Wow I got royally lynched for this. Please see the accepted answer which illustrates the reasons for Programmers to exist pretty well.

I'd like to say for the record I stand corrected - Programmers clearly has its own role (albeit with a fair amount of overlap with SO) and its own community and identity.

The programmers.stackexchange.com FAQ defines its purpose:

Programmers — Stack Exchange is a site for professional programmers who are interested in getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development. If you have a question about...

  • algorithm and data structure concepts
  • design patterns
  • developer testing
  • development methodologies
  • freelancing and business concerns
  • quality assurance
  • software architecture
  • software engineering
  • software licensing

[you're in the right place]

The problem is that questions (and more importantly, answers) on all concept-based programming topics that I could think of seem to be much more prolific on StackOverflow than on Programmers:

I suspect this is because the only people who care about code architecture problems are the same people who solve the day-to-day technical problems that should be posted on SO - so they naturally go there. There is no type of person who would exclusively use Programmers.

I would say this didn't necessarily matter - it's a good way of grouping questions by topic - except that it is much much harder to get an answer to a programming question on Programmers than it is on StackOverflow. I can post the same question (about code architecture) on Programmers and on StackOverflow and the StackOverflow one gets answered much quicker.

Given Stack Exchange's position on cross posting I therefore suggest that Programmers shouldn't exist. Either that or we need to find another solution so that people actually answer programming questions on Programmers.

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    Someone has been listening to the podcast... – Bart Oct 30 '12 at 15:37
  • Did you mean: algorithm? google.com/#q=algorythm – user102937 Oct 30 '12 at 15:38
  • @Bart What podcast? – Robin Winslow Oct 30 '12 at 15:38
  • @RobertHarvey good point - changed. – Robin Winslow Oct 30 '12 at 15:40
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    @RobinWinslow Added a link. There was a brief discussion in the most recent podcast on why the Programmers SE exists and some arguments stating that they might as well be merged. – Bart Oct 30 '12 at 15:40
  • @Bart - Merged with what? I haven't had chance to listen to the podcast yet. – ChrisF Oct 30 '12 at 15:40
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    Programmers is still the place to ask conceptual questions about programming. As it stands right now, SO is more of a troubleshooting service than a conceptual brainstorming site. Merging would not be pretty. – user102937 Oct 30 '12 at 15:47
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    This is a duplicate of this question in spirit. At this point, I don't feel the Software Engineering site needs to justify its existence. They have a distinct identity and a distinct scope. – Aarthi Oct 30 '12 at 15:50
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    Wow people are much bigger on downvotes here on Meta than they are on the other sites. My question was (fairly) well researched, articulated and sourced, and posted in the right place. But it looks like on Meta people use voting to denote approval. Which makes sense, except when it's linked to points. – Robin Winslow Oct 30 '12 at 16:12
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    "There is no type of person who would exclusively use Programmers." Yeah, just check my profile, mate. – yannis Oct 30 '12 at 16:14
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    I agree with you that we should not be spreading out our content to such an extent, however you will find the majority of the meta crowd will not agree with this, so it will get downvoted fast and drop off the question page. – Rachel Oct 30 '12 at 16:35
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    The other thing you might consider is asking this on Programmers SE. Does the majority of the Programmers SE community feel that it doesn't exist? Would this get downvoted there just as fast? – jmort253 Oct 30 '12 at 18:22
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    @YannisRizos I don't agree that my research was severely lacking. Your answer was simply the best summary, but as DavidWallace pointed out below these questions could have belonged on SO. I was more convinced by the wave of public opinion, showing me that Programmers has such a strong independent identity - something I could only really have picked up beforehand by being part of that community. I genuinely did research it as much as I ever research any question - that is, doing about 5 google searches around the topic and reading up to 20 of the most relevant results I found. – Robin Winslow Nov 2 '12 at 9:42
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    @YannisRizos (continued) on any other SE site, that is more than enough research - as obviously the fact you're asking the question means someone out there knows something you don't, clearly you have never done all the research, you just have to have done enough that someone can't just go "read this link" to give you your full answer. – Robin Winslow Nov 2 '12 at 9:45
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    Should Programmers.SE exist? Yes. Yes, it should. Next question, please. – user164207 Jan 21 '13 at 22:40

Programmers and Stack Overflow may overlap significantly, but they are also crucially different:

  • Stack Overflow moderators are psychotic lunatics,
  • Programmers moderators are paranoid psychos.

On a (perhaps) more serious note, here's a brief list of awesome (and recent) Programmers questions that don't fit Stack Overflow:

For more details see: Which computer science / programming Stack Exchange do I post in?

  • Yeah, I have the feeling that most answers on this question are really going to be comments. I'm looking at the answer I'm typing, and it looks like a comment too. – user102937 Oct 30 '12 at 15:46
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    @RobertHarvey I'm expanding the answer, give me a sec. – yannis Oct 30 '12 at 15:47
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    Then I suggest we add Programmers as a migration target again. All the complaining was just you guys being paranoid.... ;) – Bart Oct 30 '12 at 15:48
  • Don't expand @YannisRizos, it's almost perfect as is. You could probably change it to users rather than moderators... – ben is uǝq backwards Oct 30 '12 at 15:50
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    @Bart: " ... just because you are paranoid, it does not mean that someone is not after you ... " – Nerevar Oct 30 '12 at 16:03
  • Fair enough, it has its own role which I didn't fully appreciate. +1. It's still true though that plenty of architecture "whiteboard" questions get better and fuller answers on SO. – Robin Winslow Oct 30 '12 at 16:10
  • @RobinWinslow Examples please? Insofar you've showed us one answer, and the only thing that's good about it is that it's quick. It's not bad, but even with the extra visibility it got from this discussion, still not a single upvote. – yannis Oct 30 '12 at 16:11
  • @YannisRizos okay looking for examples did further illustrate the point to me. There are many examples like this: these two questions are the same: stackoverflow.com/questions/3058/what-is-inversion-of-control and programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/131446/…. The SO one has way more votes, but I do see that the Programmers one is more academic, and would be better understood by people who think the right way for it. Point taken. – Robin Winslow Oct 30 '12 at 16:21
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    @RobinWinslow You just linked to an SO question that was asked two years before Programmers was created. Come on, of course it has a ton of upvotes... And most questions are going to get a lot more visibility on SO than Programmers, Programmers is extremely smaller (and we like it like that). But I was under the impression we were discussing quality, not popularity. – yannis Oct 30 '12 at 16:23
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    @RobinWinslow btw, please don't waste your time trying to look for SO questions just to win an argument. There are awesome SO questions and answers out there, I'm fully aware of that, but that's completely irrelevant to whether Programmers should exist or not. It might have been relevant two years ago, but not now, now we have an active and vibrant community, and we aren't going away for whatever reason. – yannis Oct 30 '12 at 16:47
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    @YannisRizos you said "Examples please?" then said "stop looking for SO questions". Confusing. Anyway - stop ranting! I said my example only illustrated your quality point and my mind has been changed. You won. – Robin Winslow Oct 31 '12 at 8:09
  • @RobinWinslow You're right, sorry, got a bit carried away. – yannis Oct 31 '12 at 8:44
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    -1, Yannis, you haven't answered the question at all. To wit, why don't these questions belong on SO? Could there not be a small handful of tags on SO, such as "conceptual", or "algorithms", or even "soft-question" (which exists on mathematics.SE) that could be used for questions such as those. Since the people who would answer such questions are exactly the same people as those who would answer questions on SO, I feel it's completely redundant to have a separate site. You may disagree, of course, but your so-called answer does NOTHING to deal with the original question. – Dawood ibn Kareem Oct 31 '12 at 18:48
  • @DavidWallace Who cares if these questions could work on SO? You're two years too late for that discussion, right now it's a completely irrelevant argument. – yannis Oct 31 '12 at 18:53
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    @DavidWallace yes it seems to me that the more important thing is that Programmers now has a strong community around it who have a separate identity from SO. – Robin Winslow Nov 2 '12 at 9:39

For an alternative answer: we try to build sites that we feel will succeed based on their audience. In this case, Stack Overflow proved to be a very practical sort of Q&A site -- my thing doesn't work, how can I fix it, what should I use to make my thing do X, etc. (Yes, this is an oversimplification -- it is wholly for effect.)

Programmers, on the other hand, is concerned with the earlier stages of the SDLC, especially the parts where one is proverbially at the white board. (So, questions like, how do I order these steps, what parts of the process are nonnegotiable, what do I want to prioritize: performance or features, etc.) Anyone who's ever been involved in product design at any stage should recognize the necessity of getting this stage right, because it impacts the rest of the processes downstream.

There was a clear audience and a clear need being unfulfilled. That's why the site was created. Merging Programmers and SO isn't feasible -- from a size perspective alone, that would prove unwieldy. From a end-user perspective? It's hard enough to search Stack Overflow as is.

I'm going to be blunt: Programmers has no need to justify its existence anymore. It is there, it works, the answers are good and get lots of traffic/views and the site at large has demonstrated its value.

For further reading, please see:


That answer you got on Stack Overflow... It's been there 45 minutes, and I noticed you haven't upvoted it yet, nor has anyone else.

Your primary concern seems to be the amount of time it takes to get an answer on Programmers. While it is true that Programmers is a more languid site, it is also true that conceptual questions often require more thought and reflection, and Programmers allows the time for that reflection without getting swamped by marginally useful answers, the treatment that such questions often get on Stack Overflow.

In order for such a merge to be successful, you would have to convince the SO community that they not only want these kinds of questions, but will give them fair treatment without imposing the almighty "What have you tried?" on them.


Either that or we need to find another solution so that people actually answer programming questions on Programmers.

Sanity check: out of over 21 thousand questions on Programmers, there are only 204 unanswered questions there.

That's kinda impressive...

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    wow that is impressive – Robin Winslow Oct 31 '12 at 8:51
  • Data for the win! New-close-reason-on-meta-request: Not enough data. Give us more data. DATA! – juan Oct 31 '12 at 21:33

No, I don't think it should exist

  • First off, you're spreading out your audience too much.

We have SO, Programmers, CodeReview, Project Management, CodeGolf, SQA, UX, SuperUser, CSTheory, Webmasters, WebApps, CompSci, Startups, IT Security, Cryptography, and who knows what other ones out there, all of which could be equally interesting to a single programmer. Why should I need to have 10+ sites and 10+ accounts to find content that interests me?

I think a better solution is to build a site based on an audience (say, programmers), and separate your content by tags. Not interested in Design Pattern questions? Filter out that tag. Want to view questions on Algorithms? Filter for that tag.

Putting them on separate sites only makes it harder for each individual site to grow, as they have to share their community members with many other overlapping sites, and members interested in multiple areas need to have multiple accounts and visit multiple sites to keep up with the questions/answers.

I think SE did get this right in some places though. For example, I completely agree that database administrations should have their own site. They're a separate group of users with a separate skill set and knowledge base than programmers.

  • Second, Programmers began as something completely different, and was never meant to exist in its current form today.

I think if an Area51 proposal had been suggested to move all higher level conceptual software development questions from SO to their own site, it would have never made it to becoming its own site.

Programmers was originally created as a site to get answers from other programmers about issues not related to programming. In other words, a place to get answers from a specific group of people on topics not related to their professional expertise.

SE should have shut the site down entirely if they didn't like the way it was heading instead of changing it's scope and direction entirely (against the community's wishes), and trying to find a use for it by separating out conceptual questions from SO.

  • And last of all, I think the site is giving the entire SE network a bad name.

Currently over 50% of questions asked on Programmers are either deleted, closed, or downvoted below 0. Since having your question deleted, closed, or downvoted below 0 is rarely a pleasant experience, this means that we are providing a bad experience to many users, and they won't be coming back. And its not just Programmers they won't be coming back to, it's the entire StackExchange network.

In addition, our newest questions page is constantly filled with downvoted and closed questions, and it's not uncommon for you to take the time to write out an answer, only to find it closed when you go to post the answer, or to have your answer get deleted later on along with the question.

You can view Open/Closed questions or posts asked vs posts closed in Data.SE if you want to check the numbers for yourself. Also, keep in mind that Data.SE doesn't include deleted questions. According to a Programmers mod in chat, he's deleted 900+ questions this quarter, and our current questions for that quarter in Data.SE was just under 9000, so that's roughly 10% of the questions not included in Data.SE queries, all of which would be considered "bad".

But anyways, that's just my opinion as a user who participated in Programmers since its early beta days, and who had a lot of problems understanding how, when, and why the site scope got changed the way it did. I realize this will get downvoted because many MSO users do not agree with this, however that's OK.

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    Project Management is its own separate field that has absolutely nothing to do with software development. It expands into every field that has a schedule and a deadline. Also, it's more difficult to find and attract experts when the topic is too broad. – jmort253 Oct 30 '12 at 16:31
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    @jmort253 I'm not saying every programmer would find every one of those sites useful, however a large number of programmers find more than one of those sites useful, including some who find Project Management interesting. I personally have never used PM.SE, however I did see the on-topic list includes things like Agile and Scrum, and those are both topics of interest to many programmers. – Rachel Oct 30 '12 at 16:34
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    All the individiual sites you list are better off for having a focused audience -- an audience of people really interested in that niche aspect of the bigger picture. Having separate sites helps distiguish an expert in CSTheory from an expert in Linux shell script hacking. Splitting on tags fragments the community trust aspect of reputation into meaninglessness – Caleb Oct 30 '12 at 16:35
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    @Caleb Unless I'm mistaken, I think the audience of most of those sites is very small, and the amount of activity is pretty low. – Rachel Oct 30 '12 at 16:36
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    And splitting by tag seems to work fine for SO. Languages and technologies are split by tags, and the "experts" in those tags are usually pretty well known within those tags, and can easily be identified by the shiny gold badge given for that tag. – Rachel Oct 30 '12 at 16:37
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    @Rachel You're mistaken. Programmers, UX, SuperUser, CSTheory, WebMasters, WebApps and OnStartups are mature sites that have already proven they can sustain themselves. And the betas you list aren't doing bad either, some are doing great in fact (CompSci is doing exceptionally good, for example, even though SO, CSTheory and Programmers overlap with it and are mature sites). Oh, and you forgot Code Review, why do people always forget Code Review? It's awesome! – yannis Oct 30 '12 at 16:38
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    You forgot Seasoned Advice. Programmers love food too! – Shog9 Oct 30 '12 at 16:50
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    @Shog9 It also shouldn't be "Want to participate in a Q&A site about programmers? Take your pick from 20 different sites and select the ones you want to participate in". It should be "Come to this one site, and setup your filters for which questions you want to see" – Rachel Oct 30 '12 at 17:02
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    @Rachel: you're essentially replacing one problem with... well, the exact same problem. I want help running cable: do I ask on the programmers' site (lots of programmers run cable), the sysadmins site (lots of sysadmins run cable), the DIY site (lots of DIYers run cable), the mechanics site (...). I want help making waffles: do I ask on the chefs' site, the programmers' site, the sysadmins' site, the parents' site, the homebrewers' site... Or worse, do I have to ask on the programmers' site since I don't work as a chef? – Shog9 Oct 30 '12 at 17:07
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    @Rachel: the point I'm trying to make here is that, as arbitrary as the divisions between some sites are already, you're drawing equally-arbitrary lines based on either your own interests or what you expect others' to be. Programmers - like most people - have varied interests, both professional and personal. There are plenty of programmers over on SA, and DIY, and Physics, and LEGOs. Who are you to say that Physics questions should be off-topic while computational science is on-topic? That cable management is off-topic while snacks are ok? – Shog9 Oct 30 '12 at 17:31
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    Programmers.SE is not really a good example for most things elsewhere on the network. In truth, I suspect it exists because it thrived, and continues to thrive, not so much because there's a clear niche that it fills. Accept it for what it is. – Shog9 Oct 30 '12 at 18:11
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    The other issue I wanted to mention @Rachel, but was tied up earlier, was that each beta community, although small, have formed very distinct communities. For instance, the Workplace crowd and the Project Management crowd have very different philosophies when it comes to how to address answers. Trying to merge SO, Programmers, PMSE, and other sites would create a lot of conflict and tension due to similar differences in how each community manages itself. Each smaller community has essentially developed their own personalities, and this is what helps them sustain. – jmort253 Oct 31 '12 at 6:03
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    @jmort253 I understand that, however that's actually why I mentioned my second point. Programmers was originally created as a site to get answers from other programmers about issues not related to programming. In other words, a place to get answers from a specific group of people on topics not related to their professional expertise. I think if an Area51 proposal had been suggested to move all higher level conceptual software development questions to their own site, it would have been shut down fast. Thanks for your comments though, as I always try and understand the other side of things :) – Rachel Oct 31 '12 at 15:16
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    @jmort253 I also see what you're saying about the beta communities, but that also didn't apply to Programmers. Our beta community was happy with the way things were, and it was SE that decided the site was not suitable for them and decided to change things (full history here). If you want proof, just go look at the top users from beta on Area51 and see how many are around and active now. I know at least 2 of the top 10 have completely deleted their accounts in response, and many others I haven't seen in a while. – Rachel Oct 31 '12 at 15:18
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    +1 Rachel for your perceptive answer. I was going to post an answer to this question myself, then I saw that you have already said everything that I would have said in such an answer. You have hit the nail on the head. – Dawood ibn Kareem Oct 31 '12 at 18:52

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