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This is sort of a follow-up to What will be the benefits in having a separate Arduino site?

The separate Arduino site entered private beta, but did not have enough activity to enter public beta after a week, while also showing significant overlap with this site. We believe that trying to maintain a separate Arduino site at this point in time would be detrimental to both EE and the Arduino community on Stack Exchange, so we've decided to close it next week.

However, a few concerns need to be addressed, namely:

  • That Electrical Engineering is too unfriendly toward beginners (in particular Arduino enthusiasts who are not trained EEs).

  • That beginner questions drag down the level of quality on this site by being poorly researched, poorly thought-out or overly broad.

  • That Arduino development tends to involve a fair bit of "product-support" questions regarding specific boards, Arduino add-ons, tools, etc.

The last thing anyone wants is a site full of poorly-asked questions - whether that's here or a separate Arduino site. Based on past discussions here, I don't think hating on beginners is a conscious goal either. Product support is always a bit tricky, but it's been done successfully on many sites for many products by limiting it to the technical aspects of a product:

Stack Exchange should only be ONE of the support options listed on the product's main site. Make sure you have other resources for support apart from Stack Exchange. Issues like bug reporting, feature requests, generalized discussions, and specific customer support issues do not fit into our Q&A model, and should be quickly closed by the community.

So with this in mind, what can and should be done here to welcome Arduino enthusiasts?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hopefully, something more than this \$\endgroup\$ – asheeshr Apr 19 '13 at 3:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AshRj That's a classic EE comment. \$\endgroup\$ – Trygve Laugstøl Apr 19 '13 at 7:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I fear we are now headed down the slippery slope into the swamp. You make it sound like we have some obligation somehow to welcome arduino users just because they are arduino users. This is a very bad policy. If they write good question, they will be helped. If not, they won't, just like everyone else. There is a lot about arduinos we don't cover and is inappropriate here. Real electronics is fine, even if a arduino is envolved. The ardweenies that want to know what "shield" to use need to find someplace else to go. Perhaps there is no place on SE for them. Not my problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Apr 19 '13 at 12:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop: What's wrong with a bit of handholding? Handholding can end up making good community members. I have a few users on the sites I moderated that started off with bad quality contributions. Some friendly nudging and they are back on track. To be clear: It is not your obligation to welcome arduino users. However, it is your obligation not to scare them off. \$\endgroup\$ – Manishearth Apr 19 '13 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that I do agree that recommendation questions should stay off topic. But one should not generalize that to all newbie questions. \$\endgroup\$ – Manishearth Apr 19 '13 at 14:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Manish: Handholding just noises up the site and lowers the overall technical content. You can't fix attitude. If someone can't be bothered to read the FAQ and understand the site before posting, they aren't likely to be good contributors in the future either. We need to dispense with them as expediently as possible before they cause more harm, or other do-gooders cause more harm by trying to "fix" them. 70 good posts is much better than 80 good posts and 20 crap posts. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Apr 19 '13 at 14:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop: Crap posts can be fixed. Look, very few people read the faq the first time they come on any site. They directly ask. Some pointers can help them get oriented in this new environment (SE is confusing for those new to it). I did not read the faq when I joined Physics.SE. Again, there are many users who became great contributors after being handheld on Phys and Chem, which sort of invalidates your "won't be good contributors in the future". If the post is fixed, it is no longer crap. \$\endgroup\$ – Manishearth Apr 19 '13 at 14:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, do I understand you correctly? Are you saying that you wish to actively prevent other users from fixing stuff ? In that case, I don't see much point in continuing this discussion :/ \$\endgroup\$ – Manishearth Apr 19 '13 at 14:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AshRj I do feel like his one quote there was out of context. he was stating that we would Not migrate good questions and that the bad questions would be closed and should not be migrated either. He was stating support for keeping good questions, just with his normal grumpy approach. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Apr 19 '13 at 16:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Manishearth This has been a point that I have been in constant contention with. Calling that the EE mentality is not true, it is Olin's mentality. He does not have to hand hold, but I will repeat it again if he continues to have issues, he can not be rude either. If you want to attack new users you have to leave this site. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Apr 19 '13 at 16:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: I know it isn't, I lurk here :) However, it does contribute badly to the external image of the site for newbies, even if it's just one or two vocal users doing it. \$\endgroup\$ – Manishearth Apr 19 '13 at 16:53
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I think the first thing that is needed if for us to focus on improving questions rather than voting them into oblivion or closing them. If someone has a genuine problem that they want to solve, even if it is too simple for us, not explained well or not worded well, we shouldn't be making snide comments about the questioners lack of experience, intelligence or English language skills.

If we can't get into the habit of re-opening questions after they have been improved, then we need to be more careful about closing them in the first place. Rather than going straight for the close link, we should probably be asking questions, suggesting improvements and editing to make the language better. Only if the question fails to get the improvement it needs within a reasonable time should we be pulling the plug.

Sure that isn't the way Stack Exchange is supposed to work, but neither is the culture of write-once voting. There is a reason why the lock on your vote is removed once a post is edited and that's because you are encouraged to reassess your vote in light of edits made to a post, be it question or answer.

So, in summary:

  • Ask not what each question can do for this community, ask what this community can do for each question.
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    \$\begingroup\$ 100% agree with suggesting improvements and editing to clarify / fix language issues. And anyone can do that. I don't think folks need to refrain from closing - if there were as many editors as their are closers active in [arduino], this probably wouldn't even be a concern. Right now, around 12% of all arduino questions here have been closed; that's not really a crisis. \$\endgroup\$ – Shog9 Apr 19 '13 at 14:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suggest that anything along the lines of "we should" without any way to make it happen resolves little. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Apr 20 '13 at 0:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ScottSeidman: "shouldn't be making snide comments" and "should probably be asking questions, suggesting improvements..." are pretty self explanatory. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Laplante Apr 20 '13 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SimpleCoder, yes, they're perfectly understood. The point I'm trying to make is that I haven't seen any suggestions that are likely to encourage good behavior and discourage bad behavior. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Apr 21 '13 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that's a great sentiment, but I think the reason questions get closed instead of improved is because there isn't enough information in them to improve them. It's not a matter of fixing the English: there simply isn't a question anywhere in them. Comments do get posted, and the asker can edit their question after it's closed, but I don't see this happen much. Just wishing it will happen won't make it so; how do you propose we make it happen? \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Frost Apr 25 '13 at 11:25
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Related: Does EE.SE have a problem with the treatment of newbies?

The main reason that Arduino.SE was created was because of the treatment Arduino questions got here. They get downvoted, closed, and the user is either left with comments that don't really help the user get their post reopened. Some may even be condescending. I'm not saying that it happens to all posts, but it does happen to a significant fraction.

Quoting myself, broad questions (and by extension, other salvageable questions), should be dealt with like this:

Here's what I do on Physics/Chem for vague questions/questions with multiple parts, and so far it has been a very productive method that does not alienate users:

  • Comment saying exactly how it can be improved. As a mod, my vote closes it, so I also say that "If you can edit this to fix , then flag it and we can reopen this". In case of questions with more than one part, I tell the OP to ask them seperately, linking them if s/he wants. Non mods can leave similar comments "if this gets closed, you can easily get it reopened by fixing ". Basically, the comment should:

  • After commenting, close as NARQ

This rarely leads to alienation, and is how stuff is supposed to work on SE. The point of closing is to preemptively prevent answers on bad questions till they get edited up to the mark. As long as there are explanatory comments accompanying a close, it should be perfectly OK to use Method 1[Method 1 was to close bad questions ASAP].

Similarly, unsalvageable questions can be dealt with by using comments that explain why something is off topic, and link to the [faq] and [ask], as well as inviting them to ask in [chat] if that makes sense.

Basically, try to be a bit more tolerant of newbies. It is OK to close questions, but if you do, try not to alienate the user. Leave a polite comment that introduces them to the site. Be a bit handholdy. Tell them that the question can be reopened (if that is indeed true).


Also, one should not be condescending and rude to people just because they are of the "I want to make something with Arduino, but I'd rather not have to learn EE". If the post asks for an procedure that is layman-compatible, do so. If you want to add some educational content that explains the EE concepts behind something, you are free to do so even if this is not asked for (remember, others read the posts as well; this may help them).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What's happening to the Arduino proposal? Why isn't it picking up? Is there anything we can do to help (for this one, or future Arduino.SE proposals). \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Apr 19 '13 at 5:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev: This one is going to be closed (not enough activity, and there were higher standards that it had to reach being a proposed subset site). Not sure if there will be a next one, it was uncertain whether or not SE would allow this one to even reach private beta. \$\endgroup\$ – Manishearth Apr 19 '13 at 5:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev This one will be shut down on 25th April (unless there is a really huge turn in stats but even then, the chances are slim as it had/has much higher standards to live up to as compared to other betas). And there probably will not be another for a long time. \$\endgroup\$ – asheeshr Apr 19 '13 at 6:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev On that note, the fact you are finding out on the EE meta is kinda a sign of what went wrong, there were great intentions by many, but not many really carried through on the site. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Apr 20 '13 at 17:52
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I agree that a board full of poorly-asked questions is the last thing that anyone wants. Establishing a separate Arduino site is a good measure for strengthening the Arduino community. A separate Arduino site is not detrimental to EE.SE **. There have been several proposals for the Arduino community in the past. There will be another one in the future. What can be done to make this next proposal more successful? What kinds of errors are causing malfunctions in the present proposal?

** in the same way that arduino.cc/forum is not detrimental to EE.SE

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A dedicated Arduino site that complements EE.SE would be - and, I feel, eventually will be - a very good thing indeed. But we're not ready for that yet. Build the community here, work through the problems that arise, and when the topic has outgrown this site then propose a separate site. \$\endgroup\$ – Shog9 Apr 19 '13 at 3:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Shog9 What went wrong with the proposal? What was not ready, specifically? I don't have an inside view of the Arduino proposal. You, as SE mod, have seen proposals come and go, fail and succeed. You ought to have insights, I'm sure. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Apr 19 '13 at 3:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ there've been six Arduino proposals so far. All of them have struggled to differentiate themselves from general programming and/or EE topics. The two keys to a successful site are topics that need a home, and a mixed group of experts and enthusiasts who need a place to ask/answer questions on those topics. My educated guess here is that the non-EE Arduino are fairly well-served by SO and existing sites outside of SE, so there's just not that much demand for a SE site dedicated to them. \$\endgroup\$ – Shog9 Apr 19 '13 at 4:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Shog9: Just because the arduino community can't muster itself behind its own SE site, why should that be our problem here? Your whole question seems to be based on the invalid assumption that we have to pick up the slack somehow. The technical level here has been deteriorating a bit lately. Let's not make it worse. The question should be how to make EE a better EE site, not save the poor ardweenies. The ones that don't want to talk real EE should go away. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Apr 19 '13 at 12:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Olin: pick up the slack? That's not quite where I was going... You guys are pretty good at answering these questions already - but for whatever reason, there's a perception of elitism that isn't really borne out by actual behavior. That doesn't mean you should lower your standards - but it might mean communicating them more effectively. \$\endgroup\$ – Shog9 Apr 19 '13 at 14:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop nothing about this is changing what we accept on site as on topic, it is just about growing to be a bit better at helping newbies. Treating users well and respectfully is something we need to improve whether we are talking about someone starting with arduino or with 555 timers. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Apr 19 '13 at 16:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: No, we don't, and it would hurt the site to try. Let's also not try the newbie smokescreen again. It's not about newbies but about people that can't be bothered to learn the site before blurting out their question, expect us to do all the work for them, don't want to learn, and often even show us outright contempt by deliberating abusing English. It's harmful to be nice to these people. It has been shown again and again on the internet that trying to be nice to the abusers kills good content. You don't want this place to go the same way as the PIClist, for example. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Apr 19 '13 at 18:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop SE is about guiding and helping people, they do this on nearly 100 sites and have found the best way is to show people. You dont have to do it yourself. You can downvote and vote to close on bad question. You cannot write attacking comments, always feel free to leave constructive comments, but there is a line when you get to attacking that is not okay. To me this is the only thing that really needs to be fixed. As we grow more people will edit and improve and that will happen naturally, but we have to stop the attacks now. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Apr 19 '13 at 20:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk Saying controversial things on meta is fine. That's not an attack. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Apr 19 '13 at 22:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev Yeah, I did not mean to imply I was taking issue with interactions on meta, I am specifically taking issue with interactions on the main site with new users. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Apr 19 '13 at 22:33
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Frankly, pulling up the arduino tag shows a whole bunch of users that have gotten plenty of help, and not all that many closed questions.

I'm not convinced anything is broken enough to fix.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How many arduino questions that get bad treatment end up without the arduino Tag, or deleted? That might bias the tag results. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Apr 19 '13 at 23:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Probably not more than happens with any other type of post. My first search was actually for the word and not the tag, but the results were largely the same. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Apr 20 '13 at 0:20
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Well, how about combining the Arduino SE with the Raspberry Pi SE? There is a lot of overlap in the two, hobbyist/tinker/general consumer markets. And turn that into a beginners EE, like Superuser is to Serverfault, consumer vs corporate?

Maybe with a more general name to boot. Hobbyist Engineering?

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    \$\begingroup\$ That is a great idea, and probably makes more sense than anything I've seen said about the topic to date. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Young Apr 19 '13 at 23:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you spent time on both? I dont see how they fit together, I could be mistaken, but I have spent a few hours browsing both. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Apr 19 '13 at 23:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk they target different products, but they fit together in terms of their target demographics. The RPi is the arduino of embedded linux computers. Hell, you can get arduino shields for the rpi. Adafruit and Make Magazine and the whole "Maker Culture" pimp both very much. They both target people with no traditional engineering experience mucking around to just get the things to do what they want with little fuss. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Apr 20 '13 at 0:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Passerby I get your logic completely. I just dont see any overlap in the questions being asked, might be interesting to poke SE and see if there was a user overlap. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Apr 20 '13 at 0:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk +1 Neat idea about population overlap. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Apr 20 '13 at 4:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk 3.5% of Arduino committers are also committed to RPi.SE. Or did you have some other stat in mind ? \$\endgroup\$ – asheeshr Apr 20 '13 at 6:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MattYoung The only way a vertical site can work is if it has a really strong community and identity, try to shoehorn two superficially similar vertical site proposals together and you lose that entirely. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Booth Apr 20 '13 at 23:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkBooth I don't really understand what you're saying. The only reason I made my comment is the Arduino community thinks they aren't welcome here, and can't sustain a community of their own. Why not see what the RPi folks think about this? RPi and Arduino go together better than EE and Arduino. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Young Apr 20 '13 at 23:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am a RPi.se regular and we are very welcoming and tolerant, but questions do actually have to be about a Raspberry Pi. Questions about Arduino would be off topic. If you wanted to create a combined site it would have to start from scratch on area 51 and would most likly be closed as a duplicate. If you are confused by the vertical site look up vertical integration on google or vertical on the area 51 discussion zone. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Booth Apr 21 '13 at 0:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkBooth yes, currently arduino questions would be off topic for the RPI SE, but my suggestion was to merge the two to create a beginners/hobbyist SE. I find it odd that the RPi (or arduino, honestly) would have it's own specific SE, which would pretty much means public support for one company's product. Even with that, RPI and Arduino questions, here and elsewhere, are so similar that all you have to do is replace the word "RPI" with "Arduino" and you get the same exact answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Apr 21 '13 at 1:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Passerby Have you even looked at RPi.SE or sampled the questions there? Or looked up what a vertical site is? To get a combined site like this you would have to get a new site proposed, defined, committed on Area51, beta'ed and possibly even launched as a full site and still have RPi.SE fail. Bypassing any of that would be a slap in the face to all of the people who put in so much work to get RPi.SE going. Also, RPi.SE was created despite the Raspberry Pi foundation, they didn't want it - they only wanted Q&A on their forums! So overall, this idea is not an option. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Booth Apr 21 '13 at 9:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkBooth tell me how you really feel. Jeez, it's a suggestion, not a mandate, don't get so offended. And I HAVE looked at RPi. And I have sampled the questions for Arduino, RPI, and the offshoot questions on EE. The target community is the same, and would benefit both sides. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Apr 21 '13 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Passerby - I'm not offended, I just know that as a regular on both the Arduino private beta & Raspberry Pi beta, that they are about as different as chalk & cheese. There is no common ground with CPU, OS, peripherals or programming environment, so very few questions would apply to both. If you think it could work, go to Area51, read about how the Area 51 process works in the FAQ and propose a site. Do look at what I mean by a vertical site first though. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Booth Apr 21 '13 at 22:41

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