I just got a question closed as "not programming related". The question boils down to, "What good APIs are available for accessing information related to politics in the US?" Commenters speculated that perhaps web-based APIs were not considered fair game. This doesn't seem right to me, since there are tons of questions about the Google Translate API, Yahoo Query API, APIs in general, etc., etc.

Is it an issue of "is there an X to do Y", as opposed to "how do I use this specific X to do Y", not being allowed generally on the site? Or is it that this sort of question ought to be community wiki? Or something else entirely? None of the close voters seem to have left comments, so any insights are appreciated.

(Yes, it's yet another why-was-my-question-closed topic! In my defense, I'm not the only one confused, commenters on the topic also seem to be stymied.)


It isn't specifically programming related because of the juxtaposition of API's and something not programming related


I suspect people were turned off by the length of your question. You only really need that last paragraph:

Does anyone know any good APIs for obtaining information on the status of American legislation, legislators (such as voting histories), agencies and/or upcoming elections?

That is a fair game programming question.

  • The context is okay, but I prefer to put it after the main question. If someone only reads the first sentence, will they get a high level view of what you want? Often you only get their eyes for the first sentence, and who knows, they may go "hey actually yeah I do know..." (Plus only the start of your question shows up in the preview list.)
    – Ether
    Jan 30 '10 at 3:17

I think such questions are fair game. From the FAQ about what kind of questions are allowed:

Programming questions, of course! As long as your question is:

  1. detailed and specific
  2. written clearly and simply
  3. of interest to at least one other programmer somewhere

... it is welcome here.

Additionally, the site is for "questions that can be answered".

All these criteria were met with your question, and generally any kind of "is there X to do Y" can meet these criteria.

Marking "subjective" may be warranted, but often the answer is not really subjective, is it? You may talk about QUALITY of data sources, but the source either exists or it doesn't. That's pretty objective.

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