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There seems to be more than a few computer science/programming Stack Exchange networks (is that the correct term?). Stack Overflow, being the first, has by far the most users, questions, and answers.

What is the reasoning for creating the others, and are there clear guidelines for which kinds of questions should be posted? I can see a large amount of potential overflow, many cases of people not getting a good answer to their question because the person who has the answer isn't browsing that particular network at the moment. I understand that they were probably created for organizational purposes, but wouldn't almost make more sense to just have them as categories under Stack Overflow, keep them separated but still connected, instead of making people have to create multiple 'account's, one for each network?

I am sure there was a very good reason to break them up, but as someone that is new to SE, it can be somewhat intimidating to decide which one to post in to ensure you get a good answer. For example, if I am a Computer Science student, my first instinct might to be to post in the Computer Science network, until I see that it literally has 1% of the users as the Stack Overflow network, which still seems to be for programming/computer science related questions. So my second instinct would then to be to post it into the SO network on the basis that I have a significantly higher chance of my question being seen and getting a good answer. Then I notice that there is also a 'programmers' network, and I don't even begin to know where that fits in. I, and I am assuming most people, will probably just post in the SO network to be safe.

My question is, other than the short little description blurb of each one, is there a clear cut set of guidelines which what each network is intended for, what kinds of questions should go to each one, and is anything being done to encourage people to post in these newer, smaller (more specialized?) networks as opposed to just posting in big daddy Stack Overflow? Now again, this is for computer science/programming/"why isn't this code doing what I want?" related questions, I am not saying that if I had a question about Linux or Wordpress or something I would have the same confusion.


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56  
I'm not new to SE, and I still don't understand the overlap of topics across multiple sites, so don't feel too bad! – Cody Gray Apr 18 '12 at 5:34
up vote 228 down vote accepted

Before you choose a site...

First, make sure you're asking a good question. Some questions are off-topic everywhere, and there's no guarantee that any site exists that will take your question.

Good questions:

  • Are clear and understandable.
  • Have a specific problem statement, tailored to the site you intend to post to.
  • Don't ask for lists of things.
  • Don't ask for product or service recommendations. (except for Software Recommendations and Hardware Recommendations)
  • Don't require extended discussions or lengthy explanations.
  • Don't ask "which is better" without explaining what "better" specifically means to you, in a way that isn't a tautology ("best practice" is not any better than "better.")

Stack Overflow

We feel the best Stack Overflow questions have a bit of source code in them, but if your question generally covers…

  • a specific programming problem, or
  • a software algorithm, or
  • software tools commonly used by programmers; and is
  • a practical, answerable problem that is unique to software development

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

Questions seeking debugging help ("why isn't this code working?") must include the desired behavior, a specific problem or error and the shortest code necessary to reproduce it in the question itself. See: How to create a Minimal, Complete, and Verifiable example

Programmers

The main focus is whiteboard questions, problems that you face while in front of your whiteboard designing your project. Everything that can be considered part of the SDLC, except for "fix my code," "write my code" and "how to use my development tools" questions.

Picture Programmers like a small conference room with a whiteboard. No computer, no books, no papers. You write your question on the whiteboard and experts walk by. Someone sees one that they can answer, they stop in and help.

Also, questions on freelancing and business concerns that require the unique expertise of software developers. We use this lovely diagram to help people understand if their questions belong on Programmers:

And somehow people still don't get it

If your questions fall in the "all careers" circle, you should ask them on The Workplace.

Programmers welcomes some subjective questions, but they should still be suitable for the Q&A format. No polls, no lists, no product recommendations, no discussions.

Database Administrators

Database administration, querying, modelling, including programming in built in server side languages (think: stored procedures).

IT Security

Everything that has to do with IT Security excluding the deeper aspects of cryptography and setting up your home antivirus.

Cryptography

The deeper aspects of cryptography ;)

Code Review

On Code Review, you share working code from a project that you own or maintain for peer review. The right time for a code review is after you are satisfied you have done your best, that the code is ready for publication/release, that all the features are in, and all the tests pass. It is the right place if you want a critique of your code that addresses issues such as:

  • security - "Have I covered the bases?"
  • efficiency - "It does the job, but can it go faster or is there a better way?"
  • maintainability - "It works now, but will I run in to problems down the road?"
  • edge cases - "Are there situations in which the code will break?"

If your code is not yet producing the output you require then the code is not ready for review. If you need help getting the code to a completed state and you have specific questions about how to do that, then Stack Overflow is the right place to ask.

Questions about the actual process of code reviews are off-topic and better suited for Programmers.

Computer Science

For questions about computer science, as in the academic discipline. As a rule of thumb, if your question depends on real-life languages/code/hardware/..., ask on Stack Overflow; if your question calls for abstract/mathematical models and reasoning, ask on Computer Science. Algorithms expressed in pseudocode straddle the border.

Theoretical Computer Science

For questions about theoretical computer science at research level. If you aren't at least a graduate student, see Computer Science.

Software Quality Assurance and Testing

SQA focuses on software testing questions, which run the gamut from technical queries about implementation of your automated tests, to organisational questions like planning training for your test team, or even how you go about persuading your manager to actually hire some professional testers instead of just crossing his/her fingers and hoping. It's aimed at professional software testers, and other related roles (programmers, business analysts) who perform software testing as part of their profession.

Programming Puzzles & Code Golf

That's easy, just browse through their challenges and you'll get the idea. The fun side of coding, but not a general Q&A site.


Further reading

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2  
I feel like this answer (or a variation) should be included in most flagged and closed questions across the various CS-related Stack Exchange sites due to being off-topic/out of scope. I often ask myself which one of a small handful of ones to use, and usually end up at Stack Overflow after reading the guidelines for asking questions at each one's help-center. That process can be tedious, though. I'd love to have a cheat-sheet handy, if you will. It would help not only the newbies, but members that tend to develop the full stack, and find themselves all over the place, CS-wise. – kayleeFrye_onDeck Dec 16 '15 at 23:12
2  
Shouldn't all sites for specific programming languages be mentioned here? I mean, TeX, Blender, ... – yo' Jan 6 at 20:20
    
The exchanges above are more focused on concepts, with SO being a definite exception to that. Putting all the language exchanges here seems kind of wasteful, but only IMO. – kayleeFrye_onDeck Feb 19 at 4:25

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