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Background

I recently asked a question on PMSE that was closed as off-topic. The comment provided was:

This question is better suited to a support site for the software product.

The question was about how to track process-related information (in this case, story points) in a particular tool. This seems to meet the requirements of the tag, which says:

Questions with this tag should be about a real, actual problem faced by a project manager using a specific software program used in project management.

It seems to me that if that question (which I crafted to be as much about process and modeling as any tool-related question can be) is off-topic, then I'm not sure how any or questions can ever be on-topic.

Contact Your Push-Pin Reseller

I think we all agree that technical support is off-topic, but I think questions about how to perform project management tasks or model processes with them should most definitely be on-topic. Otherwise, taken to the logical extreme, the current policy will result in questions like "How do I represent X on a kanban?" being answered with "Contact your cork board or push-pin reseller for support."

No matter how process-focused a tool-related question is, it will inevitably boil down to "How do I use X to do Y?" Consider any of the following unclosed questions, which aren't even asking process questions at all:

All three questions seem like valid process or modeling questions to me. Are we drawing some distinction between MS Project and everything else, or what?

"What's the Policy, Kenneth?"

I don't think that there are that many pure process questions to be asked and answered on a stack. Most questions will be along the lines of "How do I use {tool, process, artifact} to accomplish {objective, requirement, task}?"

I think that practical questions about process or modeling with tools should be on topic. By all means, keep the product recommendations and lists-of-lists at bay, but don't foreclose on the majority of day-to-day questions that project managers deal with.

Do we really want to prevent concrete, answerable questions about routine project management tracking or reporting tasks? By all means, discuss.

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Why does our policy on pm-tools appear inconsistent?

We're currently revising our site scope, making some changes, and experimenting with new policies and guidelines as a community. Also, I wrote the information in the tag wiki, and this hasn't yet been fully discussed with the community:

Questions with this tag should be about a real, actual problem faced by a project manager using a specific software program used in project management.

Question was constructive, but borders being on/off-topic

I thought this was a good, constructive question with a specific problem and enough detail to provide a solid answer.

One one hand, this question could be on topic because it's a question about how to use Trello, both as a Kanban tool as well as to track story points, which seems like something an agile project manager may be interested in. It's also possible that the creators of Trello may or may not have been able to give you the same answer that jcmeloni gave you.

However, at the same time, we don't want PMSE to become a support forum for project management software either. That's not really what Stack Exchange is about, and having too many support questions could diminish the quality of the site. So we'll need to proceed carefully when deciding where to draw the line.

Summary

I don't have a solid answer for you, but for me, the question of whether or not questions like this should be on-topic here should be decided by determining if this is more of a software support question, or more of an agile project management question. This is debatable, and I'm interested to hear from more community members what their thoughts are.

Is this a support question or a PM question? If it's a PM question, where do we draw the line between support and project management?

Thank you for bringing this to meta and getting the discussion started. This is very helpful.

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Tools Are Part of the Job

"Where is the edit menu?" is software support. "How do I perform my job using X?" seems on-topic.

There are certainly gray areas, but I think the site should err on the side of acceptance whenever possible--especially in the early days, when the community is still finding itself--rather than breathing rarified (and rather lonely) air. Discussing process divorced from concrete means to implement that process is an academic exercise, and suitable mostly for fertilizing flower beds.

Just my $0.02.

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@CodeGnome, you bring up some excellent points. How would you recommend we strike a balance in the focus of the site?

We want to be a practical source of information for people who manage projects. However, there is a community of project managers/theorists/hobbyists who are turned-off from the site when they see tool related questions.

  • I'm turned off by C#-related questions. That's why Stack Exchange has tag filters (and @JonSkeet). – Todd A. Jacobs Jul 18 '12 at 14:43
  • @CodeGnome - Tag filters might not be very helpful on a site with 1.6 questions per day, not like on a site where there are hundreds of questions per day. – jmort253 Jul 18 '12 at 15:34
  • @Mark - What do you think about the two examples here? Does that answer the question about the balance? I do feel like, when it comes to tool questions, this is one of the better quality examples. Do you think it's worth reopening or do you think we need more community input? – jmort253 Jul 18 '12 at 20:06
  • What do you think of making more explicit mention of Tags in the FAQs? I see @ZSolt used tags effectively to answer a questioner on pm.stackexchange.com/questions/6195/dos-and-donts-with-clients. – Mark Phillips Jul 19 '12 at 13:47

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