Whenever I want to post a programming question, I'm tempted to post it on all four of the above SEs. What's the difference between them? The FAQs I find too skim.

  • 5
    This is one of those times where its an obvious question to normal users but something that new users will struggle with. What makes it worse is that it has a really good answer upvoted to +17. Because of this, I think 12 downvotes was really unnecessary.
    – TheLQ
    Aug 24 '11 at 23:33

If you consider the history of these sites, it's generally pretty easy to see where questions belong.

It all started with Stack Overflow. Stack Overflow grew to the point where it was best to split off into a few specialty sites to cover some of the "softer" topics surrounding programming. But if you have a specific programming problem that involves the actual act of day-to-day coding, your question likely belongs on Stack Overflow.

There are a lot of activities that a programmer engages in that do not involve actual coding. Questions about software testing, best practices (design patterns), development methodologies; we generally refer to them as "whiteboard activities." For the most part, those questions have a home on Software Engineering SE.

Peer review of your code is an important activity for most programmers. Once you have working code, it is an important part of your professional development to have others look over your code to find hidden mistakes, or just to improve your overall code quality and style. If you're having trouble with a piece of code, your question likely belongs on Stack Overflow. But if you have working code that you simply would like to review with others, your question belongs on Code Review SE.

The Code Golf site grew out of a class of questions that used to occur on Stack Overflow but never quite belonged on the site. The programmers on Stack Overflow enjoyed putting together and participating in various home-brewed programming contests and solving interesting programming puzzles. This one should be pretty obvious; if you are putting together a programming puzzle to challenge your fellow programmers, it belongs on Code Golf SE.


Code Review is for when you want your code ... reviewed.

Code Golf is for when you want to ... code golf.

StackOverflow is for getting your other programming/development problems solved.

Software Engineering is for subjective (not "bad" or "opinionated") questions related to programming and the profession.

This is pretty clear from the FAQs, IMO. If you need further clarification, read their Meta site posts on the scope and read actual questions.

Questions that are all of:

  1. Relatively recent
  2. Highly voted
  3. Not closed

should be good example questions for you to follow.

  • 14
    for code review, the key point is that it's functioning code without any known problems. Whereas on Stack Overflow, it's generally "why can't I get this code to work?" Aug 18 '11 at 3:07
  • @JeffAtwood, See caveat.
    – Pacerier
    Apr 28 '15 at 10:22

Stack Overflow:

  • Hard fact objective answers

  • Problems usually contain code

Software Engineering

  • Conceptual and subjective issues with software development

  • Problems usually do NOT contain code

Code Golf and Programming Puzzles

  • Like the name suggests, for programming puzzles

  • The questions are made for fun and do not represent actual problems

Code Review

Questions are about:

  • Code correctness

  • Best practices and design pattern usage in your code

  • Application UI

  • Security issues in a code snippet, etc.

  • The performance of your code

  • @Pop Why is it I always seem to miss the most important part of a question? Thanks for pointing that out, fixed.
    – John
    Aug 18 '11 at 2:37
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    Career advice and workplace dilemmas are not on-topic on Programmers.
    – user149432
    Aug 18 '11 at 2:55
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    @Mark: My apologies. It just seemed like I found a lot of those on there and no one seemed to have a problem with them.
    – John
    Aug 18 '11 at 3:00
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    @Mark - WRT career advice questions, the p.se FAQ more or less disagrees with you. Aug 18 '11 at 3:02
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    @Michael I'm a moderator on Programmers, I assure you "career and workplace dilemmas" are not positioned as on-topic anywhere the FAQ. The career advice section links to very specific guidance: saying career dilemmas are on-topic with no qualification because of that is disingenuous at best.
    – user149432
    Aug 18 '11 at 3:04
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    @Mark - And that guidance is at odds with a blanket statement like "career advice is not on topic on Programmers". If the preceding is true, the FAQ needs to be changed. It sounds like the true guidance is more nuanced than that. Aug 18 '11 at 3:05
  • @Michael "Yes, within reason. Most career advice questions are specific to the poster's situation and run the risk of being closed. Try to generalize your situation into a good subjective question." The nuance is only lost if you stop reading after the word "Yes".
    – user149432
    Aug 18 '11 at 3:10
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    @Mark, honestly, I have no idea how we're missing each other to this degree. The guidance you posted above (that you wrote!) allows for career advice questions, if they're written to a set of guidelines. The statement you posted in your earlier comment ("Career advice [..is...] not on-topic on Programmers.") conflicts with that guidance. Unless you're focused on the workplace dilemmas portion of that statement. Aug 18 '11 at 3:15
  • @Mark: When I said "Career advice and workplace dilemmas, I had this question in mind. That's a workplace dilemma responded to with career advice, is it not? It's even tagged career advice.
    – John
    Aug 18 '11 at 3:17
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    @Michael The original wording in the answer was "career and workplace dilemmas". You seem to be hung up on my use of the word "advice" in my first comment, which I hope I have clarified in my other comments. Career/workplace "dilemmas" are not on-topic at all, and career advice is only on-topic given it meets several, specific criteria. To sum up Programmers as "that place you only go to with career and workplace dilemmas" is like summing up Stack Overflow as "that place you only go to when you have a problem with QBasic."
    – user149432
    Aug 18 '11 at 3:24
  • @Mark: It sounds like career advice is on-topic on p.se, as long as questions meet a set of criteria, but you object to the phrase "Subjective career and work environment dilemmas" being present in John's answer, because that misrepresents p.se's mission. Fair enough? Aug 18 '11 at 3:48
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    @Michael I'd say career advice aren't on-topic unless they meet a specific set of criteria (we'll likely revise that FAQ section with that wording), but that's more or less correct. The small subset of career advice questions we allow is not the intended draw for the site, and isn't what distinguishes us from the other development-related SEs.
    – user149432
    Aug 18 '11 at 3:55
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    Once again, even highly intelligent people cannot understand what is and what is not on topic for Programmers. There's still a real problem with that site's definition. Sometimes it seems like the moderators spend too much time complaining that no one gets it rather than fixing the description. I stay as far away from the site as I can get, personally, mostly for this reason.
    – Cody Gray
    Aug 18 '11 at 7:44

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