I asked the question What's the right term to describe frequency of data access operations? on Stack Overflow, and it was closed as off topic:

Questions on Stack Overflow are expected to generally relate to programming or software development in some way, within the scope defined in the faq. See the FAQ.

Why is this question not programming or software development related and in the scope defined by the FAQ? I am asking for the term to describe an software development concept. And one of the answers eventually led me to the right place.

But let me put it another way. If this question was off-topic for Stack Overflow, where should I ask?

  • Personally I don't think it is off topic to ask about correct terminology. Having the rights words for things is very important and is the basis for all communication.
    – augustss
    Nov 20, 2011 at 9:08

2 Answers 2


This type of question, despite my own dislike of them, is actually on-topic on Programmers.

That said, such questions go against one of the main facets of Good Subjective, Bad Subjective:

Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers. The best subjective questions inspire your peers to share their actual experiences, not just post a mindless one-liner or cartoon in hopes of being rewarded with upvotes for being merely “first.” Sharing an experience takes at least one paragraph; ideally several paragraphs. If I’m asking about how to bake cookies, don’t give me a list of grocery items: milk. butter. vanilla. eggs. There is virtually nothing I can learn from a short, static list of grocery items that make up a recipe. Instead, tell me what happened the last time you made cookies from that recipe! Share your detailed experiences, so that we all might learn from them.

Asking "what do I call this thing so I can go somewhere else and ask about it or search for it like I know what I'm talking about" is such a weak question: it'd be far better if you asked about whatever problem you're having directly and learn what it's called as a consequence of experts using it in the context of solving your problem.

To put it another way, what is the problem you're having that has you thinking about what exactly to call the concept? Why aren't you asking Stack Overflow or Programmers about that instead?


The question was closed because it is essentially a vocabulary question. Granted, it is related to programming, but so is "What kind of pencil should I use for drawing diagrams while programming?", which is clearly off-topic.

Try asking your question at http://English.StackExchange.com.

  • 5
    English.SE might consider it to be too domain-specific.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Nov 19, 2011 at 16:38
  • 1
    They might. But their FAQ says usage, word choice and grammar etymology (history of words’ development), and dialect differences are all on-topic. Those are pretty specific.
    – user102937
    Nov 19, 2011 at 16:43
  • Is it on topic for Programmers?
    – user102937
    Nov 19, 2011 at 16:44
  • 1
    So if my questions was something like "Java is a language where you must first define your type before using it, what do you call this type of programming language?" Would this be considered off-topic too? My problem is that I know the concept but I don't know the precise way of communicating it (be it with google or an actual person).
    – ltfishie
    Nov 19, 2011 at 16:46
  • @RobertHarvey I don't think English.SE is about terminology used in specific professional fields. It is on-topic on Programmers, but see Mark's answer for details.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Nov 19, 2011 at 16:57
  • @itfishie: I agree that such questions are problematic. Many users of StackOverflow find them frustrating; they feel that, if you are having a problem with terminology, you should be reading a book instead of asking a point question on Stack Overflow.
    – user102937
    Nov 19, 2011 at 17:14
  • 1
    @Robert, could you suggest which book? :P
    – Benjol
    Nov 19, 2011 at 19:56

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