I've just seen a question closed by a moderator because "Career advice is explicitly off-topic, per the FAQ" (link), which is simply incorrect: the FAQ makes clear that career advice specific to programmers is relevant, by linking to an answer, the first sentence of which is "First and foremost, any career advice questions need to relate directly to software development".

Closing the question did nothing to make this a better site, and was taken on the basis of a clearly incorrect understanding of what is defined as on-topic. What mechanisms currently exist, or should exist, to prevent moderators from simply pursuing their own agenda?

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I've deleted all the comments, as they were getting rather ridiculous. If you want to insult each other, do it somewhere else. –  Yannis Rizos Mar 3 '12 at 20:32
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3 Answers 3

I've just seen a question closed by a moderator because "Career advice is explicitly off-topic, per the FAQ" (link), which is simply incorrect: the FAQ makes clear that career advice specific to programmers is relevant, by linking to an answer, the first sentence of which is "First and foremost, any career advice questions need to relate directly to software development".

Closing the question did nothing to make this a better site, and was taken on the basis of a clearly incorrect understanding of what is defined as on-topic.

The Meta answer you reference is not an one liner, I really don't understand why you choose to build an argument around a single sentence. You could have at least gone with the first paragraph (emphasis mine):

First and foremost, any career advice questions need to relate directly to software development: general career advice questions with no relation to software development or where software development is a minor facet of the question are off-topic. A good way to test this is to ask the question, "Would the answer to the question be materially different if a non-programmer answered it?" If no, the question should be closed as off-topic.

The core questions in the closed question are:

So basically here are my questions: 1. Will getting an MSc in AI hurt my chances in getting an SE job (in case I decide to leave academia)? 2. What are the job prospects in SE in Canada in comparison with the US.

There is nothing in those two questions that requires the unique expertise of software developers, as software development has absolutely nothing to do with predicting job perspectives. There is a single answer in that question, coincidentally yours:

To be honest, if you want to do a PhD, just do a PhD. There's no reason to do a master's first.

From your question, it sounds like you really want to study more, and that this is a one-shot thing. You might as well go for it.

The amazing thing here is that, even if you are not convinced the question is off topic, your answer actually proves it, since there is nothing in there that shows any specific software development related expertise. That's not a comment on whether you have or don't have software development expertise, but only if that's visible in that specific answer.

So, I certainly agree with the three users and the fellow moderator who voted to close the question. Unfortunately there are quite a few similar questions that are still open, and that may have confused you on whether we consider them on or off topic. Fortunately, the Structured Tag Cleanup of the [career] tag take care of a lot of that crap.

To summarize on career related questions: They are off topic, unless they explicitly require the unique expertise of software developers.

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It seems that you have slid from a position that is a very strong reading of the FAQ to saying that all career questions are off topic. Nevertheless, I see no reason why you would say that my answer does not engage the experience of a software engineer: only a software engineer could give an answer relevant to the question, given that it calls for specific knowledge of the market for software engineers. –  Marcin Mar 3 '12 at 21:14
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@Marcin It seems that you have slid from a position that is a very strong reading of the FAQ to saying that all career questions are off topic. Nope, I'm just re-iterating what the community decided, and nowhere in my answer I said that all career questions are off topic. –  Yannis Rizos Mar 3 '12 at 21:19
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@Marcin Nevertheless, I see no reason why you would say that my answer does not engage the experience of a software engineer: only a software engineer could give an answer relevant to the question, given that it calls for specific knowledge of the market for software engineers. Please be so kind as to elaborate on what specific knowledge of the market is evident in your answer, because I honestly don't see it. The way I read it the only thing you say in your answer is "do what you want", which doesn't require any actual expertise in anything, really. –  Yannis Rizos Mar 3 '12 at 21:20
    
If you're going to pretend that talking about whether technology companies prefer more educated employees doesn't involve knowledge of technology companies, then no discussion is possible - you have obviously decided your position, and are willing to stick with it regardless of any facts. As to your comment that nowhere do you say that all career questions are off topic, that is only true now that you have edited your question. –  Marcin Mar 4 '12 at 8:19
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@Marcin If you're going to pretend that talking about whether technology companies prefer more educated employees doesn't involve knowledge of technology companies, then no discussion is possible However you still haven't elaborated on your answer. Why? As to your comment that nowhere do you say that all career questions are off topic, that is only true now that you have edited your question. This is quite insulting and misguided at the same time, since all edits are public. The only edit to the answer was a formatting edit. –  Yannis Rizos Mar 4 '12 at 11:13
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And before you mention it, I did another edit just now... Fixed a broken link and a minor grammar mistake. –  Yannis Rizos Mar 4 '12 at 16:24
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As a high rep / long term user at two other Stack Exchange sites, you probably already know how things work there.

At Programmers, it works pretty much the same way: community members cast votes, up or down, close or re-open, flag and raise meta discussions, contact SE team etc etc.

Moderators here act pretty much the same way as at other sites: processing flags, casting their votes and participating in meta discussions. Can't tell for English Language, but compared to eg Stack Overflow I did not notice much difference so far.


As for particular question you ask about, if memory serves I voted to close it as not constructive. I recall also considering whether to vote to close it as off-topic but it felt that I would have to drill too deep into tricky topicality discussions I've followed here at Meta to be sure about that.

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Unfortunately, the site name does not match the site FAQ. Questions on programmers.SE should be about software development, not about programmers.

The essence of your question was if you should continue your education in Canada, or get a job in the US. While this might be a decent question if this were a Q&A site about programmers, it doesn't fit in a site about software development.

This site was originally designed to be a site about programmers, hence the site name, however it was determined by the powers-that-be that this was not a good fit for the stack exchange system and they changed it.

I've been trying to get them to either change the site name or the site scope, however I feel until they do that, there will always be misunderstandings like this.

Edit

Here are some quotes from both the FAQ and the linked question that I hope will help clarify the issue.

FAQ

Programmers — Stack Exchange is a site for professional programmers who are interested in getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development.

...

and it is not about…

career advice, including general workplace issues

Question on Career advice questions

First and foremost, any career advice questions need to relate directly to software development: general career advice questions with no relation to software development or where software development is a minor facet of the question are off-topic

In short, a career-related question needs to be directly related to software development to be on-topic. Career-related questions that only relate to programmers are not on-topic here.

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Leaving aside the many important issues you raise, I am not confused about the scope of the site. My complaint is that the written policies that currently exist to define the scope of the site are not being followed, and are instead being gold-plated, which rather gives the lie to the idea that this site (or any SE site) is community-run. –  Marcin Mar 5 '12 at 8:02
    
@Marcin Your question was closed by three regular users and a moderator, several users posted comments explaining why your question was off topic, your Meta question gathered an impressive amount of downvotes (consensus), two users answered it telling you that your question is off topic and quite a few users flagged your rather offensive comments. I'd say this particular instance is a perfect example of how the site is community run. –  Yannis Rizos Mar 5 '12 at 10:51
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@Marcin I'm afraid I would disagree with you. I do not understand how your question matches the FAQ since I find the question to be a combination of not being not about software development, asking for career advice, and perhaps being too localized to your specific situation. –  Rachel Mar 5 '12 at 12:24
    
@Rachel My point is that the FAQ makes explicit that career advice is not off topic, just off topic when not related to programmers. –  Marcin Mar 5 '12 at 13:20
    
@YannisRizos Right, the users do the work of following the policies you set for them. –  Marcin Mar 5 '12 at 13:21
    
@Marcin I wonder how you keep missing that big diagram in the FAQ... "Related to programmers" is off topic, every question should require the unique expertise of software developers, regardless if it's career related or not. –  Yannis Rizos Mar 5 '12 at 13:27
    
@YannisRizos I fail to see how a question about how eduction affects the career of a programmer can fail to engage the unique expertise of software developers. –  Marcin Mar 5 '12 at 13:41
    
@Marcin Well I feel I've sufficiently explained why your question is off topic, if you fail or refuse to understand it, not my problem. –  Yannis Rizos Mar 5 '12 at 13:53
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@Marcin The FAQ states that career advice is on-topic if it is related to software development, but it is off-topic if it is related to programmers. In your case, I feel the question was career advice for programmers, and does not contribute to software development in any way. –  Rachel Mar 5 '12 at 14:06
    
@Rachel: That's certainly not how I read it, and no-one has actually cited an appropriate part of the text of the FAQ, or answers it links to, to justify that position. –  Marcin Mar 5 '12 at 14:26
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@Marcin It's subtle, but it's there. I've edited my answer to include the direct quotes from both the FAQ and the linked question which I hope will help clarify the issue. While I do not fully agree with this policy, I do understand why your question was closed as off-topic. –  Rachel Mar 5 '12 at 14:39
    
@Rachel I think it's telling that you appear to be the only person willing or able to actually undertake that exercise (notwithstanding that I disagree with your interpretation). –  Marcin Mar 5 '12 at 14:43
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