All I see in the FAQ about what issues are on topic is:

Computer Science - Stack Exchange is for students, researchers and practitioners of computer science

What does this even mean?

Being new to this site (though not to SE in general) even looking at some of the questions is not really enough to give me a good idea what is on topic.

Here is what I have seen so far:

  • Algorithmic complexity
  • Context Free grammars and automata
  • Data structures
  • Some CS theories

Is this comprehensive? I have no idea. Are there questions that I have seen that are on topic but are not closed as such? Also no idea.

Therefore, I am proposing that someone/s propose a list of things that are on topic and not on topic. As a baseline (for format only), perhaps something like this from SuperUser:

Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users. If you have a question about …

  • computer hardware
  • computer software
  • personal and home computer networking

and it is not about …

  • videogames or consoles
  • websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress
  • electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer
  • issues specific to corporate IT support and networks
  • a shopping or buying recommendation

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

I think it would be helpful so have something that would be more useful than what is there now for new users like me

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    $\begingroup$ possible duplicate of 7 essential meta questions: FAQ $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Apr 3 '12 at 0:43
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    $\begingroup$ The site is just starting. There are no moderators yet, and only moderators can edit the FAQ, so there's only this one-sentence description. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Apr 3 '12 at 0:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Gilles, my concern is much more about updating the FAQ (there seems to be some consensus about what is on topic in some of the meta posts, including the one you linked to) that achieving that consensus here. In other words, something is better than nothing $\endgroup$ – soandos Apr 3 '12 at 0:50
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think listing items which haven't occurred so far is a good idea, they don't belong to be the FAQ at the moment. When we start receiving posts that are off-topic frequently about something then we can consider adding that to off-topic subjects in the FAQ. The current statement has worked quite well so far. If you want to know what is this site about check the Wikipedia article about Computer Science. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Apr 3 '12 at 1:16
  • $\begingroup$ But if you want a list, we can start with the list of topics in computer science: Artificial Intelligence; Computation and Language; Computational Complexity; Computational Engineering, Finance, and Science; Computational Geometry; Computer Science and Game Theory; Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition; Computers and Society; Cryptography and Security; Data Structures and Algorithms; Databases; Digital Libraries; Discrete Mathematics; Distributed, Parallel, and Cluster Computing; Emerging Technologies; Formal Languages and Automata Theory; General Literature; Graphics; $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Apr 3 '12 at 1:19
  • $\begingroup$ Hardware Architecture; Human-Computer Interaction; Information Retrieval; Information Theory; Learning; Logic in Computer Science; Mathematical Software; Multiagent Systems; Multimedia; Networking and Internet Architecture; Neural and Evolutionary Computing; Numerical Analysis; Operating Systems; Other Computer Science; Performance; Programming Languages; Robotics; Social and Information Networks; Software Engineering; Sound; Symbolic Computation; Systems and Control $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Apr 3 '12 at 1:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh, so anything relating to students, researchers and practitioners of computer science is fair game? Additionally, I am not trying make the list, I am just looking for something that has some kind of specifics. Having longs lists here is not helpfull... $\endgroup$ – soandos Apr 3 '12 at 1:19
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    $\begingroup$ @soandos, obviously not everything related to students, researchers and practitioners of computer science is on-topic. What is definitely on-topic is questions in computer science (not programming!). If you are a student taking a CS course and you have a question about the course material it is on-topic. If you see an article in CS journal or conference and you have a question about it that is on-topic. If you are working in a company as a computer scientists and you face a computer science problem that is on-topic. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Apr 3 '12 at 1:22
  • $\begingroup$ Other questions related to students, researchers and practitioners of computer science might be on-topic, but that should be decided on rolling base, and in any case the question should be something where being a student/ researcher/practitioner of computer science is an essential part of the question. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Apr 3 '12 at 1:27
  • $\begingroup$ If someone posts a paper showing an algorithm, would it be on topic to ask its complexity? $\endgroup$ – soandos Apr 3 '12 at 1:27
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    $\begingroup$ @soandos, the usual SE criteria apply, e.g. the question should be answerable. If it is a simple algorithm, then it might be fine. If it is a 10 page algorithm, then probably not. If it is not really a question but a try to attract attention or get verification to ones own claim of solving an open CS problem (e.g. P vs NP) then it is not a real question and should be closed as such. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Apr 3 '12 at 1:31
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    $\begingroup$ @soandos Sure, figuring the complexity of an algorithm is on-topic here. That doesn't mean such a question couldn't be closed, but I doubt it would be closed for being off-topic. $\endgroup$ – Patrick87 Apr 3 '12 at 1:35

A comprehensive list of items that fall under "computer science for students, researchers and practitioners" is

  • impossible to create and
  • far too long.

Therefore, it is better to leave it at a general description and shape people's view of what CS is by the questions we allow. This is clearly necessary; I doubt anyone would ask for a similar list on math.SE.

Note that the "we" who "allow" questions -- namely the users with reputation high enough to vote for closing -- are so far (next to) all computer science majors so they should know.

If a certain type of offtopic question turns out to appear too often, we can always add clarifying statements to the FAQ then.


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