Apologies up front if this has been addressed somewhere but I feel like a clarification about the domains of each Stack Exchange site should be posted here. I am always confused by the plethora of mildly overlapping Stack Exchange sites. What algorithm do you guys use to decide where to ask your question?

Some recent examples of my conundrums:

  1. I am looking for an app/shell script that would let me control individual volume of my apps on my Mac/Linux on an app-by-app basis with location/time & WiFi-name based profiles. Should I ask this question in Super User, Ask Different, Unix & Linux (since a script would do too), AskUbuntu or Software Recommendations? I ended up asking the question in Ask Different but I feel it could have been equally valid/cross-posted to either of these places?

  2. I also have some questions regarding some game that I am developing in HTML5 but I also want it to embed it in a mobile app (specifically Android). I am really confused - should I ask the question in Android Enthusiasts, Web Applications or GameDev.

  3. The above game itself is a simple puzzle game - you are given a NxM matrix where some cells are "good" and some cells are "bad" and you are tasked to draw the minimum number of vertical or horizontal lines that cover all "bad" cells in the matrix. If I want to inquire about an efficient algorithm to solve such a puzzle. Should I post my question on Stack Overflow or Programmers or Programming Puzzles sites? I know that what I am asking for is essentially step 3 of the general Hungarian algorithm, so I can conceivably also ask my question in Computer Science or Theoretical Computer Science sites too. Since these sites are relative desert town compared to Stack Overflow, I will probably end up asking my question in Stack Overflow itself but I feel guilty of ignoring all these places...

I am not looking for specific answers to my above problems but I am looking for some general guidance to follow so I do not have to spend time thinking or looking through the list of sites to decide which is the correct place to post my question. It should be trivially obvious to me where I should post my questions or at least let me cross post?


2 Answers 2


Few things that might help when you're starting out:

  • Do a quick search using the filter tool.
  • Do not be off-topic. Per site, check what's on topic in the site's guidelines.
  • Ask in meta before posting if needed.
  • Visit the site's chat room to see if a mod is around.
  • Check the frequency of keywords on site A vs B.
  • Be willing to make mistakes, and willing to not get an answer if there is no right place.
  • Don't cross-post questions, pick the site you think is best, and wait for an answer.
  • Yes I agree with you .
    – Sachin
    Commented May 15, 2014 at 12:19

If you mean that it should be trivially obvious in all cases, or that you should simply be allowed to cross-post when it isn't, I disagree. Most times it should be easy enough to find an acceptable option, and I don't think your conundrums demonstrate otherwise. If for each you were to choose at random among the sites you had in mind for each (as I suspect many new users do, more or less), it seems likely that the question would either settle in comfortably or be migrated to the more appropriate site by the experienced users there who are familiar with the relevant on/off-topic politics. Even this question had to be migrated because it wasn't asked in the most appropriate location available, but what was the harm in this for you? I'm guessing it didn't take too much effort to decide to post it on MSO, and it ended up in the right place anyway. If you're unwilling to think or spend time looking through your options for yourself, you're probably gonna have to settle for this process as is. Frankly, no one should feel obligated to take more responsibility for your question than you, and expecting otherwise would be unreasonable.

If you have a tough case (I think your conundrums at least qualify as tough) and don't want to rely on other users to decide its final resting place, the appropriate pseudo-algorithm is:

  1. Read the on-topic and off-topic help pages of each site you're considering.
  2. Search for relevant meta-questions about your topic of interest.
  3. Ask your own if you find none and haven't otherwise found a good home for your question yet.

This is useful for the communities in question too, not just for you. As you may know (forgive my pedantry if so), Stack Exchange isn't just about tossing personalized answers at individual questions as they arise; it's about building and curating a knowledge base on topics of common or "canonical" interest. The curation aspect of this task is particularly complex and endless, so the community has an interest in making you work a little bit to help define the appropriate home for your questions. Arguably, if you can do this by reading the help pages, it's trivially obvious enough. If not, upvote the meta-question(s) that help(s) you decide where to ask, or help us define the topic boundaries of our sites by asking your own meta-question! Most alternatives to this somewhat laborious process would be overly simplistic and inflexible; there will probably always be a more difficult conundrum in this regard.

As for cross-posting, there's a FAQ regarding the policy you should read: Is cross-posting a question on multiple Stack Exchange sites permitted if the question is on-topic for each site? If you take the time to read it thoroughly, you'll see there is a sort of "right way" to go about pushing your luck described in Gilles' answer. If you have some special reason for cross-posting, don't just copy-paste:

  • Tailor each version of the question to emphasize issues relevant to the site you're posting on.
  • Mind each site's idiosyncratic guidelines on how to ask and what to expect.
  • Don't try to be sneaky; link your other versions of the question on other sites.

This will require some thinking and looking through the sites, but so does answering. As a matter of respect for the effort you're requesting of others, you should be willing to demonstrate effort on your part as well. If you can't afford to (and you're not concerned about losing rep or having your account suspended if you intend to test your luck often), go ahead and post your question wherever you want. Someone will probably come along to clean it up, but there's no guarantee that you'll get any answers.

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