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I'm looking for thoughtful tips on asking meta-programming questions on stackoverflow without getting sent to meta stackoverflow.

It seems to me that meta-programming != meta stackoverflow

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Why don't you tell us what the question you want to ask is? – GEOCHET Sep 17 '09 at 15:50
If you're not talking about Stack Overflow, then you really should not have your question shunted here just because it contains the word "meta". – random Sep 17 '09 at 15:50
A meta-programming question is not the same as a meta-question. Can you rephrase please? – mmyers Sep 17 '09 at 17:04
up vote 11 down vote accepted

My suggestion: avoid even using the word "stackoverflow" in your question. I've noticed that people can sometimes have a knee-jerk reaction to seeing the site mentioned, thinking that it needs to be on MetaSO because you are discussing/referencing SO.

I'm kind of on the fence about your previous question. You were speaking more generally about sites like SO, but not specifically SO. For that reason, it probably doesn't belong on MetaSO. However, I also feel like the connection to programming was a bit tenuous, and the question somewhat subjective and discussion-oriented. For those reasons, I don't think it was a very good fit for SO either. I would probably suggest another forum entirely.

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Good answer and I agree with you on all aspects, except that I think it was good enough or at least interesting enough to bend the roles a little bit. – P-A Sep 17 '09 at 16:08
@P-A: Thanks. Admittedly, I take a harder-line stance on what constitutes an "appropriate" SO topic. I tend not to favor many programmer-related questions, but maybe that's just because I've seen too many questions like "Should I get my CS degree?" or "(Insert career history)... What should I do?" ;) – gnostradamus Sep 17 '09 at 16:20

The purpose of StackOverflow has been muddied somewhat over time, but the original purpose was to be a place for technical questions and answers.

Many people have used it to try talking about the environmental factors related to working in an office, or programming interviews, or team dynamics, however those would be fitting for a 'programming forum' where programmers are meant to congregate and chat. However, StackOverflow is not meant for that. It is meant to be an engine for programmers to get answers to their technical difficulties. The community environment was cultivated in order to have people want to be helpful to one another, it was not meant to detract from the purpose of the site.

The fact of the matter is that your question "Why do programmers help each other" is not actually a technical question related to programming. The question is deeply philosophical and psychological, and bears only passing reference to programming. An equally valid (read: invalid) question would be "Why are lawyers so much less inclined to help each other than programmers?" It bears the same reference to programming, but it is more a question about people and attitudes than about programming. Such questions are not appropriate for any of S[O|F|U].

It can be rephrased to be relevant on metaStackOverflow.

"What drives the incentive to participate in S[O|F|U]?" would be a more valid question, because (especially if you are thinking about getting your own stackExchange site) this is the correct environment to pose those queries. Keep in mind, that question is still specific to why people would participate in these sites, not why "programmers in general" are or are not "helpful".

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I don't think your question was programming related, and would have voted to close. It doesn't belong here either. Probably needs to be on one of the social networking sites (which this isn't).

meta-programming <> StackOverflow

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Good, to-the-point answer. IMHO, questions like that require a Magic 8-Ball-equipped site to be answered effectively... – Shog9 Sep 17 '09 at 16:25

I think your question was a valid question for Stack Overflow. It should have been wiki, and it was likely a dupe, but it definitely was valid.

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(-1) It is not valid for StackOverflow. It is not about programming. It is about people helping each other, which can be done in any profession. – devinb Sep 17 '09 at 16:04
@devinb: Then why do you think it should be on meta? – balpha Sep 17 '09 at 16:05
Because all the StackExchange sites are based on the premise that people will help each other for free. So his question is ultimately about the business model. We the community are the clients/users of the sites, and that questions is about understanding your users better. – devinb Sep 17 '09 at 16:09
Point taken, although I still disagree. – balpha Sep 17 '09 at 16:10

Do you have any more example questions? If it programming, it will stay on SO. If it is about SO or any of the other sites/features/how it works, then it will go to meta.stackoverflow. As long as your question is clear about it's intent, it will go/stay to the appropriate site.

Here are the FAQ's for both sites just as reminder of the goals of each site:

That question you refer to is wiki type material if it was going to stay open. I think it should have stayed on SO as a wiki.

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