What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 131 Stack Exchange communities.

NOTE: We're not going through and re-evaluating / changing every site name in the network. The guidelines below are what we will use for new sites created going forward, and if the community supports it, we'll be dropping the "& Usage" part of our language sites only. no other names for existing sites are changing.

With 110 sites in the Stack Exchange network, now is a good time for us to think about how our current sites are named and how we should name them going forward.

Obviously, the primary goal of a site name is to reflect the topic and audience for that site. This process begins in Area 51 with the names of proposals. Followers of the proposal sometimes discuss tweaks and refinements to the original names, and the community team generally does a check to make sure that the name is an accurate reflection of the stated purpose of each proposal, but when we step back and look at trends, we realize that we've fallen into a few bad habits:

  1. Some of our site names are pretty outrageously long. "Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair Stack Exchange" doesn't exactly glide off the tongue easily if you want to talk to your friends about the site.
  2. Sometimes our site titles contain words that don't really add anything meaningful to the title. Until now, our language sites have followed the naming convention of "X Language & Usage Stack Exchange", but why? It seemed to make sense at the time, but as we've grown, it's become clear that "& Usage" isn't really necessary. A site about a particular language is, by definition, concerned with the usage of that language — that's where all the questions come from!

Guidelines for new site names

Going forward, we're going to try to keep a few general principles in mind when naming our sites. First and foremost, we want naming sites to be common sense. But on top of that:

  • Names should be as short as possible while clearly capturing sites’ topics.

  • Language sites (with one major exception, which I'll get to in a minute) should generally just be called "X Language Stack Exchange" — we should drop our habit of tacking on "& Usage", and keep the site names short.

  • We should avoid having ampersands (and thus multiple topics) as much as possible, except where absolutely necessary for clarification purposes.

  • The subdomain should match the site title as closely as possible (even if it's not the shortest possible subdomain we could use). We can still create redirects if there's a true need for them.

We typically avoid renaming sites once they've gotten out of Area 51 — and especially if they've graduated and received a custom site design — and that continues to be true. I am not suggesting that we go through and rename the majority of sites that currently exist.

However, one specific group that I'd like to discuss is the language sites.

Revisiting the names of our language sites

We recently launched Italian Language (in private beta at the time of this writing), and its astute users noticed that we dropped the "& Usage" from the name. Going forward, that's the naming scheme we'll use as a default — just "X Language".

I would also like to address the existing language sites. Given that most of them are in beta and therefore wouldn't need a complete redesign to accommodate a name change, I think it's worth standardizing them to the new format by dropping "& Usage" from the title.

There needs to be one major exception to this naming convention, though. I do not propose changing the names of our two English sites; English Language & Usage and English Language Learners should remain as they are. The most obvious reason is because there are two sites whose names are very similar — those extra words are needed to disambiguate the purpose of each site. Furthermore, English Language & Usage is by far our oldest language site, and the only graduated language site; the name has been used for a long time, and changing it now would be more confusing than leaving it as is.

I'm posting an abbreviated version of this proposal to each language site's meta so that each community can have a discussion about its particular concerns, but I wanted to open up a general thread here for discussion of the policy as a whole.

Update 11/25: Thanks for your feedback! We're going to go ahead and drop "& Usage" from the site title of all our language sites except English. Those changes will be made in the next couple of days.


share|improve this question
    
What are are requirements a community needs to fulfill to change their name if the current one is deemed suboptimal. Is it at all possible to substantially change the name of an existing site (this post only mentions rather small changes in name)? –  Mad Scientist Nov 14 '13 at 20:24
    
@MadScientist we have changed site names before as sites evolve, their scopes change and their communities grow. We evaluate these on a case-by-case basis, but in general, we look for an actual naming problem (i.e. existing name is no longer accurate), strong community support for a change and consensus on the new name. –  Pops Nov 14 '13 at 20:29
1  
@MadScientist Name changes are entirely case by case. We only change names if there's a big scope shift and consensus around why the current name doesn't work and what the new name should be. I can only think of two examples: IT Security -> Information Security (recently, and with a ton of discussion internally) and Fitness & Nutrition -> Physical Fitness. –  Laura Nov 14 '13 at 20:30
1  
So this post is not an indication in a policy change? The case I was thinking about was Skeptics -> Citation Needed which was proposed rather early and declined when we graduated (because site name changes at that point were not done). If the policy didn't change, I don't want to sidetrack this any further than I already have –  Mad Scientist Nov 14 '13 at 20:34
    
@MadScientist No, it's not a change in policy regarding boutique names like that. If anything, we're moving a little further in the opposite direction, where names are functional rather than cute or clever. –  Laura Nov 14 '13 at 20:37
2  
Maybe Code Golf could do with a name change - related. Not sure to what. –  Dukeling Nov 14 '13 at 20:37
    
Do you have plans to deampersand other sites? I don't think Unix & Linux should change. I'd like to shorten Science Fiction & Fantasy, but the community rejected “Speculative Fiction” early on, so we have to make do with the awkward “40% and 40%” title. –  Gilles Nov 14 '13 at 20:55
    
@Dukeling As I mentioned in a comment above, we rarely do name changes but if you think there's a good reason to, start a dedicated meta thread over there to talk about what a better alternative would be. I can't promise we'd change it, but we certainly won't change it without an alternative name that has the community's support. –  Laura Nov 14 '13 at 21:03
    
@Gilles No, we don't have plans to deampersand other existing sites. We're not looking to make disruptive changes to sites that already have names; just this small change to language sites and set some firmer guidelines for new sites. –  Laura Nov 14 '13 at 21:05
1  
@Gilles I admit I'm not an active user on Science Fiction & Fantasy, but I am a fan of the genre. And I have to admit I'd be quite perplexed as to what a site called "Speculative Fiction" was about. (Just my two cents, carry on ;)) –  WendiKidd Nov 14 '13 at 23:47
    
@WendiKidd Speculative fiction = science fiction, fantasy and friends. It's weird: some people use the term as a matter of course, while others don't know what it means. –  Gilles Nov 14 '13 at 23:59
    
I just can't resist the urge to promote a particular English Language & Usage question here that this post reminded me of. –  hippietrail Nov 15 '13 at 16:23
1  
@hippietrail I used that phrase to try to make it clear that we were not retroactively changing the names of existing sites apart from our language sites. :P –  Laura Nov 15 '13 at 16:54
    
@Laura Any chance of this getting a relook meta.reverseengineering.stackexchange.com/q/5/189 . A simple redirection would be great re.stackexchange.com -> reverseengineering.stack... –  AsheeshR Feb 15 at 9:10

6 Answers 6

"Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair Stack Exchange" doesn't exactly glide off the tongue easily if you want to talk to your friends about the site.

Yeah, that could totally just be Motor Vehicles Stack Exchange (continue reading).

Sometimes our site titles contain words that don't really add anything meaningful to the title.

I think one major point you're missing here is that the title does not need to capture the entire scope of the site, which I think is where a lot of these titles come from.

Running off the Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair example, it's clear that the intended scope of the site was meant to be just maintenance and repair of motor vehicles (which is the topic of the site). The problem there is that the title focuses way too much on the scope of the site, which takes away the focus of the general topic that the site covers. That would be similar to renaming Stack Overflow as "Programming, Algorithms, & Software Development Tools" - Yes, it identifies what the site is about pretty clearly, but it's also a terrible title.

It can also limit the scope of the site from growing. What if at some point the Motor Vehicles community decides that just maintenance and repair is still too small of a scope, and they want to expand their horizons into, perhaps, construction of motor vehicles? Well, the site title makes that pretty hard to do since it specifically mentions only maintenance and repair. The conflict would likely result in a new site proposal to cover construction, two sites that cover motor vehicles, and a split community that could very easily be merged together.

TL;DR

The title should focus on the topic and exclude any and all mentions of the scope. That's what the about page and help sections are for. Scope can change over time and thus if the scope is part of the title, the title itself would also need changing over time. I think if you can nail in the idea that the title should be about a topic, and not a scope, we'll probably see this odd lengthy title fascination disappear.

The Area 51 proposal process already provides the two boxes needed, let's use them properly!

Propose a new site

share|improve this answer
    
I agree. You captured something I tried to get at with the "Names should be as short as possible while clearly capturing sites’ topics" point, but you said it better than me. :) The site name does not have to be a complete description of the scope. Just needs to tell people they maybe landed in the right universe. –  Laura Nov 14 '13 at 20:35
2  
The related issue is that topicality tends to be obfuscated. Where does a new user find the topicality for stackoverflow for example? They are greeted with a very vague "Stack Overflow is a question and answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers." and then "Anyone can ask a question." Tell me more links to a page about using the site, but not its topicality. From there users are genuinely lost and just ask their question since it is one click away. By then, the user is probably tired of reading and doesn't even see the sidebar suggestion (which doesn't add much as is). –  Travis J Nov 14 '13 at 20:56

This isn't really an answer, per se, but it wouldn't be readable in a comment and I thought it was something that might interest you (read: all you SE folks). I'm in complete agreement with dropping the & Usage for language sites, but something else occurred to me when I first read your post. You wrote:

"Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair Stack Exchange" doesn't exactly glide off the tongue easily if you want to talk to your friends about the site.

This is completely true. But I think it worth mentioning that I personally wouldn't say that if I was talking to someone about that site; I'd leave off the "Stack Exchange" part. (I still think "Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair" is super long to say, but that's not the point I'm trying to make :)). I would pretty much never add the "Stack Exchange" to the end of any of our site names when talking about them to others in person. When I'm speaking in chat or comments on an SE site, often I (and others) will abbreviate with "sitename.SE". More often we'll just refer to the name of the site without the "Stack Exchange", either in whole or abbreviated depending on the length.

But when I'm discussing ELL in person (which is usually the site I'm talking about, since I moderate there) I tend to assume that the person I'm talking to hasn't heard of SE. This may or may not be true, but if you think about it, in any given social situation you presume the person you're talking to hasn't heard of the website you're referring to (unless it's Google or Facebook, which even non-users have heard of). So if they haven't heard of SE, the "Stack Exchange" part doesn't really give them any information (plus I've honestly never thought of it being part of the site title... It makes sense in theory, but it doesn't show as part of the name in the header, you know?) My conversations in person would usually go something like this:

Am I talking to a programmer? If yes, begin with:

Hey, so you know Stack Overflow, right?

If the answer is yes, I'll say something like:

Well the people that made Stack Overflow have a bunch of other Q&A sites too, in the same format but about different topics. There's one about helping non-native speakers learn English. I answer questions and moderate over there.

Here I pause to check for the listener's interest. If they're just politely nodding along, I'll probably change the subject. If they seem to be interested in the topic, I'll continue with something like:

It's called English Language Learners... I think you'd like it. I can write down the web address if you want.

Nowhere in there did I actually say the words Stack Exchange. Now that I'm thinking about this, in the interests of brand awareness, maybe I'll start adding a parenthetical "...the people that made Stack Overflow (they're called Stack Exchange) have a bunch of...". But I haven't done it in the past.

If I'm not talking to a programmer, or the answer to the question "have you heard of Stack Overflow" is no, I'd probably start with something like:

Oh, well, there's a network of Q&A sites called Stack Exchange. Each site is about a different topic, and people can ask an answer questions there. You get a lot better answers than on a traditional forum, because the focus is on questions and answers."

And then I'd segue into the "There's one about English" part. So there I did actually say Stack Exchange, but I still wouldn't have said it as part of the site name. To me the name is just the name; "English Language Learners", "Movies & TV", etc. My brain doesn't append the "Stack Exchange" to the end of the site name. When we talk to each other in chat it'll sometimes append the URL... We'll say things like "space.SE". But that's not quite the same thing.

So anyway... This got kind of long and I don't know if it's actually useful information for you guys or not. But I've been mulling it over since you first posted this, and I figured that if there was any chance it could be helpful it was worth posting :) I guess what it boils down to is that, at least for me, I don't consider "Stack Exchange" to be part of any of the site names, and any reference to the actual company name is a side note when I'm discussing it with people... I focus more on the actual site and community I'm discussing. So, do with this what you will (or nothing at all!) :) Just thought I'd mention it.

share|improve this answer
    
It's a pretty useful post but I'd recommend drawing or coming to a conclusion. I think you were getting at the point that it can be easier to proselytize and build a community if you don't have to brand back to the parent, like-it-or-not software development focused brand. –  AAA Mar 3 at 23:05

Would it be more appropriate to re-title the language sites into their native languages?

It is possible the answer to this question may well be "Yes," but the implementation may well depend on the ongoing Localization effort; perhaps we don't want "El Idioma Español" until the rest of the UI is in Spanish, as well (??).

Such a change may also warrant a URL change (or alias) (espanol.stackexchange.com); and such a re-name may not be as straight forward in some languages (especially those with non-Latin alphabets--already the ñ in español may provide for confusion in a URL).

share|improve this answer
    
Note that I'm happy with dropping the '& Usage', regardless of whether we translate the titles into their native languages. –  Flimzy Nov 15 '13 at 0:35
4  
2  
I don't think having the site names localized without localizing the rest of the interface makes sense. And our localization / internationalization project is not far enough along where we can talk about this in a concrete way. –  Laura Nov 15 '13 at 20:46
1  
@Laura how you can get the expert in a language is the main site is in another language...I think this has to be better thought. This is not a program language... –  Emilio Gort Nov 18 '13 at 4:26

While we're considering dropping & Usage, might I suggest that we consider dropping Language as well? I don't think there's too much risk of confusion as the names of the languages are mostly adjectival forms for other meanings (a site named French is probably not about the country of France, so to speak).

With respect to the English sites, I would also support EL&U => "English" (assuming community support, given it's a graduated site), and ELL => "English Learners" (actually, I never loved the site name, but that's neither here nor there).

share|improve this answer
1  
Could it not be the English, as in people like me –  Richard Tingle Nov 17 '13 at 23:09
1  
I suppose so, but I think most people's minds would jump to language as opposed to people first. (Part of this is because I think "X Language" sounds inelegant (after all, I don't go around saying "I speak the English language")). –  waiwai933 Nov 17 '13 at 23:49
1  
Dropping "language" from the site names is not something I'm going to consider at the moment; it will introduce more problems as the network grows. We have plans to localize Stack Overflow, and maybe eventually other Stack Exchange sites, into other languages, so in addition to contending with "English Language Learners" versus "English Stack Exchange", there would be "English Stack Exchange" versus "English Stack Overflow" and on and on in that vein. Keeping "language" in the title helps make it a little clearer when a site is about a particular language rather than a topic discussed in one –  Laura Nov 19 '13 at 16:23
2  
@Laura Then again, the language sites are already using just the language name in the URL. See german.stackexchange.com or japanese.stackexchange.com, etc. –  Troyen Nov 20 '13 at 9:27

I would submit that Board & Card Games needs the ampersand.

I think though that each site will have to figure out what they think is important in the name.

share|improve this answer
2  
From the question: "The guidelines below are what we will use for new sites created going forward, and if the community supports it, we'll be dropping the "& Usage" part of our language sites only. no other names for existing sites are changing." So I think Board & Card Games is safe :) –  WendiKidd Nov 14 '13 at 23:47
    
Sorry, I may not have been clear: we're not examining the names of all the existing sites. The only existing sites whose names we may tweak are the language ones. I updated the question to be clearer on that. And ampersands probably won't be totally avoidable in future sites, but we got a little ampersand happy on some of them so we just want to make sure if we use them it's because they're needed (B&CG is a good example of that). –  Laura Nov 14 '13 at 23:49

This seems to have worked out fairly well with one exception:

The subdomain should match the site title as closely as possible (even if it's not the shortest possible subdomain we could use). We can still create redirects if there's a true need for them.

On paper it looks like a reasonable policy, but it's not one we've been very good at following so far:

  • Stack Overflow (in Portuguese) => pt.stackoverflow.com
  • Software Recommendations => softwarerecs.stackexchange.com
  • Artificial Intelligence => ai.stackexchange.com (launched and closed)

These are all reasonable subdomains and fit in with URL naming in the past:

  • Space Exploration => space.stackexchange.com
  • Amateur Radio => ham.stackexchange.com
  • Cognitive Sciences => cogsci.stackexchange.com

As Wikipedia points out:

There are several reasons to use URL shortening. Often regular unshortened links may be aesthetically unpleasing. Many web developers pass descriptive attributes in the URL to represent data hierarchies, command structures, transaction paths or session information. This can result in URLs that are hundreds of characters long and that contain complex character patterns. Such URLs are difficult to memorize, type-out and distribute. As a result, long URLs must be copied-and-pasted for reliability. Thus, short URLs may be more convenient for websites or hard copy publications (e.g. a printed magazine or a book), the latter often requiring that very long strings be broken into multiple lines (as is the case with some e-mail software or internet forums) or truncated.

We recognize the value of short URLs when it comes to site promotion, so it's important that the subdomain be reasonably short. On the other hand, it should be understandable to experts in the topic without being ambiguous. So, http://ham.stackexchange.com is a darn good alternative to http://amateurradio.stackexchange.com because:

  1. It's arguably more descriptive than the long name, and
  2. There almost no chance we will start a site for a processed pork foodstuff.

On the other hand, shorting http://reverseengineering.stackexchange.com to http://re.stackexchange.com fails the ambiguity test since there are too many meanings for RE. Sometimes, the URL just needs to be long.

Therefore, I propose we shorten the subdomain iff the URL communicates the same thing as the site title without sacrificing much in terms of clarity.


As an aside, the three times I notice a Stack Exchange URL are:

  1. When typing the sitename into my browser,
  2. When switching sites in the SEDE, and
  3. When verbally telling someone how to get to a site.

I understand that my usage is not typical (not many people need to go to any one of the 116+ sites at the drop of a hat). But I expect most people would prefer a slightly shorter URL if they have to think about the URL at all. We should either be careful to assign minimal URLs or be extremely generous with creating new redirects.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

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