Proposal: Raspberry-Pi Hardware and Software

This site shares its scope with many other sites:

  • Electrical Engineering:
    The hardware, peripheral development, writing drivers, hardware-related problems with the OS
  • Stack Overflow:
    Writing software for the Raspberry Pi, probably programming questions from potential student users as well
  • Super User and Unix and Linux:
    User-level interaction with the device, its applications, and its peripherals.

This has worked before for some sites. For example, Drupal fits on both Stack Overflow and Web Applications, but needs its own site because many of its questions across the boundary line between the two sites.

Can a similar case be made for this proposal? Or should this be closed as a duplicate of any of the above sites?

See also:

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I think this site would be useful on the grounds that the majority of visitors will be clueless about where to begin to find answers to problems due to lack of knowledge and experience. Given the lofty ambitions of Raspberry Pi I would hope that this site will be more forgiving than other sites and nurture interest and expand the user base. – EdChum Mar 20 '12 at 22:46
    
@AlanWong - A site for clueless users, with a culture of nurturing and forgiveness, will be almost instantly overrun by help vampires and quickly destroyed. Like Merlin, I would love to segregate these users and questions away from the rest of the network, but I don't think the SE team wants this blemish on their otherwise high-quality sites. – Kevin Vermeer Mar 21 '12 at 16:31
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I agree it is a difficult balancing act and I do think that some of the newer sites that have popped seem to have turned into a feeding frenzy for lazy questions rather than a useful site. My hope still remains that given the interest surrounding the raspberry pi and it's intended target of school education that this site would assist the uninitiated. It could well be that the current structure of StackExchange isn't flexible enough but we have the options of chat rooms, blogs, wikis aswell as the Q&A form so something amongst all this must work if we put decent rules down. – EdChum Mar 21 '12 at 20:17
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@AlanWong - The existence of a site will not assist anyone. You need people to answer the questions. If the site is overrun by lazy questions, those people won't be there for long. – Kevin Vermeer Mar 21 '12 at 21:54
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Has anyone contacted the RaspberryPi folks about this? – Alex L Apr 9 '12 at 17:28
    
The official Raspberry Pi website has a fairly active forum which is the first place people are likely to go looking for help. How will they know to come here? It would need official recommendation and linking from the Raspi website to be any use. – Piku Apr 19 '12 at 18:49
    
I think it should not be made specific to Rasberry-Pi. What about Arduino/Netduino? What about the next new learning board that comes along? Make it generic to school education/hobby hardware boards. – Dave Apr 20 '12 at 13:20
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@Piku in my experience there are active forums, both official and unofficial, for every topic on StackExchange but it has not stopped the SE sites from becoming popular. People come here for the unique Q&A model and the community. I do not agree that we need official recommendation to be of any use (I do not know of any other SE site has official recommendation/links but they still become popular). However, yes, it would be nice to have some sort of official endorsement/acknowledgement but it isn't necessary. – authentictech Apr 28 '12 at 13:12
    
Yeah, why can't we have a site about raspberry pie instead? – Alain May 10 '12 at 0:31

Maybe the trick would be to consider an enthusiast micro-computing site instead of directly covering Raspberry Pi? Then other like devices such as FitPCs, Panda Boards and other micro devices could help bulk-up the content as the same/similar issues are often shared across the field.

Not to mention of course that this would open up scope for questions relating to both embedded Windows & Linux.

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Especially if Raspberry Pi ends up just being a temporary fad – Kyle Macey Apr 4 '12 at 3:58
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Exactly the answer I would have given. +1 for embedded.SE – Baarn Apr 15 '12 at 8:19
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This is a more logical and less niche idea for a SE site. Seems the general computing fad at the moment is small, single-board computers. Having a single place to ask questions would be more useful. Especially if many of them are small Linux machines that all effectively work the same way. – Piku Apr 19 '12 at 18:52
    
Yes, this is what I was thinking. – Dave Apr 20 '12 at 13:20
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I agree with this, especially as the devices are so cheap it is quite likely people will possess a number of different device types so one place to go for answers will be convenient. Also, I suspect there will be some answers that can apply to more than one type of device. – authentictech Apr 28 '12 at 13:01
    
I agree. This should be an Embedded Linux site (like the elinux wiki elinux.org) and cover similar hardware like the BeagleBoard/Bone and Pandaboard. Can we just rename this proposal? – silent__thought Jun 6 '12 at 16:07
    
But then that would limit potential questions, which is moving the 'restriction' of scope from 1 piece of hardware to 1 OS. – Beeblebrox Jun 6 '12 at 22:37

I think that a Rapberry-Pi site would benefit more from having its own site than (say) a specific programming language. The main reason for this is that it will prompt both hardware and software questions.

A school-teacher with a bit of hobbyist electronics might be put off by the level of expertise required to make your way in Electrical Engineering, but might be using a Raspberry-Pi to drive a physics experiment, or make a small robot - using the GPIO.

Yes, obviously you can ask a programming question on StackOverflow or a OS question on Superuser - but this is an unusual platform. It is not:

  • A PC, Mac or Linux box with an Intel processor
  • A mobile device running iOS, Android or Windows Phone

Which is where the vast majority of questions on these sites come from (I suspect - its hard to get good statistics on this).

It is a specific fixed platform with a specific ARM processor, GPU, network interface etc etc - users in this specific group can bypass having to explain the platform they are using - which will happen again and again, as people respond with solutions that may not work on the Pi, or which will require significant rework to run on the Pi.

Yes, I am sure that many users in these other groups will be extraordinarily generous with their time answering Pi Questions - but I suspect that the noise level for these questions willl be high (due to inexperience of some questions and inexperience of some answerers to the platform), and that some people will be put off by the level of expertise in the other groups.

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Seems like a reasonable analysis. However, your note: due to inexperience of some questions and inexperience of some answerers to the platform prompted another objection: Aren't the experts for this device (EEs, programmers, and expert Linux users) already on the other sites? – Kevin Vermeer Dec 10 '11 at 16:01
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Yes, just as I am a professional programmer with a background in electronics - but when I have a Pi, I would prefer to ask questions about it in a Pi forum first, with other people of experience of the Pi platform, unless the questions really are detailed ... "i'm writing a linux driver for x and I have this error when I compile" type questions. – iandotkelly Dec 10 '11 at 16:07
    
Good question by the way ..... this should be discussed. – iandotkelly Dec 10 '11 at 16:08
    
Agreed. Questions about programming Raspberry PI might fit categorically on other programming sites, but it is unlikely, in my opinion, that programmers who do not possess these devices or are not interested in them specifically will find the Q&As useful/interesting/relevant. – authentictech Apr 28 '12 at 13:07
    
its true the Rpi will share many answers with linux, electronics . . . but the raspberry pi is already a world success, and IMO deserve its own website on stackechange, miing linux, ARM, electronics . . . – neofutur Jun 12 '12 at 10:58

Can it work? Sure. If there is a large, active community of enthusiasts, with a potential library of questions and answers to be hosted, such a site could do very well.

Will it work? Doubtful. Extremely niche Stack Exchange sites tend to suffer from serious problems. The entire system was designed to scale up: a large volume of questions, a large number of active users. It wasn't designed to scale down - if you're getting a question a day, you're basically limping along, and it becomes extremely hard to keep folks interested.

This is one of the reasons why we've recently raised the requirements for getting a proposal through Area 51. Unless you can demonstrate that you have a large number of interested users, with a reasonable number of serious questions, in a fairly short period of time... Trying to create a stand-alone site is fairly pointless.

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To a point I don't disagree with what you are saying, and increasing the barrier to launching a site is probably a good idea. I personally think that quadrupling the number of questions required was a bit much at once. Yes, it is a niche site, but the Raspberry-Pi is breaking all expectations for sales and people are going to need resources on the internet and the SE format is vastly preferable to the forum approach for finding answers to question. Stackoverflow and Electrical Engineering would be a bit intimidating to some amateur users of the Pi. – iandotkelly Mar 4 '12 at 22:00
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I don't think there will be any amateur users for some time; the device clearly has gadget status for now. – Raphael Mar 7 '12 at 8:04
    
the pi is not a niche, and its not a gadget, its really a revolution. the rpi is already a world success, you have to wait 3 months to order one and they re doing all they can to increase production, more than 100000 people are waiting to order theeir raspbeerry pi . . . – neofutur Jun 12 '12 at 11:00
    
Probably worth noting that the site is doing pretty well so far - I love it when my predictions are proved wrong by stuff like this! – Shog9 Jan 16 '13 at 16:19

For Drupal, the questions that can be a mix between a question acceptable on Stack Overflow, and a question acceptable on Webmasters (and where the OP doesn't know if the solution is developing code, using an existing module, or setting a module that comes with Drupal core), are all about software.
For this proposal, it doesn't seem there is a question for which the answer could be using a specific component hardware, or using a specific software. There could questions where the solution is hardware and software, but I imagine those questions are similar to "What hardware should I use for [description of the purpose]?" where the suggested hardware would be the one for which there is a driver running on a Raspberry-Pi. For those questions, there is already an SE site, considering the OS that is chosen to run on a Raspberry-Pi.

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While I adore the idea of having a Raspberry Pi site to segregate the ridiculously simple questions away from sites where they are unwelcome (and there's already a few upvoted questions that fall into this category).

This problem is becomming more prevalent among proposals and Stack Exchange has reached a crossroad, and it urgently needs to be addressed.

I am aware that there are changes coming, but I don't know if these will be widespread enough to resolve the issue of special interest sites with multiple topics which exist within other Stack Exchange realms.

The real shame of this is that Stack Exchange is missing a trick here, in so far that the vast majority will be looking for a topic or subject as their primary resource whereas the existing sites are obscurely hidden behind layers of unicorn mist and mystical doorways into the world of Stack Exchange.

Raspberry Pi is an excellent idea for a Q&A site. The problem is that Stack Exchange is simply not geared up for handling such a site. Something which I am campaigning to change at every opportunity, perhaps this is something @RobertCartaino can comment on.

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Do you have a proposition? – Raphael Mar 7 '12 at 8:07

Would converting it from rasberry pi to a wider range of educational programming help? Or some sort of 'retro' computer forum focusing on old and new 'different' OSs and languages.

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No, its not just about educational programming, nor is it retro. There is some scope for including other micro boards though. – iandotkelly Jun 12 '12 at 16:06

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