I am trying to understand why this question was closed as offtopic:

How can I research a competitor?

This has been something that I have discussed with others in the workplace from time to time as it can be an important part of market research or someones role in the company. There are also accusations of industrial espionage which were unfounded.

If questions about market research are off topic then questions about "How to deal with XXX as a software developer" or "Is this wrong for them to expect XXX of software developers?" should also be offtopic.

  • I don't really consider investigating competitors a "typical workplace function". It's a specific job function, unless you work for the CIA it's not the case that everyone goes to work and is expected to investigate various companies.
    – Rarity
    Aug 3, 2012 at 13:39
  • @Rarity Not every workplace has project related work as a typical workplace function. With this logic one can argue that questions about working on a project, regardless of role, can be considered off topic as well. Aug 3, 2012 at 13:59
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    Project work is fairly common in lots of industries/specific jobs. It's part of doing work. Investigating competitors is a specific skill, it's getting very close to "how can I market stuff" or "how should I handle payroll" IMO.
    – Rarity
    Aug 3, 2012 at 14:11
  • @Rarity So if I understand correctly, questions about marketing or legitimate concrete questions about the best way to do payroll are offtopic as well? The line is just too fuzzy. Aug 3, 2012 at 15:01
  • Well, we're not a payroll site. We can't possibly include all job functions. Where do you think the line should be drawn?
    – Rarity
    Aug 3, 2012 at 15:03
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    @Rarity Way to turn it back on me lol! To be perfectly honest I have no idea where I would draw the line, which is sort of why I decided to start the conversation again. I would think if we are having a hard time coming up with an answer then it is probably wise to be strict with these sorts of things. I guess I see the logic in why it was closed now Aug 3, 2012 at 15:12
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    Well I don't want to unilaterally set the policy; I'd love to hear some discussion on where the line is; it seems we're agreed specific job functions are off topic, just not whether "kinda common but not universal" job functions are off topic
    – Rarity
    Aug 3, 2012 at 15:16

2 Answers 2


Doing market research is a specific job function. That makes it off topic. The only exceptions are questions on general people management tasks.(Questions on business management are still off topic)

A better comparison question would be how do convert a program from ASP to ASP.net... that is a job specific function.

A question that would be on topic though tangential to the question you asked would be "How do I deal with questions from the a competitor about the company I work for?"

The Workplace deals with questions about things we do at or involving work that are not really a part of our job function.

You could change the question to ask how you can learn about Market Research as an engineer. I would be sure to avoid questions asking for an opinion on the ethics involved as these tend toward not constructive, and questions on legality are banned as off topic.


perhaps the question could be re-factored into one about general fact-finding projects, and how to go about them? I think the question itself is excellent in concept, as it can be quite prevalent in these current times, as economies are shaky and companies always need to be looking for the best deals. It could easily be expanded to include researching possible vendors/contractors, and how to gather the information you require in each case.

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    After a few days of being closed, it's clear the op isn't going to do anything about it. :) You should try your hand at editing it if you see a way to make it comply. Good luck!
    – jmort253
    Aug 7, 2012 at 1:17
  • @jmort253 i mean, that's just it. i don't think it's should have been closed at all in its current form. it seems like most people just jumped to conclusions when they skimmed it, and thus downvoted. i have no clue how to change it ot make it 'acceptable' when i believe the current form is 100% that.
    – acolyte
    Aug 7, 2012 at 5:20
  • I just edited the question Aug 8, 2012 at 10:56

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