This is getting old. It seems that every second career-related question has been closed then reopened, sometimes multiple times, and probably by the usual suspects. From the StackOverflow blog, A Question About Questions:

The current results for Which type of “programming related” questions are appropriate [on Stack Overflow]?, in order by votes, are:


7 . Questions about social engineering, management, or career building, ergonomics, or other “soft” topics related to development work. (7)


The “winners” of this poll, items 1-7, map strongly to my idea of what we built Stack Overflow for.

I hesitate to point out the latest question affected because the last time I did the sequence went:

  • Jul 8 at 8:23: posted the question on meta;
  • Jul 8 at 1:53: RichB bumps it for no other reason than to close it. Note: no content or tag change there, just a bump saying "There is nothing programming related at all about this.";
  • Jul 8 at 2:20: closed by Paolo Bergantino, Rich B, Ólafur Waage, John Saunders, Pesto. 2 or 3 of these are active on here, are aware of Jeff's comments about what's programming-related and persist closing such questions anyway.

So what does it take exactly?

  • 3
    Rich actually changed the title.
    – jjnguy
    Jul 13, 2009 at 2:02
  • 4
    Made it better actually.
    – jjnguy
    Jul 13, 2009 at 2:03
  • Keep posting on here when this happens. There isn't a good way to see which questions are being closed if your rep is under 10k and this is how I manage to find out about these kinds of questions and vote to reopen them. (Also by watching the not-programming-related tag) Jul 13, 2009 at 3:35
  • 1
    The main reason for closure on this question was the duplicate. 11 near-identical posts by the same author? Jul 13, 2009 at 14:51
  • 2
    Re: "...are aware of Jeff's comments about what's programming-related..." Jeff has a single vote like every other user as it's mentioned in the FAQ: "As we've said all along — Stack Overflow is run by you." It's the constitution of SO in my opinion. Whenever he decides to set the ultimate rules of the community without letting them decide, he should first remove that statement from the FAQ.
    – mmx
    Jul 13, 2009 at 17:37
  • Just for fun, here's a delightful example of a technical question morphing into a careers question: stackoverflow.com/questions/513170/…
    – Benjol
    Oct 8, 2009 at 9:32
  • @Mehrdad: but he has something us "regular users" don't: the ability to assume dictatorship over SO. He simply chooses not to most of the time, unless it's quite necessary. The more you ignore the owner's vote, the more you make it necessary to make him "assume dictatorship".
    – RCIX
    May 29, 2010 at 1:49

7 Answers 7


just one man's opinion: programming questions have technical answers that can be verified by running code or checking a well-known reference. career questions are opinions at best, polls and rants at worst

so usually i vote to close them

  • 3
    But there is times when an opinion can carry some significance. Sure there may be no right or wrong answer, but an answer with a supported defense can usually be quite helpful. Jul 13, 2009 at 2:22
  • 3
    @[Ian Elliott]: I'm not saying the answers aren't useful and the questions aren't important, I'm saying they are not programming questions, which is the apprent point of the site. Jul 13, 2009 at 2:33
  • Accepted that it's just your opinion, but imho it is self evident that there are programming questions which are abstract or non-technical enough not to have defined answers - if it was otherwise most questions would not have the need for more than one answer. The problem here is that "programming" can mean the specific act or the career, who's to say which is what the FAQ means?
    – bananakata
    Jul 13, 2009 at 6:12
  • There's a few good "soft" questions, but most of them I vote to close because they're just various combinations of whining/crying/ranting that do none of us any good. Jul 13, 2009 at 11:33
  • @[annakata]: the FAQ is, to some degree, open to interpretation. So we, the community, interpret it. "What college is best for a career as a developer?" is programming-related only tangentially; it is at best an opinion poll about everyone's subjective interpretation of what a "developer career" ought to be. Contrast this with "How do I add a row to a datagrid in asp.net?" ;-) Jul 13, 2009 at 15:20
  • Well Steven, your interpretation is at odds with the community view as well as Jeff's comments. At what point do you accept that people are interested in questions you aren't and move on?
    – cletus
    Jul 14, 2009 at 0:00
  • 1
    @[cletus]: LOL - I never substitute the community's judgement for my own, as per Jeff's direct instructions ("use your own judgement"). And given that this is the top upvoted answer at the moment, I question the community concensus on the question! :-P. But fear not, I don't visit SO often enough any more to close every non-programming question ;-) Jul 14, 2009 at 1:32

To be fair, there is a pretty big drop-off in voting between..

Questions about language-agnostic algorithms for hypothetical problems that have potential real-world applications. For example, traveling salesman or BSP. [69 votes]


Questions about social engineering, management, or career building, ergonomics, or other "soft" topics related to development work. [26 votes]

directly under it.

While I do happen to agree that these questions should be allowed, a significant part of the community considers them fairly marginal.

So the fact that these sorts of career questions are a bit contentious is perhaps to be expected.

  • 3
    And I think questions about wedding cakes, cartoons and programmer jokes don't belong but I've learnt to live with it. There are hundreds of career related questions. At what point (and how more specifically) do we get others to accept there is a lot of interest in these questions and to leave them well alone?
    – cletus
    Jul 13, 2009 at 6:07
  • 2
    When in doubt, I generally reopen things that have LOTS of votes and views and favorite stars -- unless they're fundamentally and actively working against the spirit of the site. Jul 13, 2009 at 6:27
  • Agreed, this category is at the bottom of the list of "winners" in that poll. A bit of contention is what keeps the site healthy, so you're never going to convince everyone that these things are, strictly speaking, programming-related. And some people always speak strictly. Pragmatically speaking, I think cletus, the OP, and others who agree are already doing what they can and should to support their point of view. But you have to expect that not everyone will accept it. Jul 13, 2009 at 22:20

Well. for one thing, if you have an issue with a close vote of mine, let me know about it instead of hoping I'll stumble across this post and see my name mentioned.

I'll review it.

You picked a real bad example (Fun Job or Career choice? [closed]):

DUPLICATES (same author)

Do you have any better examples of what you're talking about? Preferably questions where you disagree with a close vote of mine?

  • 1
    I missed at least one other, btw. I agree: 11 near identical posts by the same author is bordering on... well, something. Jul 13, 2009 at 14:46
  • I agree that there's good reason to close the post on the grounds it is an exactly duplicate. However there were three "not programming related" close votes before someone even pointed out there were duplicates so this is still an example of something that happens to other, more legitimate questions being closed.
    – cletus
    Jul 13, 2009 at 23:27

Just what do we have to do to get people to realize career-related questions ARE programming related?

We have to use the tools we have been given.

Leave a comment with your argument as to why the post should be open. Link to that blog post for reference. Link to your post here, if you feel it does a better job of making your argument. Check back later, and back up your argument if anyone disagrees with you.

If it gets closed anyway, then vote to re-open.

If you really feel the closing borders on abusive, then use the "flag for moderator review" feature to get someone involved who can override the hoi polloi.

And if, after exhausting these resources, the question remains closed... then accept that your opinion is in the minority, and move on.


Don't try to educate them, cletus. You won't change their minds.
They think it is not programming related, so they vote for closing the question. You have a different opinion, so vote for re-opening. That's it.
Don't waste your time bothering that, from your point of view, others don't get it on such a dinky topic.

  • 1
    And 11 near-identical posts in (by the same author), when does the parade stop? If you look at the post cited, most of the negativity was to the repetition, not the discussion itself. Jul 13, 2009 at 14:48
  • What's your point, Marc? That cletus has chosen a bad example? I agree. Jul 13, 2009 at 21:14

IMO, it depends on the career question.

If it's very general and applicable to a large number of people, then I'm fine with it as long as its properly tagged, has a good title, and a well developed question that can be answered (even if its subjective).

However, if it's a question that only pertains to a small population, then I don't think it belongs.


I do see a difference in a second career question to help an individual decide with his personal problem or a more abstract question that could be helpful for many. It is probably similar to "help me with this code" versus How to questions.

As career development is sort of peripheral, questions phrased too specifically to help only the author might be justifiably closed, whereas broder questions IMHO are perfectly ok. I'm thinking of this one.

By the way, the question you refer to is best answered by people that know you and maybe have an idea about the two work places. And of course by your heart. But the community only can give you opinions on what they think to be a great job.

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