There seems to be more and more kickback from various people coming to the SO site, asking what most long term users consider to be an off-topic question, then arguing that the question falls under "matters that are unique to the programming profession".

It seems like those "matters" are open for some unnecessary debate.

What I propose is to change the wording of the FAQ to something more like the following:

  • a specific programming problem
  • a software algorithm
  • software tools commonly used by programmers
  • practical, answerable questions based on actual coding problems that you face

In other words, delete the whole "matters" line entirely and promote a sentence from the "what not to ask here" section. A vocal portion of the community already does this through closing questions that don't meet the above; let's make it official.


Of course, I should have included a few examples:

Regarding building a PC.
Comment dated September 26 and September 29:

Original question:

Completely off topic, but the OPs reasoning is understandable given the FAQ.

Repository vs UnitOfWork
Repository vs. UnitOfWork

Either this was incorrectly closed or it belongs on programmers.stackexchange.com

And others: https://meta.stackoverflow.com/search?q=off+topic

Note that the difficulty is in describing something that is unique to the programming field...and doesn't belong on programmers.stackexchange.com. In other words, just about everything, except code and tools, that falls under the "unique" clause is better represented on the other site. If that's true then it stands to reason that the FAQ for SO should be updated to better reflect this.

One additional tidbit: On this introductory blog for the programmers site: https://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/12/introducing-programmers-stackexchange-com/

it is stated that "Stack Overflow questions almost all have actual source code in the questions or answers." Maybe the FAQ should better reflect that "guideline".

  • 1
    Your proposed on-topic scope seems narrower than community consensus suggests.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 19:09
  • 1
    There seems to be more and more kickback -- Examples?
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 19:10
  • 2
    @Robert You're looking for examples of people objecting to the off-topic policies on SO? Try meta.stackoverflow.com Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 19:49
  • @MichaelMrozek: a better search is: meta.stackoverflow.com/search?q=off+topic
    – NotMe
    Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 19:51
  • Your PC examples are very good. Your other examples aren't; they are too old, and the "Stack Overflow Sucks" blog entry is just a big rant.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 20:06
  • @RobertHarvey: You're right the blog is a rant.. However, look at the comments on that blog that run up until a few days ago. They boil down to a near 50/50 mix of "happened to me too!" and "your question was off topic and you are a [pejorative]!" I'm not sure what's worse: his rant, with a somewhat defensable reason, or the name calling from regular SO users. Either way, just added another one.
    – NotMe
    Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 20:17
  • @RobertHarvey: removed the link to FSK. I don't want this sidetracked by that.
    – NotMe
    Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


Even your first example is a bit weak, because as Kev noted in a comment

Buying a powerful PC is not a matter unique to the programming profession, just like buying a comfy and ergonomic office chair or some tasty coffee beans isn't.

I think the necessary change here is from

matters that are unique to the programming profession


practical, answerable problems that are unique to the programming profession

Since "matters" is almost meaningless, specifying "what's your problem and can it be answered" is a helpful clarification.

  • I think this would work just fine.
    – NotMe
    Commented Oct 10, 2011 at 14:54

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