In a fairly basic question on state machine handling, I was surprised by a comment suggesting the CSTheory.stackexchange.com site - partly because I wasn't aware of the site, but mainly because this seems a perfectly reasonable programming question. I can see a need for a separate theory site, but to me that doesn't mean that theory questions with direct relevance to programming problems should be relocated. It seems reasonable that there may be some overlap between what is on-topic for different Stack Exchange sites.

Suggesting a move to Programmers might seem more reasonable, because there's various pros and cons, plenty of (hopefully good) subjectivity, and no one right answer. But even for that, it didn't occur to me to suggest this, at least at first.

However, if computer science theory is off topic, does that mean questions about algorithms and data structures should all be asked in CSTheory? What about language design issues?

Does this mean Stack Overflow is now purely for asking "what is the syntax for this?", "how do I use this library?", and "why doesn't my homework code work?" questions?


Oops - here's the link...

Advantages/Disadvantages of NFA over DFA and vice versa


Oops - I think this always was on Programmers, never on SO - I just got confused because I've been hanging around both today.

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    I think you've glossed over SO's main purpose...to ask questions where jQuery is the answer – davidsleeps May 12 '11 at 0:37
  • Yeah, next you'll be asking why Drupal and Sharepoint questions need their own site. Or all the other spin-off sites that have been created recently. (No, I don't know the answer to that question.) – Cody Gray May 12 '11 at 1:43
  • If you read the CSTheory FAQ, you'll see that it's for research questions in theoretical CS. Questions about algorithms and data structures almost certainly are not on-topic there. – Gabe May 12 '11 at 4:23
  • @Gabe I think algorithms and data structures are part of CS. Unless my definition of CS is off. Asking a theoretical question about data structures sounds just fine to me. – WalterJ89 May 12 '11 at 6:33
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    @WalterJ89 - I think I see what Gabe means, though. There's a big difference between "halp! - heapses confuddle I" and a research algorithms question. – Steve314 May 12 '11 at 7:14
  • @Walter: You definition of CS is fine, but that site isn't about CS in general. It's about theoretical CS research, which is mostly only done by CS grad students and researchers. – Gabe May 12 '11 at 19:11

I think the issue is not sucking StackOverflow dry of all advanced topics but finding a forum where a question can thrive. There is no dearth of hard meaty questions on StackOverflow. But if you've ever seen a question like the one you linked wallow on StackOverflow and then burst to life after being migrated you know that being migrated isn't a judgement about either site, it's just the reality of what actually happens on which sites.

Each site's mission is only part of the equation. The users who answer questions develop an ecosystem organically that also encourages certain questions to be asked there. In time the mission might be modified. The question you linked got some good answer traffic on programmers and that's what really matters. If the same question were answered well on StackOverflow without migration, that could make sense too, because there is some overlap.

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    OK - I can accept that. But I also wonder how many Stack Exchange sites I'm going to need to join, will there be tools to allow me to manage them collectively, and whether the site URL is becoming a slightly more emphatic tag. – Steve314 May 12 '11 at 3:49
  • I have to remember to save this. Some of the SE sites have been guilty of mindlessly throwing things off their sites. Like they would do any better on noisy Super User. – WalterJ89 May 12 '11 at 6:37

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