After my lie down, I posted this question on SO. As I suspected would happen, it got moved to programmers. Unfortunately, the kind of people I'm interested in getting answers from (litb,skeet et al - the top SO programmers in their respective disciplines) don't frequent Programmers much. So my question is, where to ask somewhat non-specific questions of high-powered users?


7 Answers 7


If it's so important for you to reach Jon Skeet and Johannes Schaub, why don't you just cut out the man in the middle and contact them directly?

Surely an expert such as yourself should not feel any hesitancy to do this; experts speak to each other privately all the time. You need not route all communication through Stack Overflow.

When you ask a question on a public site, anybody can see it and anybody can answer it. Your content also becomes subject to that site's rules and standards. Them's the breaks. In this case, it wasn't appropriate for Stack Overflow and got migrated to Programmers - another public site where individual members are all free to choose what they read and answer.

Maybe the people you are trying to reach don't frequent that site, but that is where the subject you wanted to discuss is considered on topic (and rather borderline at that). If the normal channels on which you might try to reach certain people are not appropriate for a particular purpose, then find one that is appropriate, or accept the fact that perhaps the people you are seeking don't want to be bothered with those kinds of questions.

  • I think it's clear the OP wants to reach users like those 2, but still in a post with a public nature. Let's not derail this into a direct-messaging issue. Commented May 22, 2011 at 10:16
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    @Henk: Unfortunately that's precisely the point. Neil says "the kind of people I'm interested in getting answers from (litb,skeet et al)" - but what precisely does that mean? The people with the highest reputation? People who have published books? People with MVP or other designations/awards? I'm not seeing any particular criteria being presented, so the only possible answer to this question (if it is in fact a real question and not a rhetorical one) is for him to choose the specific individuals he wants to speak to and contact them directly.
    – Aarobot
    Commented May 22, 2011 at 16:18
  • @aarob I think you're over complicating. Neil wanted to post a discussion/pool on SO, for SO users. Commented May 22, 2011 at 16:28
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    @Henk: You do, do you? I think you seem to be making excuses for a poorly-stated and possibly rhetorical question. If Neil wanted that, why didn't he ask for it unambiguously?
    – Aarobot
    Commented May 22, 2011 at 16:31
  • Look @Henk, bottom line is that Shog and I were the only two people who gave answers that were both direct and practical. Call it derailing if you want, I call it answering the question.
    – Aarobot
    Commented May 22, 2011 at 20:51

So my question is, where to ask somewhat non-specific questions of high-powered users?

Chat perhaps? IRC? A private email list that you maintain and only invite high-powered users to?

Certainly not SO - you might get high-powered users to weigh in, but are just as (if not more) likely to get responses from new users, or bored users, or new, bored users...

You lament in a comment somewhere that you would have been fine asking a (community-wiki) form of this question in the past. But this is debatable; in the very early days of the site, traffic was low enough that [some] folks were [a bit] more tolerant of discussion/poll fare, and there was a period of time when the Community Wiki compromise let some such questions pass... But neither of these were devoid of controversy - indeed, it's far more probable that your question would simply have been repeatedly closed, re-opened, closed, re-opened... Until one or both sides ran out of steam (or a moderator intervened).

And you'd still get the C# kids answering in amazement that anyone could function without a debugger.

So my answer is, nowhere on SE.

See also: Where can I find interesting programming discussions?


Questions like that will be quickly and without exception moved to programmers.SE. There's probably no way to word that question in a way that would make it suitable on SO.

But I guess you could always invite the Skeets and Litbs of the world in a short off-topic comment on SO, if those are whose opinions you want to hear? They might be inclined to follow up on it, especially coming from a fellow veteran.

  • Am I the only person that thinks we have lost something, if this really is the case? Commented May 21, 2011 at 17:42
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    @Neil certainly, yeah, the more new IT related sites pop up (and there's more to come!), the more often this will happen.
    – Pekka
    Commented May 21, 2011 at 17:50
  • @Neil: It would be interesting to know if Einstein used a slide rule, but not particularly relevant to whether experienced physicists typically used a slide rule. You have only lost something if your question receives no good answers on programmers. Commented May 21, 2011 at 18:28
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    @Rick, actually Programmers closed it. Commented May 21, 2011 at 21:31

It seems to me that Programmers is precisely that place.

Your complaint is that that particular site is not frequented by many of the recognized experts who regularly contribute to Stack Overflow. That's perfectly valid, of course; it's an easily verifiable fact.
But what strikes me as interesting is your next comment:

(and who can blame them?)

You seem to be implying that there are numerous problems with the Programmers site that make it sensible for these expert users not to frequent it, and since it's otherwise identical to Stack Overflow, those problems must be content-related.

And that brings us full-circle: You're requesting a place to ask questions that you yourself deem to sufficiently explain why expert programmers wouldn't be terribly interested in spending time on a site that contains them. That seems like a pretty good reason why such questions don't belong on SO, and it's hard to imagine why whichever site we decided they did belong on wouldn't already be (or at least, very quickly become) plagued by the exact same problems that you think afflict Programmers.

The questions asked and topics discussed on Programmers are of an undeniably different nature than those asked on Stack Overflow. If those questions are "uninteresting" to expert programmers, thus explaining why they're not equally regular contributors to the other site that hosts them, then why should we allow those questions to be asked on Stack Overflow? It seems that they would just clutter up the site with content that expert users don't really want to see and have no interest in contributing to.

About the only thing you can do is leave a comment for the particular users whom you'd like to see answer your question, directing them to the question posted on Programmers, and asking them to contribute their opinions. There's no guarantee that they'll do this, of course, but it's always an option.

Edit: In response to the second part of your question, questions that have been migrated to another site are clearly labeled as having been migrated from the original site, including a link back to the question as it was asked on that original site. It's a big banner with an arrow, just like shows up on a closed question. It's very unlikely that anyone will think the question was asked there in the first place.

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    I don't deem the question to be subpar, and a year ago I would have asked it as CW on SO, and got a good response. Commented May 21, 2011 at 17:38
  • Yeah, wasn't sure about that word choice, either. I'm not trying to put words in your mouth here, so I'm trying to phrase things carefully. I removed "subpar" to emphasize the larger point. Commented May 21, 2011 at 17:41
  • @Cody You are correct abot there being a notification, but not about it being a banner. A banner, particularly a disclaimer, should appear at the top of the screen, not at the bottom. Commented May 21, 2011 at 17:53
  • @Cody How do you know that my question was not voted off SO by script kifddies, and not by skeet and litb? I'm not arguing that my question was OT on SO (god knows I've voted to close zillions of OT questions ), but that there are some questions of opinion that are worth asking, and should be answered, and will NOT (for many reasons) be answered on programmers. Commented May 21, 2011 at 17:57
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    @Neil: You're right, I don't know that. Given your reputation/status, I probably would have respected your wish not to migrate it. I'm not sure if that would have been the right decision, but it's probably the one I'd have made. I suspect other high-rep users might have done the same. But if you accept that Programmers is an outlet for subjective, non-technical discussions that don't belong on SO, then I'm having a hard time understanding how one could objectively deny that this question belongs there. Commented May 21, 2011 at 18:01
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    @neil Stack Overflow has grown up a lot in 3 years. Is it reasonable to expect the same behaviors you saw in a 1 year old child, when that child is 4 years old? Commented May 22, 2011 at 7:05

There is no way to really ask some people in particular.

Remember SO is a community. And experts are everyone (potentially :D)


Well, I'm not an expert, so probably not qualified to answer your original question, but I can explain my reaction to your question, which could shed some light on the problem:

For a start, the 'provocative' title had the predictable effect of provoking people, which directly contributed to it getting closed after being migrated Programmers. It also made it seem that the question was near 90% rhetorical. You failed to define exactly what you meant by 'experienced', but in the context of your question, it almost seems like your definition of experienced would be "someone who doesn't use a debugger (like me)".

No promises, but I'm guessing that something phrased like this might have had more chances of surviving (on Programmers, not on SO).

Reasons to use a debugger

I have observed over on Stack Overflow that many developers seem to rely heavily on the debugger. This intrigues me, because I haven't been using one for years. With experience, I've found that there are many better ways to resolve problems (example a, example b, example c).

Am I the only one? If you are an 'experienced' developer (say 10+ years), do you still regularly use a debugger, and is it in preference to the other options outlined above, or other reasons I haven't thought of? Maybe it depends on what technology you're using, and what kind of program you're developing?

Sorry if this is 'too' subjective. Please help me improve if it's the case, I'm new here!

Or, alternatively, you could ask the opposite question: "reasons not to use a debugger", it sounds like you've got some good answers!


Anyone can chip in with a contribution here. And even when you think a question is tailor-made for a particular person, they can also choose not to contribute - maybe they're tired that day or just have better things to do than answer questions.

So far so obvious, but where I'm going with that is: If you want to guarantee answers from certain people or even just a certain calibre of person then that sounds more like looking for a consulting agreement with someone than posting to a community.

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