Having been a participant on Programmers for quite some time now, I am no stranger to new users and drive-by posters. Despite Programmers' reputation as "the least understood site on the network," there are still a few categories of questions that are clearly and undisputably off-topic:
- Code troubleshooting or programming tools help
- Career advice or workplace issues
- What technology/project should I take up next?
There are other categories of off-topic questions, but these particular categories don't necessarily require a consensus of five votes; everyone agrees to what they are, and that they are always off-topic. These are the facts of the case, and they are undisputed.
There is a disparity between the ease at which a user can ask an unambiguously off-topic question and the difficulty of getting it removed. Asking a question requires one user and five minutes. Removing a question requires five close votes from users with close vote privileges, three delete votes from users with delete privileges, and anywhere from an hour to three days. This lopsided arrangement virtually guarantees that the front page of programmers is littered with undisputably off-topic questions, as such questions have now become a regular occurrence.
To that end, I've asked a few users to re-ask their question on the correct site, and delete it from Programmers. What I've discovered is that
- New users don't know where the delete link is, and
- Even if they do know where the delete link is, they won't use it, leaving the community members to clean up after their messes.
The moderators at Programmers have a policy of exception handling and non-interference; they won't step in unless they happen to be there when a flagrantly off-topic question or spam question is posted. Yes, there is a difference: unambiguous means the skillet is on fire; flagrant means the kitchen is on fire (though they're both still on fire).
What can we do about this?
Some things that we have tried:
Clarifying the Help Center/On-Topic article to make it clearer what is on-topic. This improved things, but I suspect that most new people to Programmers don't read it.
The "three close vote experiment," where the Programmers community discovers that their goals radically differ from Stack Exchange's goals.
Numerous requests to change the site name
A detailed collection of faq posts on Meta
Literally hundreds of questions clarifying site scope.