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Proposal: Engineering

I strongly believe that there should be separate QAs for all the different disciplines in engineering rather than a single QA for them all. I shall briefly list out my reasons :

  1. On successful launch, this QA would consist of a chaotic mix of questions from more than 5 or 7 different disciplines.
  2. Technically only less than a fifth of the total users would be able to relate to a question. And very few of these would be able to even answer it.
  3. A student or professional from a particular discipline will not be interested in most of the questions on the QA unrelated to his/her discipline.

I would rather that each and every discipline have its own QA. I strongly believe that each discipline can have a healthy QA with very active users. Do the pros outweigh these evident cons? Or should this proposal be closed?

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    Do you think more than a fifth of the users on Stack Overflow can answer any particular question? – Wooble Dec 19 '13 at 15:49
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    @Wooble No, but all questions on StackOverflow are related to programming. But your comment forces me to rephrase : A question from a particular discipline, would be understood only by a minor fraction(less than a fifth), while it can be answered by the experts(very few) in that discipline. Engineering disciplines have good potential to be successful QA sites on their own. If we club them all together, we are easily cluttering information – user21904 Dec 20 '13 at 2:55
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    Having all engineering disciplines would as you state result in a fifth of the users being from the related field of the proposed question, but it would also increase the number of users by a factor of 5 (making some wild assumptions). The same rules of physics apply across all disciplines, there are numerous examples of multidisciplinery forums where for example, aerospace engineers could answer nuclear engineering questions. – Will.W Mar 14 '14 at 11:18
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    As much as most engineers train within a 'disciplines' structure, in practice aren't the boundaries so blurred to be unhelpful? Take asking about a simple electrically-controlled hydraulic valve. The interaction of the current through the solenoid, the magnetic field that moves the valve pole, the fluid flow through the orifice and the capability of the material to withstand a large pressure difference crosses a bit range of 'disciplines'. – Xcodo May 24 '14 at 9:52
  • "more than 5 or 7" ಠ_ಠ – bjb568 Jan 4 '15 at 18:15
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This proposal came about because a number of previous proposals for separate engineering disciplines failed to reach critical mass and were closed. I agree that it would be preferable to have strong active user bases for each discipline independently, but that was tried and didn't turn out to be practical at this point. Perhaps if this omnibus exchange works out, the base will grow and we can spin off smaller exchanges again.

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    Also, it's helpful to have a place that answers questions about engineering as a whole. Licensing and such wouldn't fit under any of the sub-disciplines. Doesn't really address your concerns, of course. – Stephen Collings Dec 31 '13 at 16:33
  • If that is the case, I agree with you. – user21904 Jan 1 '14 at 10:25
  • +1. The answer and the comment both counts. – Jasser Oct 9 '14 at 16:11
  • Only electronics.SE (on Eletrical Engineering) made it through Area 51 to launch. Proposals for other disciplines either failed at some hurdle or other on the way, or remain open. – Qsigma Jan 9 '15 at 14:46
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I think an engineering QA is not a bad idea and probably a very good one:

  • Different disciplines can learn from each other. Engineers are meant to be curious, and seeing how problems are solved in closely or not so closely related disciplines could be very beneficial. Even seeing what problems are discussed could be extremely valuable.
  • While expertise in a subject/specialty is what earns us engineers our bread and butter, looking beyond our plate is what creates fame and makes our life fun :). On top of this it's practical: How often were you forced to provide advice to a client on a topic you sort of are familiar with? How often have wished you would have had access to a specialist in a niche area? This site could deliver this.
  • The most successful SE example, Stack overflow, is about as broad as it gets. Programming in itself is about as broad as it gets and I'd bet that most of the enthusiastic proponents of an engineering site or (add your specialty) site are those engineers who found programming useful in the professional endeavors and learned a lot from SO. If you have a look at SO, you'll notice that the difficulty of question ranges from "mom/dad asking questions regarding their children's homework", i.e. starting off in programming, to "knowing this will determine our business next database structure". SO is extremely wide!
  • What other mechanism do you know where the expertise of true experts, this tiny percentage of users you are referring to, can benefit so many for so long?
  • How many young people end up starting programming in one of the many subsets because learning becomes a lot easier due to SO? How many people would not start studying engineering because there would be a Engineering Stackexchange that accumulates a very wide variety of knowledge?

While there are niches and specialties in engineering, we are using similar and often the same tools to solve our problems. Our money is made by how skillful we are at applying this knowledge not necessary by the knowledge itself which is what this site would share. I can't see how creating a room for all disciplines could create something that is not utterly useful to be honest.

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  • That's very inspiring, and I agree with you from a global, personally enriching standpoint, but it's not universal across SE sites. Why not lump the Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Earth Science sites all into one big Science QA? It's because there will always be a tendency to focus on a smaller region of the information space. I'm not advocating an infinitely granular collection of QAs, just to a realistic degree. Regarding your point about learning from other disciplines, I love going to dozens of different SE sites all the time. I don't need them to be aggregated into one site, though. – tralston Sep 7 '14 at 2:36
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My perception of what makes engineers special is that they are in some sense generalists and can use knowledge from multiple disciplines for practical applications. A generic engineering site makes perfect sense from that perspective.

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Critical mass is one thing, but not everything. Like most engineering solutions its a tradeoff between bigger audience but less relevant questions. Part of the reason why I have started to dislike SO is that it has too much clutter,repetition and the stuff drops too fast down for nobody to see.

The clear advantage is the likelyhood of viability of the exhange itself. But this comes at a cost making it harder for diciplines to cement. See the system breaks if certain diciplines get outnumbered by a significant margin. So some engineering dicipline might drop out because it felt singled out.

Second is that making good explanations is hard, but making them understandable across board might be frustrating. I had the unfortunate opportunity to see this with my master thesis, every little thing had to be explained because my target audience were not computer scientists. Especially funny because i was arguing that this in fact was the problem; that you can not offload the problem to computer scientits. Anyway, point being making good answers is a big enough job as it is, without trying to ensure all engineers understand it.

Anyway this can be fixed with good tag policy so I dont mind.

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There could be a real expertise site for the professionals and another one site for amateurs, for example, math stack exchange and math stack overflow, and so does this site accept for more general Q&A rather than than more expert ones.

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I agree - how can you have a general Q&A site for engineering, when each type of engineering can differ so much from the others and some of them already e.g. Electrical Engineering and Software Engineering (more or less Programmers.SE) have their own SE sites?

Just considering a few of the disciplines I can think of e.g. Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Software Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Material Engineering, Biotechnological Engineering, there are a few intersections between them, however, in my opinion:

  1. The disciplines differ too much
  2. The intersections could be placed under the discipline they are more related to e.g. motors (related to Elec and Mech Eng.) under Mech, building related materials (related to Civil and Material Eng. under Material Eng.) and etc.
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    I think that many engineering concepts are actually quite universal. We all have more detailed knowledge in a given area but we often need to venture out of that comfort zone to solve the really tough problems. I think that the cross-pollination on this site could be very beneficial. – Olek Wojnar Jan 3 '15 at 7:24

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