The question came up: Are questions about Software Engineering ontopic?
The CS.SE site was set up, in my understanding, to satisfy a need: the need for a place for CS students, academics, and professionals to ask questions related to CS, which do not meet the criteria for sister sites (especially StackOverflow and CS Theory). Naturally, a mature CS.SE should be expected to overlap (to some degree) with Math.SE, StackOverflow, and cstheory.SE, but the idea of bringing in mathematicians, theoretical computer scientists and software developers to build a distinct community remains; that is, non-research-level, non-programming CS questions are really only on-topic on Math.SE, and that's not really an optimal situation.
Software engineering, imho, is another story. Programmers.SE already has an established community for asking questions related to software engineering, and they do not discriminate on the basis of question level or theory content (as far as I'm aware). From the Programmers.SE FAQ, questions on the following are the on-topic subjects there:
- algorithm and data structure concepts
- design patterns
- developer testing
- development methodologies
- freelancing and business concerns
- quality assurance
- software architecture
- software engineering
- software licensing
Of the 9 explicitly listed on-topic subjects, fully 6 are unambiguously, unquestionably, undeniably the sole subject matter of software engineering. That is, 2/3 of the subjects are software engineering proper, which leads me to the following lines of thought: there is already a non-research-level SE site where questions of all kinds related to software engineering are explicitly allowed; there is no need to have a new SE allow these questions, although it certainly could; "computer science" and "software engineering" are already understood to be distinct, even if the distinction is not yet strong; the distinction should be expected to become more marked in the future.
Taking these factors into account, I'm not sure I see any value in promoting the asking of software engineering questions here, any more than I see value in continuing to promote the asking of CS questions on Math.SE. I would say that the position should be that, while perhaps questions on software engineering aren't forbidden here, they're not really appropriate, and this community isn't the best one to address them. EDIT: To be more explicit, I say that if we must either completely allow or completely prohibit questions on software engineering, I say we prohibit them.
In my opinion this particular question should be in scope.
Computer Science is a unique blend. On one hand it shares with mathematics the formal aspects. On the other hand it shares with natural sciences the experimental aspects. I suppose no-one would argue for banning questions related to experimental algorithmics. So, why would we ban questions related to other kinds of experiments?
What if someone would ask whether there is evidence that static typing improves productivity? Should that be banned? Before you answer, take a moment to read how Wadler, a very well known researcher in the theory of programming languages, pleads for more experimental research that could shed light on this question.
I agree that many other venues that allow "software engineering" questions are full of subjective and endless arguments. All the more reason to allow such questions here, I say. But make sure we only answer with facts.
Since SE is part of applied CS, it is on-topic because I think applied CS is part of CS just as TCS is and we are a CS site, just to add though:
This isn't programmers.SE, so if any SE questions do come up, it should be answered in an objective way preferably with evidence, and if the question is too subjective and cannot be answered with evidence or objectively, then it should be migrated or closed as off-topic. We are a computer science site after all, and anecdotes should have no place here.
The [programmers.se] also allows algorithms and data structure questions. Should we also forbid them on this site?
I think this is not the right attitude to look at the picture. With this attitude, at the end we are going to be left with only non-research level theoretical questions (which themselves were already on-topic on [math.se]).
So if we are going to go this way we should stop building the site right now and not waste our time building a site which is going to be obsolete. There are lots of Software Engineering questions which are more computer engineering questions than computer science question (though the line separating them is not black and white).
I suggest that we wait on the issue of topics overlapping with other sites and see how things develop before making a decision how to deal with this issue. So for the time being, any topic in Computer Science should be allowed.