Joel Spolsky created a post on the Stack Overflow blog this afternoon on merging Area51 proposals. In it, he talks about how some proposals are just too specific or are subsets of larger sites and will be merged.

Of Programmers.SE, he had this to say:

There’s an even longer list of things that really belong on the new Programmers Stack Exchange, which appears to be degrading into fairly stupid water-cooler nonsense, and could benefit from an infusion of more meaty subjects, like these proposals[.]

He then goes on to list all the proposals he thinks could or should be merged into Programmers.SE.

Earlier, there was an edit to the Proposed FAQ to ban questions like:

What are some good television shows for programmers?


A few days ago, I created the question, "How can we avoid Programmers.SE from becoming the SE black sheep?". There, the consensus was to not change anything. Unfortunately, SOIS has spoken, and it looks like that sentiment will not be able to sustain the site.

So, let's use this question as a way to identify possible on-topic and off-topic questions and vote on them. One topic per answer, and use the comments to discuss why or why not it's on topic for Programmers.SE.

This way we can demonstrate what the community will and won't find acceptable on the site to better help SOIS and others make an informed decision when the time comes to merge.

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Excellent idea. –  Fishtoaster Sep 18 '10 at 4:34
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This is frustrating... I now have no clue what is an on-topic question until this gets figured out. –  Talvi Watia Sep 20 '10 at 0:26
    
@Talvi: yes you do. Common sense and a quick read of the proposed FAQ should give you a general understanding of what's acceptable and what's not. And if you happen to post an off-topic question and it gets closed, there's no penalty, so closing and off-topic definitions in and of themselves should not dissuade you from asking a question that might be in one of the gray areas described in these answers. –  user8 Sep 20 '10 at 0:56
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Apologies to those who are doing this already, but if we are not to disappear, rather than spend time on meta trying to see if we think other topics "belong" to us, we should be asking good quality questions on those topics on the programmers website. I've definitely asked a few "softball" questions on programmers, so I consider myself to be part of the problem too. I resolve to try and ask some meatier questions over the coming days and weeks, to try to improve our overall quality. –  Paddyslacker Sep 20 '10 at 14:02
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@Paddyslacker; that's a great sentiment, but moderation and on-topic status are mostly consensus-based activities, and there are conflicting ideas of the purpose of Programmers.SE. Talking about it in the open allows us to build consensus and allows individuals to make informed decisions on what's appropriate and what's not appropriate. –  user8 Sep 20 '10 at 22:12
    
Didn't this site start out as "Not Programming Related"? –  user1842 Sep 20 '10 at 22:58
    
@Lance: "Not Programming Related" is an inside joke on Meta.StackOverflow; the decision to use that as the proposal name was to deride that as the close reason for questions that ostensibly had no other legitimate close reason. –  user8 Sep 20 '10 at 23:24
    
Really not happy with this. –  Murph Sep 28 '10 at 6:23
    
What does SOIS stand for? –  Rachel Apr 5 '12 at 17:45
    
@Rachel Stack Overflow Internet Services, Inc.: Stack Exchange, Inc.'s previous name. –  user8 Apr 5 '12 at 17:47

13 Answers 13

Freelance Developers Questions

Area 51 Proposal (Link)

Description:

Proposed Q&A site for freelance Developers who are working daily on several projects, with several technologies and/or many clients. Here you can ask all kind of questions: from tech advice to job hunting.

Example Questions:

  • Are there complete open-source packages for time tracking, invoice generation and bug tracking/project management?
  • Can you suggest some resources to find more [ further description ... ] freelance gigs?
  • How do I keep my projects from dragging on with endless tweaks and changes?
  • What is the best method to calculate how much your software will cost?
  • What signs can I watch out for early-on that can indicate a project will turn "bad/sour"? And how can I avoid/correct them?
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I think we already have several questions that'd go in Freelance. –  Fishtoaster Sep 18 '10 at 4:33
    
I think this is a good topic to be included here. –  Dan Dyer Sep 18 '10 at 15:29
    
As long as they're subjective. –  Gelatin Sep 18 '10 at 18:55
    
Asking for Open Source business packages looks more like Super User to me. Much of the technical advice might better go on the original Trilogy sites. Any of the last four questions look definitely on-topic here. –  David Thornley Sep 29 '10 at 17:58

Hidden features

Example Questions:

Related discussion:

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There could only be a limited amount of those so I guess it won't crowd the site that much, I would also suggest to allow them. An alternative is to create one big community wiki question "What are the hidden features of programming languages?" and allow only one answer per language which everyone can edit. –  Tom Wijsman Sep 18 '10 at 11:48
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@Tom While I like the giant question idea, in practice it wouldn't work. The number of answers would be huge and we can't create lists for them, and in the first 5 minutes 6 java answers would appear all talking about the same thing. –  TheLQ Sep 18 '10 at 14:31
    
It could work with rules in the question and the ability for one to clean up (read: merge answers) the question, perhaps a moderator. –  Tom Wijsman Sep 18 '10 at 16:02
    
TomWij raises a good point that there won't be too many of these. We can just merge any duplicates that arise with the original. I'm still not sure, but I suppose we could just mandate that these all be CW and let it go at that... –  Fishtoaster Sep 18 '10 at 16:19
    
I will decide later. Most "hidden features" are ok on SO, so should be off-topic here, but some (C++, PHP, etc) was closed. For me it's a moderation problem on SO, it's necessary a few coherency on decision, but this is a SO problem (which we can't repeat). Ideally Tomwij is right but on real world TheLQ is right about giant question. –  bigown Sep 18 '10 at 17:08

Software Engineering Questions

Area 51 Proposal (Link)

Description:

Proposed Q&A site for students, practitioners, and researchers. Software engineering deals with requirements engineering, software design and architecture, implementation, testing, maintenance, configuration management, process, tools, methodologies, quality, and ethics.

Example Questions:

  • How can I justify the use of throwaway prototyping to my manager?
  • What’s the best method for estimation?
  • I got a job in a company that practices Scrum. How can I prepare myself before the first workday?
  • What single book provides the best overview of key software engineering topics?
  • What is the single most important Software Engineering concept to learn for practical use?

Related discussion:

Software Engineering has been re-proposed purposefully to avoid being merged, so it's no longer applicable.

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Much as I hate to take away TO's thunder, I think this's probably within our purview. –  Fishtoaster Sep 18 '10 at 4:31
    
SofwareEngineering.SE had excluded from A51. Any news about it? –  bigown Sep 20 '10 at 20:24
    
@bigown Yeah, it's no longer a merge candidate: the link now goes to a better defined proposal. –  user8 Sep 20 '10 at 21:41

Scrum Questions

Area 51 Proposal (Link)

Description:

Proposed Q&A site for professionals that need to understand and apply the agile management framework Scrum.

Example Questions:

  • Our product owner wants us to stop doing unit testing. She claims that she has the right to decide where we invest our time. Can she do this?
  • Scrum require very little planning beforehand. How can we then ensure a coherent and sound architecture? What role do architects play in Scrum?
  • We’ve been doing retrospectives for some time, but they’re starting to feel dull. What can we do to raise the energy in them again?
  • The Product Owner has told us that he no longer requires the stories we are working on. What do we do now?
  • We need to have multiple team working with the same product. How should we organize the teams to be most effective?
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Almost all of those are subjective and fall under out umbrilla. Will there be objective questions though? –  TheLQ Sep 19 '10 at 18:47
    
The big problem with including things like Scrum and methodology is that there is a larger audience for those things other than programmers. If our site is aimed at programmers, then how do we cope with scrum questions from product owners, customers, testers etc? –  Paddyslacker Sep 20 '10 at 13:57
    
I'd say we let them in- software methodologies are part of programming. I mean, I'm not a mathematician, but I might ask a math question on math.SE –  Fishtoaster Sep 21 '10 at 20:26

Normally off-topic questions made on-topic by restricting the domain to "programmers."

Example Questions:

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I think there's some middle ground here. I tend to see something like "What are some good TV shows for programmers" as a bit different from "What are some good TV shows about programming and/or programmers". –  Fishtoaster Sep 18 '10 at 4:20
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These questions are not all the same. The keyboards one is 100% on-topic and I think the cartoon and quotes questions are within the spirit of the original proposal. The television question however is completely irrelevant, unless it's asking for shows about programming, which I don't think it is. –  Dan Dyer Sep 18 '10 at 15:28
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@Dan: I concur. –  Fishtoaster Sep 18 '10 at 16:15
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Some fun, favorite/good questions are ok. The problem is a proliferation of them. Some could be merged like favorite joke/cartoon. For me "good keyboard for programming" isn't 100% on-topic, but it's acceptable. There is good keyboards that are good for programming too. This is kind of question that belongs to Superuser but fits here too. "How many coffee I drink" is just chit chat –  bigown Sep 18 '10 at 16:59
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The topic is inspired by the edit Fishtoaster made to the FAQ, which read, "Try not to ask questions that are not programming related, but merely have "programming" tacked on." So, in all of these cases, the only reason they'd even be considered on-topic is because the word "programming" or "programmers" is in the title: "What are good keyboards?" would definitely be off-topic. –  user8 Sep 18 '10 at 18:05
    
Given that these 5 examples seem to have some middle ground, I just made this guy to address it in a central location. If/as a consensus emerges, we can update this answer to reflect it. –  Fishtoaster Sep 21 '10 at 18:38
    
I'd consider "What's your favorite programming quote?" to be on-topic, personally. The rest look off-topic to me. If it relates to me as a programmer, rather than me as a human or geek or whatever, I'd call it on topic. –  David Thornley Sep 29 '10 at 18:00

Software Quality Assurance Questions

Area 51 Proposal (Link)

Description:

Proposed Q&A site for software quality assurance specialists, QA engineers, QA analysts, and automation engineers.

Example Questions:

  • What is the difference between integration and regression testing?
  • Our management thinks if developers are doing unit tests, it’s good enough. How can we convince them other testing is needed?
  • What makes a good software tester?
  • At what stage of the software development lifecycle do you automate your tests?
  • What can’t be tested by automation?
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Everything but the first one IMO, which is objective. –  Gelatin Sep 18 '10 at 18:50

Software Design Patterns Questions

Area 51 Proposal (Link)

Description:

Proposed Q&A site for experts, architects, developers and anyone who interested in all kinds of design patterns like OO, Functional, SOA and much more...

Example Questions:

  • What's the exact difference between the proactor and reactor pattern?
  • How does the [Flyweight pattern] work, I don't understand [xyz] about it?
  • Why is Singleton considered bad?
  • I want to create an application which will create forms on the fly and store user input for future analysis, which design pattern is suitable?
  • What are the most popular books to start learning OO Design Patterns?
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Looks mostly objective to me. Most of these would be suitable for SO, not here. –  David Thornley Sep 29 '10 at 18:01

Software Architecture Questions

Area 51 Proposal (Link)

Description:

Proposed Q&A site for software / Application Architects, Enterprise Architects, Software Developers

Example Questions:

  • What is Model Driven Architecture?
  • What artifacts do you often produce when designing an application architecture?
  • Which Design Pattern, Algorithm or Data Structure is appropriate for [this problem]?
  • Is Service Oriented Architecture appropriate outside of the large enterprise?
  • Is Microsoft Entity Framework mature enough for a large scale application?
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Some belongs to SO but most is ok here. –  bigown Sep 18 '10 at 16:59

Developer Testing : Unit Testing and more… Questions

Area 51 Proposal (Link)

Description:

Proposed Q&A site for for developers, xDD enthusiasts and all those who believe in the philosophy that no single piece of code should be shipped without writing a test for it. It is for all those who believe that tests are the first users of your code.

Example Questions:

  • How do I unit test threaded code?
  • How do I mock a database?
  • How do I test private methods?
  • is it OK to have multiple asserts in a single unit test?
  • How to start unit testing for a large scale application with no unit testing support at all?
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This is an edge case as it contains both objective and subjective questions. Are we willing to allow the objective questions here? Should the objective part go to Stack Overflow? I'm voting this towards 0 as it needs discussion. –  Tom Wijsman Sep 18 '10 at 11:51
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I would say any help with unit-testing code or what frameworks to use should go on SO, eg How do I unit test threaded code? or How do I mock a database? However questions that need discussion should be here, eg is it OK to have multiple asserts in a single unit test? –  TheLQ Sep 18 '10 at 14:34
    
I agree - most of these belong on SO. –  David Thornley Sep 29 '10 at 18:02

Code Golf & Programming Puzzles Questions

Area 51 Proposal (Link)

Description:

Proposed Q&A site for code golfers and for those who interested in code golfing (from beginners to experts), and programming puzzles.

Example Questions:

Related Discussion:

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I'm undecided about this. On one hand, it doesn't seem like it's really within our scope- on the other hand, the the code golfers seem to very much overlap with the P.SE's. Maybe just keeping them in their own tag would be enough of a separation. If we think of P.SE as the programming cantina of the SE's, it fits. –  Fishtoaster Sep 18 '10 at 4:30
    
We can limit too much useless golfs/challenges this way to get the level a bit higher: meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/38/… –  Tom Wijsman Sep 18 '10 at 9:42
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I think this is less on-topic here than it is on StackOverflow. If there is not enough interest for a separate site, I think it should stay on SO. –  Dan Dyer Sep 18 '10 at 15:30
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@Dan: I'd go the other way. SO is largely for finding answers to technical questions- Code Golf, as a game/competition, really doesn't seem to fit there. –  Fishtoaster Sep 18 '10 at 16:17
    
Hard decision but I down voted here. –  bigown Sep 18 '10 at 17:02

Software Law Questions

Area 51 Proposal (Link)

Description:

Proposed Q&A site for lawyers and specialists in software-related law of both international and specific country laws.

Example Questions:

  • If I release my own code under the GPL, can I still use it in a commercial project?
  • How do I know that I haven’t violated someone’s frivolous patent, when I write my own software?
  • Can someone explain this license in plain English to me?
  • How do I protect myself from copyright violations that other people have made in their own code?
  • Can I be sued if someone uses my software for illegal purposes?
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This seems valid at first glance, but what about locality concerns? Is "is X software thing illegal in Sri Lanka" valid? –  Fishtoaster Sep 18 '10 at 4:17
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This might be better on a kind of generic Lawyer Proposal... –  Tom Wijsman Sep 18 '10 at 11:56
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In general this questions is ok, but localized or deep question about software laws should be off-topic. I will waiting for more opinions. –  bigown Sep 18 '10 at 17:12
    
What the heck is subjective about any of these? They may not be easily knowable, but all of those questions are objective. –  David Thornley Sep 29 '10 at 18:05

Healthcare IT Questions

Area 51 Proposal (Link)

Description:

Proposed Q&A site for healthcare IT professionals and solution providers. Questions may be related to standards in healthcare IT, commercial and open source products, and development of healthcare IT applications.

Example Questions:

  • How are [patient records] shared with other [hospitals]?
  • What are the regulatory considerations for using open source software in healthcare?
  • What should a [software developer|healthcare IT company] know about HIPAA?
  • Where can I learn HL7?
  • What open source software applications are available for viewing medical images?
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Off-topic. Or belongs to Serverfault or it's too specific. –  bigown Sep 18 '10 at 16:50
    
@bigown I'm not so sure about ServerFault, they might close it as off topic –  TheLQ Sep 19 '10 at 18:50
    
I think questions like "where can I learn HL7" are very borderline between here and SO. I certainly wouldn't want it lost if this site becomes more of an anecdotes site than "hard question" site. –  MIA Sep 21 '10 at 3:41
    
People have asked how to learn X on SO for a long time, and unless we're moving all of those questions here, learning HL7 goes on SO. This is assuming that HL7 has something to do with programming, or it's off-topic here and there. These are mostly objective questions. –  David Thornley Sep 29 '10 at 18:04
    
If you asked how can I learn HL7, the correct answer is: Give HL7 10,000 dollars. It's a standard for encoding most medical data. 2.x is ASCII, 3.0 is XML. Asking questions about HL7 working group probably should be acceptable. –  Peter Turner Oct 1 '10 at 3:18

On or off? For me is off-topic. maybe it's localized, because this is a personal taste completely unrelated with programming. This is just chit chat. If I could I would down vote my answer to indicate my opinion against this noise.

How long have you been in your current job closed

What time of day do you prefer to shower?

How much coffee do you drink in a normal work day of programming?

What's your favorite programming snack?

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These questions are already covered by Normally off-topic questions made on-topic by restricting the domain to "programmers". –  user8 Sep 19 '10 at 23:32
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I think they are different types. I'm not against questions that can be useful to programmers like most of the questions cited by you. I'm against questions which don't give us any valuable information. Why I would like to know about the quantity of coffee drank by other people? But I wanna know about funny cartoons about our area, good keyboards to improve the job experience. I admit, what is on or off-topic on P.SE is hard to define. It's about talk subjectively about subjectivity. –  bigown Sep 20 '10 at 0:06

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