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There is a laundry list of really solid forums that have an already well-established community. Sadly, most of these are running on VBulletin. Instead of trying to create a competing site and driving users to that site, why not provide a migration path for users of version x of vbulletin to a stackexchange site, whereby the administrators of these sites can just place the stackexchange inside an iframe of their site.

Some examples just for cars. I'd imagine there are other interest areas that are in a similar situation. It would be cool if you could drive all users from these sites to say http://mechanics.stackexchange.com, or something similar.

I've used these sites in the past and now going back to them after using stack exchange has been painful.

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Any reason for the markdown? I'd like to hear the opposite side of this argument... Is it too hard to implement? –  Peter Walke Mar 22 '11 at 15:42
    
@Rup I'm suggesting that the owners of forums.pelicanparts.com replace the Q/A portion of their site with an iframe containing mechanics.stackexchange.com. This lowers the barrier to entry for existing users of the forums and lets site owners keep control over what is displayed outside the iframe –  Peter Walke Mar 22 '11 at 17:58
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3 Answers 3

StackExchange sites aren't forums in the traditional sense. Most forums aren't working in a Q&A format and allow open-ended discussion posts, so defining a migration path to SE is difficult.

One likely outcome of such a migration path would be for SE to get flooded with non-questions. It'd also be harder to ensure a certain level of quality is maintained on the SE site. When a person comes directly to SE to post a question, they (at least in theory) have to put more effort into making sure their post fits in on the site they're posting on. There are numerous hints and suggestions that guide them (e.g. the new post button is called "Ask Question", not "Create New Thread"). If there were a migration path from a traditional forum, those guides would no longer be present and people who were unfamiliar with the SE model could potentially just migrate at will... and there lies madness.

There are other potential issues such as figuring out why administrators of those forums would want to use a widget that would drive traffic away from them. :)


Possibly related: Partner with “traditional” forums to support open ended discussions

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I see the point about non-q/a questions, but there are sections of these sites that are very much Q/A focused. I'd be open to a hybrid approach. Additinally, I'm not suggesting they drive traffic away from their sites.... I'd suggest that the SE site live within a div or iframe of their existing site. –  Peter Walke Mar 22 '11 at 15:51
    
@Peter I'm not sure I follow your thought there. Do you want to migrate questions from forums to SE and have SE be an iframe on the forum's site? I'm not sure that duplicating content like that would be a worthwhile effort. –  Anna Lear Mar 22 '11 at 15:55
    
Sorry for the confusion. I would like to migrate the existing Q/A content from vbulletin to the SE platform. The SE content can then be hosted within an iframe of their site. The SE doesn't necessarily have to be accessible outside of the iframe, but that's up for discussion. My goal is to replace the clumbsiness of these sites with an aggregated site that is better suited for the purpose. –  Peter Walke Mar 22 '11 at 16:08
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The approved route would be to encourage those users of the other forums to start or commit to Area 51 proposals for their subject.

Then when there's enough interest the site will go into beta.

After 90+ days it will be launched, assuming it gets enough traffic.

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I understand the approved route, but there are too many barriers when trying to move these mountains. People on these forum sites are very stuck in their ways and throw a fit at going to a new site... lessening that barrier to entry would help the SE community. Sadly, mechanics.stackexchange will never be successful while these sties still use vbulletin and their well-entrenched community uses it. –  Peter Walke Mar 22 '11 at 15:53
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Question migration from an existing forum into a Stack Exchange database is possible, however there are significant problems. In fact, Stack Overflow was originally intended to have been seeded from the Joel forums, thus post #1, "Where, oh where, did the Joel Data go?" (deleted, 10K users only).

It was determined at that time that forum questions look and work horribly under the new format.

It's even more true now that we have comments. We can assume the first post was the question, but even with good threading it's hard to figure out (except by hand) which of the following posts are actually replies to other posts, or to the original question.

It's a mess and at the time they determined that it wasn't really going to add much to Stack Overflow, and this is without even considering trying to get the database from the forum owner, and figuring out what extensions they've installed and how to deal with extraneous data, dealing with the multiple types of forum software, nevermind the multiple versions of each type.

Now we encourage people to re-post such questions to Stack Overflow, and let the answers come from existing users, although one could go to the trouble of moving the important, relevant information over by hand for answers and comments as well, it would be confusing since the user database couldn't and wouldn't match.

In short, it's too much work, for too little benefit. Forum based question and answer groups might as well be inaccessible data silos - the mismatch is simply too great.

Forums that are interested in integrating Stack Overflow into their forum have many avenues. An iframe which shows the search page based on the open forum thread might be useful for some. The Stack Overflow API can be used to pull specific questions and results from the database if you want to display them in a custom format. The data dump is available for those that want to do a lot more with the entire database, though two months behind, and there are numerous RSS feeds one can pull from.

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