Today I asked a question about which PHP install package was best for an Apache-based PHP web-development environment. This seems straight-forward enough, and I believed it to be well within the defined scope of Stack Overflow from the FAQ:

"If your question (generally) covers software tools commonly used by programmers then you’re in the right place to ask your question!"

Although the question got four upvotes in five minutes, it also collected one close vote. When I asked why, a user commented that, "by using the verb install multiple times you have disqualified the question for being about the programming tool itself".

This baffled me considering the number of accepted questions on Stack Overflow about installing programming related tools:

Immediately after that user's comment, however, the question was then (unhelpfully) migrated to Super User, a place totally unsuited to questions about preferable programming environments. It lasted a few minutes there before Super User moderators saw it was out of place on and moved it to Server Fault.

A place specifically for server administration.

And there it sits: https://serverfault.com/questions/263596/installing-php-for-development

Is it really outside of Stack Overflow's scope to ask a question about which version of a programming language is best suited for using in a development environment? I'm not setting up or administering a web server as professional system administrator, just as a programmer.

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    Why do people try to justify bad questions (not including your question in that) by citing other bad questions? 1.5 million questions. Million.
    – user1228
    Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 18:38
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    Well, if the community is supporting the topic sometimes, but not at other times, then there is a disparity in understanding and agreement on scope. Citing notable questions (not "bad" questions) is useful evidence that such a thing might be occurring. You'll note that the questions I chose as examples have over 40k views, 43 upvotes and 21 favourites, in total. They have not been ignored by the community. Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 18:45
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    I had a read, and it's now back on SO, where it belongs. You might want to be more careful with word order, as some people seem to stop reading when they hit 'install', and ignore that it's plainly about getting a dev environment set-up.
    – Phil Lello
    Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 18:53

4 Answers 4


Some over-enthusiastic users have replaced their brains with a few simple regular expressions.

Software tools questions are on-topic for SO. Installing software is on-topic for SU. Installing server software is on-topic for SF. So you could argue that this is on-topic for any of The Trilogy sites.

But it was asked on SO. Bumping it around to all three sites doesn't do anyone any good. So I've restored it on SO, and deleted it elsewhere.

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    Ah! Thanks so much. When it bounced over to SF it almost became a joke. (I was half-expecting someone to flag for migration to SO, and so start the process over again!) Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 18:57
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    @Django: just to make it interesting, I migrated it back to SO, and then merged it with itself. Unfortunately, this didn't do anything terribly fun.
    – Shog9
    Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 19:00
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    This question was doomed from the start. I think half of the people that answered/commented were answer poaching and didn't even read the question. I mean, it wasn't obvious that you weren't looking for a stack, but why in the world would anyone post a free server signup link? Ugh
    – Nic
    Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 19:08
  • I know. It's bizarre and sad. Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 0:38
  • @Shog9 I don't suppose you could take a look at the question that started this conversation again? stackoverflow.com/questions/5793751/… Commented May 10, 2013 at 15:33

Stuff happens.

In cases like this, flag for moderator attention. Mods can undo a migration or close.

And, yes, your question was on topic.


It's a toss-up for your question, because you are asking about a server environment. Yes, you want to use that server for development, but you are installing the combination of Apache and PHP, and these are both generally associated more with servers than development.

If you really wanted the programming experts to weigh in, I'd reformat the question completely:

Which PHP/Apache install is most appropriate for programming and development on a windows machine?

VC9 x86 Non Thread Safe
VC9 x86 Thread Safe
VC6 x86 Non Thread Safe
VC6 x86 Thread Safe

It appears that VC9 is not appropriate for Apache, but I'd like to use the latest version of PHP. What are my options, or why should I develop for a lower version of PHP?


Your question wasn't about "preferable programming environments". It was plainly a "how do I install" question. I don't believe those are ever on topic on SO.

But obviously there are already a ton of them. Your question specifically is covered by numerous duplicates (and in hindsight should have been closed rather than migrated):

Note how this topic also comes up in an actual programming flavour, where there's really no question about the on-topicness:

It's an interesting issue nevertheless. Where should your question go if you don't want it closed and your personal don't-like-XAMPP request answered? I doubt it was on-topic on serverfault, which is about professional server management, not how do I install inquiries.

  • Mario, it was not a "how I do install" question. It was clearly a, "which is best for my environment" question. Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 18:51
  • Well, I would say the best for your environment is the one that doesn't crash. One that everyone else uses is a good choice. It depends on your used (??) Apache release, and of course, Windows version (?). -- I can't find the canonical answer, but there was one, shortly after that PHP5.3.3/VC9 issue came up. -- Maybe I overlooked the actual question scope, but I'm not sure how much answer detail you expected (it doesn't affect the language runtime either way), and what the not using XAMPP was about.
    – mario
    Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 19:02
  • Not using XAMPP was about this: stackoverflow.com/questions/5580342/… Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 19:04

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