Proposal: *Arduino *

Proposal: *Embedded Programming and Design *

While I understand why Raspberry Pi proposal can be separate - most of questions there treat RPi as a PC with some platform-specific quirks, a bit like AskUbuntu vs Unix&Linux, - I don't really see what sets Arduino apart from generally understood Embedded Programming and Design.

I don't think a single of example questions on Arduino wouldn't fit within EP&D scope (except for ones that should go directly to SO or EE). There are a few that would be quite cross-platform and not Arduino specific; these would benefit from knowledge of other Embedded engineers. The previous proposal failed due to lack of activity - one essential, easy way to fight it is to broaden the site scope - attract questions that were off-topic otherwise.

And for people who are uninterested in everything else but Arduino, StackExchange provides an excellent mechanism: "Tag Subscriptions". Simply use a filter that leaves everything else from the Embedded Programming site, and have Arduino-only results. You don't need a separate site if you don't care about 8051 or PIC.

I proposed Arduino before i knew about this. Perhaps we should merge? – TheDoctor May 9 '14 at 0:49
@TheDoctor Merging a proposal and a launched beta is a very difficult task. We already have a fairly good setup here, but I don't know how the extra questions with IDEs and software would fit with an embedded electronic proposal. It'd be deleting Arduino [starting over] and then merging two similar proposals: it just doesn't work. – Anonymous Penguin May 9 '14 at 2:41
@AnnonomusPenguin: What about merging two betas? Arduino isn't doing very well and in its current shape it would only drain users from Embedded. IDE questions seem to be welcome on Embedded: "IDE, tools, configuring the "desktop" for programming given platforms" – SF. May 9 '14 at 6:28
@AnnonomusPenguin Merging proposals and merging betas are possible and have been done before. Merging a beta with a proposal is a different matter altogether, and I can't see it working. – Gilles May 10 '14 at 0:39
@AnnonomusPenguin I guess that won't be a problem now huh. – BigHomie May 14 '14 at 14:07

Sometimes less is more. I'm sure that not everyone would agree, but ardweenies [tm] would dilute the quality of a serious embedded systems board. Their numbers are sheer, questions tend to be basic, attitude tends to be naive, preliminary research tends to be lacking. Would an embedded systems designer want to answer "what shield should i buy?" questions?

They should have their own board. I hope they get it going this time.

Regarding the lack of need for separate PIC and 8051 sites. The respective user populations for PIC and 8051 (as well as other families of μCs without training wheels) are closer to each other in spirit than to ardweenies. PICies and 8051nies can cross-pollinate and benefit.

edit: Ideally, the Arduino.SE would launch slightly ahead of the EP&D. That way, it would provide a [long overdue] migration path for the Arduino questions.

update: Arduino.SE has graduated to Public Beta.

update: Arduino questions and Arduino.SE featured heavily in the moderator election on EE.SE.

Arduino is really a separate community from "serious embedded developers." The idea behind Arduino is to bring embedded computing to people who are NOT "serious embedded developers;" to designers and artists and craftsmen who can do enough electronics to follow a recipe and put together some sensors, motor controllers, and communications widgets and produce something useful. The crossover is that "serious embedded developers" sometimes (often?) use Arduino (and similar) for prototyping a design, but that's not really the audience for Arduino. – Wexxor Dec 6 '13 at 19:10

Mainly in response to Nick's answer:

Don't forget, shopping questions (i.e. what shield should I buy) are off topic on any SE site, with some beef up however that question would be fine on this site.

Also, The quality of users you describe and the questions they would also be poor for any SE site, Arduino, EP&D, or otherwise. You want the core site to be composed of experts, with novices and beginners being drawn to the site. There's no point in having a separate site to house poor content (that appears to be your argument). From an SE perspective (Take SO for example), the benefit to having a single EP&D site (RPi and Arduino included) is better advertising. Also, everyone would arguably benefit from an EP&D site where everything EP&D was included. Ideally it would be the EE site that had a question scope that extended to firmware and/or kernel drivers/modules. RPi users think they're really special until it comes time to hook up those GPIOs to something useful. Sure you could buy an out of the box kit that does all the work for you, or use python, but where is the fun in that :-) ?? project questions like that are prime for an EP&D site.

In general though, it seems a lot of cliques just want their own 'board', but don't really understand what goes into making a site, and also don't understand why common interests should be merged into a single site. SO is really a shining example: There is pretty much every programming language under the sun in scope on SO, both compiled and interpreted languages. There isn't a separate site for python programmers, or windows programmers vs linux programmers, scripters, or arduino programmers, etc. If it's a programming question it goes on SO. C or C++ has a large enough following to warrant its own site, but that doesn't mean it should, for way too many reasons to list. Suffice it to say that

  1. Common interests should stick together - Programming concepts are fundamentally the same across all languages, even if syntax is different. Thus, someone with expertise in a different language could answer your question, but may never even see your question if it's on some niche site.

  2. A broader question scope draws more traffic - more traffic equals more Q&A and more search engine results, which equals better ad $, which equals the possibility of a sustained site and not a killed beta.

I'm with SF., a lot of us (myself included sometimes) just don't use the tools properly, and feel like every question should be of our own interests, which really isn't the case. Or, in the case of an RPi, feel like they should be able to ask every question about their project on a single site, which shouldn't really matter either. If I'm building a desktop, some of my questions (motherboard, CPU install, etc) would be on topic @ superuser, but when it came down to installing linux modules for my webcam, or the right driver to use, that might be a better question for the linux site, or Ubuntu site if I'm using that distro.

The problem is finding a golden middle. Theoretically EE and SO should cater to all of our interests. Practically, Embedded programming questions are utterly drowned in "high-level" noise of SO. Experts don't find many interesting questions, people with real embedded problems get inane answers from the bulk of users clueless about embedded problems, and if shifting a solution into software is the right way, you won't get that as answer from EE. – SF. Nov 26 '13 at 14:56
@SF. therefore is EP&D – Patrik Karisch Nov 27 '13 at 10:46
Wow. That was a very different take on it which I had not considered previously. Thank you! – growlf Jan 16 '14 at 1:45
I concur. Stating that a separate board is needed because it may dilute a general EP&D/EE site or might annoy thorough-bred embedded engineers is implying that SE has bad filtering and search functions. Having a general board has as a plus that Ardweenies might come in contact with more special-purpose hard/software that might be better for a specific task. I can really see the benefit of a shared board, from my perspective it would enrich the community and rather improve quality than not. – puredevotion Feb 1 '14 at 14:32
Some of this answer is obsolete: Software Recs is a site dedicated to shopping questions. Shopping questions are okay if specific, but opinion based or "list all options here" questions are hard to have a "best solution" like SE requires. SO is special in the aspect that it allows zero flexibility with shopping questions. – Anonymous Penguin May 9 '14 at 2:44
@AnnonomusPenguin Software Recommendations does not do shopping questions, we do software recommendations (with quality control, which is what Super User and Stack Overflow are unwilling or unable to do). The questions on SR aren't particularly subjective. – Gilles May 10 '14 at 0:42
Programming language isn't a relevant distinction. Arduino and RPi (and Beagleboard, which hasn't found a critical mass on Area 51) aren't different because they're distinct hardware platforms, they're different because they cater primarily to non-professionals. The separation Super User vs Server Fault is largely based on the amateur/professional distinction. Stack Overflow caters to both, which shows that both models are viable. – Gilles May 10 '14 at 0:44
@Gilles there's kinda a vague definition of shopping questions. I was pointing out that the example question he said might be okay if and only if it was specific enough to have a best choice. Sorry for the confusion, I understand S Recs scope pretty well. – Anonymous Penguin May 10 '14 at 5:09
@Gilles you are correct in that SU vs SF is mostly Enthusiast vs Professional, but that does not stop a professional sysadmin from taking a computer question to SU when it's a better fit for the site. The fact that I (or anyone else) is a professional sysadmin doesn't give them the right to ask any question they want on SF, and it wouldn't make sense to ask a question on SF that wouldn't receive an answer, just because. Arduino and RPi tout being 'easy', that does attract novices, but yo – BigHomie May 10 '14 at 11:08

I happen to disagree.

  • I do not see how beginners questions for Arduino are any different than beginner questions for NXP, TI or other microcontrollers. I do not see any problems with questions related to Arduino shields. I believe tags are sufficient means to find / sort out these questions.
  • If Arduino questions will be separate from embedded programming the communities will split. Consequently both communities will loose something important. Modernization on the one hand / experience on the other.
  • I personally experience the Arduino community as open minded and closely related to the open source movement. In my hopes this open spirit might somehow influence / spark over to the sometimes old fashioned proprietary embedded programming world as we know it.
Absolutely. More splitting is a current trend w/in the SE community right now, but hopefully it passes. Use tags and filters appropriately and a huge site can thrive, attract more, and can stand with the ranks of other great and flourishing SE sites. – BigHomie May 6 '14 at 12:45
I think the communities differ by the level of obstacles that one needs to overcome to get involved in them, and thus the level of answers a questioner can interpret and find useful. Many of the Arduino questions that might be anticipated are at the level of "how do I unclog my sink?" that the FAQ warns about, and are perhaps best answered in a different forum, perhaps even outside SE. Other questions, however, might be good, solid, embedded systems questions that happen to involve an Arduino, and I suspect those would be fine here. – Scott Seidman May 7 '14 at 12:32
I agree that the Arduino community is closely related to the open source movement, though I see that as more of an obstacle to participation in the proposed SE than a positive. – Scott Seidman May 7 '14 at 12:34
@ScottSeidman regarding your first comment: Part of what makes a 'good' question (yep, it's a defined relative) is that research be done prior to asking the question, either by $SearchEngine or on SE itself, ideally both. It also requires effort on the part of the OP (i.e., What have you tried to solve the problem). – BigHomie May 9 '14 at 5:20
This extends to even the most basic of troubleshooting questions, and in a properly maintained site bad questions should either be edited, or downvoted and deleted. So, under the right circumstances, the "how do I unclog my sink?" question may even turn out to not only be a good question, but an example of what's appropriate for the site. As a high rep member of the EE site, I know you're aware of the requirements of asking questions, because the members there aren't gunshy and will d/v a question into oblivion with the quickness, but I'm just listing requirements for future readers. – BigHomie May 9 '14 at 5:20

cf my post on that topic over here, I sincerely believe that Arduino.SE is a mistake… As much as would be the Raspberry community. I'd have the same opinion about the AskUbuntu and every other product oriented boards, but I care a bit less about those because I'm not going to participate in those forums.

What I really like as a user of the stackexchange forums, is that SE is still mainly concern oriented and not product oriented.

  • You got a question about code? you go on SO…
  • About electronics? There's EE.SE…
  • About sysadmin? You got serverfault…

There's still a missing gap between software and hardware that I really believe embedded systems can fill. With the whole IoT thing being trendy and embedded hardware getting cheaper and more powerful, a board that covers 8bit MCUs to multicore OMAP systems is definitely important, while being architecture agnostic.

And I do hope that one needs a focus on accuracy, relevance and excellence.

I also think there's a need for a "beginner"-oriented forum, that does not think of Arduino as the solution of every problem in life. That's why I think a forum like DIY/Hacking or Making and Building or Home Automation or Internet of Things… should be there as the pendant of Embedded Systems for newbies to ask general questions like:

  • how do I create a toilet paper alarm?,
  • a connected meteo station?,
  • a DIY RFID cat door?

which answer would not necessarily involve using an arduino, but where it could still be a valid answer.

The thing about arduino is that Arduino is:

  • a form-factor,
  • a set of architectures,
  • a software framework,

and you can run other frameworks (Atmel Software Foundation, avr-gcc, xpcc…) on the original arduinos, run the framework on other architecture (on the MSP430, on PIC…)… And even the "original" arduinos have a wide range of architectures, starting from basic Atmega168 up to ARM based Cortex M3.

So my point is, doing an arduino oriented Q&A misses the point and is really not worth it.

You've mentioned "product oriented boards [stacks]". I thought about this too. There may be a larger question lurking behind this: are (and should) the stacks be defined mainly by subject, or mainly by user population? Neither empirical nor theoretical answer to this is straightforward. – Nick Alexeev Mar 11 '14 at 21:19
how do I create a toilet paper alarm? a connected meteo station? a DIY RFID cat door? Those are not necessarily bad questions in their own rite, however research must be done on the part of the OP, and with some help, I believe they would be a great fit on the upcoming EP&D site. – BigHomie May 9 '14 at 5:23

from my point of view I think arduino is a very application layer platform , that is really nearer to using APIs than using real operating systems. Arduino is just a plug and play environment , so I think it should be separate from this community as well.

-1, From an EE perspective I have to say that this is not correct. An Arduino itself hardware-speaking is nothing more than a ATMega microcontroller with the pins broken out. Software-speaking it has a bootloader that interprets the Arduino instructions allowing one to use a simpler programming language, but lets not forget that you can still use native assembly or C with an Arduino. The fact that one does not know who made a car has doesn't mean that car is off topic in the maker's community. – BigHomie Mar 19 '14 at 12:43
@MDMoore313 For the EE perspective, we have EE.SE . – Nick Alexeev Mar 20 '14 at 1:44

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