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Maybe I'm not saying anything new here, but I would like to point at this post I just did about StackExchange website proposals. I'm ready to copy it here if you wish, but it's particularly long. I accept proposals.

The main point I want to make is that, without a plausible coordination effort, some sites will never have a chance to arise, even if there would be momentum. High fragmentation (and assuming disjoint communities, of course) lead to very specific sites that don't stand a chance of getting the thresholds, while a more general SE would. Unfortunately, this requires a self-coordination that I don't feel like it's coming, due to personal stance, I assume (nobody wants to give a bit), and the factual point that it's hard to coordinate such effort through the site itself. "Follow" requests spread out, and the result is that no sites will get to open.

I think the most strong example of this case is musical performance. A SE on such argument has to open, I simply don't believe momentum does not exist. My contribute to such site would be very occasional, but my point is on observation that the structure seems to be deadlocked on "Guitars" and "Audio Recording and Production", the first highly specialized for a specific instrument, the second more towards post production and sound engineers than actual musicians. For every other instrument, the situation is not moving forward, but I guess that coalescing all musical performance (from theory to post-production) into a single Musicians SE, it would open fairly quickly.

I would like to hear your opinion on this regard.

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You left out Apocalypse Defense from the DIY and crafting section. I am saddened. –  XMLbog Jul 22 '10 at 13:20
    
If it can be brought up as an apology, Apocalypse Defense is closed, and I did not include those who are closed. ;) –  Stefano Borini Jul 22 '10 at 13:24
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That doesn't make me any less sad. –  XMLbog Jul 22 '10 at 13:27
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well, if you are concerned about Apocalypse Defense, I assume your mood is not very cheerful from the very beginning. :P –  Stefano Borini Jul 22 '10 at 13:28
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On the contrary, I love the world so much that I want to preserve it in the event of one of several world-ending events. –  XMLbog Jul 22 '10 at 13:31

1 Answer 1

This seems like the kind of problem that will tend to be self-healing, and can't easily be legislated from on high, as you need the actual experts to determine what scope will best serve their needs.

Now, they'll get the scope wrong sometime: "Scotch-Branded Adhesive Products (Double-Sided ONLY!)" but that's where the define and commit system will provide feedback, and drive evolution: Since that's likely too narrow, it won't get enough good questions or commiters to move on, and the interested parties will either decide that their specific problem can be solved with a single Google query, or can try for a broader site that will better attract the critical mass to provide great answers.

I actually think your example about music highlights the reason that we don't want a benevolent dictator trying to define the right scope: they're not likely to know, because they're probably programming experts, not acoustic engineers.

In this case, I don't claim to be an expert on either topic, but I'd guess that the overlap in expertise between Guitar Players/Teachers and Audio Technicians/Producers is actually close to zero. But I may be wrong. Which is exactly why I shouldn't be deciding if they should be merged.

The definition and commitment process will, over time, do just what you want: Force sites to get to the right scope to attract a critical mass of experts that can sustain themselves.

And I predict it'll get much better over time, for two reasons:

  • The thresholds to move on will be tweaked and adjusted as we learn from the betas and identify the key requirements for successful sites
  • Our user sample on Area 51 will get much larger (good) and much more representative of the populous as a whole (even better) as the public betas continue to draw in new, non-programmer users. That larger, more diverse sample will make the system more quickly select for right-sized proposals.
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Still on the music example, I have the uneasy feeling that, if the drift is the one you propose, it will end up having either sites with considerable overlap, or no sites at all. Suppose for example that guitars reaches a fair amount of proposals and gets opened. Now, it will thrive, but all other instruments will not be there. People playing other instruments (eventually even guitarists) will aggregate to form the generic Musicians site, which will now either include everything but guitars (because there's a specialized SE for that) or, more likely, guitar information will be spread on both. –  Stefano Borini Jul 22 '10 at 15:37
    
continued : opening a SE site is very definitive. I don't see people migrating content from one site to another if a better one arises. This will introduce fragmentation of information which is the point SE is trying to fight in the first place: having the information fragmented on multiple phpBB forums. The result is that we will now have information fragmented on multiple SE forums. –  Stefano Borini Jul 22 '10 at 15:40
    
On the self-healing. It would, if people organize. That is mainly the point of the discussion. My feeling is instead that people will just Follow something they find, without really considering if a better organization of the topic is beneficial to a larger and more powerful community. I doubt people will take active effort in saying "ok guys, this proposal is outdated by X, let's all subscribe to X so we get to open it" and everybody complies. They will just stick to what they subscribed, and if it gets to open, good, otherwise no problem, life goes on. Very glad to be proven wrong, though. –  Stefano Borini Jul 22 '10 at 15:55

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