
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    I'd happily lose the "who care about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly" bit from the tag line. It makes perfect sense without it and brings it down to 1 1/2 lines on the accounts tab. – ChrisF Mod Jan 18 '17 at 21:42
  • I hate to go against the crowd (OK, that's a lie) but it's hard for me to see how interviewing and hiring is less relevant to 'creating' software than say, monitor aspect ratios. – JimmyJames Jan 19 '17 at 19:24
  • @JimmyJames that monitor aspect question is a usual old broken window (posted over 6 years ago when site norms were very different) – gnat Jan 20 '17 at 12:11
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    @JimmyJames thank you for bringing that question to our attention. It's now been deleted. – ChrisF Mod Jan 20 '17 at 14:02

The issue that I see in this question is that the tagline identifies a class of users by attribute (mostly by profession, some by attitude).

I feel we shouldn't be defining the appropriate class of users at all; but rather, it is the class of questions that we should be calling out, i.e. a Q & A site for issues related to the engineering of software...

Removing the "who care...responsibly" would not necessarily have eliminated the exchange being cited, as the response could have easily then simply omitted the part about "...responsibly" as follows: "I'm a professional working within the SDLC, so I'm in the class of users you have identified for this site. Therefore my question(s) is(are) on topic."

  • Identifying users is not uncommon - see Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, User Experience, Mathematics. We modeled the tagline after those sites - one sentence to identify both the audience (professionals, students, and academics) and the scope ("the systems development life cycle who care about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly"). (1/2) – Thomas Owens Mod Jan 17 '17 at 1:28
  • Our target user is not the hobbyist who is hacking out code at home. Our target audience are people who work in software development in a professional capacity or are learning to work in software development in a professional capacity and want to ask/answer questions about developing software in an environment that requires some level of craftsmanship or engineering responsibility. (2/2) – Thomas Owens Mod Jan 17 '17 at 1:31
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    @ThomasOwens, after another reading of that quote (people working within the systems development life cycle who care about creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly), I reach the conclusion that it is about defining/restricting the audience and not at all about the scope unless you mean scope of people, which is another way of saying who/audience . This means that we're trying to exclude hobbyists who are interested in engineering software, while implying that we are open to irrelevant questions as long as they come from professionals. – Erik Eidt Jan 17 '17 at 4:24
  • The way the "scope" part is applied as a filter over the audience (rather than over the questions we accept) reduces the entire statement to that of one about audience, thus limiting the scope qualifier's effectiveness regarding scope of questions. – Erik Eidt Jan 17 '17 at 5:03
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    I totally agree with @RobertHarvey that we have a tagline scope problem since the language of the quoted tagline is a statement that is 100% about the scope of audience and 0% about the scope of the questions. – Erik Eidt Jan 17 '17 at 5:39
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    @ThomasOwens: sure, modeling the tagline by audience has worked for many other sites. However, in our case the result was simply way-too-long. Focussing on the scope of the questions, as Erik suggested, leads to a tagline like the one I suggested above, and that is IMHO long enough, there is no space for an appropritate audience definition left. And FWIW, if a hobbyist has a good question to ask, we won't exclude him, I assume? – Doc Brown Jan 17 '17 at 8:54
  • I recall suggesting this back in 2012, and there was an answer from Tim Post (now deleted) about the fact the structure of tag lines are always in the form of "This is a site for [acceptable skill level of audience] about [topic]". Possibly SE uses the different parts in different areas, which would explain why they are so reluctant to modify the structure of the tag line at all. – Rachel Jan 23 '17 at 16:29
  • @Rachel, very interesting. I like your 2012 suggestions (start with what the site is about then separately and independently state who it targets). (Sadly, our tagline doesn't even follow Tim's suggested/observed template as it substitutes "about" with "who care about"; which has a totally different meaning. You might think that as professional programmers we understand notions of parsing and grammar. Even Tim's suggested tagline doesn't follow his own template, or is ambiguous at best.) – Erik Eidt Jan 23 '17 at 16:57

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