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Today I flagged this question as off topic. It's to do with deleting service accounts from Googles Cloud console.

This looks like an admin issue to me, and certainly not a programming question within the terms set out in the help centre as I understand them. A user took exception to this and posted "this is not off topic. The google-cloud-storage tag is officially supported by Google."

So, is account administration in Google's Cloud console on-topic or not? And what is the situation regarding 'official' support from Google or others? Is the OP correct?

I occasionally get hostile remarks from new users when I've commented that their posts are off-topic, but this user has 17k reputation, so I'd like to get my thinking straight.

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    Not exactly sure on the precise use of the Google Cloud Console, but that might well fall under the "tools commonly used by programmers" header. – Bart Nov 15 '13 at 23:16
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    Also, this also brings up the question; why does the poster think that having Google support (even if it's true) makes it on-topic? – Dennis Meng Nov 15 '13 at 23:27
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    Please see my response. – jterrace Nov 16 '13 at 19:27
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A quote from the comments on the question

@MikeW this is not off topic. The google-cloud-storage tag is officially supported by Google.

This is a funny thing about tags, especially sponsored tags. They give off a certainly feel for official support, when they are in fact nothing more than owner sponsored advertisements, however the user than made this comment obviously thinks otherwise. Just putting a logo on a tag doesn't automatically make any question about that tag on-topic.

Google also sponsors the tag. Does that mean we have to accept any android question? This is somewhat rhetorical, as Google has openly embraced Stack Overflow as an alternate source for programming questions with Android, but never tried to redirect support to Stack Overflow. Now, as halfer points out, the android tag is somewhat of a mess, but that's not Google's fault.

So to answer your question, no. Stack Overflow is not a replacement for any company's normal support. It is here for on-topic programming questions about the company's product(s), but support questions have always been better suited for the company's own support channels.

To see what happens when this doesn't happen properly, do some research into the facebook.stackoverflow.com experiment. In the end, Facebook never really made the distinction properly and ended up sending a lot of unprepared users here that asked random facebook questions that were downvoted into oblivion and closed. Meta also saw a lot of other questions, including a lot of admin type stuff and rants about app developers. Somehow the users that where sent here believe we were an official support channel for Facebook.

In the end, this looks like a support question to me and is better directed to Google. I have voted to close as such.

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    If you take a look at questions in the Android tag, it will seem very much that we do accept any Android question ;-). – halfer Nov 15 '13 at 23:56
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    @halfer I was actually editing to address that, so I worked in your comment. – psubsee2003 Nov 15 '13 at 23:58
  • Thanks for your comments. I'd read about the sponsored links elsewhere, so you've confirmed what I thought. I'd run out of close votes or I'd have voted before. I didn't find much on the Facebook experiment, but from what I did find I guess it didn't end well. – user226287 Nov 16 '13 at 0:09
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    @MikeW Is it time to re-evaluate the Facebook-Stack Overflow partnership? is probably the best summary and links to some other good posts on the issue – psubsee2003 Nov 16 '13 at 0:19
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    I am reminded of Will's warning about Facebook Stack Overflow. – user102937 Nov 16 '13 at 1:13
  • Please also see my answer. – jterrace Nov 16 '13 at 19:27
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I’m a Google software developer and an active contributor to Stack Overflow. I work on Google Cloud Storage, so I help answer questions for the google-cloud-storage tag.

Let me start by saying that we do vote to close questions that are clearly off-topic. We sometimes have users asking questions about their account status or about service errors specific to them. In these cases, we vote to close the question and we ask the user to email us directly.

When deciding whether a question is on topic, I ask myself two questions:

  1. Is the question something that a developer using Google’s cloud service as a tool to get their job done would ask?
  2. Is the question something that other developers might also encounter and want a canonical answer for?

In my opinion, if the answer to both of these questions is yes, then it’s on-topic for Stack Overflow, based on the criteria. Google’s cloud services are “software tools commonly used by programmers”. If other developers are going to come across the same issue as the original poster, we all win by keeping the question open and having a well-written, accepted, canonical answer for future visitors.

I also want to make it clear that we understand and agree that the criteria for whether a question is on-topic is not affected by tag sponsorship. Stack Overflow is a self-regulating community and not affiliated with Google. That being said, we dedicate company resources to contribute to tags related to our products, as we believe this improves the experience of developers using our products and helps us contribute to the great SO community.

  • I read your comments. On the face of it that seems a reasonable position, although I'd argue that administration of a Google account is at best a grey area within your terms. That said, the question remained open for at least an hour after you made your remarks during which time no support was offered by anyone at Google, nor did you follow your own comment above by asking for direct contact. – user226287 Nov 16 '13 at 19:36
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    We don't always answer questions immediately. In this case, the question was asked right at the end of the day on a Friday, right before most of us leave for the day. – jterrace Nov 16 '13 at 19:47
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    @jterrace the only thing I don't necessarily agree with is “software tools commonly used by programmers. Unless I am misunderstanding the premise of the original SO question, this seems to be more of a question about the service and less about the programming side of things. My comparison would be someone asking how to delete their gmail account since that is also a tool commonly used by programmers. If I am interpreting that correctly, then it probably would be better suited for Web Applications – psubsee2003 Nov 16 '13 at 21:24
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    I would agree if this was gmail, but the Google cloud console is a tool solely for developers to configure access to our APIs. – jterrace Nov 16 '13 at 21:42