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Meta will go a long way to remove such discussion from SO proper. A site like fun.stackoverflow.com, or similar, could do likewise -- keep the main board pure, and provide an outlet for those who just can't ask a straight question today.

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closed as not constructive by Rosinante, ChrisF, jcolebrand, hims056, animuson Dec 28 '12 at 5:54

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4 Answers

I think you just want to keep it straight forward and utilize tagging. Forking things too much makes things to complex to use.

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If search worked much, much better, I would agree. But I think forums make for a nice, clean, well-organized separation of major topics. Would really like to see it happen. –  John Pirie Jun 29 '09 at 12:06
    
I'd have to disagree there, I have developed an utter hate for forums. Too much over head, too much complexity, its just a nightmare for anyone with OCD because the nature of them requires you to basically work yourself into a state where you are manually monitoring all threads, and threads grow vs time, etc etc. Utter calamity. –  Kent Fredric Jun 29 '09 at 23:23
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I was under the impression that SuperUser is going to cater for the 'fun' questions?

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depends on your definition of "fun" –  Jeff Atwood Jun 28 '09 at 13:55
    
Yes, hence using the quotes. I'm sure there will be some form of definition once the site goes live. –  Peter Boughton Jun 28 '09 at 14:18
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I think the "fun" board you're referring to would house things like "Favorite Programming Cartoon" and "Favorite Coding Music" and "Favorite Coding Beverage" and things like that.

I don't think these questions get asked at a very high rate on SO anymore, and tend to be shot down when they're tried. Providing an outlet for them is a reasonable hope, but frankly, I don't see much value in it. Sure, I may want to get some ideas for new music to listen to while coding. But I can use Pandora. And as much as I enjoy reading Jeff's blog posts, I don't really care about what food gets him in the mind for coding.

The resources, in terms of equipment, time investment, and support don't justify it in my opinion.

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The site is prompting me to select an answer to my question. I don't like any of those posted so far, so my self-answer follows.

There's a reason one always finds the Wendy's in town right across from the McDonald's, which is right down the street from the BK, which is across the corner from the Subway and KFC. The reason is that the businesses co-locate intentionally, and the reason they do it is they know it's good for business. If your first thought for fast food is to head their direction, then they've already won your money. Even further, if they can get you to just think "fast food" when you're hungry, they've made you think so much less about the whole thing that they've won even more of your money. If those places were scattered all over town, you would have to first decide exactly what you wanted, and consequently where you wanted to go, then go there, without the opportunity to change your mind at the last minute and go next door instead. That's a harder prospect to think about, and might just stop you from going out to eat altogether. ("Don't Make Me Think", anyone?)

Likewise with SO, SF, SU. Each board does serve a specific kind of fare, and works hard to differentiate itself; and the purity of the board matters. It is important to know what's on the menu before you go, and to know that they serve consistent, high-quality fare.

But in a larger sense, what the SO sites really serve is not coders, or unix SAs, or spreadsheet jocks, but a huge population of tech-savvy tinkerers and professionals. That group has other interests, too. If you want to draw them and keep them, then in addition to having a forum for their individual, specific interests, you should also be catering to their other, known, common interests.

The obvious ones, that have already been identified, here and on other posts/locations, are: technical books, subjective (on-topic) discussion, humor, and wholly-off-topic. (In truth, the decision about how many related forums to have should be driven by traffic metrics -- when traffic gets too heavy, meiosis takes place. But classification must of course be done carefully.)

The SO sites collectively will do themselves a huge favor by (1) creating forums for discussion of these related topics, (2) making navigation from forum to forum seamless, so that the user effectively feels like he's at the same site, and (3) strengthening the moderator organizational structure, so that some mods have strong authority over individual boards, and others have broader, cross-board power.

Rep, user details, even URL are all manageable details. It is the intuitively obvious, effortless navigation from one forum to another that creates the cross-feeding of visitors and the sense for the visitor that these boards, collectively, are a web "destination."

If the links to related forums aren't directly on the banner, then they should be at the top of the right sidebar. Anywhere less prominent consigns each separate site to a more solitary existence, increasing the likelihood that a visitor never finds the material that really grabs him, and moves on, never thinking of the SO family of sites as a place to come back to often.

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Can't say I didn't expect a downvote, but a remark would be appreciated –  John Pirie Jul 2 '09 at 12:49
    
we need to disable that accept nudge for meta.. don't take it as a requirement –  Jeff Atwood Jul 2 '09 at 13:19
    
Fair enough, unaccepted –  John Pirie Jul 2 '09 at 15:17
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