There have been multiple times now that I've wanted to close a question as off-topic, but refrained from doing so due to the message associated with it:

General programming questions are off-topic here, but can be asked on Stack Overflow.

A prime example of this is this recently closed question.

That question can not be asked on Stack Overflow! It is vague, improperly formatted, contains spelling errors and is too localized.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Doorknob linked to the help center in the comments. Maybe this could be added to the message, or even used instead of the current SO link. \$\endgroup\$
    – grc
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 13:05
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think that since we can already flag questions for migration to StackOverflow, we should get rid of this close reason altogether. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is why I typically leave a link to SO's help center in the comments even after a question has been closed with the "general programming" reason. I agree that the close reason would benefit from a change; however, the current volume of questions here is so low and the activity on SO so high that SO should be able to handle a few more off-topic questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Doorknob
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 13:48

4 Answers 4


SO itself uses the following style for their close reasons:

Questions about general computing hardware and software are off-topic for Stack Overflow unless they directly involve tools used primarily for programming. You may be able to get help on Super User.


Questions on professional server- or networking-related infrastructure administration are off-topic for Stack Overflow unless they directly involve programming or programming tools. You may be able to get help on Server Fault.

The "You may be able to get help..." message is nicely non-committal, as it should be for a boilerplate message — yes, you may be able to get an answer to your question on SO/SU/SF, if you describe your problem clearly in understandable English, provide a simple code example demonstrating the issue, and this time make sure that your question actually is on topic for the site you're asking it on. But there's no implied guarantee in there.

So I'd suggest adopting the same non-committal phrasing here, e.g. like this:

This site is for programming contests and challenges. General programming questions are off-topic here. You may be able to get help on Stack Overflow.

This phrasing avoids implying anything (positive or negative) about the question's general quality. Of course, it you really feel that a specific off-topic question is so awful (or so excellent) that it needs something less neutral, you can always copy-paste the text as a custom close reason, and tweak it as you like.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1. I much prefer this over my own suggestion. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 12:09
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I have changed the close reason according to this answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 22:13

I agree that this is a very common issue. I don't have hard numbers to back this up but it feels like in 75% of the cases (or more) where someone asks a "General Programming Question" it's also of very low quality, so that it would also be rejected on Stack Overflow.

At the same time, I think pointing people to SO with a fixed close vote reason is still nice and useful (whether they make their question meet SO's quality standards is their business). Therefore I propose changing the close vote reason to

General programming questions are off-topic here. Your question may be better suited for Stack Overflow. As Stack Overflow also has very high quality standards, please take a minute and read their help center prior to posting to ensure that your question is appropriate for Stack Overflow.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 from me. I agree with what you said, but I definitely think that message should be reworded into a bit more formal form. Also, it contains a spelling mistake ("asks"). \$\endgroup\$
    – orlp
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 0:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @orlp Fixed the typo. I'll leave the rewording to someone else. ;) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 7:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ While it isn't our job to make a high-quality SO post out of it, it certainly doesn't hurt, if you have the knowledge/ability/inclination to do so (I suspect many of our users have the necessary experience on SO). So while it definitely shouldn't be mandatory, it shouldn't be discouraged either. \$\endgroup\$
    – Geobits
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 13:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Geobits oh yes, I definitely don't mean to discourage, but as you say I just don't want it to make it our policy. Likewise, if it already is in good shape, flag for migration by all means. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 14:46

Usually if I see a question which is off-topic, but can't be asked as is on Stack Overflow I do the following:

  • Give a custom close reason, and if possible state where the user can be redirected to (i.e. where their question is on topic), and
  • Leave a comment saying what they would need to fix up before their question will be suitable for the site in the first point.

I propose that our off topic message be changed to:

This question does not appear to be about programming puzzles or challenges within the scope defined in the Help Center.

The reason is that, for an off topic question:

  • "It belongs on SO." is sometimes true.
  • "It does not belong on PPCG." is always true.

I would prefer that the default reason be one that is always true.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .