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I'm a little confused as to why all of the Stack Exchange sites are such narrow focused topics. Like if you have a question about a website or about buying phones, it quickly becomes off-topic in many of the Stack Exchange sites. It forces me either to find a different Stack Exchange site (at which I'll have no rep) or without a Stack Exchange site to go to (which is sad to me, because I LOVE the Stack Exchange format for any question that has a specific correct answer... at other forums or wiki's I find it annoying not to be able to vote people up or see the single accepted answer quickly).

What would be so wrong with having a "Science, Math, Technology, Philosophy, and Home Repair Overflow" site where nothing is "off-topic" (but things still would need a specific answer, so closing questions as "not a real question" or "subjective" is still necessary).

Isn't that what the tag system is for? There are plenty of ways at only looking for tags your interested in... and there may have to be categories of tags like mathoverflow so "python-programming" doesn't get mixed with "python-snakes". A lot of people work very hard to keep the Stack Exchange sites on topic, and I am just curious as to why? Why can't they be all together, just separated by tags?

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If you had so many topics where nothing was off-topic, wouldn't all the specific sites like you mention just be subsets, and by definition overlap, so which site should a question be asked on, since it would be valid for both? – Nick Craver Jun 7 '10 at 21:05
possible duplicate of Trilogy Portal: Community Collaboration – ChrisF Jun 7 '10 at 21:30
@Nick Yeah, you're right. I don't see a problem with that. You may get more noob questions... and would get a lot of people who are sick of getting flagged as "off-topic", but for the rep hungry, the people willing to answer the dumb question, there would be way more opportunity for rep. I don't think it would take much from MathOverflow, because they close even advanced undergraduate questions as being to trivial. That keeps their questions interesting to their users, which I can understand the value of, but still feel the need for something much more general. – Dan Jun 7 '10 at 21:31
If I had a great topic and wanted to make a forum of, I could simply go to the new general stackexchange site and start a new tag. There would be no need for, say, Ubuntu forums anymore, they could just have their conversations here with the Ubuntu tag. 90% of Ubuntu forums posts are tech support anyway, so perfect for this kind of format. There would be no need to request/create/maintain a new stackexchange site. – Dan Jun 7 '10 at 21:56
This has been discussed before, as @ChrisF pointed out... I think it remains an interesting topic nevertheless. For example Wikipedia did manage to make it work: In there, experts collaborate on any topic within a single portal... However I also understand that communities are healthier when they form around close interests, as in the Stack Exchange format... But then again, are SE sites meant to form a community? ... Needless to mention that Yahoo Answeres Failed by trying to do just that. – Daniel Vassallo Jun 7 '10 at 22:00
I was trying to find the post where Jeff mentions Yahoo Answers as an unfocused Q&A site that failed. I thought it was in response to a question here on meta, but I couldn't find it. – ChrisF Jun 7 '10 at 22:12
@Daniel Portals would be the similar of having a small list, created by the mods, of high level tags and forcing users to pick one of those high level tags. A list with "Science", "Math, "Language", and "Programming". Communities could form within each one of these just has they have within stack overflow or wikipedia. Migrating would be as easy as re-tagging. – Dan Jun 7 '10 at 22:16
@Dan: I wouldn't be surprised if Stack Exchange 2.0 moves in that direction. If they will allow easy migration between the different sites, it would be just like retagging between "high level tags". Probably the reputation will remain distinct between the various sites, but that probably makes sense. Nevertheless, in Area 51 the rep and badges are already display as the aggregate sum of the trilogy sites. – Daniel Vassallo Jun 8 '10 at 9:56

because I LOVE the Stack Exchange format

The foundation of that format is having a specific focus.

That is what draw the experts in. If it was less focused the experts wouldn't want to hang around. There would be too much fluff out there distracting them. Nobody want's to go some site where they are constantly being distracted. People like to go to sites where they can focus on what they like love.

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That's speculation. Since no one has rolled out one of these before we don't know if experts will come in with broad topics and we don't know if narrow focus will draw experts. Just look at SO as an example. There are lots of experts and lots of newbies. SO is HUGELY diverse in topics. "programming related" is not narrow at all. There are discussions on things ranging from LOGO turtles to regexes to worpress to iphone development to functional programming, etc. Very wide - not narrow. So, the SE sites are starting with something very different than SO's base. – tim Jun 7 '10 at 21:18
A quick example would be just combining StackOverflow, Super-user, and Server-fault, but then forcing people to use 1 of those 3 names in their tags. This would be identical to the current system except your rep would work on all sites and people would have to (if they wanted to) filter to just 1 or 2 of these 3 site-names in their preferences. Obviously required tags are annoying, but I see more upsides to this than downsides. – Dan Jun 7 '10 at 21:26
I obviously can only speak for myself, but my response to such a combined site would have been "Meh" rather than joining and staying for almost two years now. – mmyers Jun 7 '10 at 21:33
@tim, I'm being a little speculative, but most is based on information that's out there, like the videos at Business of Software. Has anyone got good programming answers out of Yahoo Answers? – Lance Roberts Jun 7 '10 at 21:40
@mmyers Why can't you get that same value from tagging? I know a lot of people don't use any tag filters, which would have to change at a more general site... But aren't you getting a similar narrowing effect if you just filter on, say, Python questions? How would only looking at questions tagged with "Python, C++, Ruby, SQL" or some other list be the difference between a good site and a great site? – Dan Jun 7 '10 at 21:50
@Dan: Same reason I don't do Yahoo! Answers. I have no idea of the quality of answers in specific portions of that site, but I don't want to spend the time wading through the muck to find out if it's worth it. – mmyers Jun 7 '10 at 21:58
@tim @mmyers, Good example, but part of that has to do with stackexchanges awesome format... automatic searches of your title, community ability to close questions as subjective or not a real question, rewards for those that provide quality answers, and tagging questions as duplicates. I think you could still enforce quality. Are you suggesting the quality of posts tagged with "Python" would actually go down? and Why? I would never suggest getting rid of stackoverflow since so many people like it as it is, but a more general site would overlap this one allowing people to choose. – Dan Jun 7 '10 at 22:09
@Dan: Are you suggesting the quality of posts tagged with "Python" would actually go down? and Why? -- Perception matters. Maybe it wouldn't -- but if the best Python people thought that it would be like Y!A, they might not have joined either. How many other sites does Alex Martelli post answers on? Not too many, I'd bet. – mmyers Jun 7 '10 at 22:22
@Dan: Also, SO makes it easy to find things of interest to me. I don't have to do anything -- I just visit the site and there they are. That's a big draw right there. – mmyers Jun 7 '10 at 22:23
I was not suggesting just a general yahoo answers site for everything. What I find amusing is the Jeff and Co speculation and assertion that you have to narrow down things from "gardening" to "organic gardening" or from "fish tanks" to "salt water fish tanks:, yet here we have a site (SO) that is EVERYTHING programming. It is contradictory. Again - I am not saying that one is better than the other nor do i propose a general yahoo answers site. All I am saying is that the assertion is not proven and that it is in direct contrast to the existing SO site. – tim Jun 8 '10 at 2:07
We also have Arqade, which is EVERYTHING gaming, although you could argue that games like Minecraft or Skyrim (or subcategories like Strategy or MMO) could have enough questions to be viable on their own site. In this way I wouldn't say SO contrasts at all. I would hold it as an example of how a good site brings good people together. – Robotnik Sep 4 '12 at 4:26

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