Area 52: Ideas for new sub-site topics

Are there any QA topics for new sub-sites which you feel strongly about? Something SE doesn’t have, but you think should exist?

Do you think any topics should be consolidated or reorganized in certain ways? For example like uniting some of the math-related sites, or breaking out major tags from Arqade into their own sub-sites, like Minecraft and mods?

Yes: A general Q&A for programmers (for topics not best suited for the programming site, code review or software engineering). Just like the good old Programmers SE (that was repurposed, much to my displeasure).

On the other hand, I strongly feel that SE has too many sites and there are at least a dozen which I don’t see the point. But hey, just my personal, opinionated opinion. Whatever the community wants…

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While obviously not something missing from SE, I think that there should be a separate Q&A about the codidact software. Note that this is separate from meta; on the software Q&A, there could be questions like “I want to use the code for a company-internal Q&A forum; how do I set this up?” or “How do I do X with codidact?” Those are questions about the software and its use, not about the site; the latter would belong on meta (or however we end up calling it).

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The strength/problem with Programmers SE was that it didn’t have a clear scope. In the beginning there was just SO. Then they needed some place to dump all stuff that didn’t fit on SO, so Programmers was born.

Then later down the line, some people tried to organize the site and make it live up to the same strict posting standards as the rest of SE. After that, nobody knew what was on topic an longer and site moderation went haywire, completely arbitrary and subjective. The site turned almost completely useless. This happened a long time before the name change to Software Engineering.

Maybe it wasn’t a bad thing to have a site that allows pretty much any programming-related question, with a high tolerance for a wide range of topics.

What this boils down to as far as MVP is concerned is probably: should we have the same quality standards network-wide, or leave this to the communities? On SE this is in theory left to the communities, but in practice most users float across many different communities and they will bring their quality/scope expectations from one community to the next. So maybe a “lax scope” site like “Programmers” is doomed to fail, if it sits next to a site like SO, because the culture will spill over across the sites.

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Sites with broad scopes (like Programmers) should exist alongside the sites with narrow scopes.

Stack Exchange has what I will call a vote-to-close culture. I don’t think a vote-to-close culture, specifically a culture of closing questions as off-topic, should be a model to imitate. If every off-topic question about programming were moved from “Coding” to “Programmers” (and the same with non-programming sites), that would be an improvement.

In other words, a culture of categorization instead of a culture of closing. A question outside of scope shouldn’t be an issue for a multi-site network, because somewhere in the internet there is a community for every kind of question. If the question is high quality, don’t close it for technical legalistic reasons.

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In that context, copying some of my earlier comments on Discord (https://discordapp.com/channels/634104110131445811/634105527495819281/636859909895356426, https://discordapp.com/channels/634104110131445811/634105527495819281/636860124912287784, https://discordapp.com/channels/634104110131445811/634105527495819281/636860913273536512):

However I think there’s a point to have a system similar to the de.ALL hierarchy in Usenet: There the principle was that there was a correct place for any topic; if there’s no other group, it still fits in de.etc.misc. Translated into Q&A, it means there’s a site for any question; so an off-topic question can always be migrated to the right place.

Thinking about it, also the hierarchic model could be adopted.

Such a hierarchic organization of sites would also allow an alternative to SE’s Area51: It would simply mean, create a new topic sub-site if a certain tag gets used so much that a separate site makes sense. So you’d have the “root site” in which every question is on-topic that is not covered in a more specific site, and then sub-sites for topics that are large enough to get their own site. Sub-topics of those can get their own sub-site.
One might also consider whether “cross-posting” questions should be allowed. For example, a questions about accessing MySQL from C++ could be on-topic both on a programming and a database specific sub-site.

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I think some of the error and frustration in SE has to do with too much segmentation. It started well, but as technology morphed and matured, what was a significant difference in the past was no longer as meaningful.

For instance, Superuser, where I’ve spent the majority of my time and effort considers questions about Web Apps off topic, but for Google Docs most who use it are expecting it to replace real desktop applications which are entirely on topic there, while GDocs is off topic.

I’m not sure if there is a strong argument to be made for such delineation now as many web sites behave like applications.

At the same time, web applications such as WordPress are not like local software and really share much more in their use and management with the work of a webmaster.

Topics like Android and IOS are categories unlikely to ever merge, but again, at the same time, certain of the issues are generic to Mobile, and common across these platforms.

Questions about servers and enterprise applications and systems are generally seperate from issues by home users, but again, software is software and hardware is hardware, and much between these is shared.

How to draw these lines, or whether to draw them at all, I simply cannot say, but I do believe that broader categories will result in removing much of the frustration of the massive selection of SE sites with their confusing or even competing topics, and will be more applicable going forward as technology continues to change.

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It is not our place to tell communities what topics they must or must not include in their scopes. Communities should be allowed to self-form, and if a community wants to reorganize, we should allow that. If, hypothetically, Super User wants to come over from SE as-is, that should be fine. If Super User wants to come over and take the opportunity to adjust its scope, that’s fine. If Super User is happy on SE but a subset of the community wants a site here on a narrower or different scope, that should be fine.

We should not impose scope, categorization, or hierarchy on the communities our instance hosts. We should work together with them to set up something that works for all involved, including (if needed) helping to mediate scope-boundary issues among sites.

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@Lundin: I’m sure to have read something very similar to what you wrote in the first paragraph, somewhere over the SE network at some point.

In my opinion, this was the problem…

And this, I couldn’t agree more with. ^^

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A couple comments after reading through the thread:
I didn’t know de.ALL, but I agree with @celtschk’s idea. Have a dead-letter office community where questions go to be sorted, categorised, looked at by experts after the regular process comes up short (we could call it Vetinari). And think of it like this, ie that it’s not the question that is ‘lacking’, but the process to get it answered.

The whole ‘doesn’t belong here - VTC’ issue might be solved by allowing questions to be cross-posted. I think if this is done cleverly, it could solve a whole range of problems: the ‘wrong community’ issue, X/Y questions, complex problems with answers from different areas (SU: configure apache like so; DB: change the primary key type to bigint; SO: change the OR (II) to AND (&&) in your login check loop.

I don’t like cross-posting - it either requires a lot more complexity in the database (Q actually linked to 2 different communities) or ends up splitting things because answers, comments, votes, etc. end up in 2 different places.

What I do like - and have advocated for in SE and in the planning here - is a simpler & faster method for Migration. Migration can be handled technically very easily and can be made much more user-friendly than it currently is in SE. There are concerns about:

  • Migrating a “bad” (poorly written, incomplete, etc.) question just moves the problem elsewhere
  • Migrating a question written for (but somewhat off-topic) one site to a different (not originally intended) site will just make it off-topic in a different way on the new site.

I think that many questions can be migrated successfully, perhaps with a little TLC along the way to clean them up. But right now in DIY SE, for example, a question might be appropriate for Electrical Engineering (and the reverse happens too), and there is no clear way to say “Vote to migrate it to Electrical Engineering”.

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Why should we allow migration though? Look for the root of the problem: the OP posted an off-topic question on the wrong site, which in turn means that it was hard for them to know which site was the appropriate one.

I don’t blame them, because there is no easy overview of all SE sites. If there was a single “master page” containing all sites and a brief description what’s on-topic where, it would go a long way. Or possibly having the “ask a question wizard” send them in the right direction. I’d like to see something along the lines of this:

I have a electronics-related problem. Which site should I post at?

  • If it is about electrical engineering, electronics design, embedded system design, electronics theory, firmware, soldering or about tools used by electrical engineers, post at Electrical Engineering.
  • If it is about electrical installations in your home, post at DIY/Home Improvement.
  • If it is about electrical problems in your car, post at Mechanics.
  • If it is about the Arduino tool chain, Arduino accessories or Arduino firmware, post at Arduino.
  • If it is about fixing hardware in your PC, post at Super User.

And so on. A brief overview of related sites. Similarly, off-topic scenarios could be listed too. “Don’t post at Electrical Engineering if you are looking for product/shopping recommendations” etc.

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I’ve seen community-driven migration on SE go wrong more than it goes right. I think (and have opined on Meta.SE that migration, if supported at all, should be controlled by the asker only. The owner of the question should be the one who controls where it ends up. If it’s posted in the wrong place, the community should provide guidance and the interface should help the OP to move it, in a way similar to the duplicate UI where the options are presented to the OP and the OP can either say “yup, I agree”, or “no, let me clarify in an edit”.

In addition, I think we’re going to end up with variation in community standards, so users on site A will not necessarily be good judges of whether this is a good question for site B. That already happens on SE, and I have the impression that we’re probably going to allow more variation. (We’re at least going to allow more per-community customization.)

Give the OP the needed information, and also the control.

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Two main points:

1 - As far as “user should know where to go”. The typical new user finds a site via a search engine by searching on keywords of their potential question. There is plenty of room for overlap - using DIY & Electrical Engineering as an example, electrical questions can easily end up in the wrong place based on keyword searches because plenty of mains wiring (120V and 240V) that all belongs on DIY will match with questions on EE because of Q&A about transformers and power supply design on EE. Similarly, questions about building a device power supply may match up with keywords on DIY even though that is off-topic for DIY but on-topic for EE. Confusion will happen, we need to deal with it. Simply telling the user to “go away, we don’t want you here” (IMHO, that is what Close says to people) is simply wrong if there is a reasonable alternative community within our instance. You can’t expect people to read & understand the topics of sites when asking their first (usually urgent!) question - it is hard enough to get them to understand not to post an Answer when they should be posting a new Question.

2 - I know community-driven migration can go wrong. Just like Close votes and other things (and Close votes can be undone by Reopening - if a migration goes wrong it is really a mess (conceptually, not technically) to move it back). But at the same time, the new user really doesn’t know what to do or how to do it. Maybe the process should be something like:

  • User posts question in (arguably) the wrong place
  • Instead of being treated as “Close off-topic”, there should be a very clear “Migration” option high-privilege users (‘x’ high-privilege and/or 1 moderator to trigger the next action). That should include ALL practical/logical community sites - that is one of my big complaints about SE - e.g., DIY should include not just DIY Meta (the only option now) but also Electrical Engineering, Woodworking, Gardening & Landscaping and probably a few others. It could be (just as with Close Reasons and other things) that different high-privilege users may make different recommendations.
  • Message goes “On Hold” until OP responds. Allow Comments but no new Answers.
  • OP gets a notification about the Recommended Migration. This should present together with the Question, any comments made by other users and a description of each of the recommended community(ies).
  • OP can choose to accept a recommendation, in which case:
    • OP automatically registered for the new Community (unless already registered)
    • Question (and by definition all linked content) is Migrated, with a message added that “This was migrated from…”
  • OP can choose to decline the recommendation, in which case the Question is Closed as Off-Topic with the Recommended Migration details noted. If OP edits the question to make it more On-Topic for the original (and still current) Community, the question could be reopened through the usual process.
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Depends on what quality standards you set. I haven’t had my first question closed on any SE site yet, simply because I tried to read what was on-topic before I posted.

If your expectations on new users are “barely literate, cannot follow simple instructions, cannot respect the site they are using, cannot respect people answering questions free of charge” then sure, you don’t expect much of them at all… But why would you not tell disrespectful people to “go away, we don’t want you here”.

The real world equivalence of such rude behavior would be “damn, there’s a problem with the 230VAC mains in my house” -> run around aimlessly in the city looking for help -> stumbling upon a store saying “home electronics” -> entering through the back door -> starting to ask everyone you meet if they can help you fix your mains problem. No they cannot, because that was not the meaning of home electronics. What the store is about is pretty obvious by reading the sign on the door to the shopfront. And customers with questions are expected to enter through that front door. No staff in the electronics store is obliged to give free help to some random confused person running around in the staff-only area. More likely they will consider it rude and tell the person “go away, we don’t want you here”.

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Exactly. We don’t want every random person with an internet connection. We want only those that post good content. Chasing away bad question askers is necessary to keep a good site. Experience has shown that as long as good answers can be had, there will be no shortage of askers. Turning away a bad user doesn’t do anything to discourage good users. In fact, it probably helps by raising the signal to noise ratio.

Let’s also keep in perspective that asking good questions really isn’t that hard. Whenever you join a new group, whether on the internet or in daily life, it’s on you to learn the norms and conform to them when new. That’s just common sense and courtesy.

I just checked, and I asked 30 questions on SE over 11 sites, and not a single one of them was closed. It wasn’t hard. Whenever I got to a new site, I read thru the rules and looked at some existing questions before asking my own. Those are very reasonable things to ask anyone to do before posting on a new site. I didn’t find it burdensome. If someone thinks that’s too much to ask, they are likely the kind of person who we don’t want anyway.

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I don’t think this is true. On Photography, questions about photography rather than engineering questions about sensor construction are routinely punished (see this, relatively recently), and as a result, we have no shortage of incoming engineering questions and a definite shortage of the actual photography ones.

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I think that’s a different issue. The key to avoiding the problem you describe is to ensure that the whole community has the same expectations of what’s on-topic and what isn’t. Otherwise “helpful” user moderators with their own narrow on-topic agenda will kill the site. The same thing happened to Programmers, where nobody had a clue what was on-topic, and so all manner of programming questions were suddenly no longer allowed, which in turn killed the site.

Those kind of subjective topics are not a good fit for the Q&A format. There is clearly some disagreement among the users whether they should be more allowed on that site or not. I probably would have voted to close that question too, not because it is a bad question in general, but a bad question for that site. Feedback on artsy stuff is better suited for a more open discussion format, which SE isn’t.

Which actually proves the point that for reasonably mature sites that have been “found” by the masses, there are no shortage of questions that match the site as defined by the preponderance of active users.

Which actually proves the point that for reasonably mature sites that have been “found” by the masses, there are no shortage of questions that match the site as defined by the preponderance of active users .

The thing is, the site really is dying off. There’s only a handful of very active users — all of us really more interested in the subjective side.

So, yeah, actually, let me put that flag on the hill here: I’d love for this to be a Q&A site which is able to handle “artsy stuff” in a way that Stack Exchange isn’t.

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