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Stack Overflow has a big tag, with nearly five hundred followers.

I posted a question there and it got migrated to Programmers — which was frustrating, because I don't have any rep there. Not the point, though: if that's the right place for it, fine.

But there's a disconnect here. If Stack Overflow is no longer the place for career questions, why does it still have a tag? (Removing that tag would have told me that I was posting in the wrong place to start with....)

Edit: I don't think that it's a good enough reason to say that the tag has been left in Stackoverflow for historical reasons -- to point to old posts. I had no way of knowing that it was no longer appropriate to post the question there, and because of the tag, every reason to think otherwise.

IMO, it's an either/or. Either we need to allow questions on Stackoverflow; or we need to remove the tag (which I suppose would imply migrating all the questions that use it; but personally I'm not worried).

Edit^2: Point of information. Eight posts to in the last week. Only three of them have negative votes. So it's not true that questions in this tag all get voted down heavily.

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closed as too localized by ben is uǝq backwards, Martijn Pieters, hims056, Toon Krijthe, Rory Mar 4 '13 at 15:11

This question is unlikely to help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet. For help making this question more broadly applicable, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Not a duplicate, but on a similar general topic:… – Pops Jul 15 '11 at 16:36
@pop-demand: Thank you! – Andy Jul 15 '11 at 19:46
Yeh, it's a bit of a paradox and one that's gone back and forth. I gave up closing on career questions once I saw that they were ok on SO. – Lance Roberts Jul 15 '11 at 21:39
There is a problem with all these old questions. Many of them, such as the endless "What books exists for topic X" questions, are now considered non-constructive on all sites. This means that not only are they not really welcome on Stack Overflow, there is no place to migrate them either, which means that if we want to get rid of them, we have to delete them, and while unwelcome, some of them do contain good information. And, as you surmise, some people take their existence as a validation that they can post new such questions, so new ones crop up, and are closed. Rinse, repeat. – Lasse V. Karlsen Jul 22 '11 at 9:56
@Lasse -- I doubt that that argument applies well to career advice; unless you are suggesting that career advice does not belong on any StackExchange site, which seems a bit harsh. – Andy Jul 22 '11 at 9:59
No no, I don't. I was commenting in a general manner about a lot of the old posts, and just to make sure; though I'm a moderator I do not set policy, I'm here to uphold the policy others make, so my opinion is just that, my opinion. However, career advice, wouldn't that be "too localized"? I mean, there's no way people can know what others are good at, the job offers in their part of the world, how that will change in the time that person educates himself, etc. Are those questions really OK? – Lasse V. Karlsen Jul 22 '11 at 10:02
@Lasse -- I certainly think that it's possible to frame a career question in such a way as to make it useful to others, now and in the future. Of course, not all questions manage this, just as not all programming questions manage this. – Andy Jul 22 '11 at 10:04
up vote 16 down vote accepted

I'm sorry you don't think people have been clear about where questions belong, so let me take a stab at it:

Where are career development questions welcome?

Career development questions are categorically off-topic on Stack Overflow. There is no career development question, outside of run-of-the-mill code-related questions, that is remotely on-topic for Stack Overflow anymore.

Programmers.SE is the place on the network where you can ask career development questions under certain preconditions that ChrisF mentioned in his answer: they need to uniquely apply to programmers and not be too localized.

Any other type of career development question is currently off-topic everywhere on the network. However, there are two proposals in the commitment phase that will provide a place to ask about career development questions that apply to other IT professions (IT Careers & Training) and a place to ask general workplace advice questions (Professsional Matters).

Why is there a tag on Stack Overflow, and why do people keep asking career development questions there?

Stack Overflow was created in September of 2008, and for a very long time it was the only site where you could ask any question related to programming: code questions, joke questions, programmer lifestyle questions, and career development questions.

However, Stack Overflow quickly grew and all the questions that didn't relate to code started to become just a whole bunch of noise. A shift in both the team's guidance and community sensibilities slowly started to weed out the non-code questions as being "not programming related" and the community started to close them. This caused a fair amount of backlash as the "not programming related" questions were easily the most popular questions on the site.

Fast forward a couple of years: Stack Overflow grew from one site into a fledgeling network of Q&A sites. To help grow the network, the team launched Area 51, a platform for allowing the community to define and launch Q&A sites for any topic that could gain critical mass. Not surprisingly, one of the first topics proposed was "Not Programming Related": a place to house all of the questions that were incredibly popular on Stack Overflow but were noise for those who just wanted to focus on the coding questions.

That site went through a few months of beta and was launched as Programmers.SE in December 2010. At that point, all the non-coding questions became categorically off-topic on Stack Overflow and on-topic for Programmers.SE provided they met certain conditions worked out during its beta period.

Unfortunately, 2 and a half years of not having Programmers.SE had two problems:

  1. All the questions that were no longer on-topic for Stack Overflow didn't magically disappear the moment Programmers.SE launched
  2. The community of hundreds of thousands of users did not suddenly change their patterns the moment Programmers.SE launched

Rather than spend an inordinate amount of time searching through the millions of questions asked on Stack Overflow for everything that's no longer on-topic, and rather than chlench the iron fist of justice by banning anyone who doesn't post their question in the right place, the community has largely been allowed to correct itself.

This self-correction takes time, and is far from over. But we're getting better at it: nearly every non-coding question gets closed or migrated to Programmers.SE. The ones that don't are outliers: questions that inevitably slip through the cracks. And the questions that existed before Programmers.SE launched: they're grandfathered in until they catch the eye of a moderator or the community.

As a moderator on Programmers.SE who routinely deals with migrated questions from Stack Overflow, trust me when I say the system's working: we get hundreds of questions from Stack Overflow every month. The really popular questions that are no longer on-topic for either site are almost always locked by a moderator and left to die a cold and lonely death in the vast archives of Stack Overflow, Raiders of the Lost Ark style (spoiler alert).

Why does the tag continue to exist if all the questions are now off-topic?

To the point above, there are thousands of now off-topic questions that have not been taken care of yet. Removing the tag doesn't make them magically go away: it just removes a tag that correctly categorizes those questions and serves as a warning that they are no longer acceptable (even though they once were). The tag wiki for says:

Evolution of a person through various jobs. This subject is now considered off-topic for Stack Overflow and new questions should be asked on instead. Existing questions may be migrated in the future.

You can't get any more clear guidance than that.

Why are questions migrated when there seems to be still so much confusion?

Having a question migrated is not fun: nobody wants to have their question, which they really want an answer to, shuffled about in what appears to be a faceless bureaucracy.

But while it's annoying for an individual, it massively improves the quality of the network as a whole. Unlike sites like Quora or Yahoo! Answers, each Stack Exchange site is targeted to a very specific group of people who are interested in seeing only one class of questions.

That is, Stack Exchange's value in a sea of Q&A offerings is providing specialized sites that cater to specific types of experts who only want to see "their" questions. Having everything lumped together is a barrier to entry to those who just want to deal with coding questions without all the "fluff" of the other questions like career development (or cooking, or gaming, or home maintenance).

To this point, a migration from Stack Overflow to Programmers.SE is not a downgrade: you didn't do anything wrong, and your question isn't effectively destroyed. Instead, it's been moved to a place where there are tons of people who are more than happy to answer questions related to being a programmer that aren't necessarily about programming. Personally, I think it's an upgrade, but then again, I'm biased.

What can you do to help?

It's easy to say "Well, this guy asked a career development question on Stack Overflow, why can't I?" But as my mother used to say, "If your friend J.P. jumped off a bridge, would you too?" Change in a community as large as Stack Overflow requires everyone to pitch in and take on the responsibility of moderating.

If you see a career development question, it'd be helpful if you did one of two things:

  1. If you can, vote to close it as being off-topic.
  2. Leave a comment explaining such questions are off-topic on Stack Overflow, and are better asked on Programmers.SE.

Further Reading

Blog posts:

Good Subjective, Bad Subjective
Discusses the problems behind the "not programming related" questions and how Programmers.SE is meant to solve them

Discusses the launch of Programmers.SE and how it's different from Stack Overflow

Meta Stack Overflow questions:

Programmers is about to go live, which questions should we migrate?
Discusses the problems I talked about above with respect to the catalog of newly off-topic questions at the time Programmers.SE launched

Why was the Programmers site on Stack Exchange created?
Like all heroes, Programmers.SE has an origin story. As told by Stack Exchange community coordinator, Shog9.

share|improve this answer
Thank you for a very clear answer. Can I twist your arm, though, into addressing to what extent it's an official answer? – Andy Jul 22 '11 at 11:31
My personal opinion is that migrating questions does not solve the problem. It's annoying, even galling to find that what you thought was a perfectly good question has been migrated. Your first thought (unjustly, but nevertheless) is "WTF?!" - It's generating bad feeling amongst users. And how many people read the wiki for a tag before adding that tag to a question? I certainly don't. And in any case the warning on the wiki is not that prominent -- I even went so far as to try to add a warning myself before I spotted it. – Andy Jul 22 '11 at 11:35
@Andy It's as close to the "official" position as I know it to be based on my experience with Programmers.SE: I've added a few links for further reading. I agree with you the tag wiki excerpts are not the most prominent things out there, but merging the two sites or deleting every past career-development question are two extremes with really unpalatable consequences: splitting the two sites has largely been a benefit for Stack Overflow, and dealing with the huge backlog of questions is a gargantuan task without any means to accomplish it. – user149432 Jul 22 '11 at 11:54
To the annoyance of having your question migrated, you're preaching to the choir: nobody wants to have their question shuffled about. But while it's annoying for an individual, it massively improves the quality of the network as a whole. Unlike sites like Quora or Yahoo! Answers, each Stack Exchange site is targeted to a very specific group of people who are interested in seeing only one class of questions. Having everything lumped together is a barrier to entry to those who want to deal with just coding questions without all the "fluff" of the other questions like career development. – user149432 Jul 22 '11 at 11:57
And just as a final personal note, Programmers.SE is not Stack Overflow's toilet bowl. Don't think of your question being migrated there as being a downgrade: it's a sidegrade to a site where people are more than happy to answer most of the questions related to being a programmer that aren't actually about programming. – user149432 Jul 22 '11 at 12:02
It sounds as if we need to be able to mark a tag as unusable with out actually deleting it. But that's beside the point; you've certainly answered my question. Many thanks. – Andy Jul 22 '11 at 12:12
SAY! could we not change the career-development tag to career-development-deprecated? – Andy Jul 22 '11 at 13:02
This answer is no longer accurate. Career development questions are now categorically off-topic at Programmers. – Snowman 14 hours ago

Most of those questions tagged will probably pre-date the creation of Programmers. That's why the questions and tag still exist.

However, if you check out the newest questions they are either closed or migrated. There's no point in migrating the older ones as they are either out of date or have served their purpose in giving the poster an answer - or indeed both.

But (and it's a big but) be very careful when posting a career development question on Programmers. You have to make it specific to software development, but not specific to you. Not specific enough and it's "off topic", too specific and it's "too localised".

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Also note that the newer questions in that tag tend to have negative scores, or at least non-positive scores. – Pops Jul 15 '11 at 16:39
Well, see my edit above. The continued existence of the tag falsely gives me the impression that this is an appropriate place to post the question. And the fact that recent questions with this tag have been marked down doesn't give the lie to that. Forgive me, but it just looks as if a bunch of mean-spirited people have moved in recently. I get that this is not what is happening, but that is the first impression that it gives. – Andy Jul 15 '11 at 19:52
To add a little to your point about migration, even if you did migrate every question with career-development wouldn't they still appear on SO but just with [migrated] after the title – Some Helpful Commenter Jul 15 '11 at 20:09
@Conrad ~ No, they would not "appear" on the site, in general. At least, that hasn't been my experience with migrated questions... – jcolebrand Jul 15 '11 at 20:16
@jcolebrand well I guess it depends on what you mean by appear. They do appear on the question lists. For example if you look at career-development its pretty easy to find migrated questions. – Some Helpful Commenter Jul 15 '11 at 20:23
@jcolebrand actually you can find them all by searching for migrated:1. but apparently they only last 30 days – Some Helpful Commenter Jul 15 '11 at 20:25
Ah interesting. Thanks for that – jcolebrand Jul 15 '11 at 20:29

I think there's a valid usability issue here not addressed by the previous answers. If start typing the tag "career-development" into a new question, I see at the time of this post that there are 1257 questions with this tag. A reasonable amount of effort went in to warning a user if their question may be subjective. Could we not:

  1. Add a 'historical' flag to any tags which would now strongly indicate that a question is off topic, like 'fun' or 'career-development'.
  2. either prevent new questions from being posted with those tags entirely, suggest an alternate SE site to post the question on, or warn that the question will most likely be closed.
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I really think the "historical" flag is the best solution, but obviously it requires coding. I suggest here that we rename the tag career-development-deprecated -- which would work pretty well, and not require coding. – Andy Jul 23 '11 at 20:37

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