I’ve been a member of Stack Exchange (specifically, Super User) for almost a year and a half, but I’m slowly expanding into other SE sites (e.g., “Unix & Linux” and “English Language & Usage”). Every time I do, I look at the “about” page / tour (for example, here is the one for Super User, and I see the same old familiar words that appear in all the Stack Exchange tour pages:
(This site) is a question and answer site for (some group). It’s … part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites.
We’re a little bit different from other sites. Here’s how:
- “(This site)” stands for the name of the site in question; e.g., “Super User”, “Unix & Linux Stack Exchange”, or “English Language & Usage Stack Exchange” (but it is usually actually bolded),
- “(some group)” stands for the target user community for the site. For example, for Super User, it is “computer enthusiasts and power users.”
- “…” stands for “built and run by you as”, which I deleted because it is irrelevant to my point. (The complete sentence is “It’s built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites.”)
- There’s actually another sentence in the first paragraph: “With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about (subject).”, where (subject) stands for the general topic area of the site. E.g., for Super User, it is “computer software or hardware.” I left that out because it, also, is irrelevant to my point.
Since I’ve been a member of Stack Exchange for almost a year and a half, and visited many SE sites, I know what this means: Stack Exchange sites, in general, are a little bit different from other Q&A sites on the Internet. But still, every time I read these words, I fall into the trap of their ambiguity. I feel as though this text is comparable to
Welcome to Hawaii, the Aloha state. It’s one of the United States. We’re a bit different from the other states. Here’s how:
- We’re an island. (duh)
- No, actually, we’re a group of islands.
- We’re the southernmost state. (We’re way south of California and the Gulf coast states.)
- We were an independent kingdom until 121 years ago.
And so on. Because “the United States” is the most recent phrase, “the other states” looks like it’s referring to “the [other] United States”, and I wouldn’t expect to see Hawaii being compared to and contrasted with Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Bavaria, or Queensland. Similarly, since “the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites” ” is the most recent phrase in the SE tour boilerplate, “other sites” ” looks (to me, at least) like it’s referring to other Q&A sites in the Stack Exchange network, and it’s saying that this site is different from those other sites. So, because I’m momentarily confused, I page down to see how (this site) is different from the other Q&A sites in the Stack Exchange network. To repeat, I know that’s not what it means, but (I believe) that’s what it looks like it means, and I suspect that people encountering it for the first time might be confused. I suggest that the text, or at least the second paragraph, be rephrased.