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This is the only tag representing an industry. We do not have a tag for law-firms or healthcare-industry or agriculture or otherwise.

We do have - 277 questions.

This is likely due to the history of the Workplace (since SE was originally designed for folks in the software industry), but it also stands out as being a glaring exception in the tag list.

This issue has been brought up before but nothing has been done (unfortunately), so here we are.

Like location tags (country, region), very few of these questions are actually specific to the software industry. Take the top 10 questions in that tag for instance:

  1. How can I overcome "years of experience" requirements when applying to positions?
  2. How can I encourage a culture of punctuality in a software company?
  3. How can we protest a deadline that is too short?
  4. How should I deal with colleagues asking me to hide problems with their work?
  5. How can I reduce the size of a long resume without hiding all my skills and experience?
  6. How do you explain to your boss they're wrong without making them feel threatened?
  7. Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?
  8. How can I use my masters degree to get a higher salary?
  9. Just got an initial job offer. How do I ask for more without any real justification?
  10. How to deal with a team lead direct report that acts unprofessionally?

None of these questions are about topics where experience from other industries won't help. "How can I encourage a culture of punctuality in a software company?" could just as easily be "How can I encourage a culture of punctuality?". "Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?" could be "Is it ethical to read work-related books on the clock?" I'm sure there are carpenters who would love to know "How do you explain to your boss they're wrong without making them feel threatened?" And I'll bet that there are advertising folks who would love to know "How can we protest a deadline that is too short?"

I would love to go through this list of questions and take the following action on each:

  1. If it is of questionable worth, vote to close (many of the lower-rated questions would almost certainly be closed if they were asked today)
  2. If it is not related to software at all, remove the tag
  3. If no value is lost by removing details related to the software industry, edit and then remove the tag

Questions that have value but aren't on-topic by today's standards should be listed somewhere (chat? here?). Questions that are specific to the software industry and cannot apply to others but are still on topic and have value should also be displayed here.

By minimizing the amount of flotsam in the tag, we can see how many questions are truly limited to a single industry, and make it easier to decide how we want to deal with future industry-related questions. Do we want a tag? A tag? A tag? Or do we want something more like what GuyM discusses in the previous discussion:

I'd suggest the "hip start-up" is a good tag, as is "corporate", and probably "family-run business", were these are relevent to the question.


Found the culprit of the tag!

Are non-IT workplace questions on-topic?

And I quote:

I've created the software-industry tag (for lack of a better label) to tag my (one) question that was actually domain specific – Rarity Apr 10 '12 at 22:24

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I agree with you here. If we have an industry specific tag for one thing we don't have a leg to stand on if we try to stop industry specific tags for every other industry in existence.

Most of this seems to be legacy from the origins of workplace, where everyone was a software developer. A lot of these problems aren't even software industry specific as you correctly pointed out.

If no one is adverse to this suggestion then I think we should go through each question and if it is worth keeping then editing it so that the question doesnt rely on the software industry to exist, given that a lot of these questions are just about human - human interaction there really is no reason why it would be different answers for different industries. different cultures sure, but if someones superior is cracking the whip then the course of action will be the same if youre a dev, or a secretary or a plumber.

An added advantage of this is that it should help drive more traffic our way because it will be more generic and thus apply to a wider group of people. This could also help up to build the side of our community that isnt software dev's. A push that could certainly increase our daily traffic.

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While I could see the fate of the software industry tag going in either direction -- either removed or kept -- it's important to keep in mind that something IT related is still on-topic if it represents a workplace problem.

What's more, I'm not entirely convinced editing out specific industry details would help. Sometimes the industry specifics help paint a clearer picture of the problem and give it context that may otherwise be missing.

The question about punctuality in a software company is a perfect example where answers may differ depending on the job roles. Due to the nature of the work, where the perceived need for punctuality among creative types may not be as strong as the need for folks involved in shift work, it may arguably not be mission critical for the creative professionals to have set schedules. However, in shift work, where one party cannot leave until another shows up or in situations where production activities within the entire organization come to a screeching halt with somebody's absence, the answers may lean more towards ways to actually accomplish enforcing set schedules with facts, references, and specific expertise from workers and managers in those organizations or fields.

Since we encourage folks to post questions about real, actual problems they're facing, it makes sense that those problems will contain specifics that give the post substance. Otherwise, we risk becoming too generic or making the questions sound too hypothetical. This also leaves the door open for variations on a problem where answers may be different depending on the industry, which equates to the potential for more great content for our site.

This also opens the door for more variations in the types of experts we attract to The Workplace. Similar to how Stack Overflow successfully attracts Python and Java experts in the same space, we may also successfully attract IT, Software, and professionals from those other fields we long for, if we provide expert level content that isn't too watered down.

Hope this helps!

  • I fully agree that making a distinction between 'creative work' and 'shift work' would be appropriate and help provide better quality answers, I just don't think the type of creative work is going to have a major impact on a majority of questions. For instance, "How can I encourage a culture of punctuality in a software company?" would be a more accessible question if it were "How can I encourage a culture of punctuality with creative professionals?" The software industry tag serves to limit the audience in my opinion. – jmac Sep 11 '13 at 2:45
  • I think that a lot of the audience here are software professionals, and that the quality of some answers suffers because people tunnel in on specific aspects unique to the software industry. A search for scrum, for instance, provides a bunch of different questions: 1 2 3. Does referring to a scrum add any additional value to the questions, or to the responses they get? – jmac Sep 11 '13 at 2:51
  • (Disclaimer: I am not a software engineer, do not work in the software industry, and may not fully understand the unique concept of a scrum as it applies to daily work. At the same time, when reading the above questions, I think the advice would be the same in each if the concept of a 'scrum' were replaced with 'meeting', and probably improved for it because the focus would be on the broader issue than a specific subset of the broader issue) – jmac Sep 11 '13 at 2:55
  • Hi @jmac, you're right that the type of work may not matter, I'd say limiting this could make it more difficult to actually ask a question on the site. However, it may be possible to subtly edit the questions to show how they could apply to other fields after the fact. As for scrum, it's a very specific type of meeting, one that may be different enough to where it shouldn't be lumped with meetings in general. However, a specific scrum problem may fit better on Project Management SE. – jmort253 Sep 11 '13 at 3:08
  • In short, I do agree there are instances where some editing could help improve SEO so folks searching for "punctuality" and "creative profession" could find the site. For instance, "How can I encourage a culture of punctuality in creative environments, where programmers, designers, or artists work?". – jmort253 Sep 11 '13 at 3:09
  • Most of the scrum questions don't actually have to do with specific scrum issues. Of the 8 questions marked scrum, the only one I think actually relates specifically to the software industry is this one. Things like penalty for being late to a meeting could be just as applicable for any mandatory coordination meeting. I just don't want to pigeon-hole questions too much. – jmac Sep 11 '13 at 3:16
  • @jmac - The thing is, for workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/12362/…, Scrum is an agile methodology, and seeing the notes from a recent session could tell me as an interviewee a lot about the company, such as how true they adhere to scrum principles. As someone familiar with these processes, a lot of context could be lost if the question were just about a meeting in general. – jmort253 Sep 11 '13 at 3:26
  • For this one, workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/11635/…, I feel that if scrum were missing from this post, I don't think anything would be lost. Of course, at the same time, I don't see having "scrum" in the question as being harmful. It's just another keyword to possibly help people find the post via Google. The takeaway for me is that specifics aren't harmful, but adding in more general terms may help the Q&A reach a wider audience. – jmort253 Sep 11 '13 at 3:28
  • I didn't mean to diverge too far into the scrum thing, my point is that many of these questions are not limited to the extent they are scoped to. I think we'd have a better resource if we actively tried to broaden questions to be more applicable. Having the word 'scrum' in a post isn't a mortal sin in my mind, I am just worried that questions which scope themselves as related solely to a small group will end up getting answers that tacitly accept that assumption and result in a worse resource for others. – jmac Sep 11 '13 at 4:41
  • I'm not 100% sure I understand. So here are two questions @jmac. Do you see the answers as not answering the exact question, and editing as a tool to make the questions match answers? Or are you proposing editing questions to justify changing the answers themselves? – jmort253 Sep 11 '13 at 5:33
  • Sorry, you're right, I wasn't clear enough on that part. For questions where the (best) answers address the broader issue, the question can be pared down to remove industry-specific details without affecting the answers and making it more accessible to the general working population. If the best answers are based on those details, we should leave them. The goal is more toward future questions, and whether we should make an effort to broaden questions when possible to get more people capable of answering/more useful answers for more people. – jmac Sep 11 '13 at 6:01
  • Okay, that makes a lot more sense. Thanks for clarifying. On the topic of how to handle future questions, what we'll have to determine is whether or not broadening them helps provide more value or whether it hurts by eliminating the possibility for the more targeted answers. I support experimentation to create real working examples of posts we can use to evaluate this experiment, to determine whether or not we may be inadvertently eliminating the long tail questions that are the core of SE's mission. Hope this helps! :) – jmort253 Sep 11 '13 at 6:09
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    The long-tail stuff is important in the long-run, and I think the best way to grow that resource is to have someone looking for a solution to their long-tail problem, find our mid-tail broader answer, and ask a question that is more specific but not a duplicate. The best way to do that is to have resources that cover the general issue, and give people an incentive to ask a question here that digs a level deeper. If they read an HBR or Forbes article they are at a dead end. If they read a question here, they can follow-up. That is where our long tail could come from. – jmac Sep 11 '13 at 6:41
  • (as reference, the same thing happens a lot in SO -- I visited SO initially looking for answers to a basic Google Visualization question, and ended up asking my own, and eventually becoming the top contributor to that long-tail tag. By having a good resource that isn't quite perfect, it creates an incentive to have people fill in the gaps) – jmac Sep 11 '13 at 6:43

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