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Proposal: Arduino

What's wrong with the Electrical Engineering site? Arduino is supported there.

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The main question here is: Is the EE.SE Arduino community willing to shift itself to an Arduino.SE? The current Arduino.SE scope is pretty much a subset of EE.SE (the parts which aren't EE overlap with Robotics.SE)

There are precedents to this: Mathematica (subset of StackOverflow) and TheoreticalPhysics (subset of Physics.SE). MMA.SE was successful, TP.SE was not. Why?

Point was, the MMA community on SO was a "closed" one. They only participated in the mathematica tag, and had little interest elsewhere. While Mathematica is a form of programming, the stuff you program in Mathematica is much different from the stuff a normal programmer writes. So, there was a site proposal for it, and it was successful.

Now, let's look at the flipside. TP.SE was a subset of Physics.SE, geared towards research level questions. Unfortunately for the site, most of the TP community was happy on Physics.SE, and most TP questions got asked on Physics.SE. The site was closed due to lack of activity in the end. A similar thing happened with Astronomy (not a complete subset at the time, but the scope was pretty much covered by Physics.SE and Photography.SE)

Alright, where does Arduino fall? I believe that it is in the latter category. Folks who use Arduino will be having tons of EE-related questions, and those who are proficient with the board will be proficient with electronics in general. I use Arduino from time to time, and that certainly is the case for me (I'm not proficient, per se, but I manage pretty well). So, what gain does the EE.SE Arduino community get by migrating over? I don't see much of a gain.

The best thing to do would be to put up a meta post on EE.SE asking what the EE Arduino community feels.

  • That is an issue only if and when the site launches and is new. A lot of Arduino users do not use EE (both users within network as well as outside). – asheeshr Feb 9 '13 at 4:53
  • @AshRj no, my point is that there were lots of TPists that didn't use P.SE. There were lots of Mathematicaians which didn't use SO. But the dealbreaker in the end was the large, well knit community of users already present on SE. You have to remember that a beta site will only catch a very small fraction of the community already existing on the Internet. – Manishearth Feb 9 '13 at 4:55
  • Yes, I understand what you are saying and I do agree with you that for the site to succeed and gain momentum it will need support from the current EE community. What I am saying is that, there will be a point beyond which the community will/have to expand beyond the users within the network and get users from outside. I am looking at it from a more long-term perspective. – asheeshr Feb 9 '13 at 4:59
  • @AshRj Sure. That's there for every beta site, Your point being? If you look at the long term aspects and neglect the short term ones, the beta site is prone to failure :/ IMO, efforts may be better directed at getting the Internet Arduino community on EE (where they will be apparently well received and will have a goodish environment to thrive in), rather than trying to get them to a new site (where there may not be that many experts/answerers at the start) – Manishearth Feb 9 '13 at 5:01
  • That goldfish environment is a myth. The bigger fish dont always let the goldfish live :) Also, once enough goldfish have been lost, more of them will stop to come. Its not as good a situation as you make it out to be. Although I may be wrong. You have more experience on the network than me. – asheeshr Feb 9 '13 at 5:07
  • @CamilStaps I beg to differ. stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/mathematica They used to have a strong MMA community (that's what I mean by subset), which then shifted over to MMA.SE. – Manishearth Feb 14 '13 at 15:31
  • Never mind, I was thinking of Math. – user72809 Feb 14 '13 at 15:36
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The Arduino community is large enough to generate enough activity for its own site. Plus, the Arduino platform consists of both hardware and the software. EE is able to handle the hardware questions and to a certain extent the software, but not completely.

Implementing A* on an Arduino ? 

Also, EE has 9.6% questions(around 1343) based on Arduino. SO, has 1400 questions. This should speak for itself about the interest in Arduino in the SE universe itself.

Also, looking around the popular forums, you will see that even though significant, the proportion of the Arduino community within Stack Exchange is minuscule compared to the overall community. Bringing them together is in part what this proposal will (try to) do, IMO. This format is much better suited to technical problems than forums in general.

To make an argument with respect to the existing network, the majority of users of the Arduino platform are not hardcore coders. Some are barely starting out, as I had done. Neither are they electrical engineers. They may in fact not have a background beyond basic electronics (and sometimes not even that). They are delving into both coding as well as embedded systems. Questions from such users would get downvoted and would not be welcome on SO, as they would delve into hardware and would border on beginner level. When we consider EE, as the site deals specifically with Electronics more than coding, users are not comfortable of posting there (this I got from speaking to some of my friends). Such multiple domain questions are being lost out, and/or may not be handled properly.

What hardware will work optimally for localisation with the Arduino ?

Lastly, considering the type of questions. EE is more towards dealing with electrical engineering problems as the FAQ states as well as the majority of questions show. SO is more suited towards pure code problems not involving specific platforms (majorly).

Neither seem to handle beginner questions well which is what a large portion of the Arduino community is made of. Expert questions about the platform also seem to be missing for the same reasons. This proposal will bring together the different fractions and make it one whole and more.


After looking around a little, it seems that this proposal is the third Arduino site proposal in as many years. That also speaks for itself.

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    The thing is not that there aren't enough people for arduino. The problem is that (almost) all arduino questions are on-topic on EE. I've never used arduino and have answered some of these questions. I wouldn't have done that on a specific arduino site as I'm not an arduino enthusiast. So you're losing answers with this approach! – user72809 Feb 4 '13 at 6:33
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    @CamilStaps There are not enough Arduino users within the network. However, the Arduino community itself is in thousands and it is those users that this site will get onboard. The intention is not to poach but to generate a user base. We might loose some answers, but with EE, we are loosing many more users. – asheeshr Feb 4 '13 at 9:29
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    I totally disagree. Any arduino enthusiast can come to EE. We'll see. – user72809 Feb 4 '13 at 9:34
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    @CamilStaps I have directed several non-EE Arduino beginners to EE.SE, and the definitive response from each single one of them is that their questions, or existing questions they would like answers to, have been met by our EE.SE community with such rudeness and disdain that they refuse to come back to be talked down to. I'm on the EE.SE site all day every day, I see this happen way too often. – Anindo Ghosh Feb 9 '13 at 4:32
  • @AnindoGhosh As we discussed, I feel that this is an invalid reason to make another site. If someone else now forms an electronics design site can they use our community not pulling in beginners due to the users being rude as a reason to not recognize their site as a duplicate. I will accept your other points as requiring thought and I am not convinced either way right now, but we are always attempting to help grow our community from being rude and saying our users are currently being too rude is not a good argument. – Kortuk Feb 13 '13 at 5:09
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    @Kortuk: "saying our users are currently being too rude is not a good argument". Fair enough, but if the rudeness-to-Arduino-beginners issue isn't fixed, then an Arduino site will keep on getting proposed on Area 51. – Paul D. Waite Mar 27 '13 at 15:12
  • @PaulD.Waite I am not sure that is why the site gets proposed, I think it is primarily proposed by those that have never ever visited EE. Do I want it to nicer there for any beginner, yes, can I cause instant change, no. – Kortuk Mar 27 '13 at 15:32
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    @Kortuk: sure, could be. I do understand you can't instantly make EE friendlier for Arduino beginners. I'm just saying that I think this issue will, as long as it persists, make people wish there were a place that was friendlier to Arduino newbies. – Paul D. Waite Mar 27 '13 at 16:48
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My issue is arduino users are very often those starting into electronics, it is the same as being a beginner in the EE field, we have many that are active and have found us for arduino and have grown into the community from that point. I consider this one of our major trunk lines to gain users who then grown into a full electronics knowledge. Many universities are using arduino to allow EEs to do real world interfacing and avoid having to teach real embedded systems in class.

We cover coding, as long as you are doing a bare-metal type application. This would cover using RTOS, working on arduino or just writing everything yourself. We just dont cover general coding questions outside that(or we would be SO with some electronics questions). We help in the area where you need to know that you are interacting with the baremetal.

This is a primary recruiting path for our site and I feel we serve it well, we occasionally have grumpy experts feel that newbies should pose their questions better, but that has only slowly improved and the moderation team and the community have been working to make it better.

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    EE.SE is also a primary path for turning Arduino beginners off the SE community entirely - speaking from feedback received by people I know personally. – Anindo Ghosh Feb 9 '13 at 4:35
  • +1 @AnindoGhosh That is exactly what I have been pointing out. EE is somewhat like SO when it comes to newbies. Thats exactly where a large part of the future community is lost out to forums and other sites. Also, once you discourage a newbie, that person has extremely low chances of returning to the site if and when the person advances to proper electronics/electrical stuff. – asheeshr Feb 9 '13 at 5:04
  • @AnindoGhosh This is probably related to my discussion of "grumpy experts" above which is slowly but surely always improving, but if not I would like to know more. We can talk in chat, since you are in chat at all times. – Kortuk Feb 9 '13 at 14:28
  • There is a good example of why the Arduino Community stay away from EE in the answers here (see John U's answer at the bottom) electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/57766/… – Paul Kay Feb 13 '13 at 15:30
  • @paulkayuk On a closed and very not-constructive question? – Kortuk Feb 13 '13 at 16:24
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    @kortuk, granted, but the comment I refer to is still an example of the unfortunate attitude sometimes expressed towards Arduino questions – Paul Kay Feb 13 '13 at 16:33
  • @paulkayuk Ohh that is one users opinion, I would not agree with it nor does that answer have a single upvote... The last comment on his answer, "Flame away, real EEs will not disagree" is saying, if you disagree you are not a real EE, being right does not need comments like that. Using something like a pic is an unbelievable way to learn more about hardware level interfaces. Arduino is what I suggest to new users who want something to add control with. You can learn more of the details later, first use your arduino and learn more about the electronics of dealing with the world. – Kortuk Feb 13 '13 at 16:59
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I think it's wrong to think of Arduino users as a subset of EE. It's true Arduino users may not know much about EE, but that's the implicit objective of the platform. To use an Arduino requires a set of knowledge that is enabled by, but not dependent on EE knowledge. That has real value, and I can prove it it: people pay at least $20 more for an Arduino vs. the AVR that could be assembled to do the same thing.

Is an electrical engineer just a beginner physicist? Is a physicist just a beginner mathematician?

No: each field is built upon the next, and each field has a unique body of knowledge. Physicists ask questions in EE and EEs ask questions in physics. Yet, I don't think anyone would suggest merging these sites.

This answer made me realize something: There are three kinds of Arduino users.

  1. Those who are interested in being electrical engineers, and use Arduino as a step on the way
  2. Those who want to use Arduino, not learn everything about how it works
  3. People just like #2, but who think that Arduino is basic electrical engineering

Kinds #1 and #2 don't present a problem. #1 type people are already established users on EE. #2 type people are elsewhere on the internet, because they realize EE is not the right forum for them, and there is no Arduino.SE.

It's #3 and the lack of Arduino.SE that makes a problem. There's nothing wrong with these people, they just need to be informed and have a place to go. Arduino isn't any more basic electrical engineering than knowing how to put air in your tires and gas in your tank is basic auto mechanics. Some people don't want to learn about auto mechanics. They just want to drive the car.

When these people ask questions on EE now, we can't say "this is a good question, but I think would be much better served by the Arduino community," and then migrate their question where they will get the answers in the language they want. Instead, all we can say is "read the datasheet" or answer in the language of electrical engineering, which they can't, and don't want to understand. Because, as I said, the nondependency on electrical engineering knowledge is precicely what some people find valuable in Arduino.

Here's a recent example of this problem: How do I light an LED when a revolving disk is in motion?. That the user has re-asked the same question three times is an indication that he is unfamiliar with SE, but also that he's frustrated with the answers he's received so far, despite that they are fine from an electrical engineering perspective. Note the assumption that an Arduino will be used despite the absence of any good engineering reason for it, and the comment to that effect. He doesn't realize there's a whole field underneath him that assumes even at the basic level requires some familiarity with stuff like "voltage". How could you respond?

  • close the question as too broad
    • not helpful
  • explain that an Arduino is a poor engineering solution to this problem
    • frustrating, inflammatory
  • try to teach the fundamentals of electrical engineering
    • not the answer he wants, frustrating
  • do most of the work for him, with a complete schematic
    • can he even read the schematic? do you really have the time?
  • suggest he use FooShield
  • close the question, but migrate to Arduino.EE
    • only possible if it exists!

This last option, migrating or suggesting another site, happens not infrequently when it's possible. See Getting several light switches to control the same lights without extensive rewiring

  • I feel any issues with speaking over the head of arduino users could easily be corrected internally with still keeping two fledgling communities together. – Kortuk Feb 14 '13 at 20:22
  • Assuming you're right about all of this: who are the Arduino experts? To whom do you direct questions about proper gasoline and tire pressure, when you don't want to talk to a mechanic? – Shog9 Feb 14 '13 at 22:14
  • @Shog9 I think you are making an incorrect comparison. A mechanic (because of his job profile) is fine, but an automotive engineer is not. Also, there are people who are interested in cars and know a whole lot about them but from the consumer point of view and not as an engineer. – asheeshr Feb 15 '13 at 2:36
  • @Shog9 the Arduino experts are not the people that know the fine details of how an Arduino works. An Arduino expert would likely not be able to answer questions like "what's the equivalent series inductance of a capacitior?" any more than a pro driver could tell you the shear strength of the bolts on the engine. They are, however, experts on what shields are available, what software is reusable, and generally how best to accomplish things with the Arduino platform. The people who can explain in fine detail the non-ideal properties of a capacitor are not experts in the Arduino field. – Phil Frost Feb 15 '13 at 3:22
  • Here's an example of how Arduino users don't understand that Arduino experience isn't basic electronics: electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/58704/… Note how he says "my experience is moderate", but he doesn't even know how to use a transistor. – Phil Frost Feb 21 '13 at 12:13
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I don't think so. You're all kinda looking at the arduino as an embedded controller purely its not just that.

I'll use my self as an example. I'm no EE infact my knowledge of EE is very very limited. I am however a Software Developer. I use arduinos for many things, media streaming centre, audio over wifi, server cluster status monitor etc. All of which are 99% software and usually a pre-built shield which gives me exactly what I need so the only EE extent is connecting a couple of wires from point to point.

Because the arduino can be used for both embedded style work and also as a more general application mini-pc we need to consider both.

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