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Today I've seen a question which isn't directly a programming question. A user stated that this isn't a programming question in his answer, but I don't think the question doesn't belong on Stack Overflow. What is the minimum relativeness to programming in a Stack Overflow question? Answers with examples would be great.

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No one has actually voted to close as off topic yet. – Martin Smith Mar 29 '13 at 13:01
The user is trying to use the specified code to export a file, and it's not working. That counts as a programming problem in my book, even if the actual cause of the problem is not strictly code-related. (Also, it's a problem that I'm sure most people who have worked with reading/exporting Office documents through code have experienced at one time or another) – Rachel Mar 29 '13 at 13:05
It involves C#, I see code samples, I don't see how it could be off-topic – LittleBobbyTables Mar 29 '13 at 13:05
Here's my code, what's going wrong? seems pretty directly about programming to me. – Eliah Kagan Mar 29 '13 at 13:07
Meta people; why downvote a correct answer because you dislike the first sentence..? That's what editing and comments are for. – ben is uǝq backwards Mar 29 '13 at 13:11
@benisuǝqbackwards - not the downvoter, but my guess is probably because a 30K, 3-year member should know what is on/off-topic by now – LittleBobbyTables Mar 29 '13 at 13:17
There's no guarantees @blah; it's besides the point. Rather than downvoting, which makes it seem as though the answer is incorrect people can edit out the offending sentence and comment to say what they've done and why. There's no need to "punish" (too much rep to notice but still) someone for stating an opinion that is disagreed with – ben is uǝq backwards Mar 29 '13 at 13:19

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Yes it has to be related to programming, but no it doesn't have to be "directly about programming"

The FAQ even has some bullet points that aren't directly about programming:

if your question generally covers …

  • a specific programming problem
  • a software algorithm
  • software tools commonly used by programmers
  • practical, answerable problems that are unique to the programming profession

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

The question you're linking to is perfectly on-topic for the site. The user is posting his code and asking why it's not working as expected. That's a programming question in my book.

The fact the exact cause may be because of the behavior of an outside app does not make it off-topic.

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I never write again any comment on answer. I don't believe that I cause all that talk. What I think at first was that the site is actually run on server, but he also work on server and opens the files with the word - so it came to my mine that is something that have to do with the program behavior directly - but any way as I say, I answer try to help what I think that is correct, and never vote to close... from now on I did not say anything like that on an answer. – Aristos Mar 29 '13 at 14:04

Asking why one's code behaves a certain way is a programming question.

Sometimes the answer has to do with the code, or the way functions called in the code are implemented.

Sometimes the answer has to do with a broader concept that the programmer was unaware of.

Even if this broader concept is not itself primarily related to programming, asking why your code doesn't work the way you think it should is still a programming question.

On/off topic is a property of the question.

Furthermore, considering that questions about programming tools including programmers text editors are on-topic, where everything is about how an application works, it would be strange for a question asking about code run by an interpreter embedded in an application were closed because the question has answers that are too much about the application that embeds it.

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