Let's see, we have:

All of these, to some extent, overlap. For some cases, particularly databases, I don't see what's gained by moving them off Stack Overflow or Programmers -- it seems or on either site seems to encompass that whole site.

I'd like to think I'm a pretty active Stack Exchange user. And it's getting to the point where I don't know where to post things. How can we expect Johnny Programmer who's new here to distinguish between all of these sites? At some point I think we could define some kind of flow chart, but having to use something so complex seems to work against Stack Exchange's main tenet for new users: simplicity.

  • 3
    You have Web Apps wrong there. It's not for developers.
    – random
    Sep 7 '11 at 19:15
  • @random: Okay, removed that one. Everyone, feel free to mess with the list as necessary; I myself am not sure all the sites we have with a programmer bent. Sep 7 '11 at 19:17
  • 4
    CS, Unix, Android, and Drupal are not really for development questions either. Sep 7 '11 at 19:18
  • 2
    @Kevin: "The Drupal Answers Stack Exchange is for...developers...using or thinking about using the Drupal CMS." It's not for developers?
    – CanSpice
    Sep 7 '11 at 19:20
  • 1
    @Kevin: And yet, several of my developer oriented questions have been migrated to those sites. (Okay, not Android or Drupal, but I don't use those platforms) Sep 7 '11 at 19:20
  • 1
    @CanSpice Kevin's comment probably should have said "for development" rather than "for developers".
    – user154510
    Sep 7 '11 at 19:21
  • 1
    @Matthew: I don't see how that changes things at all. I am a developer. I develop things. I therefore will see anything containing the word "develop" as relevant. Sep 7 '11 at 19:22
  • @Matthew: Further on that page, "Questions on the following topics are welcomed: Drupal development/theming how-tos." So even development is explicitly allowed. Drupal SE is definitely meant for developers doing development.
    – CanSpice
    Sep 7 '11 at 19:25
  • 4
    See, this is my point. If we, who take the time to participate on meta (not the average SE user), have to argue about what goes at what site, what's the average user going to expect? Sep 7 '11 at 19:27
  • 3
    @CanSpice Look, whether 4 or 5 of the sites is not for developers is not the point. The point is that a bunch of them are not for devs.
    – user154510
    Sep 7 '11 at 19:27
  • 4
    "Theoretical CS.SE - Place for programmers to talk about CS" cstheory is a site for researchers to talk about theoretical computer science. There is virtually no question that a programmer might have that is on topic on cstheory.
    – sepp2k
    Sep 7 '11 at 20:38
  • 1
    +1 - surely with a stronger tagging / filtering mindset a single site could suffice ... possibly prevent / discourage users from 'browsing' questions without specifying tag filters. We seem to be repeating NNTP / usenet here ... please repost under alt.comp. ...
    – StuartLC
    Sep 7 '11 at 20:42
  • @sepp2k: As I've already mentioned below: my point here is not that there are not valid distinctions between the sites. My point is that Joe User is not going to take the time to figure out what that distinction is. Sep 7 '11 at 21:02

Note the comments. If you don't know what a site is and don't bother finding out (via the FAQ etc.), then don't consider posting there. Spending 30 seconds on the FAQ is not unmanageable. Even if it were, it's OK to ignore a site and not post there.

The only questions you need to ask yourself before posting on StackOverflow:

  • Does my question meet the FAQ guidelines? (Quality, topic/scope, etc.)
  • Is my question a duplicate? (Search!)

If your question is OK for SO, it doesn't matter that it might be on-topic elsewhere. SO's scope has not changed every time a new SE site has been created, so continue to use SO as you always have!

Recording music is on-topic on both Music and Audio-Video, for example, and users can choose whichever they prefer. This is often related to the expertise involved. If you're looking to capture a particular feature of the music, you might want a musician's advice. If you're having problems eliminating background noise, you might want an audio engineer's advice. Joe User that doesn't know or care about the distinction just asks his question on the site he's familiar with without worrying about it. Having these slightly overlapping communities is nothing but useful.

If you're paralyzed by having choices, the Internet may not be for you :P. Alternatively, if two sites really do match and you can't decide then just pick one at random.

  • 1
    Now if we could only force these people deciding to migrate questions to read the FAQs of the target site first.... Sep 7 '11 at 19:21
  • @Billy Mis-migrations are a small number of all migrations, but I do occasionally get annoyed by that as well.
    – user154510
    Sep 7 '11 at 19:22
  • 5
    -1 - I don't think this answers the question, and your final paragraph is simply rude and playing to the gallery. Cross-site posting is discouraged, even though that maximises user return. So a conscientious user, not relying on migrations should feel the burden of choice. A sound engineer could be a musician too. There is no question that the growing number of sites pushes complexity to the user. Sep 7 '11 at 20:20
  • @ire_and_curses My answer to the question is quite obviously "No". I don't feel that using a joke to point out that the internet is full of overlapping sites is rude; complaining that complexity is a problem is ridiculous in that context. Especially since, as I noted, the complexity can be ignored. You need not concern yourself with new site Y if site X still meets your needs. SO's scope has not changed every time a new SE site has been created.
    – user154510
    Sep 7 '11 at 20:25
  • 1
    +1 I echoed a similar sentiment on Literature.SE vs Science fiction.SE. There is overlap, so what? Sep 7 '11 at 21:36
  • See, I think this is harmful. Say most of the DBA people using StackExchange are using SO rather than DBA.SE. (Which at this point is probably true) By posting in the more "correct" location (DBA.SE), I've limited my ability to get answers to that question, because the sister-site is less reputable. Sep 12 '11 at 13:45
  • @Gilles: There's a difference between "some overlap" and what we currently have in the programmer arena. Sep 12 '11 at 13:50

As I see it there are two sides to this question.

  1. I want to ask a question and I don't know which site is best.

  2. I want to answer questions on anything I'm knowledgeable about.

While legitimate at worst the first problem leads to questions that are off topic for a given site.

But looking at https://stackoverflow.com/tools?tab=flags I see more questions marked as low quality, not constuctive, duplicate, too localized or not a real question then I do off topic.

So its a minor problem that has an existing mitigation strategy that in my opinion is working. Fewer SE sites wouldn't help this problem just make it worse, since off topic questions would just be closed and not migrated.

The second problem is solved by using the cross site tag sets. This feature has been recently improved upon, but I suspect its underutilized.


Neither Web Apps nor Android are for programming questions. Only the first two that you listed are a "Place for programmers" specifically to do anything. The others are targeted at different groups entirely.

  • I strongly disagree. At the very least DBA and Unix are extremely programmer oriented. Drupal seems to be as well. Sep 7 '11 at 19:26
  • 4
    @Billy: Read their respective FAQ's. They're not supposed to be for programming questions at all. Sep 7 '11 at 19:29
  • @Billy Just because some X are Y doesn't mean all Y are X. Fielding some dev questions or facilitating developers in non-development tasks is not the same as being programmer-oriented.
    – user154510
    Sep 7 '11 at 19:31
  • 2
    @Matthew: As a user, I don't care whether the site is "programmer oriented". I care where I can ask questions about topic XYZ. Having two places that cover the same topic is one thing. Having three or more is insane. Consider a question about writing a shell script for an Ubuntu system. Now there's Ubuntu, Unix, and (either StackOverflow or Programmer.SE) - all of which are suitable candidates. Sep 7 '11 at 19:38
  • 1
    @Billy: Shell scripting questions are a good edge case example, but there are really only two places where they should be on topic, SO and U&L. Ubuntu is not really for power users (who would be shell scripting) and Programmers is for non-code programming questions. Sep 7 '11 at 19:43
  • 1
    @Bill: Perhaps. But as Joe User, who is not involved in any of the communities in question, I don't know that "Ubuntu is not for power users" or the like. I, as Joe User, don't spend time at every site, and therefore do not know the subtleties of their differences. It's easy to show the difference between, say, Cooking, and Programming. It's harder to point at intangibles like "how experienced the user is"... Sep 7 '11 at 19:47
  • 1
    @Bill: To be clear, it's not that I don't think the distinctions between the sites are valid - they're certainly valid. Its that I think the number/complexity of distinctions require more effort to analyze than Joe User is going to do. Sep 7 '11 at 19:47
  • Ask Ubuntu mostly attracts GUI users and Unix & Linux has a large proportion of shell questions, but shell scripting on Ubuntu (and even all programming on Ubuntu) is on-topic for Ask Ubuntu. Sep 7 '11 at 21:18
  • @BillyONeal Unix & Linux does not accept programming questions, only scripting questions, where the focus tends to be on automating user or administration tasks. Ask Ubuntu accepts programming questions but they're marginal there. Sep 7 '11 at 21:19
  • @Gilles: "Automating administration tasks" is a subset of "programming". Sep 7 '11 at 21:25
  • @BillyONeal I should have written “Unix & Linux does not accept general programming questions, even if they're specifically about unix”. Many of the scripting questions (which are indeed programming) would be closed on Stack Overflow because they're too write-my-script-for-me, but writing a short, complete script that performs a specialized task (e.g. few or no parameters) is fairly common in Unix & Linux answers. P.S. if you'd like to discuss the Unix & Linux scope further, I suggest the chat. Sep 7 '11 at 21:29
  • @Gilles: Joe User is not going to "discuss the scope" before posting a question. That's my entire point. Sep 7 '11 at 21:31

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