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I have been thinking something recently as a result from conversations in the comments in this SE's meta. I would like to share my thoughts with you because I am a little confused.

I can only guess that in the beginning of the SE sites there were a few major areas like Stack Overflow, Mathematics, Physics, Electrical Engineering etc. Those sites covered distinct areas so anyone knew exactly if their question was on or off topic.

Now things are quite different. If we consider our SE site, Electrical Engineering encompasses a huge number of areas. But there are now so many SE beta sites that are relevant with ours: Signal Processing, Arduino, Robotics, Amateur Radio, Reverse Engineering and there are countless more waiting to enter into the beta phase.

What gets me confused is that there is a huge overlap between this site and so many others that I have a hard time categorizing the questions into on topic and off topic. And given that this is only the start, in the future this is going to get worse.

I am afraid that what started as Electrical Engineering is going to end up interested only in a very specific type of questions which will be only about electronics.

It is my belief that what makes out SE site so great is exactly this plethora of areas of interest. An Electrical/Electronics Engineer has to know so many things for a project (Power Electronics and electromotors for the power, electronics for the implementation, CAD tools for its design, microcontrollers for the control and so much more) that when you see the questions that are asked here you learn so many things!

Also there is a lot of confusion both in this site and in others as to what questions can be asked, as you can see in a lot of comments (and it is completely logical because of the new SE sites). For instance I had a question about MSP430 in a robotics project and when I asked in Robotics SE they told me to ask here although I had already asked here and they told me to ask in Robotics!

I am not against the other SE sites, on the contrary I like them and I believe that when someone is working solemnly with a specific technology then he must join them because in the long run he will be able to get better and of higher quality answers.

The way I see it, one approach would be to welcome here posts that are relevant to this site either there is a specific SE site about them or not (like DSP, Arduino etc) but to remind the person that asks that they could also look for answers in other SE sites (provided that they exist). This way this site will really be a library for answers to questions around Electrical Engineering and also there would not be that confusion regarding the relevance of the questions.

I personally don't think that this fragmentations is a good thing not now and especially not in the future when I can only assume that there will be a lot of other overlapping SE sites. I don't mean the creation of new SE sites, I mean the rejection of questions from on site and the transfer into another.

I know that this does not concern only this site but also a lot of others (for instance Stack Overflow overlaps with Programmers, Code Review and a lot more waiting the beta phase) so this could also be posted in the meta site but I would like to see if you share my concerns.

What do you think? Do you concern about that?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ With increasing traffic on the whole network, it can be necessary to split up like this, or things become unmanageable. Stack Overflow is a monster, if you ask me. There have been cases by the way that site proposals (or even betas) were closed because they drained too much attention from another site. It can be that one question is on topic on different sites - that a question fits better to the community of some other site, doesn't make it off topic on this site, of course. But yeah, it's difficult. \$\endgroup\$ – user17592 Nov 27 '14 at 10:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just because a question is on topic in another SE doesn't make it off topic on EE. For example, there are lots of questions that might be on topic in both EE and physics, or both EE and DSP. But you are likely to get a more mathematical answer in Physics.SE or DSP.SE, and a more practical answer on EE.SE. \$\endgroup\$ – The Photon Nov 29 '14 at 0:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I totally agree with both of you. I think that is a healthy attitude and a nice way to make the SE sites function. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Nov 29 '14 at 0:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ An easy way to check if a topic is on-topic is check the help center at the site: ours is electronics.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic Each site has one \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Apr 6 '17 at 22:55
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Disclaimer: I am a moderator on Arduino SE.

First of all, you have to understand that the SE team spends a lot of time making sure a site will succeed. In the latest podcast (61), they mentioned that they won't ever let a site reach beta if it overlaps the scope of another site. However, for some of those sites you listed, the SE team didn't have any idea what direction the community would go with the scope.

No matter how hard you try, there will always be some overlap on some sites. For example, there is a little bit of programming (for MCUs) allowed on EE that would also be allowed on Stack Overflow. Overlap has been present for most of SE's time. Since Super User, Unix, and Stack Overflow all allow questions about bash programs. There even is a little overlap between Programmers and Stack Overflow!

Although a little overlap is okay, there is a question about how much is too far. I don't think we've exceeded that barrier... yet. You see, all of those sites have unique types of questions that wouldn't be allowed here.

  • Signal Processing: that has to do with using electronics, so off topic here.
  • Arduino: also using electronics, so off topic here. If there's a question primarily composed of programming/advanced circuits, we migrate those questions to SO and here, respectfully. We also talk about the IDE, software recommendations, and a lot of code parts that wouldn't get enough specialized knowledge on SO.
  • Reverse Engineering: seems to be software only, off topic here.
  • Robotics: although there is a little overlap, this site gets into algorithms, mechanical devices (think gearboxes), and, if I remember right, recommendations. Almost all of those are off topic here.
  • Amateur Radio: just go and browse the questions there! Not much related to EE!
  • Raspberry Pi (not mentioned in question): this one has a lot of software and OS stuff that wouldn't get the needed attention on Unix.

All of these sites (including this one) are in the electronics-DIY (EE is pretty much the only one that isn't completely DIY) area, but they all are somewhat specialized to build different communities so that each site is successful.

Arduino/EE is the site with the most overlap. However, if you look at our questions, to me it seems like only about 25-30% of the questions would be allowed here. Out of that 25%, I'd guess only about 4% of the 25% (1% of total) would be a good questions here. (Again, just my perception.)

I'm not too worried.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice analysis thank you. I am a little worried for what will come in the long run. :P \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Nov 28 '14 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Adam Embedded Systems might be come a threat (or it may evolve to a new scope)... one can never know until the site graduates. \$\endgroup\$ – Anonymous Penguin Nov 28 '14 at 23:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't consider any site a threat! Quite the contrary is great to have a site that has detailed answer about a specific subject. I just posted to hear opinions about what the community thinks. But you are right. Also I didn't know that there was also an Embedded Systems SE to enter beta. :P \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Nov 29 '14 at 0:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Adam it's not official yet \$\endgroup\$ – Anonymous Penguin Nov 29 '14 at 1:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes I know that is why I said that is it about to enter. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Nov 29 '14 at 4:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnnonomusPenguin I'm noticing that on Arduino.SE the average daily number of new questions is steadily growing (good thing). But, the % answered questions is slowly going down. Just an $0.02 observation. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Nov 30 '14 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev the main issue is our core user base is growing slower than the new users (probably somewhat typical of any site aimed at beginners). Another issue is a decent amount of unanswered questions are unanswerable because it's a bug that hasn't been fixed, a library doesn't exist, or some other obscure reason that doesn't warrant closing but it can't be answered really except with "you can't do that" comments (not really constructive). \$\endgroup\$ – Anonymous Penguin Nov 30 '14 at 2:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnnonomusPenguin IMO, troubleshooting questions is one of those things that doesn't fit the StackExchange's Q&A format well. Troubleshooting requires trial&error, back&forth dialog. If a troubleshooting question is short (or it can be split into several short questions), then SE chat may be a good place to post it to. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Nov 30 '14 at 2:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnnonomusPenguin StackOverflow may be experiencing some similar dynamics where quite a few question can't be neither answered nor closed. Also, I would guess that SO may have reached a steady state: quantity of beginners will not change, quantity of core will not change. (The individuals will come an go. It's dynamic equilibrium.) Based on your insight, I get a feeling that Arduino.SE will have % answered similar to that of StackOverflow (74% at the moment of writing). \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Nov 30 '14 at 2:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev Software Recs has a similar problem as far as the answering rate. \$\endgroup\$ – Anonymous Penguin Nov 30 '14 at 2:37
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I keep track of these overlapping stacks. I can add a few more to the list. I wish these new stacks every success. I don't have concerns that they will suck variety out of EE.SE .

Each overlapping stack has different interplay with EE.SE, so each should be looked at on a case-by-case basis. [I'll see if I can elaborate when I have more time.]

The question of overlapping stacks was in the questionnaire during the moderator election in Spring 2014. The answers can be found here.

Regarding your MSP430 question. It's this one, I suppose1. First of all, kudos for figuring out that answer and writing it up. But I'm not surprised that Robotics.SE found if off-topic. It would be more likely on-topic on EE.SE or StackOverflow.

1 I had to rat it out. Adam, please get into a habit of posting links.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer, thank you for it. I also want to see them succeed that is why I am member in a lot of them. What I personally don't want to see is questions get off topic because there is another SE site. They can exist on both sites. Better answers and more audience. As for the links I will keep it in mind! \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Nov 27 '14 at 4:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Adam StackExchange policy is against cross-posting. So, a question can't exist on more than one stack at the same time. Often when I discover a question that's well written but off-topic, I let it sit at EE.SE for a day before migrating it. That way it gets double exposure. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Nov 27 '14 at 4:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I had seen this meta.stackexchange.com/questions/65931/… \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Nov 27 '14 at 4:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Adam It seems that the one which you have referenced has been closed as a duplicate of the one which I have referenced. Notice also that the latter is a community Wiki, and it's maintained and updated through the years. In practice, cross-posts are routinely migrated then merged, or closed. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Nov 27 '14 at 5:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry that was posted in another community's meta when someone asked about cross-posts. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Nov 27 '14 at 5:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Migrating posts should require moderator consensus between mods on BOTH STACKS. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Nov 30 '14 at 8:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Passerby If moderators and the community on the receiving stack don't close the migrated question - that counts as consensus. A priori consensus before migration is sought only in a narrow set of circumstances (migration to a neonatal stack, for instance). \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Nov 30 '14 at 19:52
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What gets me confused is that there is a huge overlap between this site and so many others that I have a hard time categorizing the questions into on topic and off topic.

Just because a question is on topic in one SE doesn't make it off topic in another one.

There are lots of questions that could be on topic in both EE and another stack.

Here are some valid questions for EE that would also be on-topic in other stacks:

  • "What is meant by the built-in potential of a PN junction?" (Physics)

  • "How can I make an FIR filter with a cut-off frequency of 100 Hz and a sample rate of 400 Hz?" (DSP)

  • "How can I solve the equation \$I_s (\exp(qV/nRT)-1) = I_0\$?" (Math)

  • "How can I make an isolated thermistor circuit for use with an Arduino?" (Arduino)

But you might get different answers depending where you ask. Answers on EE are likely to be more practical and less mathematical than on Physics or DSP. Answers on EE are likely to assume more prior electronics knowledge than on Arduino.

So askers should choose what site to ask on based on what background they have and what kind of answer they want to get.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer! Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Nov 29 '14 at 4:51

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