Proposal: Embedded Programming and Design is a duplicate of Stack Overflow and Electronics.

Why does it need its own site?

3 Answers 3


I believe this topic is broad enough and specific enough it deserves a separate site.

Questions about specifics of "deeper" embedded programming usually fall on deaf ears when asked on StackOverflow, or are met with answers from users clueless about it (suggesting a JBOSS solution for a tiny embedded ARM9 platform?)

There are subjects that go entirely cross-site: Take this example: "How to perform the fastest bitwise XOR in 8051?" There are some smart assembly language answers but the best answer is to attach a 74L86 or similar to an IO port. Who on StackOverflow would give such an answer? Or what about creating a driver for a device? How much to do in software and what should be pushed to silicon?

There are subjects that would be really hard to fit anywhere: how to implement a trivial filesystem matching specific needs?

Matters of getting crosscompilers to work with a given chip are a terrible fit for SO, poor fit for Serverfault, very poor for Electronics and completely wrong for Programmers.

Questions about using CPU software features like FPU on a given ARM chip are a very poor fit for Electronics and too specific for SO.

In essence, just like Security.SE is a mix of Superuser, Serverfault and SO, or as Gamedev is just a subset of SE, Programmers, Careers and Writers, Embedded straddles SO, Electronics, Programmers and a good deal of content too specific for any of these sites.


As for fitting Electronics, I suggest some searches:

  • A total of 2 hits for [plc] (one closed).
  • [Linux], [Android] and [gcc] get very poor quality answers, and are few.
  • [reliability] gets nothing about industrial testing.
  • SCADA gets 8 hits or so. (of course SCADA itself is not embedded, but devices that are designed to be slaves to a SCADA system definitely are!)
  • [modem] - few poor answers mostly on iron side
  • A total of 12 questions marked [rtos], mostly fairly general.

Essentially, the "High Embedded" - Industrial, Linux, RTOS, while allowed on Electronics, is an unwanted child. It's too far away from iron to be of interest to bulk of users, and the bulk of diode-MOSFET-supercap questions scares any professionals willing to discuss them away. Even programming close to iron is a margin. [Assembly] gets 49 hits.

And in the end, let me dedicate this closed question to anyone with doubts, with its comment:

Yes, electrical engineering and embedded software often go together, but this is purely a software question.

  • 2
    You make a good case for not being a duplicate of SO, but could you elaborate more on what makes it not a duplicate of Electronics? I'm not really convinced on that end.
    – Joe Baker
    Jan 27, 2013 at 20:34
  • 1
    @JoeBaker: See my edit.
    – SF.
    Jan 28, 2013 at 1:43
  • Alright that makes a lot more sense. The one related topic Electronics does seem to cover fairly well is programmable logic ([fpga], [programmable-logic], [vhdl], [verilog] etc).
    – Joe Baker
    Jan 28, 2013 at 4:01
  • @JoeBaker: Note programming a "clean" FPGA is considerably different than programming one in an SBC where it already fulfills a dozen different functions and you must fit your project within the existing framework.
    – SF.
    Jan 28, 2013 at 4:33
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    True, it will probably end up being a minor overlap area but that's OK. The Robotics beta had to have a bit of discussion on similar issues, they decided that certain electrical questions were on-topic on both Electronics and Robotics, but the answers you will get are a bit different (more electrically complete vs. robotics domain-specific). I imagine the same will apply in this case.
    – Joe Baker
    Jan 28, 2013 at 15:05
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    Actually, I guess we're going to have a whole lot of overlap with robotics, more than both with SO and EE. Still, Robotics would need a significant extension of its own scope to accept Embedded (although I wouldn't be opposed to that merger - essentially Robotics is a specific subset of Embedded with a bunch of mechanics strapped on top.)
    – SF.
    Jan 28, 2013 at 21:14
  • 3
    In defense of some of the examples you list as [closed], they are generally bad SE questions. The closed PLC question was overly broad and your final example was closed because it was asking for book recommendations. You give a lot of examples of places where questions don't belong, but are you sure that those questions could/should exist on a StackExchange site?
    – W5VO
    Jan 30, 2013 at 15:55
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    @W5VO: If you feel any of the suggested questions in the proposal is a poor fit for SE, feel free to downvote and comment why they either shouldn't belong to SE or should belong to any of the pre-existing sites. (just please don't send us on a crusade against EE's reluctance to accept software questions.)
    – SF.
    Jan 30, 2013 at 16:07

I suspect that an Embedded Programming and Design site would have very similar problems to the ones that Robotics is currently having.

It too is a site which brings together elements of Stack Overflow, Electrical Engineering, adding in elements of Mathematics, GIS, Computational Science # and mechanical engineering as well as things which are highly specific to Robotics itself. # In beta for 425days and counting.

The problem is that we have a real problem getting enough good questions when people have so many other places to ask. Finding enough Embedded Systems questions which aren't already explicitly on-topic for Stack Overflow or Electrical Engineering and can't be answered by those much bigger and more established communities will be very difficult. That's no reason not to try, but is something everyone needs to bear in mind.

Looking through the current proposed questions, I see none which shouldn't be welcomed on Electrical Engineering, (given the embedded, microcontroller and various architecture tags such as arduino, pic and arm) but if a culture is starting to develop to close such questions then it might not always be the ideal place for them.

On another point, you have to be careful not to have a build it and they will come attitude (which is common here on Area 51) , since it is not enough for a successful Stack exchange site, you need to start planning for promoting the site within the target community now, and getting a head start on answering the The 7 Essential Meta Questions of Every Beta right at the definition stage of an Area 51 proposal.

These essential questions are:

  1. Are questions about [subject] on or off topic?
  2. What should our FAQ contain?
  3. How should we tag questions about {subject}?
  4. Who should the moderators be?
  5. What’s the “elevator pitch” for our site?
  6. What should our logo and site design look like?
  7. How do we promote our site?

Obviously 2, 3, 4 and 6 can wait, but the sooner 1, 5 and 7 can be answered, the stronger this proposal will be.

Ultimately, if you want veteran embedded systems controllers to move from Stack Overflow and Electrical Engineering to a vertical site then you are going to need to provide something new, different and unique, and this needs to be demonstrated by providing proposed questions which are not already on-topic on those other Stack Exchange sites.

  • 1
    Agreed, the success of this proposal is going to depend strongly on the proposed questions to be able to differentiate itself from microcontroller questions currently being well-served by EE.
    – Joe Baker
    Jan 28, 2013 at 15:15
  • The last point: "the writing of firmware for bare-metal or RTOS applications" is essentially dead on EE. These questions are NOT welcome on EE and will be met with -1 and closed as off-topic unless you fight, argue and quote the FAQ on the close-voters. Even then you can expect either no answer or answers of extremely poor quality.
    – SF.
    Jan 29, 2013 at 9:07
  • Also, I disagree; Few of the questions with more than +1 are fit for EE or SO. Interfacing CPU/FPU on the same chip? Bypassing a hardware bug? Digging in FPGA with pre-existing code? My worry is not lack of questions, the subject matter is extremely broad. I worry about lack of answers; the subject matter is so broad there are no experts to cover any significant part of it.
    – SF.
    Jan 29, 2013 at 9:36
  • @SF. - Could I suggest that rather than taking out your frustrations here, you start a meta discussion on Electric Engineering to bring up the problems. Also please take my answer as a whole (including planning for a successful site now) rather than just picking out the section relating to EE. It was a long road to get Robotics into beta, and like my Digital Fabrication proposal I think EP&D is going to be an even tougher sell.
    – Mark Booth
    Jan 30, 2013 at 18:55
  • @MarkBooth: I think it would be better to scrap that dead point from EE FAQ; it's neither a good fit for that site nor welcome by the community there really. Adapt site to users, not users to site. But there's a plenty of time for that yet. I've already addressed "1", see my other question; "5" must wait for "1" to stabilize; I'm really poor with "7", I hope some other users will pick it up.
    – SF.
    Jan 31, 2013 at 6:52
  • @SF. I can see that, hopefully my edit better reflects current experiences.
    – Mark Booth
    Jan 31, 2013 at 19:49
  • @SF., Mark: regarding EE.SE, I think this recent meta thread illustrates a disconnect between the FAQ's stance on software questions and the community's. Jan 31, 2013 at 23:02
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    An example of question which I think none of the existing sites really caters for: My SMDK2416 (for s3c2416) kernel works on 64MRAM but crashed on 128M Jan 31, 2013 at 23:03
  • @Gilles It looks like this is coming up on EE.SE meta again... meta.electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/2622/…
    – Joe Baker
    Feb 3, 2013 at 17:54
  • So about number 6. How is that done? May 24, 2017 at 17:32
  • 6 is only relevant if a site graduates @ItamarGreen which requires a site to be well established. Certainly Robotics has been in beta for four and a half years now, and it is unlikely it will ever graduate. But is is now accepted that this is fine.
    – Mark Booth
    May 24, 2017 at 22:51
  • @MarkBooth I see. Well actually I am referring to a site that is in beta now. But from what you say I understand that it must first complete the beta successfully and only then will a logo be made for it. So my other question is: Who makes the logos? May 25, 2017 at 9:54
  • That's right @ItamarGreen it has to graduate out of beta to get it's own logo etc. Stack Exchange have a team of designers and developers who create the logo and the look and feel of the site based on suggestions provided by the community meta site. For an example, see meta questions like this.
    – Mark Booth
    May 25, 2017 at 10:10
  • @MarkBooth thanks ;). May 25, 2017 at 10:11

This is something I struggled with, and I came to the conclusion that while there are some aspects of embedded systems that are covered by Stack Overflow, and some that are covered by Electrical Engineering, there are also aspects that are covered by neither site.

EE.SE is centered around electronics and has a difficult relationship with software. While the FAQ cites “the writing of firmware for bare-metal or RTOS applications” as on-topic, in practice, there are very few questions about software on EE.SE. So I asked on Meta.EE.SE, and the dominant response is that

I don't think EE.SE covers all aspects of embedded systems design, and I don't think it would be productive for us (EE.SE) to try to include everything.

There is a gap between SO and EE.SE when it comes to the kind of low-level programming that firmware and driver writers do. Even subjects that are technically on-topic on both sites tend to be poorly received.

EE.SE cannot engage people who work on the software side of embedded system, because of their focus on hardware; nor does the EE.SE community want to reach out to programmers and broaden their site.

It's also difficult for an embedded developer to feel at home on SO, because there is no good way to filter interesting questions. The way to filter questions is with tags, but the embedded tag is a hodgepodge of questions that may be about embedded systems or about embedding some piece of software in another. The moderation on SO is rather off too: like all esoteric topics, a question that your average C or C# programmer doesn't understand is likely to be closed; unlike esoteric languages, embedded questions do attract attention outside the embedded community.

In addition, there are subjects that are squarely off-topic on both SO and EE.SE, but part of the job of an embedded developer. Subjects like how to boot a chip, how to connect a debugger, how to interact with a ROM are off-topic everywhere.

There are precedents for sites that have some overlap with SO but cater to a domain-specific audience and cover more than programming: Game Development, Database Administrators, Programmers. Embedded.SE would be another site of this kind.

There was a prior proposal for a site about embedded systems. It was closed and deleted because it couldn't reach enough committers after two years. Given that Embedded.SE would not be a duplicate of any existing site, the only reason not to create the site would be if it again fails to attract enough participants. So the proposal must remain open.

  • 2
    -1. Subjects like how to boot a chip, how to connect a debugger, how to interact with a ROM are off-topic everywhere. are explicitly on topic on EE.SE. Furthermore according to this meta post, firmware is on topic, even if it's a pure programming question.
    – AndrejaKo
    Feb 3, 2013 at 18:19
  • @AndrejaKo I get the impression that the EE.SE community is divided. I got a different response when I asked. Feb 3, 2013 at 19:21
  • 1
    I think the point made in your question on EE Meta was that some programming questions are so high level that StackOverflow is a better place for them. If the question is low level enough that the hardware matters, or that the answer is different for an embedded system than a desktop system, then it is on topic at EE.
    – The Photon
    Feb 4, 2013 at 1:34
  • Electrical Engineering is a hardware discipline, and when an EE writes software, they are exercising a different discipline, Software/Computer Engineering. Embedded programming is clearly one of those disciplines that exist at the border of EE and SwE, and as such needs its own community. Jan 17, 2014 at 16:20

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