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As part of making communication between Mozilla contributors better, we're talking about adding a instance of OSQA to have a stackoverflow-like environment for Mozilla-specific Q&A. But now we're wondering whether we should instead use SO proper with the tag 'Mozilla', or similar.

My intuition is that we're too specialized, and that our valid questions will be closed quite often as a result. I know R does this and it works, but they're a programming language, not a product/set-of-technologies/set-of-libraries.

Have this come up before? If yes, what was the result. If no, what do people think?

Example questions:

  • How do I break cycles across XPCOM boundaries (in Mozilla code)?
  • How do I make gcc use -Werror (in Mozilla code)?
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

For the questions you show, it seems like creating a community of your own is absolutely necessary. Every question, though a programming question, will have a Mozilla-specific focus.

While they all would technically be on-topic on Stack Overflow, asking them there would miss the point - it's effectively about creating a knowledge base for developers of that specific project.

Under the current system of StackExchange, I think the group of Mozilla contributors is not going to be large enough to get the site off the ground. It is unlikely to even make it past definition. SE sites aim at gaining a considerable number of committed users prior to launch, and that number is going to be impossible to reach here.

So, looking at what SO openly offer at the moment, you are indeed going to be best off setting up a clone. But do shoot an E-Mail at to see whether there is any interest in making an exception - Mozilla is an interesting and successful community of developers, and you never know.

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What is the volume of the mozilla mailing lists and other forums? The guidelines for creating a standalone stackexchange site within the ecosystem are reasonable, and most could easily be met by Mozilla contributors:

  • 15 questions per day on average is a healthy beta (and, by extension, 40 posts total is good)
  • 90% questions answered is a healthy beta
  • Every site needs a solid group of core users to assist in moderating the site. We recommend:
    • 150 users with 200+ rep
    • 10 users with 2,000+ rep
    • 5 users with 3,000+ rep
  • 2.5 answers per question is good
  • 1,500 visits per day is good.
  • Eventually, 90% of a site's traffic should come from search engines.

I think that the only ones that might not be readily fulfilled are the last two - although if the entire Mozilla community makes the effort to shift to this format as much as possible, then they might be successful on that front.

If you aren't certain these objectives could be met (or you can't get the SE Inc team to permit less-than-optimal-usage), personally I'd set up my own OSQA or similar and run with it.

The Mozilla community's programming questions could certainly be discussed here, and programming design discussions on programmers, and so forth - with questions spread throughout the network, but honestly it would be better to have it all in one place, and be able to field questions that would still fall outside the SE network.

There's a lot going on in Mozilla, and I think a lot more discussion could be organized and performed within the Q&A format - feature discussions, such as we have here on Meta, for instance.

I expect that SE Inc would require the effort to go through Area51, though, and it might simply be better to strike out on your own.

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Why not start a StackExchange site?

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How does one do that? – Gabe Apr 17 '11 at 3:27
@Gabe: They could either throw support behind the Internet Browsers proposal, or start one specific to Mozilla. – Bill the Lizard Apr 17 '11 at 4:00
I'm fairly sure this will not work as a Stack Exchange sites. The numbers are too small. It'll end in frustration - note that this is not about end user questions about the browser, but programmers only – Pëkka Apr 17 '11 at 21:23
@Pekka - If Mozilla openly endorsed it, I'm certain it would reach critical mass. – Tim Post Apr 17 '11 at 21:28
@Tim maybe I'm underestimating the size of the Mozilla developer community, but 1,500 visits a day, and 150 fairly active users sounds pretty steep. It would stink to see that community be turned away just because their proposal ends up failing at jumping through a set of hoops that were defined for an entirely different way of creating communities from the ground up. That's why I think for this to work, a special deal would have to be struck with SE – Pëkka Apr 17 '11 at 23:24
@Pekka - I think those numbers are the upper bound of what we'd expect if this were successful. – Paul Biggar Apr 18 '11 at 11:56
@Paul yup. that's why I'm not convinced it would work. (those are the average expected numbers of a healthy SE Beta site as quoted by Adam below.) – Pëkka Apr 18 '11 at 11:58

Of the five close reasons, exact duplicate, subjective and argumentative, and not a real question cannot apply to a category of questions. Any given question could be closed under any of those three rules, but not a whole class of questions.

Thus, two remain:

off topic

Questions on Stack Overflow are expected to generally relate to programming or software development in some way, within the scope defined in the faq.

Are Mozilla questions on topic? Yes, so long as they relate to specific code. More general software development questions, however, also have a place—on the Programmers Stack Exchange site. However, questions that relate to the Mozilla Foundation and not actual programming do not have a place on any current SE site.

too localized

This question would only be relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet.

This is the tricky close reason, the one that even Meta is not totally agreed upon. That said, we are fortunate enough to have the guidance of Stack Exchange's CEO, Joel Spolsky, who recently supported striking out the part that I have just stricken out. From looking at your example questions, I don't feel they're geographically or temporally limited. As for the last category, I don't feel that they are extraordinarily narrow and if the questions are closed that way, point them to Joel's post.

Bottom line: The questions you gave as examples and similar questions seem to be acceptable on Stack Overflow. So go ahead and ask. :)

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I've been thinking about this for a little while now, and have formed some sort of an opinion.

SO etc is based around the idea of a community. The worldwide community of programmers is separate enough from the worldwide community of sysadmins, that they require different sites.

So the question comes down to: "is the community that would answer mozilla-specific questions the same audience that would answer other SO questions". And I believe the answer is no.

Mozillians would certainly answer other SO questions (and already do - many mozillians have SO membership already). But are non-Mozillian stackoverflowers going to answer Mozilla-specific questions? No.

So I'm of the opinion that we should either use OSQA, or have a stackexchange site like Software Monkey suggested.

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I'm sure you could get enough seasoned SO users to commit to it in order to help you get it off the ground. Remember, when talking about a new SE 2.0 site you don't just want people who know the topic at hand, but also how Stack Exchange works. – Tim Post Apr 17 '11 at 21:25
@Tim but rememer that commitment requires and expects active participation. How many seasoned users are versed in the internals of Mozilla development? I bet it's not more than a handful. – Pëkka Apr 18 '11 at 12:23

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