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I'm starting to see the parallels between Stack Overflow and James Blish's 'Cities In Flight' series. In those books the major Earth cities all rip themselves from the host planet and set off for a new life among the stars. Is this already happening as tags set off for new lives in the Stack Exchange galaxy?

I've just committed to the public beta of SharePoint Overflow and I guess that will mean that all new SharePoint questions will be migrated to this new Stack Exchange site; and I guess there will be a call to migrate all existing questions on SharePoint to the new site. So SharePoint will fire up its spindizzy and move a few thousand questions a month off the Stack Overflow planet.

In addition I noted this meta question asking for Scrum and agile Stack Overflow questions to be migrated to Programmers. Another spindizzy is started, hundreds of questions affected.

And this is inevitably happening more and more.

Agile, Scrum and SharePoint are middleweights in question terms — so small enough to be shrugged off. But what if the heavyweight tags get itchy? Say a mobile development Stack Exchange site took all iPhone, Objective-C and Android questions reducing the Stack Overflow questions by tens of thousands a month? What if a Microsoft development Stack Exchange site moved off, or Java or database?

So how long before all the big tags get a dedicated site and move off to live among the stars, leaving behind the disenfranchised, smaller tags to eke out an existence on the home planet?

NB: I can't see how this won't have been noticed already — but I couldn't see a duplicate.

EDIT

There is a case for moving subjective tags like agile to subjective Stack Exchange sites like Programmers — subjective questions don't sit well wit Stack Overflow and are often promptly closed.

But while I can see that CMS Stack Exchange Communities would be useful, I would still like to see all coding questions centralized at Stack Overflow — even if that meant duplication between Stack Overflow and some Stack Exchange sites.

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closed as not constructive by Rosinante, hims056, animuson, ben is uǝq backwards, Manishearth Apr 28 '13 at 8:17

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There is a Sharepoint overflow? I don't mean it any harm, but why? Are there so many questions that don't fit in on SO? This is a worrying trend indeed. –  Pëkka Mar 22 '11 at 12:54
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I'm with you on this one.. in my humble opinion, all programming questions should be stacked together in one place. Splitting them is fundamental mistake for the exact reason you describe so well. –  Shadow Wizard Mar 22 '11 at 13:05
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@Shadow Wizard: what is this reason then? I only read an observation, no argumentation. –  Steven Jeuris Mar 22 '11 at 13:15
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@Steven - "eke out an existence on the home planet" means in other words "barely live in the home website" which means the majority of activity will cease to exist. –  Shadow Wizard Mar 22 '11 at 13:24
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I'm praying for the Integer Division StackExchange to make it. I won't miss those questions. Why do I get 0 when I divide 1 by 3? –  tvanfosson Mar 22 '11 at 13:55
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"major earth cities all rip themselves from the host planet and set off for a new life in the stars" /megaultrasuperduperfacepalm –  Won't Mar 22 '11 at 14:10
    
@Shadow Wizard: Consider my answer to see what I meant between the difference in observation and argumentation. –  Steven Jeuris Mar 22 '11 at 15:21
    
HIPSTEEEERRRRRRRRS! –  Adam Davis Mar 22 '11 at 16:28
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@Adam Nothing wrong with some 1950s sci-fi references! –  amelvin Mar 22 '11 at 17:09
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@What: SharePoint's such a smeary mess of leaky abstractions that it really isn't clear in many instances which of the trilogy a question belongs to. This is the main reason this particular staggering hobo needs its own home, rather than peeing on whatever's nearby. –  Stuart Pegg Mar 22 '11 at 20:23
    
@Stuart: I think any CMS has this problem. Maybe it should just be CMS.SE. –  Gabe Mar 23 '11 at 5:41
    
@Gabe: True, although CMS communities are unlikely to overlap in almost every instance. In this case SharePoint Overflow was an existing SE1 site being transferred. –  Stuart Pegg Mar 23 '11 at 8:31
    
@Stuart: I was just thinking that we can either have separate sites for each CMS (Drupal, WordPress, SharePoint, etc.) or just have a single site for all of them. Maybe there's no overlap so it doesn't make sense. –  Gabe Mar 23 '11 at 8:49
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@Gabe, @What, @Shadow: SharePoint Overflow questions range from programming to configuration to infrastructure across a wide feature set - and MS are pouring more features in with each version. That's why it works well as its own site. Regarding programming, these questions get closed unless they're specifically about SharePoint dev. Once we move to SE 2.0 they'll get migrated to SO. –  Alex Angas Mar 23 '11 at 10:41
    
Welcome to the problems of deciding there is a principal partition. Hierachical databases eventually died of this and got replaced by (relational systems) of massive sets of related data indexed by all their interesting aspects. One database, many ways to search it. –  Ira Baxter Aug 12 '11 at 4:09

8 Answers 8

up vote 31 down vote accepted

The way to do this is to "ensure" that these satellite or sub sites don't get started. However, this has to be done through persuasion and conversation rather than diktat. So what can you do?

  1. Leave a comment on the proposal pointing out that these questions are on topic on Stack Overflow.
  2. Start an Area 51 discussion on proposal explaining why these questions are on topic on Stack Overflow.
  3. Start a discussion here about the specific proposal to get others to back you up.
  4. Most importantly - remind Stack Overflow users that questions on the particular subject are on topic, in case questions are getting closed incorrectly.

However, there may well be a case where people feel that they aren't getting enough attention on Stack Overflow or their subject includes areas other than programming and want their own site. This has happened (for good or ill) to Super User as there are now three (well 2 1/2) sites that cover the same ground - Unix and Linux, Ask Ubuntu and (the half site) Apple.

Perhaps a more relevant case is Game Development. This site takes programming questions about games so you could say what's the point they're on topic for Stack Overflow. However, it also takes questions on other game related subjects that would be off topic for Stack Overflow. So it makes sense for there to be a separate site.

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Good point about game development. –  Shadow Wizard Mar 22 '11 at 13:15
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+1 I agree that we need to campaign to maintain SO as the logical first place for all coding/dev questions to land in. But Sharepoint is like Gaming, there will be many questions that are out of scope for SO and some questions that would be in scope - once Sharepoint Overflow takes off I believe that the Sharepoint tag in SO will wither away unless we are very careful. –  amelvin Mar 22 '11 at 14:25
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The trouble comes when questions that are on-topic for stack overflow start getting migrated to game development, just because they can be. This is happening frequently now on SuperUser with Apple questions. –  Joel Coehoorn Mar 22 '11 at 15:53
    
@Joel - that needs to be discouraged. But I don't know the best way of doing that. –  ChrisF Mar 22 '11 at 16:52
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Telling @Diago is a first step @ChrisF, he'll probably suspend all the users who voted to migrate it :P –  Ivo Flipse Mar 22 '11 at 17:09
    
What makes Ask Different half a site? Or are you using half to indicate that there are some topics that are allowed on AD that aren't on other sites? –  Kyle Cronin Apr 22 '11 at 18:52
    
@Kyle - It's about all Apple products so half is for OSX devices (questions that could be asked on SU) while the other half is for iOS devices (questions that are off topic on SU). –  ChrisF Apr 22 '11 at 18:53
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Sometimes its nice to know you can go to one place for all your (reasonable) questions. Personally I don't want to spend a lot of time trying to talk people out of their area51 sites and convince them to stick to StackOverflow. I like being an active member of SO, but don't feel I have enough time to do all of that and get what I need out of the site. I'm with the OP on this one... StackOverFlow has an excellent filtration system, leave it all under one roof and get what you need with one stop shopping. –  user146551 Jun 7 '11 at 19:24

There are a lot of the cross-applicable sites in the Stack Exchange Network, like the trio of AskUbuntu, Unix & Linux, and Super User. The one thing about these is that we don't just pack up all of the stuff and move it out of there. We're all part of the same network, but each site is still its own community. I could ask a Linux question on U&L, but since it's on-topic for Super User and I'm more comfortable there, why move? Super User is as enthusiastic to get your Linux and Mac questions as the corresponding Stack Exchange sites are. Who asks where ultimately depends on where you find yourself comfortable.

The same goes for Stack Overflow and SharePoint - SharePoint questions remain on topic for Stack Overflow. It's fine to encourage people and say "Hey, we've got a new SE site for SharePoint, why not check it out?", but we aren't going to just forward all future questions there. We migrate questions when they do not belong on a site, not when they may fit better on another site or may get better answers elsewhere. But having a SharePoint site is still an advantage, as there are many parts of SharePoint that you simply can't address on Stack Overflow (such as the UI or some elements of web parts), as they don't have to do with the object model or other parts of programming. This was the advantage of the original SE 1.0 SharePoint Overflow.

There also isn't going to be a mass migration of existing content. Old content displaces new content, and that can be harmful to a budding community like a brand new SE site. This has been covered in quite a few Meta discussions (mostly about TeX), which I'll fetch later. But to basically summarize it, old content pretends to be new while not even involving people of the community that it ends up on.

Area 51 is designed to ideally prevent a site becoming "irrelevant". Proposals which may ultimately steal questions from other sites are considered duplicates, which would filter out things like "Microsoft Development". We have an "Android" site, but it's devoted to users of Android and lets Stack Overflow handle all of the development. As such, an "Android Development" site probably wouldn't fly, nor would the more broad "Mobile Development".


Stack Overflow has a very specific purpose in the network - coding and programming. Ultimately, because of its size, it does a lot to stop anything that could significantly detract from it. The Team has been very strict on this point, so I don't think we have to worry too much about it, or any other Stack Exchange site for that matter, becoming irrelevant.

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I would only be worried if people started flocking to Quora, ExpertsExchange or a new contender. Every Stack Exchange site is part of the network, so it's not a problem if we get sites that overlap. I only caution against fragmenting the bigger sites into irrelevantly small pieces, everything else will probably result in growth of the network as a whole –  Ivo Flipse Mar 22 '11 at 13:26
    
thanks for the extensive answer, it calms some of my fears. Basically you're saying that coding/dev questions will remain on SO regardless of the growth of SE. I do reckon that Sharepoint will quickly move past questions about web parts, features and workflow into 'how do I code a custom list' type questions though. I reckon it would be hard to justify migrating such a question to SO if it originated on Sharepoint SE. –  amelvin Mar 22 '11 at 14:14
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@amelvin In essence, coding/dev questions about SharePoint can be found on either site. It would be difficult to justify migration in either direction, because in both cases the question would be on-topic. In some scenarios, you may even attract experts from one site to assist on the other. Coding should be fine on SP Overflow, what makes it stand out is that it isn't just coding, and the relationship between the coding and the system itself, if that makes any sense. –  Grace Note Mar 22 '11 at 14:17
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I've signed up for SP-Overflow because SO is too narrow for many of the SP questions out there. I implicitly dislike cross posting but a facility to add a coding question on Sharepoint Overflow with a 'StackOverflow-Candidate' tag on that somehow alerts SO users is starting to seem useful. –  amelvin Mar 22 '11 at 14:29
    
If the intent is to allow sites with overlapping on-topic, is cross posting the same question and the same time allowed or encouraged? My aunt that has a ubuntu package issue doesn't have a clear grasp over whether to ask on site A) B) or C) and perhaps goes elsewhere thinking SE has split the pool of answerers. Is there any concern about maintaining tags thrice? –  bmike Aug 11 '11 at 23:38

As a person who answers questions on SO, I will open up the site and browse the recent questions list for some that look like I can answer them. I've filtered the results using tags, but my sphere of knowledge covers more than one topic. I'm not exactly a contender for the generalist badge (not yet, anyway), but I've answered at least a few questions on most of the common tags.

The point is that if SO is split into a bunch of more focussed sites, I'm unlikely to ever see those questions on certain topics, much less answer them.

I've signed up to several SE sites (because it is quite easy once you've got one account), but I'm not going to have time to browse them all for questions to answer; it takes enough of my time browsing the one site.

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+1 My usage is very like yours - I have 5+ upvotes on 15 of the 20 top tags - my experienced is varied, but I don't have the time to push for the Generalist badge. @Grace's comment reassures me that we will all stay on SO for the coding/dev questions going forward. So in about 5 years time I will bag that Generalist badge! –  amelvin Mar 22 '11 at 14:19

The following is taken from the faq of area51.

Should my idea be part of an existing site, or its own site? In general, if a site makes sense as part of a bigger site, it's better to have one big site than a bunch of little niche sites. Site X should be subsumed by site Y if:

  1. Almost all X questions are on-topic for site Y
  2. If Y already exists, it already has a tag for X, and nobody is complaining
  3. You're not creating such a big group that you don't have enough experts to answer all possible questions
  4. There's a high probability that users of site Y would enjoy seeing the occasional question about X

Personally I find any sub site with sufficient activity to have some advantages. (as opposed to little niche sites) If there is sufficient acticity, this means there is an opportunity to group experts together on a certain topic. This has a few advantages:

  • Resolving ambiguity of tags and questions.
  • Easier to determine whether something is on topic. (For users and moderators.)
  • Separated reputation.
  • More accurate answers by reaching a more specific audience.

Now, to contradict my own argument, the main problem I see are exactly the overlapping areas, which is the main reason not to split IMHO. Nothing is situated in just one category, hence the use of tags. Splitting a sub site entirely, makes the 'knowledge' only available in that particular category, for those particular users.

The real solution I believe, is to focus on users, and not the categorization. If C# developers feel it is useful to have a Q&A site for all C# questions, there is a reason for its existence. If it has overlapping questions with other sites, that's what those questions literally should do, they should overlap, and appear on both sites. This has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages. Furthermore, I believe this would make it easier for users to discover additional SE sites they are interested in.

Sub sites could start off with subsets of questions of other SE sites. You can compare it with the main Stack Exchange site at the moment. A favorite tagset is a candidate for a SE sub site.

A concrete example:

  • Stack Overflow: specific programming problems
  • Code Review: working code samples to be reviewed
  • (fictional) C#

A user with a specific programming problem would either end up at Stack Overflow, or C#. The question would be visible on both. A user who wants a code review on C# code, either ends up at Code Review or C#. The question would be visible on both.

That's how I would like to see the SE network. Implementing it is a different story. :)

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"Personally I find there to be no harm in any sub site with sufficient activity." - That means that you would be Ok with Java and C# moving to their own sites. This would destroy the traffic going to Stack Overflow. –  jjnguy Mar 22 '11 at 16:25
    
@jjnguy: No problem, I updated the answer slightly since that sentence didn't fit the following argumentation anyhow, as I point out the harm done as SE is structured at the moment. –  Steven Jeuris Mar 22 '11 at 16:43
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+1 Good arguments. –  amelvin Mar 22 '11 at 17:18

Sharepoint is an entire ecosystem with a very distinctive set of problems and questions. If a programming question really turns on the works of Sharepoint, it has pretty nearly nothing to do with the more general programming questions. [sharepoint] is not a tag like [java]. If there is a community of people -- programmers, admins, scripters -- who have a lot in common with each other, more power to them. They will be better served on their own site.

If a site survives beta, that is an indication that, indeed, it is inhabited by a distinctive group of people who are perfectly happy to spend their time on the new site instead of the main site. The main site remains perfectly healthy as the home of more general programming technologies.

As for Agile, it can jump in a lake. Management isn't programming. Planning isn't programming. It's a discipline that does not lend itself to crisp, objective, answers, and so it leads to endless 'broken windows' of insanely high votes for bikesheds.

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+1 for "endless 'broken windows' of insanely high votes for bikesheds" - an expression I want to use more in conversation. For the reasons you state agile will be better off on the subjective Programmers SE site. –  amelvin Mar 22 '11 at 23:02

This is a great discussion, because on the surface it is a troubling trend when a vibrant community of knowledgeable users becomes splintered by its own interests. Then again, I arrived to this from drupal.stack.

On the surface Drupal is an application used through GUI interface options with functions added by third party modules. This type of question is simple to understand. "How do I do X?", or "Why does Drupal do Y?" They are quite simply tagged out of relevancy in stackoverflow and thus ironically intermesh quite happily with other questions on stackoverflow's various other programming related topics.

However, Drupal uses some very per-tick-ular PHP and programmers like to get under the hood. As a framework the code is both familiar and frustratingly foreign. These users (and they are a distinct subset) must navigate a complicated course between PHP/SQL code, Drupal's common practices, and Drupal's GUI (or what Drupal calls "The Drupal Way").

The result is someone's question about PHP and Drupal can quickly become irrelevant because, "there's a module that does that". This would positively kill a thread where the majority of users respond to the poster's original programming question, only to discover their advise is of no value because that's not how an otherwise common problem is solved in this framework.

My2c

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This is true of all GUI frameworks. There is often a "standard" way built into that framework, but that doesn't stop people from rolling their own if they choose. The problem is solved by tagging and providing specific context in your question so that you attract the right group of answerers. –  Cody Gray Aug 11 '11 at 21:59
    
Tagging is very useful, but insufficient to overcome some user's trepidation to posting to some types of questions. I imagine it like a singles bar where you go to dance, watch sports, listen to music, and even within these categories are are sub-categories. The differences have less to do with their taxonomic categorizations and more to do with the personality of the people who enjoy these places. Try picking up a gal talking about Jazz music at a sports bar and watch your batting average drop to null. (^_^) –  xtian Aug 13 '11 at 20:35
    
I haven't been to any singles bars that provide a tagging system for guests. Have you? –  Cody Gray Aug 14 '11 at 8:37
    
Its called fa-shoun. ehehe –  xtian Aug 14 '11 at 15:46

I would still like to see all coding questions centralized at Stack Overflow — even if that meant duplication between Stack Overflow and some Stack Exchange sites.

You're in luck! All coding questions are already centralized -- through this handy portal someone set up for us in Mountain View, California.

enter image description here

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As true as that may be to finding answers to questions, it's less true to finding questions you want to answer to. –  Steven Jeuris May 9 '11 at 11:31
    
+1 for sheer audacity –  amelvin May 9 '11 at 13:03
    
@steven so when you have a question about motorcycles, you go to a football stadium full of people and yell it out, in the hopes that someone will answer? No. You go to a motorcycle store, or a community of motorcyclists, or someone you know who is a motorcyclist -- and ask there. –  Jeff Atwood May 13 '11 at 2:33
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of course? I can't quite follow what you are implying. –  Steven Jeuris May 13 '11 at 3:04

StackOverflow will become irrelevant once two things have happened:

  1. All existing programming tools, environments, languages, concepts, etc are covered by a different StackExchange website, and
  2. No new tools, environments, languages, concepts, etc are being invented.

Since I don't think either of those things will ever happen, my answer is never.

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