What is story behind the edX Stack Exchanges sites, specifically http://edx-cs169-1x.stackexchange.com/ and https://cs50.stackexchange.com/?

I just saw these in the top menu bar, and I'm confused about how these were able to get into public beta on the Stack Exchange network. Historically, the Stack Exchange network was focused on being a Q&A board with definitive answers, not a forum. However that is exactly how these beta sites are being treated. One of the moderators for the sites has even referred to it as a forum.

Additionally, there are questions that aren't questions, CS50 has just one question that appears to be a joke, extremely subjective about programming language popularity, another question about programming subjectivity *which was moved and encouraged by a moderator.

Given the high standards that sites are generally held to, it seems like these sites aren't being held to the same high standards, which I feel might lead to decreased quality as users migrate from the beta sites to the main programming sites.

Can this be addressed?

Edit: Perhaps the question title is too subtle. What I'm really asking is: Why have such low quality proposals that don't fit what I understand to be the Stack Exchange model made it through to public beta?

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    I've participated in private betas from Area51 before, so how it exists isn't as confusing as why it exists, since neither sites are following the StackExchange ethos. – user226333 May 8 '14 at 3:53
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    SE are diving headlong into the Eternal September – random May 8 '14 at 4:02
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    Not really as I'm asking why the SE platform is bwing used as a forum when many Area51 proposals have rightly been closed for not fitting the sites Q&A concept. – user226333 May 8 '14 at 4:03
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    @ShadowWizard yeah, I already saw the reply. I just wanted to know if it was okay to close as dupe. The Edx sites aren't my initiative, so I'll leave the answer for someone else rather than be vague (or worse, wrong). – Pops May 8 '14 at 9:43
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    @Pops Perhaps my question was too subtle. I've added an edit to explain my position. – user226333 May 8 '14 at 11:17
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    @LegoStormtroopr this I can answer myself: there were no proposals for those sites, they never went through Area 51. They are the result of some cooperation between Stack Exchange and couple of universities. To what end I don't know, will have to wait for SE employee to explain. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard May 8 '14 at 11:21
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    Well, its irritated me enough that I've made an account and started downvoting/closing poor questions. – user226333 May 8 '14 at 11:28
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    From the only question in CS50 (link) – badp May 8 '14 at 11:29
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    In terms of brand quality outreach, let's hope it's just for the money they could be raking in – random May 8 '14 at 11:51
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    @LegoStormtroopr That doesn't work for self-accepted answers – Mad Scientist May 8 '14 at 12:07
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    @LegoStormtroopr These comments are not helping anybody, please stop – badp May 8 '14 at 12:08
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    @Lego: Storming (ahem) onto a site you have no previous involvement with solely to moderate it seems like an at-best-impolite course of action. Why not let the site owners deal with the format issues, since they must be aware of the site's existence? – jscs May 8 '14 at 18:30
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    @Josh Caswell Isn't the point of Stack Exchange community ownership? The reason these sites work is because we all own them. As for letting them sorry themselves out, it appears until recently they didn't know every "post" had to be a question. Is supporting edX great, yes. Is letting them use Stack Exchange as a community forum great, I don't think so. – user226333 May 8 '14 at 21:09
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    I'm feeling said after looking those communities. They are using SE in the wrong way! With a good moderation, they could learn how to use our model and create useful content for everyone. If our rules does not fit well for their use case, they should not use it. There are already many good forum frameworks out there and SE is not one of them. – Zanon Jan 5 '15 at 0:24

This was an experimental partnership with edX.

We were essentially testing out how our engine might work as a replacement for their class forums. They educate people. Online. For free. We like that, so we were willing to see if we can help or not.

Unfortunately it didn't work. If it did, we would have invested more time clarifying the difference between these sites and our "official" network. But academic coursework is very temporal by nature, and they never quite created the core community needed to make these site "work." Pedagogy isn't one of the strengths of Stack Exchange, so that didn't leave much of a value proposition to augment classwork in any sustainable way.

Most of these sites have been closed. CS50 still gets a reasonable amount of traffic, so we agreed to leave it operational as long as it continued to do so, but none of these sites appear in our network listing.

You can read more about this in

A Set of Stack Exchange Sites for Universities

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    "back-and-forth discussion" - They should probably totally drop that and use Discourse. :P – Tim Stone May 8 '14 at 13:17
  • @TimStone -1, not enough jQ--- – badp May 8 '14 at 13:18
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    It would probably help if these sites were hidden from places like the site switcher drop-down (at least for users who don't have an account on those sites), and if the design was tweaked somehow to make it clearer to random SE users who stumble upon them that they're not really normal SE beta sites. – Ilmari Karonen May 8 '14 at 15:49
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    @IlmariKaronen, I agree. We'd planned to that, actually for the test, but it proved more complex than anticipated. – Jaydles May 8 '14 at 16:03
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    @Illmari That's a classic solution to an XY problem. The "problem" is how to hide beta sites that are using Stack Exchange as a forum. The solution is stop using it as a forum and use a more applicable platform... Or train the user's in what a Q&A site is actually meant to do. – user226333 May 8 '14 at 21:18
  • @timstone, I don't think you're off base - half of what they're doing benefits from ordered answers (us) and the other half would probably work better with the way discourse has finally (to my view) found the chrono/threaded goldilocks solution. But TWO engines wouldn't make a ton of sense. If SE doesn't work for them discourse seems the obvious next one to try. – Jaydles May 9 '14 at 12:32
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    Just curious, was there any progress in the half year that passed? – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Dec 7 '14 at 15:16
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    @shadow, honestly? Not a ton. It's a bit of a weird fit in a few ways, but so far, they've found it to be a better solution than other things they've tried, so we continue to be interested in helping. I guess it's now a "medium-term" experiment. :) – Jaydles Dec 7 '14 at 17:42
  • Nice, I guess... will it ever become part of Stack Exchange, i.e. listed among the other sites? – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Dec 7 '14 at 18:30
  • @LegoStormtroopr Not quite. As an example, ask.sagemath.org (Q&A site but not SE) still allows confirmed bugs as questions, which is usually answered by someone who patches the bug or provides a workaround. It's a way how to allow general users not aware of the trac to file bugs. It works fine, as long as the site is not too large. – yo' Dec 20 '14 at 18:47
  • @ShadowWizard Not sure if "progress", but one of two sites (edx-cs169-1x.stackexchange.com) no longer exists. – user259867 Jun 8 '15 at 22:11
  • @Home oh my... poor site. Jaydles - any official announcement about the demise of the site? :) – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Jun 8 '15 at 22:13
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    @ShadowWizard, that class was essentially time-limited, and they stopped using it, so we gave them a heads-up and shut it down. The other one remains active, so we're not makin' any changes there for now. – Jaydles Jun 11 '15 at 18:25
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    @Jaydles: Some of the links to edx are still accessible, while some are not, which is quite weird. These for examples: edx-cs169-1x.stackexchange.com/questions/458/… edx-cs169-1x.stackexchange.com/questions/240/… – nhahtdh Jun 16 '15 at 11:00
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    @Jaydles Any updates on this experiment? – edwinksl Jul 1 '17 at 17:58

The main puzzling part is why there isn't a single edX site where each course is a separate tag.

This would allow edX students to cross-pollinate knowledge, handle "edX meta" questions in a single place, keep more transient information like course deadlines or whatnot off Stack Exchange where it doesn't belong and generally have a single, larger, more lively, more healthy, better moderated site. It would also scale better and avoid graveyards.

From a distance all you'd really need or want is making the course tags (like cs50 or cs169 and a catch-all edx tag) mandatory, so that each tutor still has a view on "their slice" of the site.


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