Would you recommend Stack Exchange sites vs other types of fora?
To decide if Stack Exchange is more appropriate or better than another technology, you have to identify your end goals. It's like asking "is it better to buy a sports car or a truck?" Answer: it depends on what your needs are.
So, in the most general terms (my biased view)...
Conversations are organized as "threads." Conversation start out responding to the original author. At various points in the exchange, any post that evokes (brings to mind) a response, a memory, a side story, a reminiscence, or whatever... it branches off into a sub-conversation. Sub-conversations generate further sub-conversations, generating further sub-conversations, etc. These all exist in parallel without any weight given to separate relevant answers from random missives; no weight separating correct from incorrect information. The more interesting the topic, the more posts and off-shoot branches it generates. It's the type of conversation you might have among a group of friends at a bar.
On the plus side, some people like going to bars. It's community-building. Forums start out fun. Everyone has a common interest and start out at the same level.
The problem: Forums don't scale. They get noisier and noisier. Long-time users get tired of the new users asking the same old questions. New users can't find useful information and feel ostracized. Most find that, the more they talk, the less value they get from the experience. In short, you stop learning.
The chat room/forum problem by Robert Scoble
...Versus Deliberative Assembly
In contrast, Stack Overflow does not encourage open, free-for-all discussion (many-to-many conversations). That is by design. Stack Overflow works more along the lines of "deliberative assembly" (many-to-one -- Wikipedia).
- A question is posed;
- You weigh in with a carefully-thought-out response;
- Then a short comment session;
- Followed by voting.
Stack Overflow doesn't work exactly like that but the goal is to get to a reasonable answer quickly without branching into different discussions. Various points of view carry different weights and float to the top. Less relevant information is pushed to the bottom. Incorrect or out-dated information is corrected collaboratively.
The limitations of Stack Overflow: Stack Overflow's design doesn't welcome (or even support) inter-answer debates. If your subject matter benefits from on-going collaboration, Stack Exchange may not be appropriate. Many scientific disciplines need open debate. You propose an answer, someone else responds with a retort and wants to know, "what do you think of that?" Back and forth, many-to-many, until all facets are thoroughly explored to its natural conclusion. That exchange doesn't happen in Stack Overflow or any Stack Exchange site... by design.
A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy by Clay Shirky
For communities that needs free, open-ended discussion and back-and-forth debate, traditional forums are your choice.
To create a collection of "authoritative knowledge," vetted by a community of experts, Stack Exchange seems to be a better choice.
None of Us is as Dumb as All of Us