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In a chat discussion about the quality problems of stackoverflow.com, Shog9 recently said this:

the folks who you'd wish were terrified to ask are so unafraid that they'll cheerfully flood the site with questions in the face of abuse. The folks who (with a tiny bit of assistance maybe) could ask interesting/useful questions are often so petrified of being criticized that they never even try.

Meanwhile, I've observed that even the people who know about Stack Overflow and some of its sister sites like Ask Ubuntu, are often unaware of how many other SE sites there are.

So maybe we could kill two birds with a single stone.

We could entice new users to join the smaller SE sites, that still have the time to give these new users some hands-on guidance.
The smaller sites would get more users. And if these users (or their friends!) had a programming question, these users would have prior experience with the Stack Exchange model. They would already know how to ask a question the smart way, and no longer be afraid to ask on SO.

When I brought this up in chat, Shog9 mentioned the Hot Network Questions. But I'm not convinced that these turn visitors into members who contribute quality content.

So this question is twofold.
First, would it be a good idea to entice non-SE users to join the smaller SE sites?
And second, if the answer is yes, what would be a good way to reach out to these potential new members?

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    Something I think would help a lot would be cross-site related questions - rather than essentially random "hot" questions, show stuff on other sites that's tangential to the topic being looked at. Imagine if a question on Google Sheets on Stack Overflow linked to related topics on Web Apps! Unfortunately, this would require significant engineering to be feasible.
    – Shog9
    Nov 27, 2015 at 18:07
  • How do you deal with smaller sites that encourage "what feature makes you smile the most" and "let's have another list of things" setting in bad habits that will not fare on larger sites that frown on such?
    – random
    Nov 27, 2015 at 18:08
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    @random Are there still SE sites that allow these questions?? In the more general case, however, it does seem to be the case that some sites interpret the rules more loosely. And our new "Recommendations" sites might not be good introductions to the SE model. So that could indeed be a problem. Nov 27, 2015 at 18:16
  • @Shog9 One of the incidents that inspired this question was that I had a colleague who knew about Ask Ubuntu, loved animals... but was surprised to hear that we have Pets.SE . For existing users, maybe we could target Hot Network Questions based on interests that they have disclosed. Nov 27, 2015 at 18:31
  • Hmm... I've seen many posts about this, and it's something that I've thought about for a while. I'm going to try and get some information from various sites to try and gain some insight into this.
    – Zizouz212
    Nov 27, 2015 at 20:42
  • (No offense meant, but) Mathematics has a big-list tag, though you can argue that it's not a small site (9th site with most traffic)... which made me ask this: what's the definition of smaller SE sites? Everything except SOFU trilogy? Need to clarify this first before further thinking how this proposal can work. Note that I'm not really sure about "... have the time to give these new users some hands-on guidance." because I expect everyone to read help/tour page first regardless of the site's size (though it's proven that they don't). Nov 30, 2015 at 4:27
  • ... then, a wrong move will make these smaller sites face more low quality posts with lower moderation resources than bigger sites. Personally, I don't directly recommend my friend to use SE without any guidance. I'll offer to help them ask their question, because I know asking question here is not that easy. Nov 30, 2015 at 4:32

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