In this post on meta, I suggested that

programming-related questions should be on topic, provided that they require some amount of OR-related expertise

and implied that questions about, say, connecting to a solver's API, solver installation issues, or importing data from SQL to a modeling language should be off-topic, even if they relate to OR software like GAMS, PuLP, or COIN-OR.

We have at least one such question already, (currently on-hold as off-topic), and this meta question suggests that maybe we should consider such questions on-topic.

So I'm revisiting this question: Should questions about OR software be on-topic, even if they are not actually OR questions?

An argument in favor of considering such questions on-topic is that the people who design and use OR software packages are (we hope) going to be hanging out at OR.SE, so this will be the easiest and most natural place to connect askers with answerers.

An argument against is that these could be considered programming questions, not OR questions, and should therefore find a home on Stack Overflow instead.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think we should take a broad, flexible and perhaps evolving tent approach as to what's on topic on OR SE, just as I do for OR itself. Many questions are on topic at multiple SE sites, not to mention non-SE sites. Certain questions might be better off at specialized forums, such as CPLEX Forum, but I would'n;t downvote or vote to close CPLEX questions on OR SE. All COIN-OR questions should be on topic and encourage at OR SE because there is no other effective forum for them. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ It would be helpful if we had an MCVE magic link (see the comments) and associated help page if we are accepting troubleshooting questions. Instead of closing for too broad or unclear (even OT) we need a link to say what the minimum is for our site (rather than relying on the reprex from Stack Overflow). $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Rob agree. I can take a crack at writing that, at some point, unless someone else wants to. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Rob How do we get a page like that added to our Help center? And in general do we need to start thinking about the contents of Help? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ Larry we would write a Meta request to have it added (as-is copy from SO, or another site that has a better (more applicable) one) by RobC and add a link to it in the Main Help page (along with a comment that it was copied from another site, and needs editing). Later, after we have a Mod (and yet another Meta discussion about the contents) the new Moderators would edit it to fit our site. $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ 2nd: On the SO site (and others) the Help has been customized for the site (instead of the generic template). That seems like one page we need now, if there are a bunch of pages that new sites ought to have had included (and it must be generally applicable) then that's a post for the Main Meta. We should think about our help pages but as a Beta site we will be limited as to how much extra work RobC wants to do and keep the requests to what is essential. If we are accepting troubleshooting questions we should offer help before flagging to close (because it's polite and welcoming). $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Rob Do you think we should also add help pages for or.meta.stackexchange.com/a/155/38 and or.meta.stackexchange.com/a/111/38? If so, we might as well ask RobC to do all 3 in one fell swoop. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, and this one too. $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Rob oh wait, are you considering mcve and troubleshooting as two separate pages? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ If you open Stack Overflow's Asking help index and OR's Asking help index in separate tabs you'll notice that we have 15 links and SO has 16 links; so subject to revisions to SO's help it's quite similar to the structure of the original template. We'd probably need to combine MCVE with whatever else you are planning on adding; there will be a limit to what RobC wants to commit to because other sites will say: "... but OR has it, why can't we?". $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 21:14

2 Answers 2


OR researchers use tools like the ones in COIN-OR a lot. I can imagine that disallowing questions specifically about them would prevent a lot of good and highly useful questions from being asked.

A lot of OR researchers are probably going to find Connecting to the CPLEX remote API with julia useful. It's also on-topic for Stack Overflow because it requires quite a bit of programming knowledge, but it should also be on-topic here because it's related to OR and will probably be useful to OR researchers.

There's one more important factor to think about: will the question benefit programmers in areas outside of Operations Research? For example, if you're asking a question about a general programming tool that you just happen to be using for Operations Research, it would be better to ask on Stack Overflow if it's likely to benefit non-OR programmers as well.

So ask yourself these questions:

Will it likely be useful to other Operations Researchers?

Will it likely be useful to non Operations Research programmers?

If the answer to the first question is "yes" and the second one is "no", then it should be on-topic.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ (+1) for providing a test w/ actionable guidance. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 16:54

Questions about OR software can be on-topic, but it should be clear what is being asked.

If someone has trouble installing a piece of optimization software (e.g. here) it should be clear what the actual problem is and what the OP tried to solve the issue so far.

  • $\begingroup$ "it should be clear what is being asked" & "what the OP tried to solve the issue so far" (+1) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 14:23

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