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Jeff Atwood has mentioned on Area 51 and in a blog post that http://gadgets.stackexchange.com/ will likely be deemed not viable, killed, and replaced with sites for Apple and Android.

Was this decision made exclusively because of the gadget site's activity metrics, or did other factors (e.g., the existence of the Apple and Android proposals) figure into the decision?

The reason I ask is that the Home Improvement site has similar activity levels, although it has a number of devoted users, the site fills a void on the web, and there are no competing proposals on Area 51. I would like to know if management has already silently condemned it or decided on thresholds for viability.

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5 Answers 5

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For a Stack Exchange site to work, it needs to either have a strong user base, or, failing that, at least do a good job of getting high-quality answers to questions. During the beta period we're going to look closely at user metrics (number of people asking and answering questions) and quality metrics (upvotes, accepted answers, etc). If a site is failing on all counts (people aren't going to it and questions aren't getting answered) then the site is actively bad for the internet... it's a trap where people are encouraged to ask questions which will never get answered... and we will close it down.

I tend to agree with the theory that the problem with Gadgets is that the domain is so wide that it would need a much larger audience to get high quality answers. Yes, Stack Overflow itself has a super-wide domain, too, but it's got a correspondingly larger audience, so you can get your obscure questions answered.

Final decisions about beta Stack Exchange sites are made on the 60th day.

Blogged:
http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/pruning-season/

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60th? Is that a typo or a Freudian slip? The boxes on Area51 suggest that it's 90th. "The site's progress will be evaluated in x days", where x always equals to 90 - $numberOfDaysInBeta. –  ЯegDwight Aug 24 '10 at 12:30

I suspect that all of these sites are doomed (gadgets and its atomized proposed successors). SO and cooking and math and stats work because there are many people who are source of both questions and answers. SU struggles to some extent because there are many, many, more people with questions than answers. Gadgets, or webapps for that matter, are prone to the same problem. Everyone wants to know what to do about some GMail glitch, but only two Google employees actually know, and they aren't telling. And ditto for Android, and iPhone, etc.

All of the verbiage associated with Area51 proposals, in my opinion, very correctly predicts this effect. The verbiage calls for site definitions that attract experts. These sites don't attract experts, they attract suffering users with problems, and rarely are they in a position to help each other.

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Thank you for articulating something that has been bouncing around my skull without anything to nucleate on. –  dmckee Aug 19 '10 at 22:10
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yes, but someone always knows a bit more than someone else, or at least can articulate it better, or is better at researching. Plus, it feels good to help your peers make a little progress together. And in some ways the very mental model of "I'm an expert" is itself harmful. As I said here: codinghorror.com/blog/2009/02/are-you-an-expert.html –  Jeff Atwood Aug 19 '10 at 22:56
    
also: codinghorror.com/blog/2008/09/… "The idea that you have all these experts waiting in the wings to do stuff is an illusion in my experience. There's really just a bunch of amateurs muddling along trying to do things together." –  Jeff Atwood Aug 19 '10 at 22:58
    
@Jeff forgive me for a wry smile when I compare what you wrote here (and in the blog) to the text that you or a co-worker wrote over at Area51 about trying to set up sticky traps for experts. –  Rosinante Aug 20 '10 at 12:34
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the aspirational part of wanting to improve is far, far more important than any actual expertise. It's not where you are, it's where you're going, the rate of change.. and in the correct direction. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 20 '10 at 13:49

Of course, I don't speak for the management, but the activity metrics look pretty distressing to me. Particularly the fraction answered.

You compared it to Home Improvement, which is about a week younger. I'd suggest also comparing to Food and Cooking which is five days older and has twice the participation on all metrics and a 100% answer fraction or to TeX, LaTeX and friends which is twelve days younger and already has stronger metrics on everything except users.


I would be interested in knowing what kind of performance Stack Overflow had on similar metrics, however.

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By that score the Wordpress site had better "pull it's socks up" then. –  ChrisF Aug 19 '10 at 16:56
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As a courtesy to future readers: now you can directly compare the performance of all sites, including established ones such as Stack Overflow. –  ЯegDwight Sep 16 '10 at 22:34
    
@Reg: Good link. –  dmckee Sep 16 '10 at 23:04

I don't speak for the management either, but my take on it is that it's hard to be any kind of an expert on "gadgets" in general, and individual SE sites like Apple and Android make more sense. The communities are very divergent - in some cases even hostile toward each other - and it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense to shove them all under one roof.

I know you could make the same argument for Macs vs. PCs on Super User or .NET vs. Java or PHP on Stack Overflow, but gadgets are not standardized like computers and programming; almost every question is sort of a niche question, you need to really focus the community to ensure that those get answered, and I think the somewhat dismal answer rate and relatively low question rate demonstrate that when it comes to gadgets, people would rather stick to their own little insular cliques than participate in something much bigger. Or, much more simply, they just don't have the breadth of experience necessary to fulfill such a role.

That's just my take on it, though. I haven't really actively followed the gadgets.se proposal/site (because I felt from day one that it would be too fragmented), so take this with several grains of salt.

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It's a bit interesting to me, because a lot of the concerns you bring up about Gadgets (multiple divided subcommunities about different niches that tend to be hostile towards each other) is also prevalent within Gaming. That said, however, there are a lot of people who do excel at Gaming in general, the mediators in the platform wars and all that. So maybe that is a key point, the lack of true generalists. –  Grace Note Aug 19 '10 at 17:09
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@Grace: Yeah, I think you've just about got it. Gaming is divergent too, but many gamers have played hundreds (thousands?) of games, whereas even the most hardcore gadget enthusiasts probably haven't owned hundreds of devices. There's always a fine line between "multicultural" and "balkanized." –  Aarobot Aug 19 '10 at 17:25
    
As a point of interest (or not), despite having previously had no interest in the Gadgets proposal, as soon as I heard about the Android Enthusiasts proposal (i.e. right now) I started following it. I don't know exactly what that means, but it means something. –  Aarobot Aug 19 '10 at 17:27
    
it means, ANDROID FANBOI!!! ;-P –  Shog9 Aug 19 '10 at 17:57
    
@Shog: Well, it means I own one I guess... but I could theoretically have asked all the same questions on a "gadgets" site, it just didn't have the same appeal. –  Aarobot Aug 19 '10 at 18:50

The only reason I'm hoping for a Gadgets site is because I'm not sure there's enough Android traffic to generate its own, and I have a desperate need to spend more time on more... sites... like...

Nevermind, down with the Gadgets site! I have a badly neglected stack of books here.

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