In the FAQ, I see Freelancing and Business Concerns as being on topic but I routinely see these types of questions closed. While I understand the office politics and localized situations are off-topic, what are the precise dimensions of on vs off-topic in regards to these questions? I personally feel the boundary is a little hazy, particularly compared with the vast majority of on vs off-topic with regard to other subjects on the site.

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I will suspend the next person that posts a Meta question with only one tag :<. –  Yannis Rizos Feb 25 '13 at 2:22
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@YannisRizos - You have no idea how tempting it is to hit the "retag" button right now :3 –  Deco Feb 25 '13 at 4:21

3 Answers 3

I totally agree that there's a problem with "freelancing and business concerns". I think the community needs to come to some kind of agreement or understanding on exactly what it means. However, I can give you the perspective that I currently take when moderating. If anyone has any better suggestions or problems, please feel free to point them out.

There are two parts of the FAQ that I use to help guide what I do if a question is flagged or ends up in the review queues:

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

and

Please make sure your question uniquely applies to programmers in general:

proper scope for question

Both clearly indicate that all questions must relate back to software development and apply to programmers (or software development professionals, more generally).

I'd also like to point out that a lot of "business concerns" may be covered under other topics listed as being on topic, specifically "development methodologies" and "software engineering". These include project management (of software-intensive projects, otherwise Project Management may be more appropriate), cost and schedule estimation, project planning, measurements and metrics, product quality, risk management...

My biggest concern with "business and freelancing concerns", beyond the vagueness, is how well this particular community can answer the questions. A core purpose of a Stack Exchange site is to put questions in a place where they can get answered. All of our users have some combination of experience and education in building software. That doesn't mean that they have any experience or education in business topics, although I wouldn't be surprised if a not-insignificant number do. I'm not sure if that number is enough to provide a base of people who can provide expert answers to these questions.

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Very well said... –  Walter Feb 24 '13 at 21:54
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@Walter Except I really didn't say anything, other than how I moderate...this doesn't deserve 3 upvotes, since it doesn't address the underlying problem. It's more of a really long comment with pictures. –  Thomas Owens Feb 24 '13 at 21:55
    
My intuition is that the community does have the relevant experience with business topics. My perspective is that "true" senior developers have to understand business aspects almost as well as programming in order to come up with solid solutions. My most successful projects have been tying the application to the business model, and my worst have been developed in a vacuum. But there are certainly limitations that the pretty circle graphic helps acknowledge and enforce. –  GlenH7 Feb 25 '13 at 18:30

I think the determining factor is if you need a Programmer's expertise for the answer or not, and if the question could be best answered by a Programmer instead of a different profession.

If the answer is something you would expect to be part of a Programmer's knowledge base, and they would be the first person you would approach to get a definitive answer on such a question, then it's on-topic.

But if it's something that would be best answered by someone other than a programmer, such as a Project Manager, Financial Adviser, Marketing Specialist, Lawyer, etc then it would be considered off-topic.

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One problem with freelance and business concerns is that these tend to be closely associated with local questions in terms of company structure and legislation. There are borderline "how to manage this type of project" questions, but in very many cases the answer to a more business-related question that applies under UK law might be no help to someone working under Indian, US or Australian law. Even when it isn't superficially related to a legal question, very often the legislative structure informs the way that businesses operate in many different ways.

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