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There seems to be more and more kickback from various people coming to the SO site, asking what most long term users consider to be an off-topic question, then arguing that the question falls under "matters that are unique to the programming profession".

It seems like those "matters" are open for some unnecessary debate.

What I propose is to change the wording of the FAQ to something more like the following:

  • a specific programming problem
  • a software algorithm
  • software tools commonly used by programmers
  • practical, answerable questions based on actual coding problems that you face

In other words, delete the whole "matters" line entirely and promote a sentence from the "what not to ask here" section. A vocal portion of the community already does this through closing questions that don't meet the above; let's make it official.


Of course, I should have included a few examples:

Regarding building a PC.
Comment dated September 26 and September 29:

Original question:
What and where to buy a serious developer's PC?

Completely off topic, but the OPs reasoning is understandable given the FAQ.

Repository vs UnitOfWork
Repository vs. UnitOfWork

Either this was incorrectly closed or it belongs on

And others:

Note that the difficulty is in describing something that is unique to the programming field...and doesn't belong on In other words, just about everything, except code and tools, that falls under the "unique" clause is better represented on the other site. If that's true then it stands to reason that the FAQ for SO should be updated to better reflect this.

One additional tidbit: On this introductory blog for the programmers site:

it is stated that "Stack Overflow questions almost all have actual source code in the questions or answers." Maybe the FAQ should better reflect that "guideline".

share|improve this question
Your proposed on-topic scope seems narrower than community consensus suggests. – Robert Harvey Oct 3 '11 at 19:09
There seems to be more and more kickback -- Examples? – Robert Harvey Oct 3 '11 at 19:10
@Robert You're looking for examples of people objecting to the off-topic policies on SO? Try – Michael Mrozek Oct 3 '11 at 19:49
@MichaelMrozek: a better search is: – NotMe Oct 3 '11 at 19:51
Your PC examples are very good. Your other examples aren't; they are too old, and the "Stack Overflow Sucks" blog entry is just a big rant. – Robert Harvey Oct 3 '11 at 20:06
@RobertHarvey: You're right the blog is a rant.. However, look at the comments on that blog that run up until a few days ago. They boil down to a near 50/50 mix of "happened to me too!" and "your question was off topic and you are a [pejorative]!" I'm not sure what's worse: his rant, with a somewhat defensable reason, or the name calling from regular SO users. Either way, just added another one. – NotMe Oct 3 '11 at 20:17
@RobertHarvey: removed the link to FSK. I don't want this sidetracked by that. – NotMe Oct 3 '11 at 20:29
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Even your first example is a bit weak, because as Kev noted in a comment

Buying a powerful PC is not a matter unique to the programming profession, just like buying a comfy and ergonomic office chair or some tasty coffee beans isn't.

I think the necessary change here is from

matters that are unique to the programming profession


practical, answerable problems that are unique to the programming profession

Since "matters" is almost meaningless, specifying "what's your problem and can it be answered" is a helpful clarification.

share|improve this answer
I think this would work just fine. – NotMe Oct 10 '11 at 14:54

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