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A discussion came up in chat (the transcript begins here) that started about this question.

Some think it is on-topic, some think it is off-topic, some thing it is in the gray area. I think there are good arguments for all of them.

So what do you think? Is it on-topic, off-topic, questionable, too broad, too narrow, just right? And in a boarder sense how do we deal with questions like this have differing views on how good of a question it is for the site?

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The issue at hand

This question is only peripheral to our scope. This example of a peripheral question happens to be about configuring an IDE, but you might find an analogy at the other end of the spectrum in physics questions - Knowing about, for example, what doping does to silicon isn't a core issue when designing electronics, but some users are probably curious, and others will know a little about it and could answer the question. However, we're not about semiconductor chemistry or quantum physics, we're about electronics design.

In this case, the asker needs to know about two problems:

  1. How to build a cross compiler.
  2. How to configure an IDE for cross compilation.

I'd welcome having those two questions on the site. However, we don't need a question for every permutation of host platform, target platform, and IDE. If our answers cover these two questions, and perhaps walks through the process for a specific grouping (which might be for AVR in XCode on a Mac), then I feel that we've diverted enough attention from electronics design for this problem area.

General guidelines

In general, if:

  • An answer to your question helps you in some way to design electronics
  • It's likely that other members of this community would have experience in the problem area
  • A question in the same problem area hasn't already been asked

... then I'd consider your question to be only partially within our scope. If it fails the last bullet point, read the related question and all of it's answers, and don't post your question if it's only a permutation of the other peripheral question. Since it's only partially within our scope, less attention should be devoted to it.

In contrast, a core issue, such as those listed in the FAQ:

  • a specific electronics design problem
  • the theory and simulation of electromagnetic forces
  • a communication scheme
  • the writing of firmware for bare-metal or RTOS applications

probably has at least one or more whole tag groupings devoted to it, and could have hundreds of questions and answers, and more would be welcome.

The goal, as always, is to make Electronics Design the best place on the web to get expert answers about designing electronics. For this to happen, we need to focus our attention on our core topics, and minimize investments in areas that don't contribute as much to this goal.

tl;dr:

When asking questions, if your question is only tangentially related to electronics design, avoid posting it (or ask on Meta or in Chat before posting it) if a similar question has already been asked and answered.
When voting and closing, encourage good questions that are in our core areas by up-voting, improving, and answering even if they're similar (but not duplicating) questions that have already been asked. Discourage questions that are in peripheral areas by down-voting and/or closing if a similar (but not duplicating) question has already been asked.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Viewing this site as more of a community of people who are involved with electronics design, the question seems perfectly acceptable as it would play to members' strengths. There's nothing saying that there must be a line that perfectly demarcates x.SE from y.SE. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick T May 3 '11 at 17:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickT, by that logic, we should just handle all programming questions. Why not allow any programming question to join the site? It is helpful to most of what we do, lets support java questions because most of our users have a decent knowledge and we really understand the issues with interference from threading. Just because it is something that is peripheral to our sites general knowledge does not mean we should be supporting. We need to draw a line, questions like, I know how to use this IDE, but I want to use it on Mac are going to cause problems. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 4 '11 at 0:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickT, would an expert user enjoy spending her/his time on a site where all of the questions are basic IDE questions. We could propose an IDE site on Area51, or we could just become an IDE site. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 4 '11 at 0:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Pure programming questions are soundly within the realm of SO though, but there are still questions that pop up here that are essentially programming, but they're ones that deal with micro peripherals that the average SO user would probably have no clue about. Back to the IDE thing, there's a difference between general use of an IDE and trying to configuring it to cross-compile code for some micro. You make it sound like a slippery slope where there is this massive amount of pent-up IDE questions that will overwhelm us if we so much as let one by, which I doubt. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick T May 4 '11 at 0:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickT, No, I do not think we will be suddenly overrun. I have seen more and more IDE questions and I do feel they are an issue. The fact that pure programming questions have a home on SO means you understand the value in not having them. This is important, just because a question does not have a home is nothing special. There are a billion questions that do not have homes that we can not handle here. We do not owe IDE questions a home because they are not a perfect fit for SO. Consumer electronics quesitons do not have a home, and we are good with them, should we start having these also? \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 4 '11 at 1:16
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First, with the question posed, I assume the initial reason it was closed as "not a real question" was because it seemed pointlessly vague, which anyone above 3000 rep could easily have remedied.

However, after edits, it's now deemed too narrow. I don't quite agree with that assessment, as OS X and AVRs are both relatively popular, so this seems like it would have a wider reach than many other questions.

The argument posed by you and reem was that because the issue of installing and configuring IDEs does not directly impact electronics, it would be off-topic, but only their use to create firmware to run on electronics would be on-topic. This seems like an excessively rigid distinction, especially as the users of this site would presumably have much more expertise compared to a more general site like SuperUser.

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