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Note This isn't about centralizing the sites exactly, as in Jeff's blog post. I'm only suggesting here that the 'ask a question' and 'search' use cases have some access to the other sites.

The current set of SO sites do a good job of categorizing questions in a useful way, but this still requires quite a bit of administrative overhead to keep things organized. Also, for users who aren't familiar with our system, performing a search in one may not provide the answer that they are looking for (i.e. an Apache question in stackoverflow.com).

I propose the following:

  • For asking questions:
    • Have 'Ask Question' redirect to a single page for all sites
    • After the title, have the user specify which site the question belongs on
    • The originating site can be pre-selected
    • Give a one sentence explanation for each site (i.e. stack overflow is programming and developer tools questions (ok, not perfect but just an example)).
    • You could also provide a post-submission check based on the tags the user picked. "The 'Server-Administration' tag usually indicates that a question belongs on Server Fault. Would you like to have your question posted there (yes/no)".
  • For searching for questions/answers:
    • Allow the search to access all sites, listed with the appropriate colour styles.
    • Provide a radio filter to pick a specific site

While each site is for specific 'stuff', I feel like too great a division of content prevents the sites from working together. I'm hoping that these suggestions could act to tie everything together so that the knowledge and user communities don't become too fragmented.

Update: After thinking about the problem further, I've got some more reasons for this.

First off, Server Fault has a much smaller audience than Stack Overflow and I think that this translates to many fewer people knowing it exists. I feel like many people just aren't going to learn to post there directly. Second, and Jeff can answer this, but what is the proportion of questions on Server Fault that were migrated? The goal here is to encourage people to post there directly as often as possible, and keep these questions off of SO (and put less burden on the mods to keep it this way).

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The streak of asking for the same thing 5 times a day continues. –  TheTXI Jul 20 '09 at 18:00
    
I think this is one of those questions that is harder to look up first. If you watch the ticker all day, it's a lot easier to find duplicates. –  Dana the Sane Jul 20 '09 at 18:01
    
Well the first part of that is called Google (or Bing, I guess)... –  Jeff Yates Jul 20 '09 at 18:02
    
Fair enough, but if I suspect that something I'm looking for is on an SO site, I'd like to be able to look for it there. –  Dana the Sane Jul 20 '09 at 18:07
    
Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7272/… –  kd304 Jul 20 '09 at 18:17
    
@kd304 Noted, but I'm suggesting this as a core feature rather than an extension. –  Dana the Sane Jul 20 '09 at 18:22
    
Does this need a tag for all of the sites? –  Brad Gilbert Jul 27 '09 at 19:39

2 Answers 2

Most of what you are asking (aside from posting questions) is something that I would hope a well-planned API would be able to handle. This would allow sites to set up this item as a centralized hub on their own.

This has been requested I can't even count how many times now and for varying degrees of centralization. I've heard conflicting stories about whether or not anything even remotely similar will ever get done.

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I like the centralized hub idea, but I think this would work best for a single broad topic, (i.e. web dev) which could span 3 sites. The goal I'm aiming for is, "Give me what I'm asking in one place and help me put my question where it belongs". –  Dana the Sane Jul 20 '09 at 18:10

This has been brought up many times in slightly different forms, and the gist of it is that maybe some of this will come to fruition eventually. I'd expect the cross-site searching eventually, but let's be honest, unless you know the tag you're searching for, you're better off using Google anyway.

Some probably never will. For example, some of this hinges on things like linking users across sites, which is iffy with Google's OpenID implementation.

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The linking users problem still exists if the question is migrated, this case just incurs more work (create new acnt, migrate, etc) on the part of regular users and mods. The main point here is to guide the user to do the right thing in the first place. –  Dana the Sane Jul 20 '09 at 18:14

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