So far Area 51 has turned out better than my wildest dreams. But there's one big issue I see. Currently, every single Stack Exchange site is pretty much on its own; they can expect very little help from other sites, so each one is stranded on an island many kilometers away from the nearest shore. The only thing they can count on is that they are all Stack Exchange sites and all contained under that web.
Here's the problem:
The site for gaming is just as distant to game development as it is to cooking. There's no way to bring sites closer together that just being Stack Exchange buddies, even if their topics deserve this relationship. Back in the pre-Area 51 days, Stack Overflow, Server Fault, and Super User were buddies and shared links at the bottom of the page. It's great that the other Stack Exchange sites have joined them in that section, but now it seems like SOFU aren't really even related any more so than by that one bond of being Stack Exchange sites.
But they're definitely more strongly related than that. I've been using this Greasemonkey script that shows links between SOFU in the header for so long I forgot that those links aren't actually there. Yes, we can move questions between them, but for the 'average user', it's not immediately apparent that Stack Overflow has a stronger relationship with Server Fault and Super User than it does to the other sites. Adding some links to the other sites in the header of each one would greatly help this.
Can other sites have this relationship too?
It's interesting that SOFU have done this, but the privilege is denied to other sites. Here's the big ones that I could see benefiting from the concept of sister-sites:
- The different language sites
- Gaming + Game Development
- Board and Card Games + More specific sites for Go, Chess, and Magic the Gathering
It seems absurd to me that these sites can't be related any more than they are to all the distant cousins of the Stack Exchange network. Currently there's a massive debate about if it's okay to have a Board and Card Games site along with other more specific sites about nothing but Chess or Go. It's nice to have everything in one place, but a more generic site won't attract true experts who want to talk about nothing but chess. If they could be related as sister sites (as SOFU have been for almost a year now...), we could have the best of both worlds.
The Stack Exchange community has grown to the point where there are too many sites for them to have no special relationships between them. This would solve a lot of organizational problems, boost traffic, and help people find what they need more quickly with just a few header links! :D
Essentially this is almost a duplicate of Allow StackExchange/Area 51 sites to choose “friend” sites, which Joel Coehoorn♦ marked
status completed with this message:
Marked completed because there are now migration paths between different sites.
Migration paths is a good start, but it's not enough. Simple migration links was not what the asker of that question wanted IMHO. Sharing links in the headers would make it obvious to the 99.999% of all users that never see a 'Close As Off-Topic' dialogue box that the sites are related. This would help them find things that should only be a click away without having to search through the entire list of Stack Exchange sites just to find one that is incredibly related in the first place.