I am active on plenty of sites on the SE network, but I asked my first question on Software Engineering SE today: What is a Drop Release? asks about a definition of a term from release management.

To my surprise, it was downvoted multiple times and closed with the reason:

Update the question so it can be answered with facts and citations.

It has also received one vote for deletion already.

Now, I am trying to find out how to improve the question. Let me first try and check my interpretation of what I found in the Help Center and similar resources:

What topics can I ask about here?

If you have a question about...

As far as I know from other SE sites, only one of these has to apply, not all of them.

Software development methods and practices

Kind of, insofar as a model of releasing software products is considered a software practice.

Requirements, architecture, and design


Quality assurance and testing


Configuration management, build, release, and deployment

Yes, release management it is.

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

Some questions, even if they appear to fit into one of the above categories, may still be off-topic:

In this listing, I am aware that matching any of the points below may make my question unsuitable for the site.

Explaining, writing or debugging code

No, my questio nis not about code.

Providing support for tools or products

No, my question is not about any particular tool or product.

Product or service recommendations, including tools, libraries or packages, programming languages, books, scholarly papers, tutorials, articles, or blogs

No, my question is not about finding any particular external work - beyond the basic goal of receiving an answer whose content can be supported by some external reference rather than being a totally unsourced claim.

Career or education advice

No, my question is not about career or education.

Questions asking "What is the best way" without providing any criteria for evaluating what is best.

No, my question is not looking for advice on how to do anything.

Legal advice

No, my question is not asking for anything legally relevant.

Before asking a question, be sure check out our guidance for what not to ask and our tips for asking a good question.

What types of questions should I avoid asking?

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

Does not apply, my question concisely focuses on a very specific issue. Also, as I have outlined, it is an actual ... question that I face ("I have encountered company X who uses term Y. What is the commonly accepted definition of Y?"), not a mere hypothetical consideration ("Not that I had ever encountered anyone who did, but imagine someone were to call their development process 'Blublablorgh', would it clash with any commonly accepted definition?").

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

I seriously doubt that either answer ("No, this term is not generally in use." or "Yes, this term is commonly understood as ...") would be so complex.

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here.

It is not.

However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain ______ to me”, then you are probably OK.

Exactly. I would like others to explain the meaning of a term to me.

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”

The term I am asking about either has a single commonly accepted definition or it does not.

your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”

I have no idea what the answer is. As described in the question, the traces I have followed when trying to solve the question myself have led me nowhere.

there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”

As described above, I am not merely curious about a hypothetical situation, but I am actually interested in understanding a piece of reality.

you are asking an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”

As described above, I am not not asking about a hypothetical situation.

your question is just a rant in disguise: “______ sucks, am I right?”

I have no preference about the meaning of the term I am asking about. I am just trying to find out what it is.

Some subjective questions are allowed, but “subjective” does not mean “anything goes”.

I do not think my question is subjective. I am specifically not asking what the term means in the particular instance I encountered it, but whether it has a commonly accepted meaning with respect to software engineering as a whole (which may or may not align with the intended meaning where I encountered the term).

Lastly, I chose the tag for my question. Its description says:

Questions about the definition of software-engineering terms, and about the right terms to use to refer to commonly known concepts, practices or patterns related to software and systems development life cycle. Using the right terms correctly is a core practice of the scientific and engineering reasoning.

This is precisely what I am after. Finding out about the definition of a software-engineering term.

Based on the above analysis, it seems my question should be spot-on for this site.

What parts of my interpretation of the guidelines are mistaken, and is there any way how I can salvage my question on this site (or maybe another SE site)?

  • Does this answer your question? On the troubles of naming and terminology
    – gnat
    Apr 28, 2022 at 14:56
  • @gnat: That seems to address a very different problem, namely that of questions that outline a concept and search for the appropriate name. Apr 28, 2022 at 15:03

2 Answers 2


I don't think the question is salvageable here. In order for a terminology question to be a good fit, there would have to be some level of agreement about what the term means. If there is no widely-accepted definition of a term, a question asking to define the term is likely to devolve into a lot of people giving their opinion about what the term means, which would likely further turn into a popularity contest where votes don't mean anything about the goodness or correctness of the answer.

I don't think that there is a good site for this question. Without having answers that can be objectively judged as right or wrong or correct or incorrect, the question isn't a good fit for the Stack Exchange format. Perhaps a better place would be a more discussion-oriented community. Perhaps one of the several programming or software development communities on Reddit would work, but I don't feel confident enough suggesting a specific one without detailed knowledge of their rules and norms.

  • "there would have to be some level of agreement about what the term means" - I have a hard time imagining a situation where I know for a fact that a term has an agreed-upon meaning, but I fail to find out about that meaning without asking here. In other words, terminology questions appear to be generally inadmissible, is that the conclusion? Apr 28, 2022 at 12:31
  • Furthermore, it seems much of your answer assumes my is subjective or has multiple valid answers. As I have already implied in my meta question, I do not think that is the case. There are only two ways my question can be correctly answered, either with "Yes, this term is commonly defined as ...", or with "No, this term is not commonly used." Neither of these leaves much room for discussions or a "popularity contest", as you call it. Apr 28, 2022 at 12:38
  • 3
    @O.R.Mapper Unfortunately, people don't tend to answer questions with "no, this term is not commonly used and doesn't have a standard definition". People tend to guess and share their opinions on what a term should mean. Because of that behavior, it's better for overall content quality to stop people from being able to perform those behaviors by closing questions. If someone can show me that there is indeed a standard, widely accepted definition and can therefore provide an objective answer, then the question can be reopened - this has happened in the past.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Apr 28, 2022 at 13:17
  • 1
    @O.R.Mapper But yes - generally speaking, most terminology questions are not a good fit here. There may be some exceptions, but I would say they aren't the norm.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Apr 28, 2022 at 13:17

Thomas Owens gave already a good answer, but I would like to contribute a more general explanation which originally was part of some comments.

There are obviously two possibilities for questions which ask for a specific term:

  1. The term has a widely accepted meaning, or

  2. It has not.

In case 2, not having such a standard meaning can hardly be backed up by facts or citations. Some of our experts here might answer "hey, I have never heard that term before, so I am pretty sure that's not a standard term", but that would still be an opinion. Hence the closing reason "too opinionated" is justified, as Thomas Owens already explained.

In case 1, the term can often looked up at Wikipedia, or found by Google, or was already subject of an preexisting question on this site. If it can be found easily by Google, but was not asked about already, the question could theoretically be kept, but I would expect it to be downvoted since the OP does not seem to have done enough research before asking. It is IMHO debatable if such questions are really interesting enough to be a good fit for the site.

However, there are some situations where a very general term or abbreviation has a specific meaning in the context of a specific programming methodology, or in software engineering. However, the generality makes it hard for Google to find them. These are the kind of terminology questions I think we should keep. Several of those can be found under the terminology tag. For example, the question from this tag with the highest score today ("What is negative code?") fits perfectly into this category. Though today the term "negative code" can be googled (and Google returns the SE question at the top results, of course), in 2010 when the question was asked, this was most probably not successful.

Unfortunately, sometimes people have to ask about a term for finding out if it belongs to category 1 or 2, and when in 2, the question gets closed and deleted. I recommend not to take this personal, this is just for keeping the site clean, not a penalty for "asking a dumb question".

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