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Case in point, this recent question https://android.stackexchange.com/questions/47582/published-android-app-on-playstore-and-my-email-is-now-disclosed-to-scrappers

This question was closed by eldarerathis, in accordance to ASE's scope as defined in the faq, however I don't believe it should. The primary reason we avoid Android development question is because it overlaps with SO, and SO are better equipped to handle such questions than ASE, but this question would not be on-topic on SO.

Simply put, I'm putting into question whether or not we should keep this in the FAQ:

  • Issues with the Android Market from the point of view of a developer or publisher
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    It is of my opinion that our site's scope should include not just Android as an OS but also the ecosystem around it as it relates to Android. I believe that just because a question is only of interest to developers shouldn't automatically make the question off topic, after all developers are often power users as well and they roam this site as well; I believe that many non programming questions about using Android or its ecosystem that are only of interest to people doing development should still be on topic here. Thoughts? – Lie Ryan Jun 19 '13 at 16:19
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    Anyone interested in such questions may also be interested in the proposed SE site for app stores. Up to now, ASE doesn't even appear in the proposal's "users are also active in" list. – Dan Hulme Jun 19 '13 at 16:28
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    I'm featuring this because I think it's a good discussion for us to have. Both sides have pretty reasonable arguments, so hopefully people will see it in the Community Bulletin and present their thoughts here. – eldarerathis Jun 19 '13 at 16:43
  • @Dan Hulme: AskDifferent does appear there though, one might wonder if it's because ASE had been a bit too hostile to non programming, developer questions? ;) – Lie Ryan Jun 19 '13 at 17:02
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    A commenter with the opposite prejudice might say that ASE is more successful at keeping a tight user focus. – Dan Hulme Jun 19 '13 at 17:08
  • But in reality I don't believe that AD's policy on developer questions is materially different. Another factor is that all iOS and Mac developers are Mac users, because the development tools run on Mac, whereas you can develop for Android without being an Android user day-to-day. – Dan Hulme Jun 19 '13 at 17:21
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    There is also the Android Internals which IMHO would be ideal for questions about the play store from a developer's perspective (if the app stores SX proposal failes). – Flow Jun 19 '13 at 17:31
  • @Dan Hulme: even Arqade.SE beats ASE on interest for the App Store proposal, and there's not yet any indication so far that it would include game stores (e.g. Steam, Desura, etc). On the other hand, GameDev.SE is nowhere to be seen there. Would that mean that Arqade is poor at keeping a tight focus? – Lie Ryan Jun 19 '13 at 17:34
  • @LieRyan No, of course I don't believe that, no more than I believe it's because Arqade is less hostile developer questions than ASE is. You're the one who suggested that ASE's absence was a reflection of this policy. – Dan Hulme Jun 19 '13 at 17:40
  • @DanHulme: I hope you hadn't missed the wink smiley when I make that assertion. – Lie Ryan Jun 19 '13 at 17:55
  • @eldarerathis: Thanks for adding the featured tag. Ultimately, I do wish that being friendlier to non programming, developer questions might make ASE more interesting to developers because many end-user questions can really benefit from a perspective about android internals. – Lie Ryan Jun 19 '13 at 18:00
  • Can you supply some samples of otherwise good questions that we closed because of this policy? (The one example you give is, in my opinion, not a very good question.) – ale Jun 20 '13 at 12:33
  • @AlEverett: This is the kind of hostility I'm referring to: android.stackexchange.com/questions/47626/…. The OP on that question made the mistake of asking the question from the point of view of developer even when the developer aspect is not really relevant, prompting swift close votes. While the question as is are too localized, instead of getting closed it would probably be better rewritten into: "How is top grossing ranking calculated in Play?", which certainly would be of interest to users as well. – Lie Ryan Jun 20 '13 at 16:40
  • I don't see any hostility there. I also don't understand what's being asked. That's not a cogent question. Closing was the right thing to do. If you think it could be rewritten to be more appropriate, go for it. – ale Jun 20 '13 at 16:53
  • @AlEverett: I've edited that question, and VtR. Perhaps hostility isn't the right word, but my point is that I seemed to notice (unscientifically of course) that questions that mentions being an developer tends to attract vote close more readily than those that don't, even after discounting the obvious off topic SO questions. – Lie Ryan Jun 20 '13 at 17:34
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I believe that these should remain off-topic. As I see it, our site is designed for and primarily used by users of the Android OS. Our audience uses apps, it doesn't develop or publish them.

When we support a niche area, such as modding system assets for example, it's supporting users in their role as users (advanced users, but users nonetheless). Users can also be publishers or developers, but supporting publishing or development is supporting an entirely different role for those users.

I think the site makes the most sense and will be most successful if we focus on users as users. As Dan says, I think that scope is better determined by how the audience views themselves than by lumping together everything related to the topic at hand.

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From what I've seen of questions asked by developers having issue with the Play Store, most of the questions would be closed in any event, simply because

  • it was very specific to the person asking it,
  • it was soliciting opinion,
  • it was something only Google could answer, or
  • it was rhetorical/a rant.

(I'll see if I can dig up some examples, but it'll take time.)

Further, would any of these questions have people who could answer them? We only have a few developers here; I expect most questions will remain neglected and unanswered.

Granted, this last is a chicken-and-egg problem, but would developers come here and happily co-exist with Android users?

And what about the slippery-slope issue of, "Well, you let me ask about Play Store Analytics for my app. Why won't you let me ask coding questions? All the developers are here anyway..."

I think, were we to change our policy, we'd end up with something like what we have with rooting/modding questions. Yes, we have a bunch, and some have good answers, but the really good information is elsewhere, and we're mostly just a gateway to that information. Only worse.

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I agree with GAThrawn, that the rule is simply "if it's asked from a developer's perspective then the question is off-topic on Android Enthusiasts."

I like to add that it is not always easy to say which questions are clearly developer questions and which are power end-users ones. I'd like to see more tolerance for the later ones. But the mentioned question from OP is simply off-topic according the above rule.

On a side note: Maybe it would be a good idea to fill the gap between Android Enthusiasts (end-users) and stackoverflow (developers). ATM the gap is filled by external sites like XDA. But I really like the idea of a SX site for non Android API programming and Android internals questions, something like the proposed Android Internals.

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    I do definitely agree with your second point. I actually think the current FAQ/Help Center page may benefit from a slight rewording, to something like "Questions about Google Play that are primarily of a concern to developers or app publishers". There have been cases where questions from a dev POV were also appropriate to users if they were simply reworded very slightly, generally because they were a bit of an XY problem (or just had a lot of overlap with a user concern and the dev part was not actually relevant). – eldarerathis Jun 19 '13 at 17:52
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As I see it, the key issue is about allowing users to identify themselves. When I went to see Mr. Spolsky speak about SE, the first and biggest point he made is that when someone visits the front page of an SE site, they can immediately see whether the site is for them. They look at the questions, and they think, "Yes, these are the kind of questions I am interested in," or alternatively, "I have no idea what these people are talking about." Obviously, this isn't to be taken too narrowly: nobody suggests that questions about phones put off tablet users.

Looking at it that way, the debate over non-programming questions that only a developer would ask (which includes publishing questions) has these pros and cons:-

Arguments for allowing

It would attract developers (most of whom are also users) to the site. They would be useful for answering some of the harder user questions as well. Some of the users interested in such questions are already ASE users, so the change would make the site more useful to existing users.

Occasionally, even developer-oriented questions are useful to end users. Sometimes it satisfies one's curiosity to see what happens "behind the scenes". Better understanding the relationship between app publishers and Google can help advanced users to understand quirks in the way apps interact and why they're written in particular ways. We try to spot such questions and see their usefulness from a user point-of-view, but I wouldn't claim that we're 100% successful: I'm sure there are closed questions that could be useful but were phrased in the wrong way. In addition, there may be many more that simply aren't asked because of the policy. Allowing developer-oriented questions may well improve the site for non-programmers too.

Arguments for disallowing (i.e. keeping the status quo)

Visitors who aren't developers would see the questions written from a developer's perspective, be unable to identify with them, and thus feel less like the site is for them. How likely this is would depend on how many such questions we get, but don't forget that a feedback mechanism is at work: the more non-programming developer questions we get, the larger a fraction of the site will be developers, so the more non-programming developer questions we'll get, &c.

There's a smaller risk that showing ASE as a place where developer questions and user questions meet will increase the number of other off-topic developer questions, such as polling for user suggestions, spam advertising apps, and localized questions that only Google support can answer ("can I upload app x").

Balancing the arguments

So which side you're on really depends on how you weigh the risk of driving away users against the chance of attracting new users and becoming more useful to existing users; and the burden of new kinds of bad questions against the proportion of questions that turn out to be good for non-programmers.

To weigh these up, you also have to consider that there are a lot more non-programmer Android users to drive away than there are Android programmers to attract; OTOH, the programmers are more likely to already be SE users, so they're more likely to find ASE in the first place.

Whatever we decide here, I think these arguments apply almost verbatim to other kinds of non-programming developer questions. It might be worth thinking of the publishing questions as a "pilot" for allowing other kinds in future.

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    localized questions that only Google support can answer - This is personally one concern I think would require some serious consideration w.r.t publishing questions. I worry that many (perhaps even a vast majority) will simply be unanswerable by anyone other than Google or a payment processor or the like. Especially given the ones we've generally seen thus far. – eldarerathis Jun 19 '13 at 17:56
  • We've already had the odd question like that, too. The questions on the App Stores proposal haven't shown this problem, but that's probably down to the different make-up of users on A51. – Dan Hulme Jun 19 '13 at 17:59
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Topics related to users using the Play Store and problems using the Play Store are already on topic, there's lots of them in the tag.

It's just questions from a developer's perspective that are off-topic, and I think that's still the right distinction.

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    Thanks for clarifying the rule. As the discussion is about changing the rule, would you care to expand on why you think it's optimal as it stands? – Dan Hulme Jun 19 '13 at 17:54

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