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Too many SE sites causes confusion
Are we creating too many different Stack Exchange sites?

An answer to this question made me realize just how spread out our programming content is.

We have:

I can see having some separation between sites, such as dba.se and p.se, however I feel there isn't enough special interest groups to validate having some of the other sites.

Personally I find UI questions, code-review questions, programming-related career questions, programming-related productivity questions, code-golf questions, and project management questions interesting, but I am not going to create 6 more accounts and visit 6 more websites to keep up with them. I currently frequent 2 programming-related stackexchange sites (SO and P.SE), and have recently started visiting dba.se a bit more, and feel that keeping up with 3 programming-related sites is about my limit.

One of my biggest frustrations with P.SE is so many interesting questions get closed as off-topic, or get migrated elsewhere, and I don't get a chance to keep up with the answers to them. I used to go to P.SE for all my programmer-related questions, but I can no longer do that.

Perhaps it would be more beneficial to have fewer sites, and to make better use of the tag system to separate broad question categories. We could even have separate moderators for the big tag categories.

Personally for me on SO, I mainly watch broad categories of tags like and . I definitely don't search tags by stuff like or . This works out great because I can be happy following questions that are relevant to me, but if I find another question that is interesting, I can keep track of it and follow it without having to leave the site.

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marked as duplicate by Mark Trapp, Sathya, Adam Davis, Michael Mrozek, animuson Feb 23 '12 at 6:10

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Some of those topics are tangentially related to programming at best. Project management, Workplace, and Productivity are not programming at all. –  Bill the Lizard Feb 23 '12 at 4:34
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Super User doesn't deal with app programming at all –  random Feb 23 '12 at 4:40
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Stack Exchange: jack of all trades, master of none. –  casperOne Feb 23 '12 at 4:41
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You forgot about all of the "Stack Overflow in your Native Language" sites, although I think most of them are still just in the proposal phase. Oh yeah, and Pro Webmasters. As others have pointed out, some of your examples aren't very good ones, but it does seem like we're spreading programming questions out needlessly across the network. There are indeed a lot of questions on SO, but they don't bother me because I only look at the questions with tags I'm interested in. I don't see why allowing database questions, etc. would be a problem, as long as they were correctly categorized by tag. –  Cody Gray Feb 23 '12 at 4:43
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I couldn't agree more. Often if you use the word 'database' in your post and it's not a question that lends itself to a consice code example so you don't put one... then some user is inevitably going to see it and think "Oh, that looks like a better fit for DBA.SE" (nevermind that it was a fully acceptable SO question too) and then your question gets relegated to a site where it get's 1/10th the exposure and won't get seen by the experts you wanted to be answering your question. –  Brandon Moore Feb 23 '12 at 5:26
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@BrandonMoore Relegated? That's quite unfair to the DBA.SE crowd, they are doing an excellent job... –  Yannis Feb 23 '12 at 5:28
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@YannisRizos Don't take it personally, but it is what it is. Let's say you have a question that 10 people could answer equally well. If one of them watches DBA and the other nine watch SO then where would you want your question to be? What's 'unfair' is sending a legitimate question there just because you can. And I've found multiple times that users will ignore the faq and defend themselves under the guise of the 'community' so it's no use trying to do anything about it when it happens to you. –  Brandon Moore Feb 23 '12 at 5:38
    
@BrandonMoore DBA, honestly. Similarly to how I want all my whiteboard questions to be on Programmers and not Stack Overflow. Remember, as the asker I only need one good answer, not ten. What I certainly don't want is my good question getting lost in an ocean of crap (sorry SOpedians), or my crappy question floating over good ones... –  Yannis Feb 23 '12 at 5:45
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@YannisRizos That DBA guy may not look at the site for three days whereas it's likely at least one of the SO guys will be available to answer every day. You are like my best friend who, rather than answering logically, chooses to believe the answer that best supports whatever he's already said. The thing is, most users of these sites are not idealists like you... they are just people trying to get answers to their questions and they could care less where it comes from so long as they get it. –  Brandon Moore Feb 23 '12 at 5:52
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@BrandonMoore Hmmm... Perhaps you should at least create a DBA account before formulating an opinion for the site... Your best friend sounds like a very nice guy :) –  Yannis Feb 23 '12 at 5:59
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@YannisRizos Ha, clearly you don't know him :) But you proved my point: You judge subjectively. –  Brandon Moore Feb 23 '12 at 6:29
    
Again, not really a duplicate. The others complaints are much more general –  Casebash Mar 22 '12 at 1:32

2 Answers 2

One of the key difficulties any crowd-sourcing knowledge site has is attracting and retaining experts. Not merely professionals, but people who live and breathe their craft.

The most significant reason such experts give when they leave a community is that the signal to noise ratio is terrible. That doesn't mean the topics are terrible, what it means is that the depth of the site is less in the area they care about, and the breadth has increased in areas they don't care about.

Stack Overflow was started on the premise that if it could maintain a laser-sharp focus on a single topic - programming problems that could be solved with code - then it could attract and retain passionate programmers.

For professionals and hobbyists, perhaps a greater breadth would be more "interesting" but it would only be seen as useless cruft by many of the experts who want to code.

User Interface design is distinctly different than programming to both a programming expert and to a UI expert. An amateur, and even some professional, programmers might view them as "close enough" but by combining them you're going to annoy both the programming experts and the UI experts.

While tagging has helped customize the front page for each person, if we allow, for instance, "What is a good UI element for someitem X" which is tagged Java because it's for a java ui, then you're going to annoy the java experts who don't care about UI. If someone asks, "Why isn't control frobulator Y working?" that's tagged ui because it's a ui element, you're going to annoy the user interface experts who don't care about API details.

Further, the programmers will vote according to their perspective while the ui experts will vote according to theirs. That may seem like a little thing, but when the first question above gets a simplistic answer from a programmer about the easiest control to implement, but the ui expert submits a much better control which is difficult to implement, you'll find a schism in voting, and possible arguing, about which is more "correct".

And the thing is, they're both correct within their own realm of expertise.

The key point is laid out in the Area51 FAQ:

In general, if a site makes sense as part of a bigger site, it's better to have one big site than a bunch of little niche sites. Site X should be subsumed by site Y if:

  • Almost all X questions are on-topic for site Y
  • If Y already exists, it already has a tag for X, and nobody is complaining
  • You're not creating such a big group that you don't have enough experts to answer all possible questions
  • There's a high probability that users of site Y would enjoy seeing the occasional question about X

For more information, read the post Merging Season on the blog.

The sites are keyed off of expertise. If you are a passionate expert in 5+ areas, then I can see how this might be annoying to keep track of each different site. Hopefully you'll find the RSS feeds sufficient. If not then consider creating a stackapp that allows you to interact with all the sites you enjoy through your own custom interface.

If you are a professional or amateur in these areas, then consider that when you ask a difficult question, it's probably going to be an expert that gives you your answer, an expert that would be annoyed at having to wade through 50% questions they have no interest in just to find yours.

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Now please take the time to complain about my simplistic use of the words "expert" "professional" and "amateur" and lack of a clear definition of them, as well as lack of acknowledgement that there is a great deal of overlap between them. –  Adam Davis Feb 23 '12 at 5:11
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I suppose my issue comes from the fact that I don't consider myself an expert. I'm still learning, and the SE sites have helped me learn a lot. I'm willing to accept any answer, not just an expert's answer. Despite not being an expert, I also feel I can still give good answers to questions. There are far more amateurs than experts, and I doubt the experts could keep up without the amateurs, so I feel intelligent amateurs are needed too. I'm a bit disappointed that SE would rather make a small number of experts happy than a larger number of intelligent amateurs, however I can understand that. –  Rachel Feb 23 '12 at 13:44
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@Rachel So you believe that the amateurs are currently unhappy with the sharp focus of the sites, and that even if they focus on programming they wouldn't find UI questions "noise"? While I use "expert" as the keystone, I've noticed that amateurs specialize just as much as experts - how do you think experts are made? But if you just want one big mish-mash of everything that might be interesting to every amateur, try yahoo answers or quora. They allow anything and everything. –  Adam Davis Feb 23 '12 at 15:19
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I'm not suggesting we get rid of all sites I listed, but I am questioning why we need so many different sites when a typical user is usually able to contribute to quite a few of them. I would personally prefer to see some SE sites to accept a broader range of questions, and have those ranges clearly defined within the parent site using tags. This is just my point of view, and I asked this question question to try and figure out if I was in the minority or not. Your answer is still helpful to me as it helped me see the opposing point of view of stack exchange users. –  Rachel Feb 23 '12 at 15:56
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@rachel it's not so much "opposing point of view" as "what you're proposing has been proven to break down over and over again" The only thing we've seen work, and scale, on the actual world wide web as we know it, is topic specific communities. Y'know, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is. –  Jeff Atwood Feb 28 '12 at 12:54
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"Proven"? So if it wasn't for Programmers.SE then SO would "break down"? I call BS. –  jalf Mar 1 '12 at 19:24
    
@jalf Go get a good programming answer on Yahoo answers. Or quora. Or any other "general topic" answer site. This is the breakdown Jeff is speaking of - expert sites work better for both the expert and the new user. SO was fine prior to p.se, and if p.se went away so would still be fine. –  Adam Davis Mar 1 '12 at 19:28
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@AdamDavis: well, then he's going off topic, because the question was about programming content, not any content at all. –  jalf Mar 1 '12 at 19:58

Well, I'm having the exact opposite problem ;)

I've given up on Stack Overflow because it's too big for my taste, a chaotic wilderness where I can look for hours without finding a single question that interests me. On the other hand, almost every day I find at least one new question on Programmers that I find both useful and interesting (and sometimes even on topic!).

But that's irrelevant, Stack Exchange is not a collection of blogs, a social website or anything scary like that. It's a network of Q&A sites, and the primary role of each site is for actual, practical questions to get expertly answered. Lots of sharply focused sites serve that purpose well, and that's what mostly matters. Whether it's easy to follow interesting content may be important too, but definitely not a priority.

Lastly, from the sites you mention only Stack Overflow, Programmers and Code Review are actually about programming. Since Programmers is no longer the failed experiment it used to be (for a couple of weeks), it can be argued that it overlaps significantly with Stack Overflow. Would you prefer it if we merge with Stack Overflow and get lost in the wilderness?

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You'd get along with my team lead well. He has a degree but little experience and doesn't listen to anyone but himself. He wouldn't do well on Stack Overflow either due to his lack of experience, but I'm sure he could earn tons of rep over on Programmers where he could espouse his untested opinions on subjective questions all day. Too bad for the people like me who get to clean up the messes he makes though. ;) –  Brandon Moore Feb 23 '12 at 6:38
    
FYI, no hard feelings... I'm just giving you hard time. –  Brandon Moore Feb 23 '12 at 6:39
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@BrandonMoore Don't worry about it... Please don't assume I care for what you say or think. ;) –  Yannis Feb 23 '12 at 6:42
    
Haha, were that entirely true you'd have stopped talking already! –  Brandon Moore Feb 23 '12 at 6:45
    
+1 for "sometimes even on topic!" –  AakashM Feb 23 '12 at 9:46

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