We had some discussion about if this question is offtopic: How to read data from multiple excel sheets, where each sheet has Unique Column count - Selenium(Java)

I think it is offtopic because it is clearly a lack of programming skills question. Moro argues it is a on topic question because the programming error occurs during the implementation of a testing framework. He compares this to Selenium coding error questions, where null pointer exceptions are caused by coding errors and not the Selenium usage itself.

What should be the line between closing coding error questions and helping people developing testing frameworks.

3 Answers 3


Marking this off-topic is consistent with other SQA questions. "It's about something I do when I write automated tests" is a poor litmus test because there is a big overlap between developing automated tests and other kinds of programming. The litmus test I try to use is, "Is this specific to testing?"

Here are some other things you might do in the course of developing automation: interpret Java compilation errors, or use the jq command, or install a MySQL server. I might come to Stack Overflow or Stack Exchange for help with any of those, but none of them are specific to testing.

  • I respectfully disagree. I see nothing wrong with overlap between the sites. I would prefer the litmus test of "Is this used by a testing professional in the course of their work?" While they may indeed get a faster response on SO, I certainly expect they will get a reasonable response here. Of course, all this is my user-perspective, not moderator-perspective. This is something that should be driven by the community, and I would of course oblige even if I personally disagree. I probably wouldn't even leave snarky comments to that effect... no guarantees tho =)
    – corsiKa Mod
    May 13, 2019 at 16:57
  • This is especially true considering the historical context of there being a standalone Selenium site that got absorbed into the SQA site. Thus, literally anything to do with Selenium should be forever and fully on topic on this site. It seems illogical from that stand point to isolate just Selenium, but rather to extend it to all automated testing frameworks.
    – corsiKa Mod
    May 13, 2019 at 16:58
  • 1
    Personally, I think the average quality of questions on this site would go way up if there was a standalone Selenium site. Most of these end up being off-topic due to low quality/lack of research versus the actual topic, and in the case of the question in question, that's why I voted to close it.
    – c32hedge
    May 15, 2019 at 16:02

Personally (not as a moderator) I lean towards leniency since it's pretty clear that we have people asking coding questions who have very little programming knowledge. As a moderator, it can be irritating seeing coding questions where some basic code knowledge would have answered the question.

I suspect if these questions were redirected to Stack Overflow they would be closed quickly because there's no evidence of research and that site has much higher standards for code questions - basic questions like a null pointer exceptions or index out of bounds errors tend to be downvoted to oblivion before being closed.

If I or one of the other mods gets the time, an additional FAQ item would be a good idea, I think - one that says what should be in a coding question and what makes a good "My code doesn't work" question.

Generally, I'd say the first time a user posts a "my code doesn't work" question with no evidence of research or attempts to fix, ask what they've tried and where they've looked for answers, then politely point out that this is a basic code question, and perhaps the asker should be working through one of the many tutorial sites out there. If that user keeps asking basic code questions with no attempt to research, then start the close votes.

This is, of course, just my opinion.

  • I also had this thought, redirecting to stackoverflow does not really help in general, it might even frustrate new users. Instead of adding a FAQ only, could we also add a default options for closing? May 13, 2019 at 11:58
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    @NielsvanReijmersdal there already is one--if you select "off-topic" one of the options is "Questions seeking debugging help ("why isn't this code working?") must include the desired behavior, a specific problem or error and the shortest code necessary to reproduce it in the question itself. Questions without a clear problem statement are not useful to other readers."
    – c32hedge
    May 13, 2019 at 17:07
  • I think I would lean toward leniency as well. However, in my mind there is a clear difference between a general programming question (reading data from excel sheets) and programming questions specific to testing tools and libraries (selenium, cypress, testNG, etc...) So while I'd probably let this example slide, it's to the point where I'd feel uncomfortable about it.
    – mrfreester
    May 14, 2019 at 22:04

It is a coding question asked by a test automation engineer that is developing a data driven approach for his Selenium based framework. I would say it belongs here as much as on Stack Overflow, as if we divide people into developers and testers - the usual developer does not have to know what data driven testing is, but he will surely know what the IndexOutOFBounds exception means.

The thing is that plenty of test automation developers can stumble on the same issue, as the IndexOutOfBounds is very common error when traversing an array like structure of excel file. I would keep it here because of the context in which it was asked.

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