Proposal: Bioinformatics

We already have Biostars. This will just fragment the community. What purpose would this site serve that Biostars or Seqanswers doesn't?

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    My feeling is that the community is already fragmented. I almost never use biostars or seqanswers, because I got used to stackexchange before knowing about these sites. That's not a very good reason for me not to try them, but the fact is that I read and post bioinformatics questions more often in stackoverflow than in biostars or seqanswers. – bli Apr 21 '17 at 13:42
  • Biostar SE do not exists anymore. – Always Confused May 18 '17 at 13:49
up vote 20 down vote accepted

This will just fragment the community.

Very correct, and this is an important consideration.

That said, people have many, many issues with BioStars. I’ve personally put my view into words on Reddit:

… the [BioStars] software really sucks compared to Stack Exchange. I really dislike using it. Busy layout, chaotic comments, all leading to incredibly hard to find information.

— An opinion widely shared by others. Others have added their own arguments.

And let’s not forget that from the very beginning there was a very strong minority (actually, it was probably a majority!) within the BioStars community that felt that the platform should have moved to Stack Exchange.

And this was before Stack Exchange had established itself as the uncontested champion of Q&A websites. In particular in terms of software development, Stack Exchange has made giant leaps since then. BioStars simply cannot compete, and gets left behind in terms of usability. The importance of this cannot be overstated: BioStars’ lack of usability prevents me from effectively finding solutions to my problems, and from contributing my own knowledge. And I know that this is also true for others.

To answer your specific question:

What purpose would this site serve that Biostars or Seqanswers doesn't?

  1. It would make bioinformatics expertise vastly more easily findable and accessible.
  2. It would lower the barrier of entry for new people to contribute their expertise.
  • Assuming this gets out of beta, would it be possible to try and transfer biostars users/data whole-sale to the stackexchange backend rather than maintain two separate communities? – Opt Apr 20 '17 at 17:22
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    Biostars originally used the SE v1 platform. It would have been possible to migrate users + data to SE v2 and that was discussed at the time. The site owner objected to the SE v2 licensing terms, so developed their own platform. Therefore migration is unlikely a viable option. – neilfws Apr 21 '17 at 1:06
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    @neilfws SE2 can dump a whole site to XMLs, e.g. when it closes a beta site. I guess it may import the dump as well. If so, technically, it should be possible to migrate most biostar contents, except hierarchical comments and non-questions. Practically, however, there are lots of policy issues. I don't see migration happening, either. – medbe Apr 21 '17 at 2:55
  • But Biostars is not built on SE (it's a Django-based app) and does not, so far as I know, have an XML dump. So any dump from Biostars would have to be converted somehow to SE XML. – neilfws Apr 21 '17 at 3:42
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    Technically, it is possible to convert dumps in other formats to SE XML. We are experts in format conversion, aren't we ;-) – medbe Apr 21 '17 at 4:11
  • We can import questions with [bioinformatics] tag in Stackoverflow and Biology SE. – prab4th Apr 21 '17 at 10:25
  • Realistically I don’t think the transfer of data is going to happen. It might have been an option years ago. I doubt it will be now. Not only is the format different (e.g. BioStars has nested comments, SE doesn’t), there’s also the question of account conversion etc. – Konrad Rudolph Apr 21 '17 at 11:50
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    But we can tap into Biology, StackOverflow and CrossValidated right? – prab4th Apr 21 '17 at 18:47

I hear this "fragment the community" argument a lot and I'm not convinced that it is true. I see the Web as one resource. I type a question into Google, it returns results. If the best results seem to come from Biostars, I go there. If they come from Seqanswers, I go there. If I choose to ask a question, there are sufficient users at both sites that I'm likely to get an answer. If any one site is insufficiently active or useful, people will migrate elsewhere anyway. I guess my conclusion is that competition is good.

  • 1
    I completely agree. Indeed, it seems that most SE users committing here follow more than one site -- we don't need to abandon biostars to contribute to Bioinformatics SE. A possible argument for fragmentation is that actively contributing to a Q&A site demands much effort, and therefore biggest contributors would end up quitting one of them. Which (1) if true, would be more an opportunity (e.g. to newcomers) than a problem, since in the end (as you mention) both will be available; and (2) as I observed above, "power users" already contribute to several platforms all the time. – Leo Martins Apr 21 '17 at 9:08

Personal opinion:

I got a lot of useful answers from stats.stackexchange, I like the way it is organized. It is well-controlled by the admins, questions that are not clear or off-topic usually become closed in less than half of an hour (and the authors of such questions have to re-formulate them or make appropriate tags). Biostars is quite messy.

I like Seqanswers, it is more useful than Biostars. But it suffers from the same problems (less than biostars, but still).

It is a very nice option to migrate questions from one stackexchange site to another.

I hope that there will be a way to organise things better using this platform. If we will make a proper set of tags and control the match between tags and actual questions, if we will be able to create a proper wiki from FAQs, if admins will work hard on this - this Q&A web site will be as useful as stats.stackexchange or stack overflow.

  • 2
    Wow, you must be the first person I’ve heard who prefers Seqanswers to Biostars. ;-) – Konrad Rudolph Apr 21 '17 at 11:53
  • I also prefer Seqanswers to Biostars. I like that the authors of bioinformatics programs that I use participate in discussions, and that it feels like the community is there to help everyone, rather than just those with highly technical and specific problems. However, I haven't really used Biostars. My main exposure to it is the occasional passive aggressive "Cross post Biostars" comment on SeqAnswers (which never seems to have any better answers on the BioStars version), and an impression of generally pretentious posts. – gringer Apr 25 '17 at 3:35

Firstly, I believe BioStar is just bad and rubbish. Whoever wrote the site should lose the job. Bioinformaticians deserve something better, and this is why we need one here.

I've been actively participating Bioinformatics questions on biology.exchange, but it's not a perfect solution. I'm happy to commit for a bioinformatics-only site.

There is no such thing as "fragment the community" because all the bioinformaticians will just come here. The two sites (BioStar and seqanswers) will fade away like Yahoo Ask!.

Currently there is NO stackexchange community called biostars.

I visited the ALL-SITES page, where I searched manually, with browser's find-tool, and with the site search box provided by SE.

the third one gave me the following result:
Search result.

When I searched Meta; I came to know, once upon a time that existed, but now it is not anymore. So it could not be found in SE network.

Though when I typed "biostar.stackexchanged.com" ; it soon autocorrected it as "www.biostars.org" (with following appearance); it seems it is a different website (i.e. not a part of stackexchange network), and I do not know yet, whether that is a genuine website or a typosquatted website such as those nowadays doing link-manipulation-phishing.

Pic-Biostars website's page header enter image description here. Also there are many other websites, containing the name 'biostar' but seemingly none of them are about bioinformatics

..........................................

So in this situation; it doesn't seem creating a bioinformatics portal under stackexchange would cause any interference with past biostar bioinformatics portal.

.....................

Update:

As per user DevonRyan told; the website biostars.org is genuine; and it is that one born inside stack network; but now it is a separate website, no more a part of SE network.

  • 1
    Err, that's the official site. It used to be on stackexchange but moved away years ago. The objections never had anything to do with interfering with other SE sites, but rather fragmenting the community between the two. – Devon Ryan May 18 '17 at 14:04
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    The other "biostar" sites (e.g., for bioconductor and Galaxy) are using the same framework, which is why "biostar" is often in the name. – Devon Ryan May 18 '17 at 14:04
  • @DevonRyan You mean that site born inside SE but later on become a separate website? Btw where I entered was "biostars.org" – Always Confused May 18 '17 at 14:06
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    Yes, that's correct and biostars.org is the correct url. – Devon Ryan May 18 '17 at 14:09
  • If that is already a separate community (a rare case), then I don't see a creation of bioinformatics site would create any problem. Already bioinformatics questions are scattered in various SE branches. – Always Confused May 18 '17 at 14:10
  • That's not a coherent argument, but regardless it's all moot at this point. – Devon Ryan May 18 '17 at 14:12
  • I did not wanted to do argue; sorry if the sentence looks so. I just wrote my opinion. – Always Confused May 18 '17 at 14:14
  • Whatever; by getting separated from stackexchange network they did very bad. – Always Confused May 18 '17 at 14:16
  • You accidentally make a very good point against BioStars and in favour of a Stack Exchange site: the BioStars website looks like a cheap scam/typosquatter website. :-( This may be a purely aesthetic argument but it holds some sway with me. – Konrad Rudolph May 18 '17 at 18:34

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