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I'm tired of trying to get information, and having my question closed. The "closed" message says to go to the faq, and the faq says that if my question covers:

  • software tools commonly used by programmers
  • matters that are unique to the programming profession

... then I'm in the right place to ask my question! Yet 6 people say I'm not. I'm not trying to start a discussion on Stack Overflow, I'm trying to get specific information on a tool related to the programming profession. It's hard not to get pissed off at this.

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You might try programmers.stackexchange.com. –  user27414 Nov 22 '10 at 19:20
Probably - it's almost 2012. I do hold out hope that a real answer may appear ;) –  orbfish Nov 23 '11 at 15:52
Apologies - "I did hold out hope that a real answer would appear." –  orbfish Nov 23 '11 at 17:08
Well, the real answer probably is "don't ask it on Stack Exchange". I can't think of an SE site right now that'd accept a question along those lines. –  Anna Lear Nov 23 '11 at 18:12
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2 Answers

I would have voted to close as well. First off it doesn't fit into (and you didn't try to quote) the two real categories of the FAQ: Specific programming problems and software algorithms. So lets look at the two fuzzy ones that you do quote.

  1. Software tools commonly used by programmers. Except you're not asking about SQL. You're asking about where you can go to socialize with other SQL users. This pretty much has nothing to do with SQL. You could ask where you can go to socialize with unicorn lovers. It's essentially the same question.

  2. Matters that are unique to the programming profession. This doesn't really belong there anymore. It's the most confusing part of the FAQ and is used to try to force a lot of OT questions into Stack Overflow that don't really belong there. Its uselessness counter-productivity with regards to making the FAQ clear and keeping OT stuff off of Stack Overflow is compounded by the presence of programmers.stackexchange.com where, arguably, your question would be on topic.

So, to answer the title of your question:

  1. Ask questions directly related to specific programming problems or algorithms

  2. Ask questions relating to tools used by programmers but consider asking on superuser.com instead.

  3. If a question could only be argued to be on topic because it relates to matters "Unique to the programming profession", don't ask it on Stack Overflow. Feel free to give it a shot on programmers.stackexchange.com

If you stick within those three guidelines (admittedly more draconian than other users with vote to close privileges might give), then you should be fine.

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I like the "matters that are unique to the programming profession" part of the FAQ, as long as its interpreted correctly -- "unique" is emphasized for a reason. As you said, you can replace "SQL lovers" with "unicorn lovers" and get the same question, so the base question is "where can I go to socialize about X", which is in no way unique to the programming profession –  Michael Mrozek Nov 22 '10 at 19:56
I actually wasn't asking about socializing, although I see how it could be taken that way - you sometimes learn by back and forth about a question, picking it apart and asking what-if's that are not a discreet technical problem (which is why I knew I couldn't ask them on SO). That is why I consider it a learning tool, rather than a unicorn-watching society (I'm assuming you used that to be derogatory). The FAQ is the FAQ - it doesn't say "these are the 2 real categories". Perhaps it should. –  orbfish Nov 22 '10 at 21:09
Specifically, I had a data-loading problem where I had to take 62 columns imported from a spreadsheet, unpivot them, split logically into 2 tables, and re-pivot the results. I know there has to be a better way to do this, I really need to know how to handle a type of problem rather than the specific problem. Because of that, and because SO does not always have good SQL/Oracle SQL coverage, I thought there must be a place where people can talk over questions like this without getting slapped down. But I got slapped down for even asking. –  orbfish Nov 22 '10 at 21:20
@orbfish I wasn't using the unicorn reference to be derogatory. There are a lot of unicorn references in the SO universe and it seemed to fit. Generally, I'm not clever enough to leave one having to assume that my intent is to be derogatory. –  aaronasterling Nov 22 '10 at 21:22
To follow up on your answer, if you're supposed to ask about programming tools on superuser.com, why does the SO FAQ (stackoverflow.com/faq) say you should ask there? –  orbfish Nov 22 '10 at 21:22
@orbfish, I didn't say you should always ask on Super User. I said that you should consider asking on Super User. For example, apache could be considered to be a tool used by programmers. You might get better answers on Super User. As regards to the question that you actually wanted to ask, it seems that that would be perfectly on topic. Did you try it? Did it get "slapped down?" –  aaronasterling Nov 22 '10 at 21:34
I've just gotten 8 downvotes on the meta site for asking how to use the site (which I thought was what it was for). I don't think there's any point in trying any of these sites, people just want me to shut up. –  orbfish Nov 22 '10 at 21:46
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So the short answer goes like this: Discussion and or subjective questions are discouraged on StackOverflow and maybe encouraged on Programmers.SE. If you're trying to start a discussion, don't do it on SO. If you're trying to find something that only applies to you or to a very local group of people, then again, SO is not the place to do that.

Now, if you have a question as to "which software tools are commonly used by SQL programmers to get better code coverage" then that would be an excellent SO question (albeit likely a dupe).

If you were asking "What things do I need to learn about to advance my SQL abilities to get past the basics of CRUD" then perhaps that might be an SO question (if you can phrase it to sound like an objective question). Even that question is probably better suited for Programmers.SE.

I really don't think you're in the right place. Are you looking for a place to associate with other SQL users? Try the chatroom for SQL on http://chat.stackoverflow.com/rooms/33/sql-database and encourage other users you know to visit the same chatroom. Alternately, join a local users group (even for a language not SQL and then ask them who is interested/involved in a local SQL users group).

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Technically, the author's not starting a discussion. What's being asked is where to find a place for discussion. Not saying that it becomes appropriate due to that, but... –  Grace Note Nov 22 '10 at 19:16
@GraceNote ~ Good point. Note that I did try and account for that in this answer so as to give the asker some solace. However, I think that an understanding as to why the question was rejected might be helpful. –  jcolebrand Nov 22 '10 at 19:19
I was very specifically asking for an answer to a question, not trying to start a discussion. The question you suggest, if acceptable, is not at all what I'm looking for. I tried the SO Oracle chat room, it's empty. There does not appear to be a lot of straight SQL coverage on SO, which is why I'm trying to look elsewhere. I just thought it might be acceptable, since it's a specific programming question, to ask where the elsewhere might be. :( –  orbfish Nov 22 '10 at 21:16
Sadly SQL devs tend to be less vocal, and nobody really likes to solve problems in data storage (SQL databases are, after all, for storing data) and people love to solve shiny problems, so SQL tends to get less love. –  jcolebrand Nov 22 '10 at 21:44
Wow, this is an oldie. :) Just for completeness' sake, discussions are not encouraged on Programmers. –  Anna Lear Nov 23 '11 at 18:09
Good call Anna. I was trying to illustrate that at some point a subjective question is valid for Programmers, but only objective Q for SO. –  jcolebrand Nov 23 '11 at 18:40
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