I recently posted a question which got put on hold as being off topic. I since edited my question but it initialy went like that:

I need to name a configuration value that describes how much time a "session" lives on its own before it is either destroyed automatically or joined by at least one user.

I initially thought of session_lifespan but that does not convey the appropriate meaning: it refers to the maximum duration the session will live, regardless of whether somebody joined it.

What is a good word or expression for such a concept ?

Somebody mentionned that questions asking for names for "progamming thingies" were off-topic: fair-enough. It's my fault after all for not reading the rules beforehand.

I edited my question to remove all programming related references, which then looked like this (pasted here to ease comparison):

I need to find a term that describes how much time an "entity" lives on its own before it is either destroyed automatically or becomes "used" (which implicitely prevents its destruction).

I initially thought of entity lifespan but that does not convey the appropriate meaning: it refers to the maximum duration the entity will live, regardless of whether somebody started to use it.

What is a good word or expression for such a concept ?

I've read this question which states why asking for variable names does not fit English StackExchange and I actually agree with the community-approved rationale.

However, something still feels a bit off here:

  • while my question indeed mentioned a programming-related context, it could easily be reworded to be programming-agnostic. I merely mentionned my goal to eventually provide some context (You won't define crane the same way if I tell you I use it to lift something or if I tell you I need to feed it every morning).
  • the few technical terms that were present in the initial version were probably not a barrier to understanding the question: the notion of session is not really programming-specific for instance.
  • the reworded question basically asks for the same thing but I feel like it's abstract formulation makes it harder for people to grasp the exact nature of what's asked.
  • in the end, I feel it shouldn't matter whether I need the expression to name a variable in a configuration file or a concept in fan-fiction novel.
  • if I have some naming constraints due to size, programming language or company policy, then I agree this has nothing to do here and is ultimately my problem. Note that this wasn't the case here.

Ultimately, the word I was looking for was unclaimed, which is not programming-specific (not that many words are anyway).

I'd really like to be a good citizen here and I fail to see how I should have asked my question.

Could someone define more clearly the line between: "it doesn't belong here" and "programming is just a context here" ? Should I always remove any programming context before asking how to name a thing in order to comply with the community rules ?

  • You may be interested in this question about the "not-empty set".
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Mar 7, 2015 at 0:34
  • @AndrewLeach: Interested, definitely. Although I fail to see what exactly I should conclude from this reading. A thing I see though is that people who voted to close my question were debating on case issues (which I would argue is clearly off-topic) so I'm a bit confused to be honest.
    – ereOn
    Commented Mar 7, 2015 at 3:45
  • The point is that the question should be programming-agnostic. If it can be reworded so it's not about programming, it's less likely to be closed. The other example demonstrates it's possible to rework a technical question so its entirely non-technical and just about English. (It was at 4/5 close votes before the edit, so I wasn't particularly surprised it was closed anyway; but had it been asked that way in the first place, it would have been closed far more slowly, if at all.)
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Mar 7, 2015 at 8:45
  • @AndrewLeach: I see now. Indeed, it is a good example on how to reword a question. I'm just not comfortable with lying about the real context of things just to get an answer. It feels to me like if a mathematician went on to ask something similar but in a mathematical context, the question would still be answered yet the underlying situation would be the same. I guess the specific rule is mainly here to prevent massive flows of questions like "Should I name my variable EmptySet or set_that_is_empty ?".
    – ereOn
    Commented Mar 7, 2015 at 15:14
  • Just so. Equally valid along with those names is Susan. It works just as well.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Mar 7, 2015 at 15:26

1 Answer 1


If the name of the term really is important to you then you would have to remove all programming context, because people will justifiably say 'it doesn't matter what you call it'.

It's akin to asking, "In my story, should I call my main character 'John' or 'Richard'?" The answers you will get (if any) will be subjective and therefore of no value.

You would have to be creative and remove all programming context and may, as a result, get a wider range of answers.

For example, you could say you are constructing an alien world where one of the lifeforms has a relatively short set lifespan, unless it it finds a mate. I need to refer to that period of jeopardy. What term would fit? I thought of 'entity lifespan' but doesn't convey the appropriate meaning.

Or, I'm writing a story about slavery set in the future. The slaves are put on a carousel and if they make more than 6 cycles and remain unsold they are taken away and destroyed. What could I call that period when they are 'on the carousel'?

How about 'unclaimed'? Like at the airport.

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