Tl;dr why is there a close reason for "Generic programming question" if we are not closing and instead up-voting and answering blatantly off-topic questions? Has the rule / community consensus about this topic changed? If so why is the close option still there?


Over the last few months I've mostly removed myself from this stack entirely, because almost every single question being posted is of the form "How do I [generic programming issue]. Oh and I'm programming a game". The way I see it, and has seen it for all these years, is that if you remove the game-development part of a programming question and the question still makes sense, it belongs on StackOverflow.

I know some top-users & moderators are of the mindset that disallowing questions like and closing them will deter people from joining the network, but I argue that having low quality questions asked by users who will in many cases not even come back to look at the answers, and even less bother accepting / up-voting, is extremely detrimental to "recruiting" (or whatever you want to name it :D) new people to the network. I also imagine the steady influx of these low-quality questions is driving dedicated and long-term users like me away.

I don't want to make this into a long rant. I think most people that read Meta know what I'm talking about so I'm instead going to give a few examples of questions (1 of each are mine, trying to be as objective as possible) that I believe are on-topic / off-topic / borderline for this stack.

Off-topic. If you remove the "Oh and I'm programming a game" part from these questions they are still valid programming questions and should therefor be posted on StackOverflow.

On-topic. Usually specific to a certain game engine, e.g. the physics in Unity or AI in Unreal Engine etc. If you removed the context of the game engine they would not make sense (or become too generic) hence I believe they are valid for this site.

Borderline. These questions still make sense if you remove the "Oh and I'm programming a game" part and would be valid without them, but I still believe the answer would be different when given in the context of creating a game. These are hence up for discussion about if they belong here or not but I think these should be allowed here.

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Thanks for posting this in meta!

Both past discussions you have posted seem to have this stance:

If it's blatantly off-topic such as a compiler error, or a language syntax issue, I [user1430] will unilaterally close it.

I know we, mods, do close questions that are generic programming questions as described above, so:

Have we abandoned the rule about generic programming questions?

From a personal point of view, no, we haven't.

This brings up another issue, and I suspect that is the one that is causing you (and us) the most frustration:

Community effort.

Mods being "human exception handlers", our role is not to shape the policies; we can, however, enforce them once they are clear. When we feel a question is "borderline" off-topic, we defer to the community. We may even answer it! (Because "borderline" is different from user to user, even when the user is a moderator.)

The tools we have at our disposal and our observations allow us to gauge the community effort, i.e., the participation in moderation activity by non-moderators. This effort has decreased during the past years.

If the community feels like enforcing or broadening the definition of what is a "programming question" that should be asked on SO, mods are not there to oppose, and mods don't have binding votes in those decisions. Aside from spending more time voting to close questions and reviewing the close votes queue, posting in Meta is the community's best bet in bringing changes and improvement (although we would still need more activity here).

If you have proposals for improvements or changes in that regard, I'm sure the community will be happy to read them.

This post has highlighted a fact: we have 3 places where we mention the policy about closing questions that are only about programming:

  1. Close > A community-specific reason >

    Programming questions that aren't specific to game development are off-topic here, but can be asked on Stack Overflow. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself "would a professional game developer give me a better/different/more specific answer to this question than other programmers?"

  2. Help/on-topic:

    General programming questions more likely belong on Stack Overflow instead of here. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself...

    Would a professional game developer give me a better/different/more specific answer to this question than other programmers?

    If yes, then feel free to ask it here. For more discussion on that topic, see this question on our meta site.

    Note that this links to another Meta post which adds

    If I'm asking about, say, a path finding algorithm, SO is probably not the right choice since if its for a game, you'll probably trade off some accuracy for more efficiency (different needs/goals). But if you're asking how to reverse the order of an array, then a game developer is going to give the same answer as any other programmer, so it probably belongs on SO.

  3. And the two other questions you posted

    If it's blatantly off-topic such as a compiler error, or a language syntax issue, I [user1430] will unilaterally close it.

There is some slight discrepancies between all three. Perhaps this needs to be fixed (with a future meta post).

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In my opinion, we should keep and enforce the rule about general programming questions. If it's how to access a script on a game object in Unity, it's kind of just a C# question (the script is a property of the object), but it's really closely related to how Unity does things... so that's ok.

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