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There often are complaints from smaller and niche areas in the field of programming that their needs aren't met on SO.

The most frequent complaints include:

  • Users from niche tags can be brilliant, but will never achieve site-wide recognition because of the lack of voting activity in their tag, and hence the impossibility to gain significant reputation

  • There's no sense of community in niche areas, because there is so little activity.

The tag pages do offer some basic functionality like a list of top users and questions and such, but they don't do much in creating a community athmosphere.

The result is a tendency of programming topics to "separate" from SO and create their own SE proposals. This has worked well in some cases (like Game programming, which I gather is a great success), but in general, anything that drives traffic and content away from SO is no good.

One solution might be making users in those niche tags happier by

Creating sub-communities ("Portals") on SO

The following is a suggestion that could help creating a sense of community for niche areas on SO, without fundamentally changing the way the system works.

  1. Define sub-communities that could benefit from having their own, defined "space" on Stack Overflow. For this example, let's pick Version Control.

  2. Define tag sets that define the portal. A portal will contain a number of relevant SO tags. For the Version Control portal, these would be (pulling this out of my arse)

    .....

    Tags would not be exclusive to one portal, they could be shared between any number of them.

  3. Each portal gets a custom front page which is the heart of the sub-community. It could look like this:

    enter image description here

    Some of the key features of the portal page would be

    • Per-portal chat rooms
    • Showing top users and rep leagues is a must for this to work
    • Show related jobs (from careers)
    • Allow portal-specific Meta discussion (on Meta.SE, tagged portal-version-control) with relaxed on-topic boundaries
    • -
  4. Portals would become first class citizens across the site, with the possibility to

    • Search, e.g. using [portal-version-control]
    • Show RSS feeds
    • List portals on the tags page, maybe above the tag list.
    • Get a proper URL, stackoverflow.com/portals/version-control

      -

  5. Portals would be administered either by mods, or users especially proficient in the field - maybe determined by the accumulated number of upvotes in each of the portal's tags.

This would obviously be a huge enterprise development-wise, and a big change with many consequences. But it could be a good step - definitely better than having communities split away from SO.

Notes:

  • Portals would not change the fundamental way how SO works. All the questions and answers would still be in one big pool. Portals are merely views with a bit of community functionality tacked on.

  • New questions would have to be assigned to one of the portals, probably using a semi-automatic approach. There will be clear cases (like svn belonging to "Version control") and cases that require manual (Moderator? Community voting?) oversight.

  • A SO portal ghost town is as bad as a SE ghost town. There would have to be a strong community desire to get a portal started, and a challenging proposal process.

To clarify: this proposal is to prevent fragmentation of SO, not to split SO into a multitude of smaller sites. "Portals" as used in this context are merely views with some community functionality attached to them.

Possible future additions:

  • Portal Moderators who have moderating powers in their portal's tag set only.

  • I'm sure more additions would come.

Related:

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1  
They covered something like this on the latest podcast, I hear. –  Grace Note Jun 10 '11 at 11:44
    
@Grace oh, really? What a coincidence. This idea is actually half a year old already, I just thought I'd get it off my chest now. I'll listen to the podcast, thanks for the hint. –  Pëkka Jun 10 '11 at 11:45
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I've not listened to it yet, but reading from the topics given on the Blog post, I assume @Grace means the element that starts We’re starting to build a feature we call emacs.stackexchange.com, which essentially gives users a filtered view of Stack Overflow to specific topic groups, as represented by a set of tags. ... –  DMA57361 Jun 10 '11 at 12:24
    
So, kind of like the tag filters on Stack Exchange but only for one site? –  Daniel DiPaolo Jun 10 '11 at 22:42
    
@Daniel kind of, with a bit of a different presentation, aimed at making smaller communities feel more at "home" than they currently do. –  Pëkka Jun 10 '11 at 22:50
    
@Pekka, this is the next thing on my plate, will definitely draw ideas from here. Thank you –  waffles Jun 12 '11 at 4:25
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@Pekka: I see from your rep in the screenshot that you weren't lying about your half-year-old idea :) –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 12 '11 at 4:38
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@BoltClock but the questions are only days old! It's a fake! –  NickC Jun 17 '11 at 19:38
    
@Renesis heh, got me there! I had to transplant a different set of questions to fit the "Version control" theme - I thought it'd be misleading to just show a random list –  Pëkka Jun 17 '11 at 19:44
    
Strange this question gets a lot more attention, I did a highly related suggestion earlier. Perhaps I should learn to express myself a bit better. :) Well formulated! –  Steven Jeuris Aug 25 '11 at 12:56
1  
@Steven thanks! As a general piece of advice, pikshurz help a lot :) –  Pëkka Aug 25 '11 at 13:16
1  
    
@Pëkka: Your pikshur is down. –  unor May 14 at 12:36
    
@unor yeah, unfortunately! It may be lost, I've tried to get it back up :( –  Pëkka May 14 at 12:54

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The new silo sight version of the site appears to be serving this gist:

Announcing facebook.stackoverflow.com

We can now create a mini-site by selecting relevant tags (in this case, anything Facebook related) and grouping together just the content from those tags – so when you visit a mini-site, you’ll see only the content from those tags. Not only will you be able to see only questions related to Facebook, but the reputation on the user ranking pages will also only show rep earned on Facebook tagged questions.

share|improve this answer
    
Cool, this means this is status-completed! Plus Facebook will be taking care of all the i want all freidnz Email through API questions themselves now. Oh joy! –  Pëkka Aug 24 '11 at 18:33
    
@Eat - as long as they don't to a "Synergy" on SO. Check out Meta.SuperUser for more info meta.superuser.com/questions/2314/synergy-specific-entry-page –  ChrisF Aug 24 '11 at 18:34
4  
Awesome, but, can be confusing, since there's no UI indication that you're on the fb.so rather than regular so. See: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/103745 for a "change the theming a bit plz" request. –  Yahel Aug 24 '11 at 18:55
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@Eat except they haven't answered a single post yet in the first 2 days. –  bkaid Aug 26 '11 at 4:11

I think this is a great idea. I don't think you need to "assign" questions to the portals, just let the questions with any of the tag set tags show up, i.e. the Portal would only have to be a view that is chosen by the user.

Each user could specify preferred views, so when the leagues were calculated who to include is easily determined. The "numbers" being run based on the appropriate tags.

share|improve this answer
1  
These are good ideas as well, although I would prefer a defined set of views over a freely configurable one to create a sense of community in each. You don't get that if you can build your own filters (which however is a worthy idea in its own right) –  Pëkka Jun 11 '11 at 8:16
2  
@Pekka, I meant that the Team would create certain filters, i.e. portals and then the users could choose from them if they wanted, not custom ones. –  Lance Roberts Jun 11 '11 at 8:26
    
ah, I see! –  Pëkka Jun 11 '11 at 8:28

The communities have fragmented themselves too far already: unix vs ubuntu vs superuser vs serverfault vs stackoverflow vs programmer feels silly to me. I'm interested in all of these, and wish they were all on one stack.

If questions are assigned to one of the portals, I would hope that I could still find them from the main SO questions page, still answer them whether or not I care about the portal, and be allowed to favorite-tag or dislike-tag them all I wish.

No more fragmentation in the stacks please.

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7  
Actually, that's what is great about this idea. There would still only be one Stack Overflow, but you could focus your view on the tags you liked. –  Lance Roberts Jun 11 '11 at 0:53
    
@Lance, I sure hope you're correct about that. I got the opposite impression when first reading @Pekka's post. Re-reading it with another half hour space, I'm almost convinced you're right -- but assigned to one of the portals sure sounds exclusionary. Pekka? :) –  sarnold Jun 11 '11 at 1:09
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@sarnold @Lance is right, this would be to prevent further fragmentation. The portals are "views" only with a bit of community functionality tacked on - all the questions and answers would remain on the same site. The "assigning" part is only where two portals share a tag that can have two entirely different meanings (which will be very, very rare). Editing to make this clearer –  Pëkka Jun 11 '11 at 6:25
    
@Pekka, ah, excellent, thanks; -1 retracted. :) –  sarnold Jun 11 '11 at 20:36
3  
well, snowboarding vs skiing feels like a silly distinction to me, but that doesn't mean that the distinction doesn't exist. If you are interested in "everything", then you are interested in nothing. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 12 '11 at 4:42
1  
@Jeff, good point, which is why I'm so glad I can add seo to my ignore list. :) –  sarnold Jun 12 '11 at 23:35

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