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Listening to the recent podcast A chat with our CEO about the future of our company and community it seems that merging other SE technical sites with Stack Overflow is imminent.

That was also vaguely hinted in most recent Survey What does “Should we add technical Q&A sites like Server Fault, Super User, and DevOps to Stack Overflow?” mean?

Survey specifically mentions three technical sites, but there are many more that would logically follow.

For instance, if Super User is included, then all OS specific sites like Ask Different, Android Stack Exchange, Linux... fall into same category.

Also what about Software Engineering, DBA, Code Review...

Which sites are planned for this merger? How will that work, is there any ETA?

Besides asking for official list of sites planned, I am also interested in community view on the matter. Does merging sites makes sense and for which sites.

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    Not actually heard anything about this prior to the podcast fwiw – Journeyman Geek Jan 21 at 15:58
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    Shouldn't then Stack Overflow be renamed to "has something to do with 'computer'"? – Tom Jan 21 at 16:02
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    Tail wagging the dog, imo. "Teams and Enterprise don't have subject matter separation by domain; why should public Q&A?" Nevermind the vast difference in scale between an enterprise using a private instance versus... the global community. – canon Jan 21 at 16:03
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    @Tom Nowadays, SE is not the same you used to know. – Victor Stafusa Jan 21 at 16:03
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    @JourneymanGeek I guess you haven't seen the latest SO Survey, then. Question was really vague and open for (mis)interpretation... but the podcast makes that Survey question much clearer. – Resistance Is Futile Jan 21 at 16:05
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    @ResistanceIsFutile Makes their intent behind and interpretation of that question clear, you mean? – canon Jan 21 at 16:06
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    All I can seeing this doing is making the moderation on SO harder which would lower the quality which would make the site worse IMHO. Hopefully this wont happen, but if the last few months have been any indication, SEI will do whatever it wants, regardless of our feelings. – NathanOliver Jan 21 at 16:25
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    "Merge" was probably a poor word choice there. From my understanding, it's not a dump of all these scopes into Stack Overflow. It was meant to be something like showing other sites related to the topic in the sidebar similar to Teams, still independent with their own scopes, but much easier to navigate between and search content from one place. – animuson Jan 21 at 16:36
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    @animuson can you confirm that it is not currently planned to fully merge currently autonomous communities into stack overflow as we understand it, e.g by fusing the sites fully into SO? – Magisch Jan 21 at 16:39
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    perhaps related to this comment – Suraj Rao Jan 21 at 17:15
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    @animuson That comment really should be a (if not the) answer. Would you make it one? – Rubio Jan 21 at 19:20
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    @canon Teams and Enterprise don't have subject matter separation by domain Why do you think they don't? I imagine that if, I were an enterprise deploying Teams, they would -- e.g. if I were MS I'd have different sites/instances for Office versus for Windows, why not? – ChrisW Jan 21 at 21:23
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    @ChrisW I explicitly asked Jon Ericson if there would be a way for a "Team" to corral content, beyond tags, between things that would, on public Q&A, belong to discrete sites, e.g.: SO, SuperUser, DevOps, CodeReview, etc. I believe the answer was pretty much, "no." – canon Jan 21 at 21:33
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    @ChrisW remember than if you buy the software from SE and deploy locally, you still buy some license to the software, you cannot run it twice unless the license allows it. – yo' Jan 22 at 0:34
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    Oh boy, I sure would love to have a single site where the questions "Why does this code throw this exception?", "Should I worry if my son shows no interest in physical activity?" and "Can I use a one-way ticket to travel to the UK?" are all shown back-to-back. – MechMK1 Jan 22 at 12:46
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I may update this answer when I listen to the podcast later, but for what it's worth right now...

Doing this would cause the technical Exchange sites to lose their autonomy for good.

We wouldn't be creating actual value. We'd only be creating synthetic value for the sake of creating value, as opposed to actually growing.

Thus, I would believe that this move would be short-sighted and entirely against the spirit of community.

This is a more blunt paraphrasing of my original answer:

I'll admit though, I would not want to see these sites combined into one, if for no other reason than it feels like another synthetic attempt at creating value as opposed to exploiting the value already present on the site.

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    Agreed. I am especially against merging general usage (Super User and similar) with developer oriented sites. How are we going to differentiate "Set Windows wallpaper" types of question? There is a world of difference between setting wallpaper as user and as developer... tags could be helpful, but only if we all strictly follow them. Right now that kind of strictness was often not needed. Finding solutions will be nightmare. – Resistance Is Futile Jan 21 at 16:21
  • Yeah @ResistanceIsFutile, I'm not even interested in answering the kinds of questions which go to, "how do I set my wallpaper on Windows" - and least of all, I wouldn't want to do it programmatically. (Mostly because I'm a Linux guy but that's probably besides the point?) – Makoto Jan 21 at 16:25
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    You would want to do it programatically if you are writing some kind of wallpaper (changer) software ;) – Resistance Is Futile Jan 21 at 16:31
  • @ResistanceIsFutile: Even then that doesn't sound like a good question for the site. One would be asking literally where do they begin, and we haven't ever given those kinds of questions the time of day. Now if one was running into an issue while doing it, that'd probably be fine. But not the other way around. – Makoto Jan 21 at 16:32
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    I can foresee questions on this hypothetical super website: "Can you do this homework for me, I have this linked list question I cannot understand. Also, I'm trying to Internet on a Debuntu laptop my friend setup for me (whatever that is!), but it doesn't work, can you fix it for me?" – Laf Jan 21 at 16:34
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    "against the spirit of the community" In case you haven't been watching the last few months, it's part of a growing trend the corporation seems to be taking. Why pay for long standing and community receptive CMs when a new product manager for teams could be more profitable? Why have many websites when a single website could be more profitable? – RageFoxx Jan 21 at 16:35
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    @RageFoxx: Allow me to introduce myself. – Makoto Jan 21 at 16:36
  • I didn't mean literally to have just "How to set wallpaper..." in the question. But imagine this being in the title, with all necessary information and attempt in question... when you Google for "How to set wallpaper..." all kinds of sites pop up. Now if you are developer and you see link goes to Stack Overflow, you know you are on right track... if the merger happens and all such question are listed under same domain, then you don't know whether you are looking at right question until you click the link. Yes, language and api tags might help, but click and miss ratio would be way worse then. – Resistance Is Futile Jan 21 at 16:42
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    @Makoto And since DIY gets "technical", it will get merged too, and then we'll have to figure out whether diy.stackexchange.com/questions/193/can-i-paint-over-wallpaper means "Run paint with Windows desktop wallpaper in the background" or "Actual physical paint on top of wallpaper" Just saying... – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Jan 21 at 16:46
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"Merging" smaller sites with StackOverflow means drowning them

"Merging" would make the serious problem of users finding relevant questions to answer even worse. Users of smaller sites would effectively lose their homepage, drowned in a sea of programming questions. In theory, after a very long time, algorithms based on user behaviour could bring some relevant questions to the surface, but a devop or sysadmin would have got bored long before such an algorithm had enough data.

People with particularly specific, narrow interests could find relevant content through tags (e.g. a devop only interested in Azure), but such users would lose the ability to visit the homepage and discover new, interesting topic, or explore a technical discipline in a way that has been refined for the nuances of that discipline (e.g. tags).


...but that might not be what they mean?

A comment from animuson♦ gives me a small amount of hope that this isn't what is meant:

"Merge" was probably a poor word choice there. From my understanding, it's not a dump of all these scopes into Stack Overflow. It was meant to be something like showing other sites related to the topic in the sidebar similar to Teams, still independent with their own scopes, but much easier to navigate between and search content from one place.


Aiding cross-pollination between related sites would be very welcome

This is starting to sound like it might be opening up to the kind of cross-pollination between related sites many of us have wanted for years. Users and volunteer moderators have been trying to improvise this, using those few limited resources available like community ads, migrating pathways and featured meta posts, but - as ever - we're powerless to help new users grasp the idea beyond endlessly saying the same thing in comments.

I think one of the suggestions during the 2018 Hot Network Questions blow-up, where the underlying problem was that new/light users didn't understand that each site was part of a diverse network, was to emphasise hot questions on related sites first and most strongly.

I think that would work here; for example, on Stack Overflow you might have, say:

From our tech support site, SuperUser:

[x4 relatively-hot SuperUser questions]

From other tech sites on our network:

[x8 relatively-hot questions from devops, unix, apple, etc]

From the rest of our network:

[x8 of the hottest questions from other sites]

Simply laying it out like that alone would make it much more understandable what was going on and would promote related sites that are relevant to users but less naturally "hot" (I.e. less clickbait-y).

And of course the rest of the network would make great use of such a feature, for example:

  • On Graphic Design, we might highlight UX questions, then other "creative" sites like arts & crafts, music, etc; then everything else;
  • On Physics, they might highlight Mathematics questions, then other STEM sites like engineering, chemistry, etc, then everything else;
  • ...and so on, and each such list could be maintained and voted on by the sites' moderators and users.

But the reaction to such suggestions when discussed before felt like "We don't have the resources to think about anything like that; the HNQ algorithm is expensive, we don't want to touch it, we're tired, we just want it all to go away".

If we could have a real discussion about making cross-pollination work between related sites, in the knowledge that there really is at least a few hours a week real dev time available and so discussing it is not a waste of time, that would be great. I'm sure there would be many fruitful suggestions.

(But wait, are we getting ideas above our station again? Aren't we're only supposed to only expect to do bug reports and mopping the floors now, unless we're lucky enough to be hand-picked into a focus group?)

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  • My guess is that HNQ had to go to give way to ads and any other reason is just an excuse, so any ideas about them are pointless anyway. But I may, for one, be too pessimistic about Powers' actions. – yo' Jan 22 at 0:36
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Does merging sites makes sense and for which sites.

Depends on what you want.

Specialized sites have special rules. This means: in order to post in that place, a user is expected to first learn about these rules. For example: to understand what would be considered "on vs off" topic in that place. And of course, the experienced users in that community will uphold their rules, and reject/sanction any input not corresponding to the rules.

Sure, all of that is very theoretical, but in the end, that is the groundwork that helped turning various communities into true beacons of knowledge. You can go there, and when you ask a specific on topic question, you have a fair chance of receiving helpful precise solutions. Because all the low quality nonsense doesn't show up there, or is quickly shown the door.

Now it feels like SE Inc probably assumes: "we just tell all experienced users from these smaller places like ask different, android, superuser, ... that they shall all turn to stackoverflow.com from now to answer questions".

Now, when you throw all these small communities together, that can only work by basically abandoning those specializations.

In other words: almost any topic will be "on topic", and attempts to uphold quality will probably be in vain. Just one single huge place without any clear agenda, open to anything that is somehow related to computerzzzz, the interwebs, and any obscure IT buzzword you can think of.

People looking for help with their Huawei device and iOS just sitting one click away from folks wondering why quicksort is typically faster (on very theoretical levels).

To me, that sounds like SE Inc. intends to turn multiple (more or less) wonderful cathedrals into one huge gigantic bazar of mediocrity.

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I think we're all a bit thin on details for this at the moment, but if such a thing is to happen I would prefer if we keep the walls up between the sites, but perhaps allow searches with the correct key words to show results from multiple areas.

I.e. asking about a programming question on Android focused development can show both SO and Android Enthusiast answers based on the keywords?

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  • That would definitely make sense. Google doesn't support multiple "site:" modifiers (as far as I know). – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Jan 21 at 19:23
  • I suppose i could clarify the answer as well, but for "search" i mean more like SE's search bar up top, that's currently limited to your current flavor of SE, but if it could show references to other site ares based on key words (perhaps similar to how hot network questions do with the icons and what not) I think that would be ideal – Culyx Jan 21 at 19:45
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    Did you know there's already a network-wide search @Peter – Mast Jan 21 at 21:14
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    @Mast I'll be honest, I did not know that was a thing – Culyx Jan 21 at 21:59
  • Even better with "Bang commands": !se android voila, right from the address bar. – Mast Jan 21 at 22:13
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Without a site list, it is very hard to say what would be good versus what would be bad.

The site I moderate spun out of Stack Overflow, as opposed to a brand new idea from Area 51. In theory, programming-specific questions are on-topic at both sites. But, the specific site also allows (and encourages) non-programming questions. In this case "technical" != "programming", so merging would probably be a bad idea.

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It seems like there is no straight forward answer to what exactly will happen with technical sites (merging or not, and to what extent).

Other, unrelated sites (it is also not completely clear which ones will be out of that group of technical sites besides obvious ones) will continue as they were, at least for the time being.

I am adding this answer for putting together pieces of that puzzle.

https://meta.stackoverflow.com/a/393156/4267244

We have ideas for how to better integrate technical content from across SE with the knowledge sharing that happens on SO, and vice versa. For the broader SE community discussing non-technical topics, we have no plans to change anything at the moment. – Pchandrasekar

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