How do we grow the Server Fault and Super User communities?
And I'm not sure we can do anything about it.
At any given point in time, if you look at the home page of Stack Overflow, you'll see at least 4 or 5 questions that "belong" on Super User or Server Fault. Well, "belong" is a bit subjective, and I'm sure you can convince yourself that configuring SuPHP for Apache 2.0 is programming related. And there's a pretty strong incentive to do so:
Namely, if you ask your question on Stack Overflow, you will get an answer. Even dumb questions, even questions that belong on SU or SF: On SO they all get answers, and fast. On SF and SU, maybe they will, maybe they won't. But on SO, the results will be pretty well solidified within the hour; even if you get bumped to SU or SF, at least you'll know. However, if you ask on SU and SF, it takes a day or two or three before you get to the same state, with your first response rolling in at around 8 hours later. So, the intelligent solution is to ask on SO first, and if people complain, ask on SU or SF.
The problem is that the participation rates in SU and SF are abysmal compared to SO. The crappy engineer will simply say: "People need to start using Super User and Server Fault, and this will all be fixed." Of course, identifying a solution that is contingent on other people altering their behavior with no incentive to do so is wishful thinking at best.
But as pointed out a dozen or so times on this forum: people don't want to check all three sites separately. And they have proposed several solutions to try to unify the sites, or at least provide an agregated view for that user. The unstated implication that seems to get ignored is "Checking all thee sites is hard, I will not do it unless the interface is simplified."
Paradoxially, Jeff Atwood has offically stated that he has no intention of fixing this problem. In a blog post last year, he compared the individual sites to individual members of the League of Justice. Batman and Superman and need to be separate heroes, even though they fight for the same team, he argues.
However, to extend the metaphor, when people call the League of Justice, they now always call Superman. So much so, in fact, that Batman and Wonder Woman have stopped carrying their cell phones and only check their voicemail once a week. Now, no one even tries calling Batman because they know he takes longer to respond. And besides, Superman can probably help instead.
Rather than proposing yet another solution, I'm proposing that we at least acknowledge that there is a problem. Once we get past this first step, we can start looking at solutions.