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I couldn't find any page that explains why Stack Exchange sites are separated, with each site having it's own users. Surely a single site with categories would be better?

This is not a suggestion; I'm sure there's a very good reason for this that I've missed, I'd just like to know what that reason is.

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Which site(s) do you mean exactly? There are so many nowadays :) – Pëkka Sep 13 '10 at 15:25
I cannot understand why the split occurred. I never know which stackexchange site to use to ask my questions, and I never know which site to search on. With respect: unlike Josh, I don't have blind faith that it was a good decision. To needlessly fragment the knowledge base and community seems crazy to me. – Jonathan Hartley Jan 21 '12 at 8:37
To qualify my comment above: I'm thinking about all the programming-related sites: stackoverflow, programmers, game development, computer science, theoretical computer science, server fault, superuser. I'm fine with separating these from 'cooking', but not fine with them all being separate from each other. – Jonathan Hartley Jan 21 '12 at 8:44
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Well, the reputation is an indicator of "how much does this user participate here, on a site about x?"

For example, if my reputation on SO is 10 thousand points, on MSO 400 points, on SF 2000 points, and 101 on Cooking and on Gaming alike, it gives you a meaningful view of how much I'm active: mainly on SO, less on SF, sometimes I visit MSO and I've logged in at the Cooking site and the Gaming site.

With a single reputation, you might say, "oh look, a 10k Gaming user, he must be really passionate about gaming" - and you'd be completely wrong.

So, you can use the rep as a (very rough) measure of activity on that site, and that's its main purpose; making a all-site rep counter could be an ego booster for some, but I honestly can't think of another purpose for it.

Also, there's the matter of focus: I don't care about gardening, or conspiracy theories, or DIY projects, or latex, or LaTeX - and thus, making me click through pages and pages of categories to get to the Q&A about programming 1) requires thinking (bad for UX) and 2) wastes my time (what are all those categories, Yahoo's front page from 1998?). If the stackexchange dialog (top left) was the main entry to, I'd lose interest, precisely because there are so many things I don't care about (a.k.a. "noise").

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I think this answer (to sum it up in your own words; to reduce "noise") is the best explanation given so far. – Zaz Dec 12 '10 at 13:59
The only bone I have to pick with this is that I as a question asker (or even an answerer or voter) don't really care what another user's reputation is - I look at their answer or question and decide whether it MIGHT be worth my time, then make an attempt (or not) - either to answer the question or to consider their answer. If their answer solves my problem, or my answer solves their problem and they select it, then everything's good. reputation, however, DOES control what someone is able to do on a given site, such as voting, editing, etc - a gaming expert can't edit a gardening answer. – Code Jockey Dec 16 '11 at 19:58
If reducing noise was the goal, I think better search, categorisation and tagging functionality would have been a better way, without needlessly fragmenting the knowledge base and community. Similarly, if qualifying a user's reputation was important, then give users reputations in different categories - don't make it impossible for me to find answers because I'm searching on the wrong site. – Jonathan Hartley Jan 21 '12 at 8:38
@Jonathan Hartley: Did you try, er, Google? It indexes the SE sites really well, and very quickly... – Piskvor Jan 21 '12 at 18:40
Heh. Thanks Piskvor - but that only works for half the equation, because I still have to choose which site to ask my questions on. – Jonathan Hartley Jan 21 '12 at 22:47

StackExchange focuses on user expertise. Jon Skeet may have written the C# book, but that doesn't matter much when talking about Crème brûlée.

Additionally, every site has its own meta when different policies are put in place (compare SuperUser and Programmers.SE for an extreme example). Being acquainted with each site's rules is required when enforcing them when voting, editing or closing.

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I like programming questions being seperate from cooking questions, and users shouldn't share reputation between them, because a good programmer is not a good cook.

On the other hand, having a site called "" is incredibly stupid. I really hope SE/SO reverses that decision.

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The site is about..."programmers" vs "programming", respectively. Personally, NPR questions like "Which is your favorite Java function!?" and "What was the funniest usage of C# you saw?", not to mention "what do you wear while coding?" annoy me slightly; if we can get those separated, good for me. – Piskvor Sep 13 '10 at 15:50
That's a preliminary name for the beta site. Webapps.stackexchange will be renamed into NothingToInstall, gaming.stackexchange will be renamed into Quicksave, and what programmers.stackexchange will be called is currently being discussed. – ЯegDwight Sep 13 '10 at 15:52
I am a decent programmer and a good cook (at least that's what people say). – NullUserException อ_อ Sep 13 '10 at 19:22
@NullUserException: Well, that's one data point. I'm curious: what can you infer from such a dataset? – Piskvor Sep 14 '10 at 7:17
if they have tags, they can seperate programming questions from cooking questions. – LiuYan 刘研 May 5 '11 at 2:50

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