What is the difference between Stack Overflow and Software Engineering SE (formerly known as Programmers SE)?

  • 11
    You don't need to have any programming skills on the latter
    – random
    Oct 23 '10 at 14:32
  • 4
    it's covered in the /faq for both sites. Just click through.. Oct 23 '10 at 17:02
  • 7
    @Random Psh, that's the elitist attitude. There are plenty of wonderful things on Pr I can't find on Le Overflow.
    – Mark C
    Oct 23 '10 at 18:23
  • 1
    See also the official FAQ entry, which is much more recent than this yet somehow managed to avoid being closed as a dupe when it was new.
    – Pops
    May 27 '11 at 16:15
  • 5
    Regarding the direction of the duplicate. If the later question is "better" (is better phrased, has better answers,...) then it's perfectly sensible to direct people to the one with the "canonical" answer.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jul 8 '11 at 14:27
  • 2
    The best and the clearest answer is meta.stackoverflow.com/a/254571/462347, the quote: «Rule of thumb: if you're sitting in front of your IDE, ask it on Stack Overflow. If you're standing in front of a whiteboard, ask it on Programmers.» — Alpine's answer.
    – Mike
    Mar 29 '15 at 13:40

StackOverflow = Programming (code, algorithms, languages, etc)

Programmers.SE = Programmers (people, techniques, etc)

Here's the relevant parts from the two FAQs (emhpasis added):


Stack Overflow is for professional and enthusiast programmers, people who write code because they love it. We feel the best Stack Overflow questions have a bit of source code in them, but if your question generally covers...

  • a specific programming problem
  • a software algorithm
  • software tools commonly used by programmers
  • matters that are unique to the programming profession
...then you're in the right place to ask your question!


Programmers - Stack Exchange is for expert programmers who are interested in subjective discussions on software development.

This can include topics such as:

  • Software engineering
  • Developer testing
  • Developer tools and techniques
  • Practical algorithms and data structures
  • Design patterns
  • Architecture
  • Development methodologies
  • Quality assurance
  • Software law
  • Code golf & programming puzzles
  • Freelancing and business concerns
Subjective does not mean "anything goes".

See also: Does "objective" vs. "subjective" confuse the purpose of this site?

  • 4
    I see there are many differences. I think the issue maybe has to do something with the name "Programmers". People visit programmers site and think it is all about codes, but when they get there, see a lot ethereal questions! :) Oct 23 '10 at 17:24
  • 1
    The only problem I see with this is that one could go from stack overflow easily into Programmers area, but it'd be hard to do it otherwise. i.e. to be better Stackoverflow would need to a bit more specific towards 'code' and 'hands on' in its descriptions. Also, notice "matters that are unique to the programming profession" probably destroys the whole argument.
    – j riv
    Jan 24 '11 at 21:06
  • 2
    My first thought on ProgrammersSE was 'What's the difference?' then my second thought was 'What a huge grey area, things are going to get messy', but now that I've sort of taken 10 minutes to establish the differenc, it makes more Logical sense... but in reality, I think it probably didn't need to diverge from SO Jun 24 '11 at 0:54
  • 2
    +1. Great explanation. The Programming / Programmers difference finally let me understand it. Aug 30 '11 at 8:17
  • 7
    This distinction does not work. Most people will continue to SO, or just post to both, as you need to study the FAQs of both sites carefully to figure out the difference. And for most particular questions, this is even harder. Often, it will fit both; and there will be hundreds of related questions on SO. May 23 '14 at 12:58
  • Now its Software Engineering SE not Prgrammers anymore. Answer should be edited accordingly. Jul 11 '17 at 8:16
  • The distinction seems pretty clear to me but apparently not for others as there are a lot of programming related problems in "Software Engineering"
    – papanito
    Oct 20 '19 at 8:58

Stack Overflow is typically for problems that involve code. So you'll have a piece of code that doesn't work. You've debugged the problem, searched the internet but still haven't worked out what's going wrong. You'll strip the problem down to the minimum amount of code and post that.

Software Engineering is for problems that affect programmers that don't involve code. This covers things like "How do I retrofit automated tests into legacy code?", "How do I go about designing a system to do X?".

However, I should point out that there is a grey area which includes questions like "Which algorithm should I use to do this?" and "Which language is most appropriate for this problem?". Though you should have a specific problem in mind when you post these.

What Software Engineering is not for is "What language should I learn next?", "What chair should I have?", "Should I take this particular job I've been offered?".

  • 4
    That doesn't explain why Stack Overflow has a ton of problems that don't involve code...
    – Pacerier
    May 9 '14 at 14:01
  • 5
    IMHO, the reality is: the distinction doesn't work. It's well meant, but it just doesn't work. May 23 '14 at 12:55
  • @Anony-Mousse - you will find that for people who are active on Software Engineering, it does work.
    – Oded
    May 23 '14 at 13:11
  • 3
    Which amount to 70q/day (including various reposts from SE), as opposed to 17500 on SE; 100+ of which would in theory be more appropriate on Programmers - except that very few people understand the difference. Most people just continue to post to SE, and ignore prgorammers. Because they do not understand the difference (which, in my opinion, is marginal) May 23 '14 at 13:36

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