What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 127 Stack Exchange communities.

As a software architect I despise it when my customers tell me fixes instead of just telling me what they are having a hard time with, so I'm not going to suggest a fix. I'm going to point out that we have a serious problem with fragmentation in the smaller sites, and hope that you smart folks at Stack Exchange can figure out how to address it.

There was a feature request about a year ago to Introduce sub-communities (or “Portals”) to prevent fragmentation. There was a feature request two years before that for Stack Overflow tag-filtered subsites. Both requests were marked [status-complete] when the facebook.stackoverflow.com mini-site was announced. Another similar question: Stack Exchange: Should some communities simply be "sub-communities" of other sites? didn't get much discussion (that was in response to the proposal to split Ubuntu off of Superuser.)

But there doesn't seem to be any way to request a minisite as an alternative to community fragmentation, I am unaware of any mini-sites other than facebook.stackoverflow.com, and none of the posts requesting the use of mini-sites (for solving fragmentation, or for commercial use) has gotten an inkling of a positive answer from a @AnnaLear or @JeffAtwood.

I understand that the Facebook mini-site may be considered a total failure, but the objective there seemed to be something completely different than avoiding fragmentation of non-commercial communities. (Although perhaps it was intended to avoid the fragmentation caused by sites like mathematica.stackexchange.com and drupal.stackexchange.com?)

But the problem of fragmentation on Area 51 is quite real. And not just for programming problems:

Joel Spolsky pointed it out on his Stack Exchange blog.

The physics folks are currently worried about the astronomy & astrophysics proposal: How can I downvote or counteract in any (democratic) sense the creation of the Astronomy and Astrophysics site? and Why wouldn't this just be part of the existing physics Stack Exchange site?.

Is a mini-site approach a solution to these Area 51 proposals? was posted in 2011 about games.

Here's another recent post on Area 51: http://discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/10156/duplicate-of-it-security-se (and why we need any more fragmentation of Server Fault (138 questions a day) when we already have Database Administrators, IT Security, Webmasters (totalling 65 questions a day), is absolutely beyond me.)

In the CS area we've got: Computer Science and Computational Science and Signal Processing in beta, (and in some ways competing for attention with Theoretical Computer Science's 5.4 questions/day. (And the Computer Science site took about half the [Computer Architecture] traffic from electronics.stackexchange.com.)) And proposals for Machine Learning which some people believe are going to compete with Cross Validated.

(Also, yes I'm aware of: About having a subdomain to stackoverflow and How to build my own XXXX.stackoverflow.com Q&A?, which were both, essentially requests to use the Stack Exchange infrastructure for commercial purposes. That's not what I'm talking about.)

share|improve this question
5  
Isn't the solution to just not have those sites? What other thing are you looking for them to implement? There's a Facebook mini-site because Facebook wanted it, but we don't need an Astrophysics mini-site on Physics to give the astrophysicists someplace to go -- they can just post on Physics –  Michael Mrozek Apr 24 '13 at 16:44
2  
Well, you aren't talking to the company itself (exclusively at least). You're addressing a subset of the userbase, so suggesting a solution would be nice. –  Asad Apr 24 '13 at 16:45
    
@Asad: The only solutions I can think of are just tweaks on mini-sites. But mini-sites are clearly a non-starter (for some reason that few people outside the company understand.) Also: there is clearly a need for the end solution to mesh well with the Area 51 process. Does it mean that the number of sites should be frozen and all new proposals should be for betas of mini-sites? How do we decide if a mini-site beta (or whatever it might end up being) is a success? How does stackexchange monetize these? How do they pay for the dvpt? I'm not qualified to answer any of these. –  Wandering Logic Apr 24 '13 at 18:34
    
@MichaelMrozek, I have no clue why people want to Balkanize stackexchange. But it seems that there is a natural human tendency to do this kind of thing. (And perhaps there is something about Area 51 that further encourages it.) The fact is: there are a dozen overlapping not-very-active sites in beta: stackexchange.com/sites?view=list#technology-questionsperday and stackexchange.com/sites?view=list#science-questionsperday. –  Wandering Logic Apr 24 '13 at 18:41
add comment

2 Answers

I agree that an astro mini site for Physics, an Arduino mini site for EE, and a theoreticalphysics mini site for Physics would be great. Most of the subset sites are created because of an attitude difference, folks don't want to be lumped in with the larger community.

I disagree with the attitude. But I do see that these users form a large part of the userbase for these subtopics, and they may be valuable community members. A lot of folks left after TP.SE closed. Ditto for Arduino, it seems that most people aren't interested in trying to make stuff work on EE.

If there was a mini-site, that would help assuage the concerns of the community members. Note that mini-sites shouldn't be made for just any site proposal, only for those which reach commitment, have significant support, and fail the beta. Here, they keep the beta skin, but the questions are silently shared with the rest of the site. If they get enough popularity, they get their own skin (but are still a mini site)

We don't want a cluttering of mini sites. Just a few where it is needed.

Another option would be to implement something like this, except that it is applied to all questions on one site (more or less the same as the above proposal, actually)

share|improve this answer
    
What do you mean by "make stuff work on EE"? Are the folks there being stubborn about the mini-site? Are Arduino users finding the reception they get at EE unsatisfactory? Does the scope of the site not permit "making stuff work?" Arduino seems like a natural fit for a tag on EE, so if the problem is that Arduino is not perceived as a professional concern, that needs to be addressed somehow. EE suffers a bit from an identity crisis due to its name change; strictly speaking, the site isn't really about Electrical Engineering per se. –  Robert Harvey Apr 24 '13 at 18:40
    
@RobertHarvey: Personally I feel that EE is perfect for Arduino, there are just some rough edges that need smoothening out (cf meta.electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/2777). However, the two main arguments given for Ar.SE were (a) EE is not really receptive of newbie questions (it is, just that a few vocal users aren't), and (b) People wanting to do stuff with Arduino -- who aren't necessarily wanting to learn EE -- will be intimidated by the title and would prefer Arduino.cc and other such fora. –  Manishearth Apr 24 '13 at 18:44
    
Arduino is the top tag on EE, just that the folks who wanted Ar.SE had concerns about the reception of Arduino users on EE. –  Manishearth Apr 24 '13 at 18:44
    
Nice answer from David Kessner. –  Robert Harvey Apr 24 '13 at 18:48
    
@RobertHarvey: Sure. Except there are a few users who are downright hostile to newbies. This is slowly fading away, though, and I'm going to jump in once vacations start to patrol the tag as well. –  Manishearth Apr 24 '13 at 18:52
    
I guess one problem is, what happens if the mini-site wants to accept questions that wouldn't be allowed on the main one? I can imagine an astronomy mini-site that might be happier to accept software recommendation or hardware shopping questions than physics.SE, for example. I suspect that keeping control over allowed questions is one of the main driving forces behind people wanting to create new sites rather than just use the existing ones. This makes me think that soft-migration would be a better idea than sharing all questions. –  Nathaniel Apr 28 '13 at 6:12
    
@Nathaniel: ....except that they don't have control. Shopping questions and such are killed with fire. There are cases when some topics are not on topic on the destination site (case in point: observational astro and astrophotography on Physics), but usually the site absorbs that as well (we did that on Physics, we now suuport the entire astro scope) –  Manishearth Apr 28 '13 at 6:14
1  
@Manishearth yes, that's what I meant. If I was into amateur astronomy (I'm not particularly), I might consider participating in Physics, then become frustrated that certain types of question are "killed with fire", and thus become motivated to try and create a new Astronomy site that's completely separate from Physics, even though apart from those few specific questions it would be a complete subset of Physics. So I think a complete solution to the problem pointed out by Wandering Logic would have to include a way to allow mini-site creators some autonomy over allowed questions. –  Nathaniel Apr 28 '13 at 6:21
    
@Nathaniel: Again, on the mini site they would be killed with fire as well since this is a network policy. Such stuff goes through in the private beta, but gets closed later on. –  Manishearth Apr 28 '13 at 6:29
1  
@Manishearth in practice, sites' implementations of those policies vary wildly. –  Nathaniel Apr 28 '13 at 6:34
    
@Nathaniel: Sort of, true :) –  Manishearth Apr 28 '13 at 6:34
1  
@Manishearth maybe software usage questions would have made a better example. They're completely banned on physics but are definitely allowed on many other SE sites (e.g. you wouldn't get very far on superuser without them) and would quite likely be useful to a hypothetical astro mini-site. –  Nathaniel Apr 28 '13 at 6:40
add comment

Particularly given the physics' site self-definition as a place where people are really quite rough with each other, I don't see why the team should facilitate it's unique ownership of the turf of 'astronomy & astrophysics'. If some other group of people thinks that they can launch a site on those topics with a different ethos, why shouldn't they?

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for pointing out another reason why people often feel they need to create a new site. Is there a technical solution to the problem of unwelcoming ethos, or should we just "live with it?" –  Wandering Logic Apr 25 '13 at 12:26
    
Where have we defined ourselves as a place where we're rough with each other? We've been actively trying to avoid becoming that. –  Manishearth Apr 26 '13 at 21:30
    
add comment

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .