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?

  • 3
    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
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 3:53
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    SE are diving headlong into the Eternal September
    – random
    Commented May 8, 2014 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
    Commented May 8, 2014 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
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 9:43
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    @Pops Perhaps my question was too subtle. I've added an edit to explain my position.
    – user226333
    Commented May 8, 2014 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. Commented May 8, 2014 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
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 11:28
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    From the only question in CS50 (link)
    – badp
    Commented May 8, 2014 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
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 11:51
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    @LegoStormtroopr That doesn't work for self-accepted answers Commented May 8, 2014 at 12:07
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    @LegoStormtroopr These comments are not helping anybody, please stop
    – badp
    Commented May 8, 2014 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
    Commented May 8, 2014 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
    Commented May 8, 2014 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
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 0:24

2 Answers 2


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

  • 24
    "back-and-forth discussion" - They should probably totally drop that and use Discourse. :P
    – Tim Stone
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 13:17
  • @TimStone -1, not enough jQ---
    – badp
    Commented May 8, 2014 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. Commented May 8, 2014 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
    Commented May 8, 2014 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
    Commented May 8, 2014 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
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 12:32
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    Just curious, was there any progress in the half year that passed? Commented Dec 7, 2014 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
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 17:42
  • Nice, I guess... will it ever become part of Stack Exchange, i.e. listed among the other sites? Commented Dec 7, 2014 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'
    Commented Dec 20, 2014 at 18:47
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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
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 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
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 11:00
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    @Jaydles Any updates on this experiment?
    – edwinksl
    Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 17:58
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    @edwinksl, yeah, this post is probably pretty stale. Lemme have someone who's actually in the loop on this take a look and update this!
    – Jaydles
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 13:32
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    @edwinksl I updated the post. Let me know if you have any questions. Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 14:10

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.

  • that's an awesome idea. I've added an example question to a proposed site that steers it towards your idea:area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/89874/self-directed-learning/…
    – Zhao Li
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 17:15
  • Why would you have an edx tag if it's mandatory to include on every question? Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 11:31
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit The idea is that a course tag would be mandatory, but there would be a catch-all edx tag for things that don't fit any of the course tags, I assume. Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 3:29

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