Note This isn't about centralizing the sites exactly, as in Jeff's blog post. I'm only suggesting here that the 'ask a question' and 'search' use cases have some access to the other sites.
The current set of SO sites do a good job of categorizing questions in a useful way, but this still requires quite a bit of administrative overhead to keep things organized. Also, for users who aren't familiar with our system, performing a search in one may not provide the answer that they are looking for (i.e. an Apache question in stackoverflow.com).
I propose the following:
- For asking questions:
- Have 'Ask Question' redirect to a single page for all sites
- After the title, have the user specify which site the question belongs on
- The originating site can be pre-selected
- Give a one sentence explanation for each site (i.e. stack overflow is programming and developer tools questions (ok, not perfect but just an example)).
- You could also provide a post-submission check based on the tags the user picked. "The 'Server-Administration' tag usually indicates that a question belongs on Server Fault. Would you like to have your question posted there (yes/no)".
- For searching for questions/answers:
- Allow the search to access all sites, listed with the appropriate colour styles.
- Provide a radio filter to pick a specific site
While each site is for specific 'stuff', I feel like too great a division of content prevents the sites from working together. I'm hoping that these suggestions could act to tie everything together so that the knowledge and user communities don't become too fragmented.
Update: After thinking about the problem further, I've got some more reasons for this.
First off, Server Fault has a much smaller audience than Stack Overflow and I think that this translates to many fewer people knowing it exists. I feel like many people just aren't going to learn to post there directly. Second, and Jeff can answer this, but what is the proportion of questions on Server Fault that were migrated? The goal here is to encourage people to post there directly as often as possible, and keep these questions off of SO (and put less burden on the mods to keep it this way).