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I began reading through much of the Meta.SO posts on the subject, notably this one.

On a daily basis, questions such as the ones below are asked on StackOverflow, many of which are are (for good reason) flagged as "too broad" or "off topic".

These are only a handful of thousands like this. Several of these 'broad' questions may be better suited to be asked on http://programmers.stackexchange.com, while others are still too ("immature"?) for P.SE. So much so, that P.SE isn't even in the migration path anymore.

Question 1

  • Is there a more suitable forum for new programmers to get generic or beginner help? I have scoured Area51 for any mention of such a SO site, but to no avail.

Question 2

While many of the aforementioned questions may belong on programmers, the community there is prohibitive to intentionally subjective questions, despite being intended for "conceptual questions about software development".

  • Do SO's policies support helping the OP re-word their question properly so it can be migrated to it to P.SE? Usually subjective questions are flagged and put on hold before this can even be suggested.

Question 3

  • It has been debated (endlessly) why or why not some subjective questions are allowed to pass through. Can anyone reference specific posts/conversations that discuss establishing a SE site for subjective and/or beginner programming questions?
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    Subjective site proposals: Subjective stackoverflow, The fourth place: Polling, Recommendations and subjective-ish stuff, etc. etc. – Bart Dec 6 '13 at 23:37
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    These are great, thanks @Bart. So far it seems that A) SO doesn't want a newbie place, B) SO doesn't want newbie questions, and C) newbies have nowhere to go. On the other hand, there appears to be some merit in having the parallel sites created for subjective questions. Definitely going to follow that progress. – brandonscript Dec 6 '13 at 23:41
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    Those statements are a bit too harsh. Keep in mind that Stack Overflow's purpose is not to teach people how to program. So perhaps to some extent that excludes some "newbie" questions. However, it does not imply that newbies are not welcome. If they have a good question, which they have tried to solve themselves, and is not a duplicate, they are more than welcome. SO is not excluding newbies. It's at most excluding certain content. – Bart Dec 6 '13 at 23:44
  • Right, fair enough. On the flip side, as someone who is originally self-taught, having something like SE would been an incredible resource for learning. I could see some huge value in "I read this in a doc but I don't understand this part. Can you please explain?" -- that is frequently flagged as subjective or off topic. – brandonscript Dec 6 '13 at 23:47
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    I personally don't have a problem with such questions, if they are not a pure dump of text with the request "explain this". And perhaps you might want to consider chat for such questions. Go to an appropriate room, make sure that it welcomes such questions, and perhaps you'll find your answer like that. – Bart Dec 6 '13 at 23:49
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    Many new users mistake bad questions for newbie questions. A questions in which the entire question effectively is "How do I do foo" without any additional info is a bad question. A similar question that explains foo in such a way the demonstrates that the user did his research and it is still unclear will ususally survive and get answrs. – psubsee2003 Dec 6 '13 at 23:52
  • @psubsee2003 There definitely are bad questions -- to those, good riddance. Unfortunately though, for many other "well-formed" questions, they still get flagged because they're drawing on the community's experience rather than code-able answers. – brandonscript Dec 6 '13 at 23:56
  • @Bart the chat room is an excellent idea, I don't think I've ever seen a flagger recommend that. Would be interesting to see that methodology be integrated into the FAQ. – brandonscript Dec 6 '13 at 23:57
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    Well, you want to be a bit careful about generally redirecting traffic to chat. It can get annoying pretty fast. And not all rooms are equally accepting of certain questions (cough Lounge C++ cough) – Bart Dec 7 '13 at 0:00
  • @Bart right. Seems that maybe there should just be something simple like a tag for subjective questions - and if no one chooses to answer them, that's fine. – brandonscript Dec 7 '13 at 0:05
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    @Bart As a resident of P.SE's main room I can say that we tend to be fairly accepting of most questions in chat. This is especially true of the dense communication needed that comments (intentionally) fail at. That said, compared to the big rooms in SO's chat area, we're very low traffic and could easily be overwhelmed with questions. We're also nearly all professionals in that room and have our own jobs that we need to pay attention to and may not be able interact at the rate people desire (ie - wait an hour or so for us to get to a code compile time and then we'll chat). – user213963 Dec 7 '13 at 0:47
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    I should at the same time point out that the chat in P.SE when we do chat about questions of the code nature - we're not going to debug or write someone's code, but we can help think through a design question and the like. – user213963 Dec 7 '13 at 0:49
  • Good to know @MichaelT. I don't really participate over there, so I won't give advice I can't back up. – Bart Dec 7 '13 at 0:49
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Question 1: Is there a more suitable forum for new programmers to get generic or beginner help?

Kindof...

  • If the question is conceptual, but they have a specific deployment scenario in mind then they could ask on Programmers.SE.
  • If they actually have code, and want input on how they can improve they can ask on CodeReview.SE.

If they want to ask broad and open-ended questions, they could also go to one of the many SO chatrooms and ask there. There are still no guarantees that people will respond favorably in chat, but open-ended questions are more generally acceptable there.

Honestly though, some of the examples you've cited are largely downvoted because those people are bad at asking questions. For every downvoted subjective question you mention, we could likewise find a highly-voted and well-written subjective question with lots of answers.

Meta does have some guidelines for asking good questions

Question 2: Do SO's policies support helping the OP re-word their question properly so it can be migrated to it to P.SE? Usually subjective questions are flagged and put on hold before this can even be suggested.

If you feel like you want to help, post a comment asking the OP to clarify. Alternatively, if the OP has at least 20 points, you could invite them to a chat room to help them rewrite the question.

Question 3: Can anyone reference specific posts/conversations that discuss establishing a SE site for subjective and/or beginner programming questions?

It's already been mentioned, but this comes to mind... The fourth place: Polling, Recommendations and subjective-ish stuff

  • Tough choice choosing an answer, but under the circumstances, yours best answered all three of my questions concisely ;) Thanks Mike. – brandonscript Dec 7 '13 at 1:27
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Just because something is too broad doesn't mean that it isn't too broad for Programmers.SE. In most cases, questions that are too broad on StackOverflow are also too broad on P.SE (similar logic applies with primarily opinion based and unclear).

Lets look at the questions:

Are there other languages besides English that append suffixes to Arabic numerals?

This question was asked in March of 2010. It is much to old to migrate now. Why it wasn't migrated then, dunno. However, the question isn't programming related. It might be UX related, but then really, its a poll about languages. Look at the answers:

In Klingon you add "DIch" to the number, apparently, to represent ordinality.

.

Spanish does. e.g., second == segund(o|a) == 2o/2a

.

None for Arabic-Indic

This really is a poor fit for Stack Exchange as a whole.


https://stackoverflow.com/questions/17706542/im-stuck-on-programming-in-java-the-concept-is-a-little-difficult-for-me

This question sits at -11 on SSO and was closed for off topic - minimal understanding

It asks as a question:

How and why would i link that to the main class? in the main's body what do i type? and why shouldn't i just make that function in the mains class anyway? i don't get why you would need multiple classes, someone please explain?

This question really fails to ask a single question and also is looking for someone to handhold them them through learning Java. The following comment really hits the nail on the head for this question:

Find someone you know that's a professional software engineer or find a tutor. Talking things through with someone in person is one of the best ways to learn, IMHO

Asking a single question may help focus it, but it would have very likely been closed as too broad on P.SE. If you can picture a book (or even a chapter of a book) necessary to answer the question, its too broad. Please don't migrate poor questions.


https://stackoverflow.com/questions/20154135/what-is-the-point-of-cms

As I write this it is at -9, and maybe the meta effect will hit it hard too.

This might be a candidate for migration if it was focused better.

I don't get it. What would be the point of using a CMS when creating a website if you still need to do the css and html from scratch. For example if you take wordpress you would still need to do the css and html from scratch because I would not use a free to download theme from the internet.

I'd have closed it as unclear, but thats my take on it. I don't see a problem that can be solved. There is lots of confusion that the OP has on that question, and a discussion in chat (alas, not enough rep) may be a better course of action - but that question will be generating lots of back and forth in the comments as people try to explain the concepts.


https://stackoverflow.com/questions/19037683/please-explain-my-teachers-feedback-on-my-homework-assignment

This is a lengthy bit about someone disputing the teacher's comments. Frankly, the student needs to ask the teacher and talk to them about it. On Meta.P.SE I've written Open letter to students with homework problems which addresses some of the problems with using P.SE for homework - it applies here too.

While it may not have been closed quickly (or at all) and might have gotten an answer, its really not a good question but rather one that needs to be asked of the teacher (just like there are questions about {insert product here} should sometimes be asked of the support at that company rather than on SO).

I'm guessing the teacher provided a very specific set of instructions for doing this and you ignored them.

.

This question appears to be off-topic because it is about explaining third party evaluation.

Both of those would be applicable on P.SE.


Understanding how classes work in Java

This question was closed as too broad. And it is. The answer gave links to Oracle's java tutorial, Code Project and some Youtube video. This question falls exactly in the realm of "if you can imagine a book written on the subject".



The reason that P.SE isn't a migration path is that collectively, SO sucks at migrating things to P.SE. Please glance at Please stop using SoftwareEngineering.SE as your toilet bowl and Yannis's answer in why are the best questions the ones which have been closed? . The stories of the days when P.SE was a target describe many many migrations that made the front page of P.SE look like a warzone.


Is there a more suitable forum for new programmers to get generic or beginner help? I have scoured Area51 for any mention of such a SO site, but to no avail.

P.SE is fine for help, but within its scope. These are conceptual questions that can be answered in paragraphs rather than chapters.

We really prefer questions that show the understanding of a specific problem. Saying "I don't understand classes" or "I need to write something in F70, where should I start" aren't good questions.

We're often open to helping people in chat, and often that is the best mechanism for explaining concepts where dense communication is necessary. Otherwise, we end up writing books in the text area.


Do SO's policies support helping the OP re-word their question properly so it can be migrated to it to P.SE? Usually subjective questions are flagged and put on hold before this can even be suggested.

Putting a question on hold is a good step in fixing the question. The OP can then fix up the question and flag it for migration (flagging it for migration is the only way to migrate). And this has happened in the past.

Also consider asking in Programmer's chat (The Whiteboard) about how to fix a question so that it would be a good P.SE question. We've also got the ears of a few SO mods there and if its needed to migrate it we can try to get it pushed more rapidly.

Do realize, I've got 3 outstanding flags on questions asking them to be migrated to P.SE. At this point its unlikely they will get migrated - they've gotten answers on SO (even if the answers are in a P.SE style answer) and questions with accepted upvoted answers tend not to get migrated easily.


It has been debated (endlessly) why or why not some subjective questions are allowed to pass through. Can anyone reference specific posts/conversations that discuss establishing a SE site for subjective and/or beginner programming questions?

P.SE isn't a site for beginner questions. Its a site for focused conceptual questions - beginner or otherwise. Thats the key thing to realize. It doesn't matter if the question is a 'basic' question or not, what matters is if it is a good question that can provide long term value to the pool of questions on P.SE. "I don't understand classes" or "why is my teacher wrong" fail that long term good content question.

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P.SE is prohibitive for a reason. It used to be a dumping ground for everything Stack Overflow didn't want, so much so that the site was forced to redefine itself and establish itself separately from Stack Overflow.

The end result was a scary site that no-one dare migrate a question too..... (ok, that part was mostly a joke).

In all seriousness, P.SE is much more forgiving of good subjective questions, after all, that is there scope, but it still needs to be answerable.

Are there other languages besides English that append suffixes to Arabic numerals?

There's no close votes here, and it is pretty well upvoted, so I'm not sure what the issue is here. If you are saying "why is this question upvoted when similar questions aren't", then check out the date. It was asked at a time when SO was more forgiving of such questions.

What is the point of CMS?
Please explain my teacher's feedback on my homework assignment

You reference both of these questions are good examples, however they illustrate the importance of a good title. For "Please explain my teacher's feedback on my homework assignment" there seems to be a question there after reading the body, but just based on the title, someone is going to say "How are we going to know what your teacher was thinking" and vote to close. "What is the point of CMS" is very similar. There seems to be a question lurking there, but a craptastic (credit to my wife for that term) title gets people in the wrong frame of mind when reading it.

I'm stuck on programming in Java, the concept is a little difficult for me?
Understanding how classes work in Java

In both cases, the OP is really looking for someone to explain OOP to him. I can easily understand why it is too broad. Someone could write a novel explaining that concept.


As I mentioned in my comment, new users mistake newbie questions for bad questions. The reason Stack Overflow is successful is there isn't nearly as much crap to sort through. You have a specific programming question and you find a decent answer to the question. But if you ask an unspecific question, chances are you are not going to find what you want.

  • Admittedly my examples could have been better - finding good closed questions was a challenge. But I think you understand the root of my point. Thanks for the answer. – brandonscript Dec 7 '13 at 0:44
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    @r3mus I do get the issue, and I somewhat agree, as I believe some users are over zealous when it comes to closing, but for the most part, good newbie questions tend to far well. But "good" doesn't mean "I don't understand, explain the entire C# language to me". Good questions focus on a specific point and asks a specific question about that point. – psubsee2003 Dec 7 '13 at 0:48
  • Right - makes sense. It's the closing of good subjective questions that really gets me. I tend to answer them as best I can, with the caveat that the answer is subjective too. – brandonscript Dec 7 '13 at 0:49
  • @r3mus but the acceptance of good subjective is extremely low on SO. Would good subjective be better on P.SE, yes, but the question was asked on SO, not P.SE. – psubsee2003 Dec 7 '13 at 1:22
  • and that's the catch 22 :| – brandonscript Dec 7 '13 at 1:24
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    @r3mus nothing is stopping you from flagging to migrate, or commenting to say that the question might be better on Programmers. – psubsee2003 Dec 7 '13 at 1:25

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