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Questions about why Stack Overflow does not share rep with Meta Stack Overflow are met with the response that meta.stackoverflow and stackoverflow do not share a "parent-child relationship" like the other meta sites. For example, this response:

Stack Overflow isn't in a parent-child relationship with Meta Stack Overflow like the other sites are with their respective sites. Meta Stack Overflow is intended to handle not only issues with Stack Overflow, but for the Stack Exchange Network as a whole. It is also the specific place to ask questions about Data Explorer, Area 51, and Careers which otherwise lack their own meta sites and even reputation in some cases. In essence - Meta Stack Overflow is the site for all of the Stack Exchange Network. Tying reputation to Stack Overflow would undermine that, since not everyone who knows the engine is particularly active on Stack Overflow.

This just raises the question: Why doesn't Stack Overflow have a "real" meta (with a "parent-child" relationship) like the other Stack Exchange sites? Why is it treated as a special case? The closest thing I've seen to an explanation is this bit from the New Per-Site Metas blog post:

For now we are leaving meta.stackoverflow.com grandfathered in, as-is, with no changes; it’s still a standalone community with a standalone reputation system. We think Stack Overflow is large enough to justify this, and it just so happens that Stack Overflow is also the name of the company, too. Meta Stack Overflow will serve as the “National Capital” where we process feedback not just for Stack Overflow but for the core engine itself — while the smaller meta sites are akin to regional or state capitals.

But this is a really unsatisfying explanation as it doesn't really stand up to reason. How does the fact that Stack Overflow is large justify the lack of a "real" meta site? If anything, shouldn't the fact that it's large actually mean the opposite: that its meta should not have some purpose?

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I don't understand why, if you quote the official blog where they listed their reasons, you are still confused. I could maybe understand if you had never seen the blog, but still. As it is, I think you're just being silly now. You already posted meta.stackexchange.com/questions/73812 which was nearly identical in complaint to this one. I don't know what it is you hope to prove, but you seem to be making the same argument time and again. It is what the owners decide it to be. Where's the problem with that? Can I come redecorate your living room to suit my occasional taste? –  jcolebrand Jan 3 '11 at 21:33
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I would like to reiterate my comment: Please don't steal my pretty reputation points!!!! –  jjnguy Jan 3 '11 at 22:22
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@drachenstern You're basically saying that Stack Overflow et al should not be criticized. First, isn't that part of the reason behind the meta sites: to provide constructive criticism so that they can get better? Second, if you want to know why I've placed my furniture where I've placed it I can give you reasons, and I'm willing to listen to logical arguments for repositioning them. The thing with the no rep sharing on Meta hasn't been given a logical reason. There are two reasons given, one which is completely nonsensical and the other which verges on irrelevant. –  Laurence Gonsalves Jan 3 '11 at 22:22
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I'm wondering why this matters to you. –  jjnguy Jan 3 '11 at 22:22
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Actually no. If I put my couch somewhere, I don't expect strangers to tell me where to move it to. Now my wife, on the other hand, can tell me all day long, and I'll have to provide a reason to her. We two can discuss couch placement. We two are like SOIS in this case. You are the stranger. You have no business to demand that the sites be joined or split, nor to tell my wife and I where to put our couch. PS: "demand" :: "Stop special cashing stack overflows meta" <-- reads like a demand to me. –  jcolebrand Jan 3 '11 at 22:28
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Please don't judge the entire community based on the votes and joking statements of singular individuals. Second, technically no, merging would not do that - per-site-metas do not earn any reputation. The only reputation that would matter would be the Stack Overflow reputation. –  Grace Note Jan 3 '11 at 22:29
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@Laurence: humor aside, JJnguy asks the key question: what can't you do on Meta that you can do on SO, and why do you want to do it? Insulting comments about some rep-based class system are irrelevant - if your system were implemented, you would still find yourself facing a large number of users with significantly larger meaningless numbers next to their names than you have next to your own. –  Shog9 Jan 3 '11 at 22:31
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@Laurence, also, many people here contributed before there were metas for specific sites, and are not active on SO. They will lose privileges that they have earned through hard work on this meta. –  jjnguy Jan 3 '11 at 22:31
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@Laurence Why didn't you just lead off with "it seems broken that I have 20k rep on SO but can't do much on meta"? It took an hour and dozens of comments to coax out the real reason for this post... Something that alters privileges based on total SE rep isn't a bad idea, since this is the network-wide meta –  Michael Mrozek Jan 3 '11 at 22:36
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@Laurence, you don't need rep here to help influence Stack Overflow. It helps with things like editing and tagging, but authoring posts and voting is something you can do from the beginning. –  jjnguy Jan 3 '11 at 22:47
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@Pollyanna Yes, I know it serves a dual purpose. My point is, should it? I don't think it should. Really there should be two sites: meta.stackoverflow.com which is actually the meta for stackoverflow.com and a separate site to act as the "national capital". There's no real reason to have them combined other than historical reasons (ie: it was a mistake, and it's too hard to fix now). –  Laurence Gonsalves Jan 3 '11 at 22:51
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@Laurence, most of the content from this site would be moved to the new Meta.SE. There is not much explicit SO content here. (Not trying to make a point here. Just making an observation) –  jjnguy Jan 3 '11 at 22:52
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Meta users don't have any extra control over Stack Overflow - some of us who don't use Stack Overflow tend to stay out of things that aren't general engine matters. This is actually the same for the per-site-metas - people can be exceptionally active on the Meta site for helping build the site itself, but have very poor reputation on the corresponding parent site. And all of that exceptional activity actually amounts to very little. People don't make influence by their score - they make an influence by presenting quality ideas. –  Grace Note Jan 3 '11 at 22:56
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@Laurence You might want to post a different discussion/feature-request question suggesting a method for allowing users more privileges based on their rep on other sites (something using their total SE rep, something using the highest rep they have on a single site, etc.); I think this one is pretty much useless at this point –  Michael Mrozek Jan 3 '11 at 23:00
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@Laurence - if you visit the sites you mention, you'll find that there is very little discussion happening. What is your point? Homogeneity for Homogeneity's sake is really terrible reasoning to make such a change. Show use examples of the bad things that are happening to the community because meta.so is fundamentally different than the other meta sites. –  Adam Davis Jan 3 '11 at 23:21
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4 Answers

Update

As the relevant communities grew, this did start to make sense. And three years later, we did implement it.


How does the fact that Stack Overflow is large justify the lack of a "real" Meta site?

This is a reasonable question. You probably won't like the answer...

SO is large, and SO was first. SO is large in part because SO was first, but there are several other factors involved that contribute to its size - suffice to say, it's unlikely any other SE site will achieve anything close to the scale of SO anytime soon.

Because SO is large, and because SO was first, many issues arise on SO that don't affect the other SE sites at all, only occur on them after they've been active for a significant amount of time, or occur simultaneously but get noticed on SO first. So chances are, if you're encountering a problem on CatFanciers.SE, it's already been encountered, reported, discussed, and perhaps even resolved on SO.

An excellent example of this is the wiki FAQ: this started on SO, was migrated to Meta, and then gradually modified and expanded to cover SE as a whole.

Now sure, the SO/SE team could create another meta site for SO, move this one to ubermeta.stackexchange.com, and then manually migrate new questions from the SO meta to the global meta when it becomes apparent that they're globally-relevant... But why? What does adding more work solve, apart from consistency for the sake of consistency?

There's nothing wrong with consistency. It would probably reduce some small amount of confusion on the part of new users, but whether or not this would make up for the additional confusion of sending users to yet another meta site when they have questions is debatable. And most importantly, the current system doesn't require any additional effort - it's already done, paid for long ago, its cost amortized over time. It's not enough that a feature could be implemented - it needs to offer a compelling benefit to offset the cost of implementation.

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There are two primary reasons.

  • It's grandfathered in - after several years of this usage it makes little sense to change it out simply because it doesn't match all the other meta sites
  • It's the crucible for the Stack Overflow engine itself - Stack Overflow, being the largest and most used site, generates the most usable data regarding the design of the engine used on all the other sites

If you build machines that other people use, then it makes sense to place the corporate offices near the largest user of your machines.

Furthermore, but probably less importantly, the site to which this meta is attached is composed of programmers* who are probably well suited to debugging, analyzing, and presenting problems in a manner that the site owners will be able to understand and respond to easily. If Jeff & Co. were ice skaters, it would probably be better if the crucible site was dedicated to ice skating so problems could be presented within the knowledgespace the site builders are familiar with.

Plus we're curmudgeonly like that.

*AI simulants built by Jon Skeet

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+1 for "Plus we're curmudgeonly like that." :-D –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 3 '11 at 23:15
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Please note that I have changed my position on this matter, and am leaving this here only because I can't argue with prior self. He makes some pretty decent points, even though he's wrongity wrong wrong wrong. –  Adam Davis May 31 '11 at 22:28
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If I understand it correctly, meta.SO is really meta.SE -- it's the meta for all sites. The only reason it's not at meta.SE is that meta.SE already exists -- it's the meta for SE1 sites. Rather than evict the existing meta.SE, they just left meta.SO alone, but it's intended as the meta for all SE-wide issues. The first part of the explanation you posted was a little weak (the part about "Stack Overflow is large enough to justify this"), but the second part explained it well:

Meta Stack Overflow will serve as the “National Capital” where we process feedback not just for Stack Overflow but for the core engine itself — while the smaller meta sites are akin to regional or state capitals.

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You've explained that it's the "National Capital", which I get, but you haven't explained why they don't give SO a real meta and move the "capital" somewhere more sensible. –  Laurence Gonsalves Jan 3 '11 at 22:01
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@Laurence Because it would be a lot of effort for essentially no gain? I guess if that's your question Shog9's answer explained it pretty well –  Michael Mrozek Jan 3 '11 at 22:04
    
If there's no gain then there would have been no gain in sharing rep on the other sites. –  Laurence Gonsalves Jan 3 '11 at 22:15
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@Laurence: I don't think you realize the massive difference in size between SO, Meta.SO, and Meta.*random*.SE - Meta is tiny compared to SO, just big enough to maintain a community of dedicated users drawn from across all the SE sites. The other metas are much, much smaller, and can't necessarily support a community of users on their own. SO, and perhaps SU and SF are large enough that a meta site could garner enough users to work... But without rep-sharing, many of the smaller meta sites would be ghost-towns. It wouldn't hurt Meta.SO, but it isn't necessary. minus 100 points... –  Shog9 Jan 3 '11 at 22:27
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I don't see how this is any less of a dupe than your question from half an hour ago, but I sympathize with your continuing confusion.

I can answer your "why" question. Look again at New Per-Site Metas. It says "every new website launches with its own dedicated meta site" right at the top, bold included. The key word there is "new."

MSO launched before any other meta site, and for a time, it was the meta for SO, SF, SU and A51. That made it the de facto meta for the Stack Exchange engine by the time the first per-site metas started appearing, and before the SE network even included the original trilogy.

By then, as Michael Mrozek points out, the team just decided the name and old posts were so tangled up that it wasn't worth untangling, and it only gets worse every day.

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So it's worth disentangling programmers.stackexchange and stackoverflow, but not nationa-capital.stackoverflow and meta.stackoverflow? –  Laurence Gonsalves Jan 3 '11 at 22:02
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@Laurence yes, because programmers.SE was the solution to a year-long ongoing problem. –  Pëkka Jan 4 '11 at 0:11
    
@Pekka meta.stackoverflow is a bigger and longer-lasting problem than the non-problem programmers.SE "solved". –  Laurence Gonsalves Oct 13 '11 at 18:50
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