Proposal: Literature

One possible problem I see is that there will be friction with existing SciFi.SE site for literature works in speculative fiction realms.

That friction can be detrimental to the new site, in several ways. I can think of two off the bat:

  • Any questions that are SFF works related, are at risk of being asked on active, large, established site (SFF) instead of smaller Beta Literature site.

    This is (likely) good for the asker's chances to get a good answer, but bad for Literature's volume/traffic/userbase growth.

  • Somewhat in similar vein (and a corollary of the last one), it seems that a large portion of traffic is likely to come from people interested in new, popular works. For better or worse, the most popular ones and the most likely to attract external traffic are SFF ones (Harry Potter being a good example) - which as per above are at risk of being heavily weighed towards SFF site when choosing where to post.

Are these real concerns or am I just being a worrywart? If real, have anyone come up with meaningful ideas to address such concerns?

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    "the most popular ones and the most likely to attract external traffic are SFF ones" - are you sure? People like us may be biased by the fact that we prefer SF/F works and that's what we've seen the most of :-) The Da Vinci Code, probably the best-selling novel of all time, isn't SF/F. – Rand al'Thor Dec 7 '16 at 13:24
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    Add to this the general majority of users coming from SE's standard venue, which are sites for technology, science, computers and mathematics. As much as I don't want to serve old clichés, but let's face it, these folks are into speculative fiction above all other genres. – Christian Rau Dec 7 '16 at 14:53
  • @randal'thor - are you sure it's offtopic for SFF? Angels and Demons surely seems to be. – user12775 Dec 7 '16 at 15:58
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    @DVK I haven't actually read it, but isn't it essentially an action thriller? Plus I don't remember ever seeing any questions about it on SFF, despite its popularity. – Rand al'Thor Dec 8 '16 at 0:02
  • I answered your question seriously, but it does feel like a troll — making up friction where there wasn't any. – Gilles Dec 15 '16 at 19:46
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    @Gilles - just because you're a mod, it doesn't mean you're allowed to personally attack other users. – user12775 Dec 15 '16 at 19:50
  • @randal'thor - Not being a great Dan Brown fan, I may be mixing it up with the other book in same series? I was talking about the one set in DC, where they had experiments registering a body losing weight when the soul departed, and other heavily speculative-fictional elements. – user12775 Dec 15 '16 at 20:00
  • @DVK DC sounds like The Lost Symbol. But we're digressing, I guess. – Christian Rau Jan 9 '17 at 13:58

There was a Literature site for a little less than a year. It failed in beta due to lack of traffic. (The rules have changed so it would now be given more time to expand.)

The Literature site did have problems, but friction with SF&F (which existed before) wasn't one. I followed both sites, and never encountered anything that I can imagine calling friction.

Sure, there was competition for questions about written SF, and most of them got posted on the larger SF site. This was pointed out… by SF enthusiasts. But if a literature site relies on a single genre to sustain it, it isn't really viable.

Having another site for SF may even be an advantage for Literature (though it didn't pay off the last time). One of the problems with the first Literature beta was some tension between casual readers and people looking for more; Literature had many casual readers but few if any literature professors. Stack Exchange sites tend to start out with a heavy influx of programmers drifting from Stack Overflow, and programmers tend to be casual readers with an interest in SF. If Literature has fewer casual readers, that may help make it more interesting to literature professors.

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    An example of friction: I (as a user who could have, and was interested in, contributing to Literature site) contributed far less than I theoretically could have, because SFF as a higher traffic site was more of an interesting destination for me. User's time, efforts and attention are finite, and therefore to a certain extent, overlapping sites are in a zero-sum game, competing for this finite and sometimes scarce resource. I seriously doubt that my anecdotal example is a rare outlier as opposed to typical outcome. – user12775 Dec 15 '16 at 19:52
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    Just to be clear, I'm using friction in a technical term, to denote any forces/circumstances that act in opposite direction. Not in an interpersonal "people dislike each other" sense. – user12775 Dec 15 '16 at 19:56
  • +1 for the last paragraph - although, it sounds like the site proposal might benefit from a more focused name (literature analysis) if the community's goal is indeed to focus on literature analysis and attracting literature professors, as seems to be the idea from some of the other posts on the proposal. – user12775 Dec 15 '16 at 19:58
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    There aren't enough literature professors on the internet to keep an entire Stack Exchange site running. We need to appeal to casual readers as well. – Rand al'Thor Dec 16 '16 at 22:54
  • @DVK very few of the people who have committed to the private beta seem to be literature professors. If people are expecting this site to be an academic level site, then I think people will be disappointed. – user36412 Jan 1 '17 at 18:11
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    @Hamlet - that's a problem endemic to many SE sites that I don't really know how to fix :( History.SE used to suffer from that, not sure if that was fixed. – user12775 Jan 9 '17 at 14:54

I see this as no different to the potential overlap between SF&F and M&TV.

These two sites have coexisted for a quite some time without friction, as you put it. Look at the number of questions on M&TV about Science Fiction (336 tagged with it at time of writing).

The position with Literature will surely be the same. Questions could be asked on either site. We will probably find that active Literature users will prefer to ask science fiction related questions on Literature because that is what they will be accustomed to.

Indeed, the same would surely apply to overlap between Literature and M&TV - for non-science fiction works that are adapted for the screen.

  • One difference between SFF/M&TV overlap and SFF/Lit overlap is that M&TV isn't much younger than SFF. When Lit is very new and just coming into existence, people will be much more likely to post on SFF instead because it's way bigger and they'll expect to get a better answer quicker. (I will of course attempt to lessen this effect by driving traffic to Lit from SFF, and hopefully so will other prominent SFF users. SFF is big enough that "too few questions" is never going to be a problem, so I'll have no qualms about encouraging people to post sci-fi book questions to Lit - it won't harm SFF.) – Rand al'Thor Dec 9 '16 at 14:24
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    Also, pet peeve: it's Science Fiction AND FANTASY! :-) Not all "non-science fiction" works are off-topic on SFF. – Rand al'Thor Dec 9 '16 at 14:26
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    I see friction often. Same questions keep being asked on both sites (with no VTC as Dupe option), resulting in either one site having extremely sub-optimal bad quality answers, or someone having to basically copy/paste the answer from one site to another (at this point, this happens bi-directionally, but with a just-starting site, the new smaller site is more likely to be a "victim" of this problem). Another example is, not every user has free time to monitor both sites and put in an effort on both (there are a very small handful of exceptions among active users). Users are a finite resource – user12775 Dec 15 '16 at 20:11
  • Minor nitpick: Looking at the questions tagged science-fiction (or fantasy for that matter) on M&TV doesn't really give a good overview of the actual overlap, since those tags aren't used there like you might think they are. – Christian Rau Jan 9 '17 at 14:01

I think the overlap between the science fiction part of a literature site and SFF.SE will sort itself out with time and an acceptable level of friction. To exaggerate, if you want to know the dimensions of a sand worm in Dune, go to SFF. If you want to compare the perceptions of a desert in Dune and Seven Pillars of Wisdom or The Wasteland, go to the Literature site. Much will depend on the moderators of both sites having good relationships with each other.

  • My concern isn't moderators being adversarial to each other; but individual users having to choose where to put their effort and content. – user12775 Dec 31 '16 at 22:10
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    @DVK If the literature site works, the questions that could overlap with FSF will be relatively few. I'd be more concerned about getting homework questions from students who don't even want to read whatever today's version of Cliff Notes is. – ab2 Dec 31 '16 at 22:25
  • Agreed - that's a valid concern. They definitely are an issue on SO :( – user12775 Dec 31 '16 at 22:29

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