The user and question namespaces in the back-end system should be merged such that a question and its answers can easily be "cross-posted" with answers shared across several sites when it makes sense to do so, and such that users are able to participate, search, and interact across the spectrum of SOI sites without need to repeat the same activities on all sites and without overlooking information found on other sites. If that were done, the debate over question migration could now have an option to make the question appear on both sites, and it wouldn't be so bad to have extra SOI sites like Unix/Linux and Ubuntu.

In my vision, questions would almost always still be attached to just one of the sites, and users would still have to sign up for a site to have access to it. User profiles, though, would span across all sites, and users could view the status of their questions across all sites, and could search across all sites to find answers to questions that might be found on multiple sites.

Already, one needed to search for or post the same question in more than one place in order to get answers from everyone active on an SOI site. I can't reasonably bring myself to cross-post to four SOI sites when it's already debatable whether cross-posting is permitted. Of course, creating or searching for separate posts on different SOI sites for the same question shouldn't be necessary in the first place.

SOI, for instance, has succeeded in fracturing the Ubuntu SOI community now to FOUR SOI sites: SuperUser, ServerFault, Unix SE, and Ubuntu SE.

Questions about Ubuntu get answered in SECONDS on ServerFault and SuperUser. On Ubuntu, they often don't get answered at all. Why would the SOI communit(ies) want to expend effort convincing people to come to Ubuntu SE when they're already at SF and SU, asking and answering Ubuntu questions? I'd rather see all of the SE Ubuntu users back on SU and SF participating in the ACTIVE community there rather than fracturing the users among four different sites. As a compromise, though, would it not make sense to let the Ubuntu questions that also pertain to other distros get cross-posted to SU or SO if a 100+ rep user thinks it makes sense? And would it not make sense to merge the answers into a single list?

This need not be something visible to the users, other than the presence of added features facilitated by it.

  • 7
    I wish I could vote this up twice. Cannibal stack-exchanges threaten the whole ecosystem. Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 13:59
  • This was originally posted in response to the Unix/Linux / Ubuntu StackExchange merge proposal. It became a discussion about how the current setup creates fractured communities, redundant questions, and difficulty in searching for answers across the several sites at once. Commented Aug 29, 2010 at 18:39

2 Answers 2


I agree totally for the case of ubuntu and maybe the occasional other SE site. Imagine making a site for windows or c#. Yes, questions are spread over SO, SF, SU, as they concern programming, administration, and use. Yet this seems to be a much more natural partitioning than products.

From the beginning I saw great potential in SE first in complementing sites such as webapps, which were explicitly excluded from SU, then hardware and appliances. For these the community was around to create enough momentum. Thirdly, I see sites in totally other areas, such as translating into French, Home Improvement, or biblical Hermeneutics. These have much more problems generating the necessary movement, though, as they leave the natural common ground of the SO community.

Yet one of the worst things that could happen is to have sites that overlap to much, or even worse, where one site is but a subset of one or a few other sites. This can and should be accomplished by tags.

It is clear that both ubuntu and unix/linux generate(d) enough velocity to become a SE site very fast - they have strong communities that have been naturally interested in SOFU. A clear quirk of area51.

So, I would really hate it to have to go to many sites to get an answer for a programming problem. Where would I put or find a question about a Java problem, Java being portable? If the person asking used ubuntu as os, she would most probably put it on that site. we would surely be back in the "old internet" for Q&A, many fractioned yet highly overlapping communities. The only thing different would be that they now used the same software to host the questions.


Interesting, something with a similar theme was raised on Meta SU recently.

I think I'll reform the main thrust of my answer from that question:

Remember it's not just the topic or content that matters, but the community of users.

In my opinion SE sites that overlap in topic and/or content, but that attract different audiences, are not a problem.

And, from that same topic Gnoupi's answer also adds an important point about drive-by visitors who just come to get an answer and will not be joining the community.

They're more likely to find and use a precise SE site than a general one, and that's good because the it means they're more likely to find an answer (directly or by asking) on an SE site, rather than elsewhere.

  • 1
    OK, different audiences is exactly the reasoning for different sites in SO, SF, SU, as long as they do not develop just because of users randomly discovering one or the other site. For your second reason I would propose URL forwarding, maybe with an added feature: ubuntu.stackexchange.com would go to stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/ubuntu. And keep in mind that usually the straight forward page name www.ubuntu.com is taken
    – malach
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 13:59
  • @Ral The SOFU sites are mostly different, and some of the new sites not so much - but even with some overlap of content the audiences might not match. For example, you can imagine a "hardcore" Linux fan using the Linux site but avoiding SU because of the Windows users. This might mean a slight flux of the SU user base initally, but there's still plenty left to cover there. And with new sites that overlap - remember they might not make it out of beta. If a site can, then it does so by having a sufficent audience, who are there because they really want to be, not because there's nowhere else.
    – DMA57361
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 14:52
  • Also, wouldn't want ubuntu.com anyway, you'd want something with more of an SE flavour - as is already in discussion on Meta.Ubuntu.SE and should be in discussion on every beta's meta. (Incidentally, apologies for using just "Ral" and not "Ralph" in the previous comment - I had run out of characters)
    – DMA57361
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 14:53
  • I am trying to create a way those sites can continue to exist without fracturing the community. Commented Aug 29, 2010 at 18:57

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