It seems that the term "programming related" is open to interpretation. Some people define it narrowly, others somewhat broadly.

This post is community wiki owned. If you deem it inappropriate, please downvote it.

Upvote the responses which contain question types you believe are appropriate to ask on StackOverflow.

Correction: Downvoting community owned answers does not burn rep, so you can downvote the ones you believe are inappropriate, too.

Thanks to Shog9 for coming up with this format for polls.

  • What category would this one fall into? stackoverflow.com/questions/182112/… - I think such questions do not belong here, but it seems majority likes it. Is this poll able to shed some light on it?
    – Suma
    Commented Oct 8, 2008 at 15:17
  • I have no idea. Poll seems to have died down though, so it's probably too late to add a new answer. If you do, make sure it's community owned ;) Commented Oct 8, 2008 at 15:28
  • 1
    I normally dislike poll questions but this one is pretty useful, ironically :P Commented Oct 10, 2008 at 9:05

19 Answers 19


Questions intended to resolve a specific programming problem that have only one correct answer. A "specific programming problem" can be defined as a problem that exists in code and that can be resolved with correct code (or cannot be resolved at all). These questions are normally language-specific.

  • 4
    If this is the case, why are all of the "what is your favorite programming dog food" questions allowed? And they get the highest views.
    – Peter
    Commented Oct 8, 2008 at 13:49
  • 2
    like Shog9 said, it's the "pinch of salt" that makes a meal appetizing, but too much ruins the meal. Question of balance and moderation (eg the close function) Commented Oct 12, 2008 at 12:16
  • I'm accepting this answer to get rid of the reminder, and because it is the most in the spirit of the site as stated in the FAQ. Although there is one other response with more votes, this one seemed like the natural choice to be bumped to the top. Commented Feb 13, 2009 at 20:32
  • Although it doesn't bump because I am the answerer. Hah! Commented Feb 13, 2009 at 20:33

Questions intended to resolve a specific programming problem that have multiple possible answers. As with this answer, but the "correct" response is subjective.

  • After my vote, you need to update to read "as below" :)
    – Even Mien
    Commented Oct 9, 2008 at 13:10

Questions about best practices and other aspects of programming, including use of software tools used in the development process, standards for maintenance and readability of code, advice to avoid potential coding pitfalls, etc.


Questions about language-agnostic algorithms for hypothetical problems that have potential real-world applications. For example, traveling salesman or BSP.


Questions about software tools that, while not directly related to software development, involve some scripting or programming themselves, for example, Office VBA, or Matlab.

  • Not clear to me what this means. For Excel, do you mean everything that goes beyond recording a macro? Would be VBA, definitely programming. Recording and executing macros on the other hand would not be programming related.
    – Treb
    Commented Oct 8, 2008 at 13:55
  • I mean that while the task is programming, you aren't developing software that stands on its own, but rather working within the application. I personally agree that it's programming for sure, but wanted the option in the poll. Commented Oct 8, 2008 at 13:58
  • Thanks for the explanation - in that case I'll vote it up.
    – Treb
    Commented Oct 8, 2008 at 14:02

Questions about social engineering, management, or career building, ergonomics, or other "soft" topics related to development work.

  • Most of the time, these come out as "what is your favorite/worst ...", thus being highly subjective. Because so many people have an opinion, these questions generate massive rep without actually solving a problem. This somewhat goes against the purpose of this site, IMHO.
    – Tomalak
    Commented Oct 12, 2008 at 9:28
  • 1
    Frankly, the greatest amount of new information (that has helped me in my job) has so far come from the 'what is your favourite/worst..." threads.
    – Martin
    Commented Oct 13, 2008 at 8:37
  • I disagree with JPLemme in regards to the ergonomics - as long as the questions are relevant to the tools they should be allowed (e.g. keyboard, mouse, chair, ect). Your work environment is relevant to how you do your job.
    – anonymous
    Commented Oct 13, 2008 at 12:26
  • @JPLemme - I think that a limited range of the ergonomics questions should be allowed otherwise you might have questions about a keyboard's ergonomics that technically wouldn't be allowed.
    – anonymous
    Commented Oct 13, 2008 at 15:21
  • @JPLemme - I can see where you are coming from, at the end of the day it might be best if the questions where specifically against the rules, but a judgment call would have to be made to ensure that they are relevant.
    – anonymous
    Commented Oct 15, 2008 at 13:45
  • now theres programmers.stackexchange.com for this right?
    – gideon
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 9:29

Questions about hypothetical problems that don't necessarily have real-world applications, for example "code golf" or the "FizzBuzz problem".


Questions about hardware considerations such as server environments, building an optimal machine, problems with hardware, etc.

  • Server environments and optimal machines for a specific task are fine with me, but hardware problems/support/help desk type questions are not. Commented Oct 12, 2008 at 12:37
  • Agree with JPLemme. Tech support no, design considerations yes..
    – Nidonocu
    Commented Oct 13, 2008 at 16:26
  • +1 to JPLemme. No tech support, yes on hardware and environmental (software not trees) considerations
    – Rob Allen
    Commented Oct 14, 2008 at 12:06
  • A lot of this should be going to serverfault IMO
    – derobert
    Commented Apr 18, 2009 at 4:47

Questions about software used by programmers. For example "How can I stop MS Project from changing my effort/end dates?" or "How do I create new shapes in Visio?"

  • Actually, this very question reveals SO's broad myopia of real-world programming: MS Project has its own automation model, and has an entire customization programming environment. In other words, you can actually program in both and and any question about wither could actually be a programming question. Commented Jun 13, 2009 at 22:29
  • Should have said: Visio has its own entire customization programming environment... Commented Jun 13, 2009 at 22:30
  • I think you could separate that out, though, to a question about the macro-editor that ships with office or application automation. It's not the same as a general question about the application. Also, my vote might go differently if you confined this item to software used almost exclusively by programmers, such as bug trackers or revision control software. Commented Nov 13, 2009 at 17:05

Code review or refactoring questions in which the user posts a block of code they have written and ask for the community to help them improve upon what they have written, similar to RefactorMyCode.com


Questions about other facets of software development, like best practices for analysis or QA.


Questions which ask for examples of code from different languages, or styles.

I'm think those types of questions would be useful for people looking to see what other languages look like, to see if they might actually want to learn them.

Basically any of the questions tagged Rosetta-Stone

( For example my question Factorial Algorithms in different languages )

  • Absolutely! In fact, I think more language-agnostic questions should instead be rosetta-stone. For one thing it encourages the asker to pin down a spec.
    – dreeves
    Commented Mar 15, 2009 at 20:27

Questions about deployment and support of applications past release, in particular towards design for maintainability.

  • Design for maintainability, yes. Deployment, I think most cases would fit better at ServerFault. Commented Aug 8, 2009 at 3:32
  • Possibly, except that it's developers who create the installers, and make the software deployable and manageable. Commented Aug 18, 2009 at 0:05

Questions that get upvoted. In other words, anything is game. The community will adjust itself without the need for defining what is appropriate and a strict overseer group that closes what they deem doesn't belong.

  • "The community will adjust itself" the irony is that we ARE talking about the community adjusting itself. I believe there are systems complementary to voting that work in parallel with it, particularly for users the system has grown to trust. Commented Oct 12, 2008 at 12:11
  • Some people like the most stupid stuff you can imagine. See Digg and/or Reddit. I don't want SO (at least the main SO, if there are ever subsections) to become a new Digg or Reddit. Commented Oct 12, 2008 at 12:39
  • 1
    my 2cents are that IT is in the programmer area and should be allowed within reason. obviously we don't want help desk questions on SO but really so what. Why can't there just be a robust category/tag system and let it play out. this Q of Q's seems just like the stupid war on drugs. Commented Oct 12, 2008 at 18:27
  • The system is not close to perfect. The problem is that without rules or guidelines the system or "community" just descends into anarchy, turning it into a programming culture site, rather than a programming Q&A site. Wikipedia wouldn't be useful if it didn't have these types of guidelines.
    – m4bwav
    Commented Feb 24, 2009 at 18:02
  • 1
    Yes, we certainly don't want anyone thinking outside the box. Or thinking of getting outside the box. Or even thinking of the outside of the box. Commented Jun 13, 2009 at 22:42
  • The 3K+ community can also adjust itself, I suppose, so should I propose anything that doesn't get closed is appropriate? Commented Nov 13, 2009 at 21:30

So called "Homework Questions" that would be at the level of a computer science course offered to high school students or first year college students. For example, something in line with the following CS 101 homework assignment.

  • I don't see a problem with these. How are they different from newbie questions? I think newbie questions are specifically encouraged in the FAQ.
    – Don Kirkby
    Commented Oct 14, 2008 at 20:02
  • 1
    Homework questions are something that someone is given as part of a homework assignment. So basically, if it is just a generic newbie questions it is fine, but if it looks like someone's homework it might not be allowed.
    – anonymous
    Commented Oct 15, 2008 at 13:46

Questions about programmers' favorite things (e.g. cartoons, books, movies, pop culture references).

  • I think a little humour is ok. If peiople are not interested in these questions, they can just ignore them.
    – Treb
    Commented Oct 8, 2008 at 13:51
  • I don't like these kinds of "questions" either, but they do help to foster community. Commented Oct 8, 2008 at 13:56
  • These are like salt - a pinch makes eggs taste good, a cup makes them inedible. There needs to be either limits, or hard segregation of these "questions". Watch the pattern now: new users copy existing questions, and when those are OT then OT questions multiply quickly.
    – Shog9
    Commented Oct 8, 2008 at 14:09
  • If they're allowed, they should certainly be very clearly tagged and filtering by tags should be improved on SO.
    – Bobby Jack
    Commented Oct 9, 2008 at 13:25
  • 1
    "Watch the pattern now: new users copy existing questions, and when those are OT then OT questions multiply quickly" totally agree, which is why we need "close", even though it's clearly a grey area. Commented Oct 12, 2008 at 12:15
  • I don't want to down or up vote this one as I want to see a bit in moderation, but nothing that should be showing up on a daily basis. Maybe something like a "Friday Happy Hour" for these questions?
    – anonymous
    Commented Oct 13, 2008 at 12:29
  • I find these amusing and appropriate for the community - but until they get filtered out of the normal flow of the questions they should be kept to a min.
    – Rob Allen
    Commented Oct 14, 2008 at 12:04
  • These should be acceptable if they are programming related. So favorit programming comic, for example is programming related.
    – TREE
    Commented Feb 24, 2009 at 18:04
  • I guess some folks don't like pickled eggs. Some folks do. Commented Jun 13, 2009 at 22:49

Polls about what StackOverflow is for (like this one).

  • I think that for now, we need some tool for the community to define the ROE. Maybe at a later moment polls can be banned, but right now we need them.
    – Treb
    Commented Oct 8, 2008 at 14:00

Business of Software questions which largely focus on best practices and advice ranging from consulting advice, social networking, start-up funding, business plan development, etc.

  • These can be valid, but only when they are asked with respect to the structuring the software itself: "How do I implement a key this way?" vs "Should I implement a key?" Commented Nov 13, 2009 at 17:07

Questions about the use of software not directly related to programming, such as Microsoft Word, or usage (not programming!) of device drivers.

  • 3
    Again, you do realize that you can program IN WORD? And that the people voting to close for "Not Programming Related" make no attempt to determine which the question is about? If the majority of the SO community is unaware the there are full-time Word, Project and Visio programmers, how are they qualified to make the Not-Programming-Related decision? Commented Jun 13, 2009 at 22:47
  • They also don't get Outlook development. Commented Aug 18, 2009 at 0:02
  • I think he meant usage, not programming of MS Word also. Then this is perfectly valid as 'not belongs' on SO.
    – awe
    Commented Sep 21, 2009 at 13:19
  • This is the most down-votes number I've ever seen! Commented Nov 13, 2009 at 17:09

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