Putting aside the reasons why a given community might exists within dedicated community site, or as a "sub-community" within an existing site, what are the benefits and constraints that result from a community existing as a “dedicated community” or a “sub-community”?

UPDATE: Please visit a homepage for a “dedicated” site, and attempt to imagine how you would recreate that environment for a “sub” community on an existing Stack Exchange site. For example, please tell me how to:

  • Recreate a "tag" page for a “sub” community that would naturally be present on “dedicated” site.
  • How to filter a existing site's meta so only the community related questions are displayed.
  • How a "sub" community would elect mods that would have exclusive control over the "sub" community domain.
  • List goes on and on, but point of these examples to point to the scope of the question and its overall intent, not provide a list to answer. More to the point, please address the differences that to you are the most important, and state why to you they're the most important.

(NOTE: Clearly Stack Exchange believes there's value to having dedicated community sites, and on the same note, Stack Exchange also believes there's value to creating a "sub-community" within an existing sites. That topic is off-topic in the context of this question.)

share
add comment

1 Answer

Please visit a homepage for a “dedicated” site, and attempt to imagine how you would recreate that environment for a “sub” community on an existing Stack Exchange site.

And now you have begged the question: your statement assumes that it is necessary to "recreate that environment" in order for something to happen.

You've missed the point: we do not want to recreate that environment.

We don't want sub-communities to have a tag page that looked like its own site. We don't want sub-communities to have their own metas with their own meta-questions. We don't want sub-communities to have their own moderators.

In short, we don't want sub-communities to pretend that other sub-communities do not exist.

We want sub-communities to feed off of each other. We want them to learn from one another. We want them to all be programmers, gamers, etc all together, as part of a single unified whole. Not separate C++ programmers and Appcelerator developers, WoW players and Skyrim players, but programmers and gamers.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of Stack Overflow for programmers is that it forces us to climb out of our little hole and look around at the breadth of diversity among ourselves. That JavaScript programmers can look over at some Python question and learn from it without having to go to another site. That C++ programmers can look at a question about Scala and learn about functional programming without having to go to another site.

Here, we are one.

You ask this question, but you've never answered or justified its inverse: why do you believe that a particular community needs a dedicated site? Why do Appcelerator developers need to filter out every question that isn't about Appcelerator? Why do Appcelerator developers need their own moderators to control just their questions and answers? And so forth.


It depends on the communities in question. There is no single standard.

There was a lively discussion about this subject when the Magic: The Gathering proposal was absorbed into Board & Card Games. Most of that discussion seems to have been deleted (for some reason) along with the MtG proposal itself. Some of that discussion still exists, though.

But let's cut to the real issue: this is merely a continuation of the discussion from here, which itself is a continuation of your desire to see a dedicated Appcelerator site on Stack Exchange. So let's look at that in the context of your question here; it makes for an effective demonstration.

We don't allow SE sites to have total overlap with Stack Overflow. Ever. The whole Unix&Linux vs. Ask Ubuntu thing would not happen with SO. If a proposed SE site's questions would all be legitimate on SO, then we want those questions on SO.

The reason for this is very simple, and it is exemplified by Appcelerator: programming isn't just one thing.

Now, before I continue, I'm not a web developer. I don't really have anything beyond the most basic familiarity with web technologies. So I freely admit that I may be wrong in my assessment of Appcelerator.

As I understand it, in order to develop Appcelerator applications, you will likely need some familiarity with web technologies. JavaScript clients (along with their associated libraries and so forth), AJAX for communication (which means basic XML), and so forth. This probably also includes some HTML.

If an Appcelerator developer has a problem with an application, it might be related to Appcelerator and its API. OR it might not. Maybe they just ran into a JavaScript problem. A problem that any JavaScript expert could solve, even one who had no special knowledge of Appcelerator and its APIs. This happens frequently enough; some problems are API problems, and some problems are just general programming-in-environment-X problems.

There's also a desktop interface which includes PHP, Python, and other technologies and languages. Again, there will be some problems that are API specific, and some problems that any Python expert could help you with.

Now, let's say we grant your request and provide you with an Appcelerator-specific site. Who's going to come there? The general Python or JavaScript developer? Of course not; it's a tech-specific site. They don't have any particular interest in that piece of technology.

This means that when an Appcelerator developer has one of those JavaScript or Python or whatever problems, a problem that any expert in these languages could solve, the only people who will see it are other Appcelerator developers. All those experts on Stack Overflow? They won't ever know about it.

The problem with building a website around a small niche like this is that all of the useful skill overlap you might get on Stack Overflow is completely gone. Oh sure, you've got people on hand to help you with Appcelerator APIs. But how many of them are expert JavaScript programmers? Some, to be sure. But this site would not have nearly as many experts as Stack Overflow.

By segregating yourselves off in your own little corner, you have also segregated yourselves off from many experts who might sometimes be able to help you.

Now, you could say that you'll just ask those general questions over on Stack Overflow. But if you're going to do that... why not just move everything over there? Not to mention, that doesn't solve the problem; sometimes, you think something is an API-specific problem when it's really just doing something stupid with the language.

Different sites act as a hard barrier to community participation. Questions asked on one site are invisible on another.

Programming is special in that it has a lot of overlap. Most programmers don't specialize to the extent of being totally ignorant of other technologies. Many programmers have dabbled in other tech. If someone who's a frequent visitor to SO wants to start some Appcelerator development and needs questions answered, he's going to find it much easier to do that if he doesn't have to go to another site to get those questions answered. So here again, cross-talk serves to enhance a community, not weaken it.

The cross-talk that happens is one of the most valuable aspects of Stack Overflow.

There are downsides to having integrated communities. Cross-talk works both ways; there are some JavaScript developers who simply hate JQuery with the fiery intensity of a million suns. Indeed, some have gone so far as to try to ghettoize such questions. Every technology has zealots and so forth.

But I would say that the benefits of cross-talk far exceed the downsides. And moderators can help alleviate the downsides.

What is the benefit from having a dedicated site?

One interesting thing that came up often in the Magic: The Gathering discussion was the notion of identity. Many people suggested that forumites and such would only come to an SE site to ask MtG questions if it were a dedicated MtG site. That they would not find it acceptable to spend time on a site that catered generally to card games. That they see themselves as Magic: The Gathering players, not gamers in general.

Personally, I don't get this isolationist mentality. Initially it might seem off-putting, but once you get there, it's nothing terrible. There are many web developers who wouldn't have the first clue about things like C++. And yet, they don't mind Stack Overflow having C++ questions. If the community tells its members to use the site, then the site will be used.

Is it possible that some potential users of SO don't use it because it's not dedicated solely to their field or technology or whatever? Possibly. But there are anecdotes of people branching out of their field because of SO. Indeed, I've seen users who answer questions in one field and ask questions in a different one.

One technology's expert is another technology's neophyte.

The benefits of cross-talk are why we have the "no duplication of Stack Overflow" rule on Area 51. Among programmers, "sub-communities" are far more fluid and dynamic, with intermingling and mixing to the point that it becomes a harmonious whole.


Also, I would take issue with this:

Clearly Stack Exchange believes there's value to having dedicated community sites

No; Stack Exchange believes there's value in getting people's questions answered. Dedicated sites are created in order to serve that need: answering questions. If a site already exists where that question can be answered, then creating a dedicated site for it serves little purpose.

share
    
Updated the question in response to your answer. Question really is not about my proposal, just the stated topic, though if you believe it gives more meaning to the subject, that's fine. –  blunders May 7 '12 at 20:54
    
@blunders: See my edit. –  Nicol Bolas May 7 '12 at 21:30
    
(a) I would ask that unless you're agreeing with someone else, and reference their opinion via a link, please stop presenting you opinion as "we". (b) "Clearly Stack Exchange believes there's value to having dedicated community sites, and on the same note, Stack Exchange also believes there's value to creating a "sub-community" within an existing sites. That topic is off-topic in the context of this question." (c) Your answer in my opinion is a rant, long, and doesn't address the question; I have no idea how to response to the question in a meaningful way. Stop ranting, please. –  blunders May 7 '12 at 22:19
    
@blunders: (a): It has been made abundantly clear by the SO and SE overlords that replicas of SO are not wanted. It has been made abundantly clear by Area51 that attempts to create SO subsets will be closed. It has been made abundantly clear by Area51 that attempts to make Gaming subsets will be closed. I feel perfectly comfortable using "we" in this circumstance. –  Nicol Bolas May 7 '12 at 22:26
    
@blunders: (b): I didn't speak to the validity of creating dedicated sites in general. Only in specific circumstances. That is, when it replicates existing functionality. –  Nicol Bolas May 7 '12 at 22:27
    
@blunders: (c): Ultimately, I can't help your opinion. I can only state my case and provide reasoning for it. You asked what the differences are between dedicated sites and communities within a site are. I explained the pros and cons of both approaches. Then you modified your question to be completely different, about how to make sub-communities look like dedicated sites. I responded by point out that the purpose of having sub-communities is that cross-talk; what you suggest would be antithetical to that purpose. –  Nicol Bolas May 7 '12 at 22:29
    
Simple, meaningful, actionable communication is the key to developing communities. SE already enables subsets of sites, it is just not equal to “dedicated” site in my opinion. Have you used SE-filters before? –  blunders May 7 '12 at 23:32
    
@blunders: "it is just not equal to “dedicated” site in my opinion" It's not supposed to be either. Even with SE-filters, you can't really pretend that the rest of the site doesn't exist. That's why all of SE doesn't have a single database, with "sites" being just pre-defined filters for different interests. You can try to use SE-filters as a way to look at question lists, but once you click on a question, you're transported off to that particular site. –  Nicol Bolas May 8 '12 at 2:09
    
Odd how you believe making a user dig through content that is not relevant to them is "good" for them, and you know their needs better than they know their own. Also interesting how you say to build the community on SO, just don't a build community on SO; yes, the statement is a paradox. –  blunders May 8 '12 at 13:15
    
@blunders: "the statement is a paradox." It's only a paradox when coupled with the assumption that a community must be walled off and isolated from another community in order to be a community. Stack Overflow proves this assumption to be wrong, and therefore the statement isn't a paradox. –  Nicol Bolas May 8 '12 at 14:55
    
let us continue this discussion in chat –  blunders May 8 '12 at 15:54
add comment

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .