I was just thinking that maybe if we have more Stack Exchange websites then each person would be a member of more different sites on average. Since the time a person can spend online on average is limited it means he will be spending less time on each website. But would this affect the quality of these websites? I'm not talking only about the quality answers given but also the number of answers given, the promptness. Won't these things go down?

I think that the rate of questions won't go down much because you need to know what you need to know. However, the average time a person spends browsing through these websites (and chances upon a question he can answer) would decrease. So are we creating too many different Stack Exchange sites?


4 Answers 4


I think the stack has fragmented too far.

I like giving help for a wide variety of topics. My ideal site would include content from Stack Overflow, Super User, Server Fault, Unix & Linux, and Programmers.

While I could browse all five sites, I have way lower reputation on most of them than Stack Overflow, and thus miss some of the handier privileges -- most notably the Edit privilege, but vote-to-close is a close second -- and thus I feel less "welcome" on those other sites and visit less frequently. Hence, the points stay lower on those other sites.

A while ago, I slapped together what I wanted our "close as offtopic -> migrate" dialog box to look like:

mocked up migration dialog

Many questions are asked on one fragment that would be better served on one of the different fragments, but the silly little list of five is definitely too short -- I know I flag several posts a day for moderator attention just for migration elsewhere on the stack. But all the work of migrating questions among different silos in the stack seems like vastly wasted energy -- when individuals can pick the list of tags they like and dislike, we could remove all the hassle of close->migrate or flag->migrate and bring questions the larger visibility of the combined group. Also, I wouldn't feel nearly as unwelcome when walking slightly out of my usual SO-territory.

  • 2
    I definitely agree! Today I had a linux GUI question, so I asked in the Unix & Linux exchange. But the question could also be answered by readers of Super User, Server Fault and even Ask Ubuntu!. I think that the divisions should be more broad and we should be able to post questions to multiple exchanges at the same time.
    – vainolo
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 21:53
  • Totally agreed.
    – Kyle Smith
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 16:11

Your argument would stand if the number of people on SE sites were fixed. It isn't. By providing a wider range of topics you bring in a wider range of people. My wife wouldn't read SO but she might read the cooking SE site, for example.

To target your second point, sure, if I start following two more SE sites, given a fixed amount of time to spend on the Internet, my time per site will go down, but I don't understand how this would necessarily lead to a decrease in answer quality. It could result in a decrease in the absolute numbers of answers I can give, but what does that really matter? There are loads of people giving excellent answers.

Promptness isn't really an issue. Whether you get your answer in two minutes or two hours shouldn't make a difference. If you need an answer NOW NOW NOW then you should probably be calling a helpdesk or maybe asking somewhere on IRC. Correct answers are the main point behind SE/SO, not how quickly they come.

  • You are right about the total number of people not remaining fixed. However, for the second point I still have things to say. I am editing my question to provide a bit more detail. It would be great to hear your thoughts on that.
    – Mugen
    Commented Feb 5, 2011 at 17:10
  • Wait on second thoughts..argh I'm a bit confused on which side I really think is correct. Oh well, might as well be this one. Marking as answered. Thanks :).
    – Mugen
    Commented Feb 5, 2011 at 17:17
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    The issue I have is with subject overlap. Separating and cooking programming into separate domains makes perfect sense. However(!) separating webapps, programming, programmers, server config, IT, game development, Drupal, code review, and user experience all into separate sites is confusing. Many of these things would be better categorized be creating high-level tags. I believe this issue should be given more attention.
    – zourtney
    Commented Jul 8, 2011 at 21:23
  • The more sites that get created increases the level of 'snark' on all the sites. Too much "Go to XXXXXX SE for that kind of question" makes it a hassle.
    – user146551
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 20:41

I prefer splitting up the sites. It allows me to focus on a specific group of questions for which I have knowledge, allowing my time investment to be used more effectively to answer questions rather than sifting through so much noise. Sure, you can use the Stack Exchange tag sets for this, but that precludes people knowing how to use tags. People seem to grok being able to choose which SE site to post on better than they grok how to use tags effectively.

In addition, when I want to know the answer to a question, I feel as if I'm more likely to get an answer from people who care about the category of questions and know a lot about it on a Stack Exchange site that is less-general. On larger SE sites, it's easier for your question to either get lost in the sea of other questions or to be answered by a lot of people giving suggestions who may not be intimately familiar with the subject.

  • 4
    Yeah it's nice being able to focus on sites where I feel I can offer good suggestions. For me that's only 17 different SE sites! Convenient!
    – Kyle Smith
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 16:12
  • @KyleSmith +1 for the use of wit. This cracked me up.
    – Mugen
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 19:32
  • 1
    I think all this is saying is that the tag system is not sophisticated enough (which I agree with). I think the second paragraph is just wrong. You'll still get expert answers on Fortran on SO, even though it's a niche tag. People follow the tags in which they have expertise or interest. Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 17:38
  • "People seem to grok being able to choose which SE site to post on better than they grok how to use tags effectively." Choosing sites is getting more and more difficult, and the 'fix' to 'wrong site' (migration) is incredibly disruptive and off-putting to some people (Don't forget how much this breaks the gamification.), while the fix to 'wrong tags' is relatively smooth and pain free.
    – A.M.
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 13:31

We have to take into account, though, what CanSpice said. The number of users isn't remaining constant, so users, like some of us on this question, who are well-versed in multiple Stack Exchange sites, aren't who these sites are for: Drupal (as an example) is a huge platform on its own, and I could easily see mutliple tags within a Drupal Stack Exchange site, because of how diverse the site is. We can't be narrow-minded and think that just because these things are related to computers that they must be grouped together.

The separation will attract experts/enthusiasts in that particular domain. Most of us are only experts in one or two domains, and enthusiasts (that might be able to offer answers) in the others, so the fact that Stack Exchange sites Ask Ubuntu and Unix and Linux isn't a big deal for a Linux guru, he could simply watch them both if he wanted to help someone.

But I could see how it would be intimidating for someone new to Linux running Ubuntu to figure out where to ask their question, but then again that's why sites have FAQs. I would give the advice of asking for what exactly you're having the problem with: For example, I would post to the Drupal or WordPress sites if I were having a problem with those, and not worry about (at least not right away) the fact I'm running it on Ubuntu and if I should ask it on Ask Ubuntu. Chances are that there are others on Drupal SE with a similar setup who could offer help, and if not -- well, that's what bounties are for :-)

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