Looking at some of the proposals, it seems that there many which should be merged, on the basis that the combined interested user base will be large enough to support the site.

Good examples are all of the various proposals on individual games (such as Go and Chess). Do those who commit to these proposals really think there should be a SE site devoted entirely to such a narrow scope? Shouldn't these sites be proposed with a wide audience in mind, with the possibility of splitting later, if things get too cumbersome? I just can't see a SE dedicated solely to Chess ever growing to a significant size, unless all the professional Chess players in the world routinely contributed. What about questions that ask "Can chess strategy contribute to my methods in X?" where X is some other game. That would be off topic on a Chess site, but much more welcome on a site for all such styles of game. Yet chess experts might certainly be needed for their insight on the answer.

The same can be said about a few others that may struggle in the beginning. I am a Bird enthusiast and committed to the Birds proposal, but it occurs to me that it should probably be merged with Nature and Wildlife, along with any other proposal that is so narrow yet related.

The various engine, motorcycle, and automobile proposals should all band together and work on a site that has a large audience. One user suggested that motorcycle enthusiasts have a mentality of being separate from other motor vehicles. That is probably very true on the road, but I am willing to bet that motorcycle and automobile mechanics and enthusiasts would share a lot of common ground when it comes to Q&A about their respective machines. At the very worst, just ignore the tags of the things you don't enjoy once the site is live.

Of course, I never would have thought there was a large enough audience for TeX and LaTeX, or for GIS. However those proposals don't seem to have a very logical umbrella category under which to place them.

So, fellow StackExchange users, do you agree that proposals should start out with a Breadth-First mentality, or continue with the Depth-First approach that seems to leave many proposals floundering at the bottom?

  • Perfect, I wish it would be written by me :)
    – Maniero
    Feb 9, 2011 at 17:55
  • 1
    I hate to say it but this is really more of a meta question, since it only tangentially references specific proposals. Feb 9, 2011 at 19:56
  • What the Mark says it's the only problem with that :)
    – Maniero
    Feb 10, 2011 at 1:13

2 Answers 2


I share your beliefs, broad proposals are good and narrow proposals are bad.

Only after a broad proposal has succeeded should we consider sub-dividing a subject matter into narrower proposals. Similar to how StackOverflow has subdivided itself. Granted there maybe a few minor exceptions.

I'm a broadist.


I'll take on your two examples in reverse order.

I do my own wrenching on my motorcycle, and haven't so much as changed the oil in my car myself. With that said, enough of the shop tools and general information (particularly related to fluids) are common between the two such that "Motorcycles" could probably live as a pretty good tag on a more general mechanics site.

On the other hand, I'm also a middling amateur Go player. I have no interest in any other board/card games. None whatsoever. For this type of game, I don't think I'm terribly unusual. Unlike motorcycle repair and car repair, there simply isn't anything that chess players can learn from go players, or vice versa. I don't think it would be a tragedy for go to be absorbed into B&CG... I just don't think it should be done without someone explaining the benefit to both sides (the informational benefit, not just "then they'd have enough people to be viable").

Broad Proposals are not always good

While it's easy to say "broad proposals are good, and narrow proposals are bad", you need to qualify that with two examples.

Yahoo Answers (or pick your equivalent) is an obvious example of "too broad to be useful". This has been brought up a few times by various people.

The other example is the failed "Gadgets" site. This is a closer analogue to B&CG. Gadgets failed because the people involved were simply not interested in each other's gadgets. There is a type of game player who is interested in all sorts of interesting board games, and B&CG is perfect for that type of person (and as a side benefit, will help people new to particular games). By contrast to "Gadgets", Ask Different is nothing more than a series of what would be tags on "Gadgets", with a handful of Super User Mac OS questions... but there is sufficient overlap in the product lines such that people can be helpful to each other. (the apple kool-aid doesn't hurt either)

Area51 Audience != Site Audience

You have to be careful with area51 proposals not to presume that the area51 audience is necessarily the audience of the site itself. Area51 is disproportionately full of programmers and highly technical people interested in the entire stack-exchange social experiment. ("What are the boundaries of this data sharing technique?") The sites themselves are often successful when they pick up a large following that wouldn't be able to even understand a single question on the stackoverflow.com front page.

As an illustration, the Japanese site has a very different flavor from virtually every other Japanese language forum out there. Most forums are focused on linguists or english/japanese majors/teachers. Since japanese.SE currently in beta and still mostly populated by people from SO and similar, you get occasional diction like "The XYZ verb doesn't take adverbs like ABC as parameters". Amusing in this case, but the site will be much more successful if we can pull in people who find that construction more distracting than illuminating.

Math Overflow is an example of a 'specialists' site. If it was proposed today, I'm unsure if enough area51 members who are qualified to participate on the current MO exist to get it into beta.

Picking which areas are good candidates to become SE sites is tricky to guess correctly. ~13 million world of warcraft players out there... that's apparently not enough to get 200 of them to signup for a WoW proposal. Part of that is trying to figure out "Does the site fill a need for the audience?", and people outside of the community (or even inside) have a hard time answering that question.

Of the sites that you didn't think would be able to launch, but did at least semi-succesfully, did so because they have VERY large audiences that you wouldn't meet on the geek-oriented sites. TeX is the format for publications in a very diverse list of fields. GIS is huge, and supports at least half a dozen commercial publications at this point (the field is factionalizing partly because the "GIS" term simply encompasses too much).

  • 1
    @Dori: I meant MO. It's a particularly successful site running on the stack exchange "pattern", even if some of the details don't work the same way. (the version of the technology stack is completely irrelevent to this) Jun 18, 2011 at 6:07

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