https://superuser.com/q/1090890/31983 became a Hot Network Question, and I answered it, before I noticed that it might actually be off-topic. According to the Help Center, questions about programming are explicitly off-topic for Super User.

Is an abstract question about compiler bootstrapping out of scope for Super User? A moderator encouraged me to raise this question on Meta.

If it is off-topic, where should it be migrated?

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    In the end, it was migrated to Stack Overflow due to close votes. Jun 24, 2016 at 4:40

2 Answers 2


Well, I disagree it's off-topic for Super User. Per our Help Center

Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users. If you have a question about …

  • computer software

And compilers definitely do fall under computer software - and the question specifically asks about how do you compile a compiler using the language it's supposed to be compile, not about writing a compiler that compiles itself.

Would it be a better fit elsewhere - definitely, I think it fits Programmers well(disclaimer, I don't visit that site often, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

Is it off-topic? IMO it's not since the question's about how a compiler compiles itself - not how do you go about writing one such compiler

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    It's perfectly possible and even somewhat desirable for a question to be on-topic on more than one site. Being on-topic on another site is not in and of itself a reason for being off-topic. In this particular case, I feel that the kinds of answers the OP might be getting on Software Engineering or Computer Science might not be what they're looking for, and being able to choose your audience and the direction and level of your answers is exactly one of the advantages of being on-topic on multiple sites. +1 Jun 20, 2016 at 15:07
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    The same considerations apply for cross-site dupes, BTW. Different sites have different audiences and focus their answers on different issues. In my answer, for example, I try to deconstruct the myth that compilers are magical creatures that somehow don't follow the laws of other programs, by pointing out that a compiler is just a program like any other program, and that just like any other program, the compiler can also compile compilers. Had this question been on a different site, I would have answered it very differently. Jun 20, 2016 at 15:11
  • Having the same question on multiple sites is okay. Ideally, they would approach the question from different angles. Jun 20, 2016 at 15:12
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    You're being a bit disingenuous by quoting the Help Center out of context: the second half of the sentence is "and it is not about programming and software development, …". I can accept your opinion that it should remain on topic, but the reasoning is shaky. Could you clarify where to draw the line between programming and non-programming questions, or what kind of questions the "not about programming" rule is intended to exclude? Jun 20, 2016 at 16:38
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    @200_success the question's not about writing a compiler that compiles itself, it's how. Former is programming, latter is not.
    – Sathyajith Bhat Mod
    Jun 20, 2016 at 19:09
  • @Sathya How is the use of a compiler not about software development? What else are you doing with a compiler other than software development? It's not like it's really a multi-purpose tool...
    – corsiKa
    Jun 27, 2016 at 15:38
  • I have had lots of questions that were not a fit for any of the sites. Some got migrated then closed as off-topic in both places. It is not really an ideal system!
    – user488805
    Jun 27, 2016 at 18:29
  • @corsiKa I never said it was not software development..
    – Sathyajith Bhat Mod
    Jun 27, 2016 at 18:32
  • @Sathya Oh. But since the very first line in the "and it's not about" is software development, and we both agree compilers are software development, then the logical conclusion is that compiler usage is off topic here. Unless I'm missing something?
    – corsiKa
    Jun 27, 2016 at 19:27
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    @corsiKa the last line - the question's about how a compiler compiles itself - not how do you go about writing one such compiler
    – Sathyajith Bhat Mod
    Jun 27, 2016 at 19:29
  • @Sathya But that's still about software development making it off topic. Just because it's not about the programming of it specifically doesn't mean it's not about software development. If all software development was just the programming of it, the help center would say "not about programming" instead of "not about programming or software development".
    – corsiKa
    Jun 27, 2016 at 19:46
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    @corsiKa A compiler isn't only about software development. Yes, you use a compiler when you're developing software. However, plenty of people use compilers who don't even know how to do software development/programming - they just receive source code from somewhere else and run make or something similar.
    – doshea
    Jul 25, 2016 at 10:48
  • @doshea Your definition of plenty is vastly different from mine, it appears. Simply no - source code is not for 'power users' as this site is intended. If you're compiling your from source, you have moved past 'power user'. If a power user does compiling, they probably don't know it - their installer probably came with some source, it does a make or whatever in the background. The user isn't doing the compile - the user is doing the install which happens to have some compile tasks. Compilers are not end user programs.
    – corsiKa
    Jul 25, 2016 at 15:02

It certainly isn't a question that concerns end users of computers, so I consider it to be a question about programming. That makes it off-topic for Super User, in my opinion.

As for migration…

It's probably too abstract for Stack Overflow.

It might be acceptable for Programmers, since it is a conceptual question about software development. Similar questions are:

It could belong on Computer Science. It closely resembles How can a compiler compile itself?.

  • A compiled is computer software, how you a compiler works, is a question that is on topic here.
    – Ramhound
    Jun 20, 2016 at 11:31
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    I agree with Ramhound. Compilers are used by programmers, but the question isn't about programming, it's about how the software works. Similarly, the vast majority of C++ questions would be off-topic here, but this would be the place to ask one about a problem installing that software on your computer. As for your examples, lots of questions are on-topic on multiple sites. There could be another site where a question might be closer to their core subject matter, but there is no requirement to post it there if it's on-topic here.
    – fixer1234
    Jun 20, 2016 at 13:57
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    @fixer1234: Indeed, being on-topic on a different site, even if it fits that site's core subject matter perfectly and is only barely on-topic here, does not make the question off-topic, and there is no rule that says to must post a question to the best-fitting site. A certain amount of "forum shopping" is okay, choose the site which is most likely to give you the kind of answer you seek. I would expect this question to have very different answers on Software Engineering, Computer Science and here, and the OP may not be interested in the kinds of answers (or even be able to comprehend them) over there. Jun 20, 2016 at 21:37
  • It's not a question about programming, but it is definitely a question about software development which is explicitly nixxed in the faq.
    – corsiKa
    Jun 27, 2016 at 19:47

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