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We want to inject some discipline into programmers.stackexchange.com.

One of the ways we hope to achieve this is by merging the Developer Testing: Unit Testing site proposal* into programmers.se.

We believe that the Developer Testing proposal, as stated:

  1. would be actively harmful as a standalone site, in that it would negatively draw traffic from a larger covering site into a niche site
  2. covers topics that are already perfectly valid and allowed and exist in large quantities on stackoverflow.com and programmers.se (compare to web app questions on superuser, which were explicitly disallowed, yet kept coming up)
  3. can be folded into a re-disciplined programmers.se for a much broader audience and thus an overall more productive and useful treatment of the topic, versus a niche site

We invite those interested in this site proposal (or programmer.se) to answer: do you agree that the developer testing site proposal should be merged into a re-disciplined programmers.se or another general programmer site?

In your answer, please provide evidence to support your position, either yea or nay.

* among others; Joel mentions a few more in his blog post

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As an aside, the question was posed to Programmers.SE users (all 6 of them that bother to go to the Meta site, at least), and some feedback was provided about each of the proposed merges Joel mentioned. –  user149432 Sep 23 '10 at 22:15
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I have a better idea: why don't you merge Unit Testing with Programmers and then merge everything back into ... wait for it ... StackOverflow. –  JohnIdol Sep 24 '10 at 22:44
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Folding it into Programmers seems like a lazy, or at least inappropriate, solution to the problem. The questions on Programmers are nothing of the How-To or technical sort. Sure, you could do it, but it doesn't seem to make sense. It doesn't sem different than combining Programmers with Game Development. –  Mark C Oct 5 '10 at 6:19

44 Answers 44

No

The stream of questions produced on SO has become too much to handle. Yeah, I know, tags help. But I really think that a community build around a single topic will lead to better results quality-wise.

@Joel I think you should look for a way to merge (or rather: show) the stream of questions back into SO, so there is a way for new users to find about the special site and join it. I don't think there is a clean line you can draw as to when a topic should be granted it's own site or merged with another one. Let the community decide if they want to, and prove that they can maintain their own site.

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Yes, let's merge them.

I don't understand the whole experts vs mediocrity problem so many people mention. What exactly is stopping experts from watching one particular tag on SO?

For example, I have a lot of interest in algorithms. All I have to do is to check new questions with this tag once or twice a day, that's all. I also get notifications of new questions automatically when I'm near my computer. What exactly would I gain from being exiled to algorithms.com?

Please feel free to comment, I'm really interested to see what I'm missing here.

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There are pros and cons to both arguments. I've been speaking/teaching/writing about testing and the benefits of TDD/BDD for a long time now, and it is starting to sink into the mindset of developers. However, the idea and the act of actually executing is far different.

So, by merging them, we can continue to expose the concepts to the general programming masses, which is an obvious benefit. But I don't know how much attention they will pay to those types of discussions.

By keeping it separate, we have a focused area where people trying to make the transition to a testing way of life don't have to wade through other more general questions to see a post on mocking for example.

I am leaning towards keeping them separate since I don't think we really will get conversions from the exposure in the more general forums, and we want to provide the least friction to those developers actually trying to be more test centric to get their questions answered.

If they are separate, I would commit time to help answer questions related to testing. If they are merged, I am a bit more hesitant to commit, since it would take more time to find the questions related to testing let alone answer them.

just my two cents.

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Please don't merge them.

Testing is broad enough of a topic to be self-sustaining.

Testing is something that you can constantly improve on, even the best programmers.

I would rather see programmers.se be canceled than to see it dilute Testing by merging with it.

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If you want the real answer to this question, just ask the folks over at MathOverflow.com, arguably the most successful, highly-focused specialty site in the SE community.

What they will tell you is they made a concerted effort to attract a large number (around 500) of very smart people in Math, by promising them that the non-graduate-level math people would not be allowed on the site. And they succeeded in spades.

Today they continue their tradition of aggressively kicking off questions that do not meet their exacting standards. Judging from the high quality of the questions and answers on the site, I'd say it works.

So no, I don't believe you should merge the two sites. That will only result in diluting them both. Instead, the focus should be on attracting those testing professionals to the Developer Testing site that would make it the MathOverflow of software testing.

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I don't think The Stack Exchange model is a good model for discussion or Polls; and empirical evidence bears that out. However; if we're going to have the latter, I agree that it should be controlled as tightly as possible, otherwise you'll get "What Lingerie should I buy for my wife|girlfriend|computer as a programmer?" and we all know where that road leads.

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Yes there are like a jillion answers already, but I'm still gonna put in my $.05

I think DT.SE should go in with SO if anything, or just Testing.SE. Merging it to P.SE would be bad.

We need our watercooler place. /. is too limited, reddit and digg can't figure out who's winning, and it would help keep us in the SE family. It could also allow for better discussions than /., digg and reddit allow. Possibly. Maybe.

We just want our watercooler and we love what Jeff et al have done with the forum-revamp that is StackOverflow. We want to stay here some days ;)

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I do share a similar ideology on White Box Testing should be separate from the programmers.se, but I believe the alternative to merging would be to provide friendly links on the programmers.se, so that anyone has an option of jumping to a similar topic on the Developer Testing Site instantaneously.

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Don't merge. I mean, if programmers.stackexchange.com exists then I don't see why Developer Testing can't exist independently. I didn't even know that something like programmers.se exists. I don't understand the logic that if the 'community' thinks that programmers should exist then why does the same set of people don't think the same about Developer Testing.

We need a dedicated site where people can find experts who can talk about questions related to testing. Currently, we don't find these experts on SO.

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having thought more about it, I'm quite annoyed by the fact that the dev testing site has gone through ALL the deliberation and community commitment phases, and now, AFTER it has passed the "should that even be a site" phase, you pull the rug from under it, breaking your own community rules, and not letting it stand on its own two feet.

If you don't trust the community, why let it vote and commit in the first place? let sites grow organically. the crappy ones will die off. the good ones will remain. by sticking your hands every 5 minutes into the life of a site, you are killing any willingness from the community to take part in any future games you may want to hold, in the knowledge that you may just break the rules after all is done, just because.

if you do not respect your own rules, why should the community trust you?

Roy

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because it's non-deterministic, like multithreaded programming -- we believe many of the people who committed to this site did it before programmers.se existed and had no other outlet for their subjective testing questions. The landscape changed. –  Jeff Atwood Sep 25 '10 at 0:40
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Jeff - up to 12 hours ago, I didn't even realize programmes se exists. and it sounds like a clone of stackoverflow to me. like it does not need to exist at all - but I'm fine with letting it live on its own, because if it does, than the community actually decides what works and what doesn't. even if the landscape changed, I think you're not being a good parent by questioning the existence of a site already through all the stages. your inconsistency is what will eventually turn off people who are willing to play by your rules. –  RoyOsherove Sep 25 '10 at 7:25
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@roy part of being a good parent is teaching your "children" to play nicely with each other. And if your "children" throw a tantrum because they don't want to play with the other "children".. –  Jeff Atwood Sep 25 '10 at 7:55
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Jeff - if a parent promises something, what message do they send if they keep breaking that promise? –  RoyOsherove Sep 25 '10 at 17:03
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@roy ultimately, ignorance of the other sites in our network -- just like ignorance of the law, is not a valid defense. I support kicking this proposal back to the definition phase as a site for QA/TESTERS but as in the title of DEVELOPER TESTING, I cannot and will not support this kind of factionalism -- sorry. –  Jeff Atwood Sep 26 '10 at 2:30
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@Jeff: does that mean you've already decided? either the community says "yes" to the merger, or you kill the site off completely? –  RoyOsherove Sep 26 '10 at 21:00

I've never heard of or been to this "programmers" site; I'm interested in unit testing issues, but except for reading this thread I'm not sure how I would have known to go to the "programmers" site for unit testing answers. I would have guessed they would be on the original StackOverflow if anywhere.

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I disagree with merging. I think developer testing and unit testing should be a niche site that will attract the relatively expert crowd that doesn't usually care (or not as much) about other types of developer related questions. Yes, I'm talking specifically about myself, but also know about several others I know in the community who can speak for themselves if they wish.

By not merging it, we are giving a good one place to find answers only about these specific subjects, with the ability to have a very engaged and focused expert crowd ready to answer, and benefiting from specialized "rank" in this specific field.

It might sound superficial, but I think we're more likely to see the likes of Fowler and Feathers in a separate, unmerged developer testing site than in a broader developer or Stack Overflow site.

Roy.

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+1 Another way to look at this is: I am a developer who is seeking guidance on how to test. I have some experience with testing, but I am by no means an expert. Having a separate site for Developer Testing makes me feel more prone to seeking guidance on that site directly because I think the proper experts would gravitate towards that site. With a general programming site, I get no such feeling. Sure, I can throw up a very specific question and get some kind of answer, and on SO it generally tends to be good, but I have more confidence in a separate site to receive expert answers. My 2 cents –  Joseph Sep 23 '10 at 23:16
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What would you think if the "separate site" had 95 users and the general site had 8,000,000? –  Joel Spolsky Sep 23 '10 at 23:26
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@Joel, well, adding 7,990,000 users that don't care about TDD wouldn't really help the 95. –  Eric Wilson Sep 24 '10 at 0:46
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@FarmBoy: Really? TDD is pretty hot in programming circles. But even if it wasn't, surely even a small percentage of the millions of users who read Stack Overflow will amount to way more than the niche of users who would dedicate their time to hanging around a site only about unit testing. That's the rub. –  Robert Cartaino Sep 24 '10 at 1:10
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Joel: I would rather have 95 dedicated experts - that will listed to every new question coming up, than a million who every once in a while look up at "what's new" feed and miss my question altogether. I only visit stack overflow when a google alert tells me something with my search terms happened there, for example. I would listen to the full feed on a dedicated site. –  RoyOsherove Sep 24 '10 at 9:31
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I disagree with merging, too, but I don't think a testing-only site is really sustainable. It might work as part of a software engineering site, but not the one proposed if they're serious about it being "academic." I'm not interested in academic discussions on software engineering; I'm much more interested in what works. –  tvanfosson Sep 24 '10 at 11:04
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@Joel To your point about the user base. Then the next extension of that would be to not have SO at all, and to just have a Yahoo Answers, with everything bundled into one site. I think you know where I'm going with this. I'm not saying that you're merging point isn't valid, and to be clear, you are walking a fine line here. "When does a topic warrant it's own place?" My point is simply that I believe "Developer Testing" warrants its own place, and I think if that site existed then the community there would grow and not stagnate. –  Joseph Sep 24 '10 at 14:38
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There is also an aspect here of "developr testing" being broader than "programming". Sure, you've got TDD, and it is a very important part of the process, but you've also got all of the other levels of testing (integration testing, scenario-based testing, automated ui testing). But you've also got things like database testing, which is something I would have a hard time fitting inside the "programming" box. What about the relationship between testing done by developers, and automated testing performed by QA? Surely folks have questions about where those boundaries are, and how to manage them –  ckramer Sep 24 '10 at 19:09
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I don't see any point in the programming site. I DO see a point in the testing site. The case of the programmer site being someplace to go for questions that are related to programming but don't fit on SO is odd to say the least. That's like trying to prove a negative. A site dedicated to TDD and other developer testing makes perfect sense. Focus. It's wanted. It's needed. –  Clayton Bunyard Sep 28 '10 at 14:05

Merge them.

And if programmers.se is really all about the craft of programming, then the newly reformed IEEE/ACM Software Engineering (that I'm also following) ought to be merged into it two. I strongly believe that there's a critical mass of people needed to make one of these types of sites work, and that StackOverflow can be for matters of a practical and objective nature, and programmers.se can and should be devoted to academic and subjective nature.

As has been demonstrated on StackOverflow, tags work when properly used, and this is an ideal situation in which to use them.

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I have a better idea: why don't you merge Unit Testing with Programmers and then merge everything back into ... wait for it ... StackOverflow.

Either this or leave the sites be - no merge.

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I agree that "Unit Testing" is too narrow a focus for a site.

I disagree with merging it into programmers.se.

I suggest that a stack exchange on "Testing" that covered unit tests, specification tests, TDD, BDD, performance testing, scalability testing, NUnit, JUnit, xUnit, XUnit, Fit, RSpec, Cucumber, MSpec, etc. would be both large enough to be useful and focused enough to work.

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I think it would be reasonable for such a site to be merged into a different, more serious site about software craftsmanship and the like, but I don't think Programmers.se qualifies for that.

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Yes Merge them.

I looked at the unit test questions on SO and I would have to say that:

A. There appears to be a fair amount of unit testing questions on SO.

B. They are questions that I would get value out of.

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Please do not merge the two sites.

I understand the call to merge testing into programming, but I don't think that most people who know how big and specialized testing is would agree with the merge with a more generalized site.

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I have to agree with (some of) the others here that Developer Testing does not belong merged with programmers.se but could be merged with Stack Overflow. So NO, please do not merge them.

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The problem that I have with merging this in is that, while there are some potential subjective questions about unit testing, by and large, I think there can be objective answers to a lot of the questions. 3 out of 5 example on-topic questions, for instance, don't really fit the subjective mold. One other could easily be answered objectively with a minor tweak or two (and asked, perhaps as CW).

The programmers.se site is, IIRC, for subjective questions about software development which makes it less of a good fit than Stack Overflow. If anything, I would say simply don't create the site and encourage people to continue asking all of these questions on Stack Overflow.

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there's no requirement that questions must be subjective on programmers -- the requirement is that the questions just don't fit well on SO. see: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/12373/… –  Jeff Atwood Sep 23 '10 at 22:03
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@Jeff: Then maybe the programmers FAQ should be updated? Programmers - Stack Exchange is for expert programmers who are interested in subjective discussions on software development. –  BenV Sep 23 '10 at 22:41

Personally I believe that testing is a separate topic. Not every programmer tests the code after he/she writes it. Testing and unit testing is whole new culture. It has it's own specifics. In our company testers are isolated from programmers. Each one of them do different jobs. So I'm against any kind of merge.

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Nay.

Unit testing, as many of the other topics, currently has a live and big community of people discussing. For example, you can see the TDD mailing list on Yahoo that is very much alive.

If it is to be merged, I, like many others on the specific mailing lists, will never get the benefit of a really good site for these questions because signal-to-noise ratio is more important to me.

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Unit Testing, TDD, BDD and all the available frameworks make up a good sum of knowledge and should be represented by a dedicated site to learn and talk about it.

So NO, don't merge them.

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No, please don't. At least if it has to be merged with the main Stack Overflow. I still think developer testing deserves a site for itself. I didn't even notice Stack Overflow had testing questions until I searched. I'd have thought they'd be off-topic.

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No. I've never seen programmers.se… Why is it separate from Stack Overflow? (Kidding, I'll have a look...)

But a decent place to ask about TDD, BDD and XYZ would be great. It keeps me from getting answers like "dunno what you're writing readable testcases for, anyways..."

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Sure the "Developer Testing : Unit Testing and more…" SE should not be too narrow in topic, but "programmers" is too general. As already suggested "Software Engineering" may be a better merge candidate. I'd prefer to keep "Testing" as specific topic but not limited to one kind of testing -- for instance it should sure include usability testing and user studies with prototypes. If you do not limit testing to automatic testing frameworks, the topic is large AND specific enough.

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You answered your own question; and the answer was no.

programmers.stackexchange.com:

"...the requirement is that the questions just don't fit well on SO."

Developer Testing:

"We believe that the Developer Testing proposal, as stated... covers topics that are already perfectly valid and allowed and exist in large quantities on stackoverflow.com..."(1)

Besides, the two are logically distinct. Developer Testing questions already fit on Stack Overflow, programmers.stackexchange.com questions, by definition, don't. If you're trying to figure out what to do with dt, it should stay with Stack Overflow. Trying to merge it with programmers.stackexchange.com is just going to mix oil and water in the same bucket.

If the community isn't actively trying to keep programmers.stackexchange.com to the content it was created for, and you're unhappy with the type of content that it generates - then get rid of it altogether. The community will find somewhere else.

(1) note, I'm purposely excluding the "and programmers.se" from that last quote, because a tag count presents a clear view of the opposite.

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Yes, merge them.

I frequent both StackOverflow and Programmers.StackExchange - I believe any questions on developer testing or unit testing can be and should be covered by both sites. If we're concerned about questions getting asked on both sites and then simply getting referred to the other, we can simply explicitly state that these types of questions should be asked on Programmers.StackExchange.

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NO, don't merge them. Testing is a big enough and important topic that deserves its own area. I agree with some of the comments about programmers.SE. What's the point? that's what stack overflow is!

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Right, shut down programmers.se instead. –  jayarjo Sep 24 '10 at 8:28

Sounds like a plea to save Programmers.SE.

It's all about focus. SO is for focused questions and has flourished but P.SE is not and has devolved (rather quickly) to water-cooler talk. At the rate it's going it won't make it out of beta.

If DT.SE was to be merged with either site, it is a better fit to merge it with SO than with P.SE. P.SE would just drag it down with it.

The problem with merging DT.SE with SO is that SO is too big. Yeah that's right, too big. It passed critical mass long ago and is in danger of becoming a black hole that sucks everything in and crushes them together so tightly the tags are not enough to pull them apart.

Take for example nearly any question that happens to be on the front page of SE -- then look click the TAGS button and find all the tags that apply. How many do you get -- a dozen or more? The poster chose some, other users may retag -- but there is a hard limit of five tags per question.

It can be argued that by community edit of the tags, the most applicable are eventually used -- but in practice the question is answered and ignored long before that has a chance to happen. And yet when another person posts a similar question tagged differently, as it is from a different perspective, it is likely they will be referred to the first question and the second question closed before it can be answered from that different perspective.

This is what I mean by SO being too big and crushing everything together. If the question is not dead-center mainstream it is in danger of being crushed by the weight of the site before it can be given a chance at being answered.

DT is not mainstream. Yes it is gaining ground, but it's not there yet. DT.SE is the 'clamoring' of those of us interested in this niche area that want to be able to discuss it without having that crushing mass all the time.

There is a growing list of proposals on SE of subjects that enough interest and individuality to not want to be crushed by the weight of SO, nor do they want to float away into nonsense with P.SE.

Don't merge! Please! :)

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"Sounds like a plea to save Programmers SE". Indeed. If programmers.se isn't working, don't try to fix it by merging other sites that may work on their own. –  Anthony Williams Sep 24 '10 at 7:36

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