First, some background. I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico… OK, wait a minute, you don’t need that much background.

In the beginning there was Stack Overflow. When we set up Stack Overflow, we knew people would use it to ask questions about lots and lots of different programming topics. Instead of the traditional approach, where you have a thousand different groups and sub-groups on every topic imaginable (like Usenet (comp.lang.vb.syntax.parens.unmatched, anyone?), the Stack Overflow approach was to use more free-form tags. Theoretically, tags would let you ask a question that happened to be about, say, Windows and C# without having to decide which group to put it in. And my hope was that tags would eliminate the endless meta-discussions by dewey-decimal-mavens about whether your question was more appropriate here or there.

To be honest my hope was that the tags would keep meta-conversation to a minimum. Instead of arguing about whether Bourne Shell programming is really programming, the Obsessive Taxonimists (alt.taxonomy.obsessive.judean.people’s-front.popular) could just tag the question “bourne-shell” and leave the rest of us to ask and answer questions happily.

It worked, kinda. Stack Overflow is a big ol’ heaping mess of beautiful programming questions that are simultaneously organized and unorganized, and we’re happy about the way that the site brings together programmers into one big happy community. That is, as long as they stay STRICTLY ON TOPIC.

So. Where do Linux questions go? If it’s a Linux programming question, Stack Overflow is fine. If it’s not, we made Server Fault. But Server Fault was supposed to be for system administrators. So if you were a home user with a non-programming Linux question, you were supposed to ask on Super User. We now have Linux questions all over the place: 10,000 on Stack Overflow, 5800 on Server Fault, and 4800 on Super User.

When we opened up the process to allow the community to design their own sites, we got a whole heap of proposals. The Ubuntu proposal had a lot of support. So did a more universalist Unix/Linux proposal. Both got created. On August 20th Jeff proposed merging the two sites, and put that up to a vote. The official results:

MERGE?
(Unix users) 89 Yes / 34 No
(Ubuntu users) 72 Yes / 114 No

Conclusion? There isn’t a majority on both sides to merge. The Unix world loves to take sides. I don’t have to blog about this; Freud already did, in 1930. He called it “the narcissism of minor differences”:

It is clearly not easy for man to give up the satisfaction of this inclination to aggression. They do not feel comfortable without it. The advantage which a comparatively small cultural group offers of allowing this instinct an outlet in the form of hostility against intruders is not to be despised. It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness. I once discussed the phenomenon that is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and in ridiculing each other — like the Spaniards and Portuguese, for instance, the North Germans and South Germans, the English and Scotch, and so on. I gave this phenomenon the name of “the narcissism of minor differences”, a name which does not do much to explain it. We can now see that it is a convenient and relatively harmless satisfaction of the inclination to aggression, by means of which cohesion between the members of the community is made easier.

Monty Python might have put it better in this scene (YouTube) from The Life of Brian:

BRIAN
Are you the Judean People’s Front?
REG
F*** off.
BRIAN
What?
REG
Judean People’s Front. We’re the People’s Front of Judea. Judean People’s front, caw.
FRANCIS
Wankers.
BRIAN
Can I join your group?
REG
No. Piss off.
BRIAN
I didn’t want to sell this stuff. It’s only a job. I hate the Romans
as much as anybody.
PEOPLE’S FRONT OF JUDEA
Sssh. Ssssh, sssh, sssh, ssssh
JUDITH
Are you sure?
BRIAN
Oh. Dead sure… I hate the Romans already.
REG
Listen. If you really wanted to join the PFJ, you’d have to really hate the Romans.
BRIAN
I do.
REG
Oh yeah? How much?
BRIAN
A lot!
REG
Right. You’re in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the f***ing Judean People’s Front.
PEOPLE’S FRONT OF JUDEA
Yeah!
JUDITH
Splitters.
FRANCIS
And the Judean Popular People’s Front.
PEOPLE’S FRONT OF JUDEA
Oh yeah. Splitters.
LORETTA
And the People’s Front of Judea.
PEOPLE’S FRONT OF JUDEA
Splitters.
LORETTA
The People’s Front of Judea. Splitters.
REG
We’re the People’s Front of Judea.
LORETTA
Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
REG
People’s Front.
FRANCIS
Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
REG
He’s over there.

So, Ubuntu, Linux, I get it, it’s clearly not the same thing. If you love Ubuntu, we have a site for you. If you love Linux and Unix, we have a site for you. A Stack Exchange can’t work without a community that loves a subject, and love is very… specific. Fighting human nature is hard: the factionalism and fork-happiness of the Unix world has been a hallmark of that community ever since BSD vs. System V, and Stack Exchange can no more bridge that gap than we can unite the Judean resistance.

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  1. John Ferguson says:

    But from those results the UNIX users did want to merge. Either the Ubuntu users are the factionalists or they were scared that Ubuntu users seeking answers on a generalised UNIX/Linux stack-exchange would be put off by the more arcane side of POSIX-land.

  2. Martin says:

    Why either was allowed to branch from superuser.com is beyond me to be honest.

  3. Laurence Brevard says:

    I’ve been involved with computers since BEFORE Unix (starting in 1967). While I love Linux (in general) I have always said that Unix was the OS (community) that could not even agree on the backspace character!

    Thanks for the tremendously useful resources of StackOverflow, ServerFault, and SuperUser – with their high signal to noise ratios.

  4. Jamie Hale says:

    Will you link the sites together so that someone posting a question on one will be able to see similar posts on the others?

    If not, don’t you risk frustrating users by forcing them to check multiple sites?

  5. Yoni says:

    With all due respect, all I am reading from your post is that the sample size of the poll just wasn’t large enough.

    A quick look at the users page on both sites shows that you made a decision based on less that 10% of the user population.

    My personal opinion is that you made the wrong decision, and that the sites should be merged (Ubuntu can a have a niche within a larger site, just like tons of other topics on SO).

    In any case, I suggest finding a way to promote your polls on the site itself via stackexchange and the stackexchange network of sites, rather than rely on your blog.

  6. Bebo says:

    I do believe you just made fun of the Ubuntu/Unix/Linux crowd. ;-)

  7. MikeRand says:

    I “love” Python because it’s the language I’m learning, but I’m still happy that my SO searches turn up answers in other languages:

    a) it’s a decent way to see how other problems are solved in other languages,

    b) when it’s Java/C/C++, I’m able (with my limited C knowledge) to leverage the answer 80% of the time.

    I guess I’d just like someone to explain to me where
    tags stop making sense and whole new Exchanges start.

  8. RT says:

    - Ubuntu is (arguably?) the most popular Linux distribution nowadays
    - Ubuntu is quite consistent in its way to do things
    - Ubuntu includes the non-hardcore-techie folks in its target market

    so,

    - Ubuntu users usually find answers specific to Ubuntu, instead of generic answers which require you to find (depending on the distribution) out where some library is, or if some command is available. Other distributions’ users get happy from finding *any* answer related to his problem, even if this answer refers to another distribution or version, or another problem which vaguely resembles theirs.
    - Ubuntu answers for most problems usually consist in some ‘sudo apt-get foobar’.
    - Many, many Ubuntu users are users, not hackers. They just want their mouse, video card, and ftp server to work, and just don’t care if their applications’ binaries are compiled and optimized to their processors, or if their system is 100% free software, or if it follows some specific philosophy.

    then,

    - Ubuntu users don’t need other distributions’ users to have their questions answered.
    - Ubuntu users don’t want generic answers, they want a sequence of steps to get things working.
    - Ubuntu users don’t want their questions/answers to be lost in a flood of generic debates (generic unix/linux answers aren’t answers, are debates about what is the best approach)

    I moved to Ubuntu, because I was tired of being a system administrator, instead of a user of my own machine. I see no reason to even look behind.

  9. Paul Alexander says:

    This is the age of mashups – why does the _data_ have to exist in only one location? It makes great sense to have the communities exist on separate domains but there’s a large quantity of shared data to be sure. Certainly there should be a way for the same question, where it is relevant to both groups, to be present on both sites.

  10. Caleb Cushing ( xenoterracide ) says:

    I’m sad that the Ubuntu separatists have chosen this. However, I see it as there own loss. They do not have the benefit of the experience of non-Ubuntu users. I myself have helped Ubuntu-ers in the past to do very manual things, that solved there problems. They didn’t know how, or where to look because Ubuntu has not the documentation nor the community for these things.

    This decision scares me as it set precedence that the other ‘fork-ers’ will be justified in destroying any unified question sites. Instead of SO we will likely see proposals for $language start to succeed. There also already more $distro proposals.

    I’m disappointed that this was even left up to the community to decide, TBH, but such is ‘democracy’.

  11. Caleb Cushing ( xenoterracide ) says:

    @RT debates have no real place on Stack Exchange sites, there are only answers to question. Bash is Bash whether it’s on Ubuntu or FreeBSD, Gnome is Gnome, apt is apt but it only applies to distro’s that used Debian as a base. I have found myself stripping a few questions of Distro specific tags on the Unix site, more than I add them.

  12. NG says:

    The fragmentation will eventually be to the detriment of stack exchange. If I’m a whatever expert, I’ll know to go to whatever.stackexchange.com. But the point is, I’m not an expert, which is why I’m going to these sites. At the moment, I have confidence that if I google “site:stackoverflow.com my question” I’ll have a pretty exhaustive set of answers. If it gets too fragmented, I won’t have that confidence anymore. In the back of my mind I’ll be thinking I wonder if someone on obscurethingIdontknowabout.stackoverflow.com answered this better.

  13. Xiong Chiamiov says:

    So, in totally unrelated news, the SO blog isn’t parsing in Google Reader any more, and apparently hasn’t been since… http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/11/podcast-75/ <– this post. I only noticed because this popped up on Hacker News.

  14. Tim Post says:

    Just wait until Gnewsense plays into it :) That is a WHOLE OTHER SITE :)

    On the one hand, you’re dealing with hackers who have tried to run patent and non-free software free systems . since the mid 80′s. 1984 for most.

    On the other hand, you have users who just want their computers to work and don’t give a crap how that happens.

    Then there are those who say you should care about one, the other, or both who delight in being nothing but pundits. Yeah, that will go far.

    And then finally you have prestigious recording artists recording a modern day “Don’t copy that floppy” and blaming ‘hackers’ in general, with no understanding of what the term ‘hacker’ actually means.

    Welcome to the world of free software :)

  15. Joel Spolsky says:

    @Xiong are you subscribed to the podcast feed (http://blog.stackoverflow.com/?feed=podcast) or the main feed (http://blog.stackoverflow.com/feed/ )?

  16. Dan Dumitru says:

    http://blog.stackoverflow.com/feed/ works, it’s what I use in my Google Reader…

  17. ipc says:

    aren’t ‘stackoverflow’, ‘serverfault’, and ‘superuser’ just tags themselves? What is the advantage of providing separate sites?

  18. Nick Coghlan says:

    Joel, have you given any thought to a federated meta-exchange that provides a view across *all* of the stack exchange sites, treating the subsite as just another tag?

    Or, on a smaller scale, having all of the ubuntu questions and answers appears as part of unix.stackexchange.com, with an extra tag “ubuntu.stackexchange.com”?

  19. Maarten ter Huurne says:

    It’s possible that Ubuntu users who favor the merge were using the UNIX site and voted there instead of on the Ubuntu specific site.

  20. MikeRand says:

    ipc/Nick:

    Part of the reason that a site might make sense is that the voting/reputation engine works across tags but not across sites. I might not want somebody who’s an ace on Stack Overflow getting good reputation on Sever Fault, but I might be willing to say that a Python programming ace can comment on object oriented stuff, etc.

    That said, maybe the “specific” aspect of community is relevant voting/reputation (since tags/search seem to take care of relevant content). Might there be a case that the voting/reputation engine should take into account the tags on which a person answered questions (e.g. S.Lott would have a lot of reputation answering questions on Python, a lot less answering questions on Haskell).

  21. jacob says:

    I don’t give a shit about unix/linux/ubuntu but this is the wrong way to deal with this. I remember one of you 2 guys ranting in the podcast how many crappy QA sites there are on the net – now you’re just perpetuating that.

    There should be only one backend for everything. The various sites should be filters for it all. Think of it as one big table and lots of views. Yes really, cooking and programming and dog grooming all in one database. Think of the domains as tags/filters.

  22. Roger Barnes says:

    Adding my voice to the chorus, this arbitrary separation of “super-tags” isn’t helping anybody.

    I can see the need for separate sites so that knitting and ubuntu don’t get blended, but questions need to be able to transcend site boundaries when appropriate.

  23. Jeff Atwood says:

    > In any case, I suggest finding a way to promote your polls on the site itself via stackexchange and the stackexchange network of sites, rather than rely on your blog.

    Every user of each site that was eligible to vote (that is, they had a minimum 3 upvotes on their questions or answers on that website) had a vote notification inserted into their site message queue. If you came to either site at all in the last 7-10 days, you couldn’t avoid being invited to vote with a hyperlink directly to the voting page.

  24. Mark Weiss says:

    Adding a +1 to comment by @jacob. Taking the idea of one backend filtered by tags into many views one step further, users could have saved/custom sets of tags and build their own views over the SO content. Why lock the community into static decisions about how to group posts? Why not have “preset” site groupings but offer all the flexibility possible in a tag-based system, for those that want it?

  25. Kent Fredric says:

    I like the concept of questions being cross-linked between relevant domains, but I don’t think it needs to be as simple as “a tag filter”.

    Because which domain something appears on is more contestable than mere tags, I’d rather have it as some vote based system.

    ie: So people on ubuntu.* have the ability to vote “this is generic enough to be cross-linked to unix.*”, and upon enough votes, it appears in both places, and the people over at unix.* have the power to vote against it when it appears with “sorry, we disagree, it doesn’t belong here”.

    Otherwise in cases of contention, there will be a frustrating mess of questions popping between servers and magically vanishing simply because somebody got whimsical and changed a tag.

  26. Kent Fredric says:

    ( extension ). I think why this is important, as I see it, is all the users of the various sites are *not* one large logical cohesive community.

    They’re all distinct separate communities with their own rules and criteria for what is and what is not acceptable content in that community, and thus, another community having the ability to whimsically push content into your community is very intrusive and anti-community.

    The receiving community should have the final say whether or not that content is fit for that community, as they are more in-tune with the standards of that community and are the best qualified to assess the content because of that.

  27. Wayne B says:

    This is brilliant. Instead of making the questioner pick a category for their question, you make them pick which SITE to post their question to. Much simpler and certainly less confusing! [/sarcasm]

  28. Wouter Simons says:

    The most interesting thing about reading this article and then all the subsequent posts is seeing how the discussion is pushed towards the my OS is more different than yours, rather than focused on the rather good point Monty Python originally made.

    More sites are needed, because people are unable to unite and accept tags as a sufficient means to separate their questions into a specific corner. I am a kernel mailing list subscriber, this is where my main experience with these sorts of discussions comes from. Fork-it indeed, you can always upstream the good stuff, or can you?

    If stackoverflow submits to the need to fork, can it also use the power of upstreaming from a fork? Can the tags be made searchable across all sites? I.e. if I want to see what has been said about the tag combination “Linux” && “Sysfs” && “Cdev” can I see what is on ubuntu/unix/whateverotherstackexchange? Now everyone can have a judean people front/people’s front of judeans site and I can still find everything.

  29. Wouter Simons says:

    @jacob Alright, I will come out and admit it. I did not read through all the posts.

    I would sort of +1 this thought, however, I do not think it is relevant to talk about how the sites work in the background and the views you can define for your own research could be made possible on almost any architecture with some smart indexing.

    Of course indexing is very specific, so we would need a stackexchange site to discuss it. indexing.stackoverflow.com or something. But then that might look like it is about SQL based indexing, so we should probably get sql-indexing to give people a place to discuss all that.

    :P

  30. Jeff Atwood says:

    > There should be only one backend for everything. The various sites should be filters for it all. Think of it as one big table and lots of views. Yes really, cooking and programming and dog grooming all in one database. Think of the domains as tags/filters.

    > Instead of making the questioner pick a category for their question, you make them pick which SITE to post their question to

    Actually, the correct term is community. And communities have boundaries, where they rally around things they love, and fight against things they hate. A “site” which covers “everything” rapidly degenerates into noise.

    I would say that Yahoo Answers, answers.com, allexperts.com, wikianswer, askville, answerbag, yedda, and the hundreds of other generic “answer” sites have proven that this is a bad idea.

    > If stackoverflow submits to the need to fork, can it also use the power of upstreaming from a fork? Can the tags be made searchable across all sites?

    This is generally referred to as “Google”..

  31. Diederik van der Boor says:

    How is 89 vs 34 not a majority? That’s 72% saying yes.

    Your observations about the UNIX world are clear, yet I wonder which slice of the community you managed to interview. The core group? The veterans? The loud enthusiasts? Many fanboys polarize.

    Democracy is not always the answer. In this case, I think taking a stand would have been better. Exactly like you did when SO was started.

    Would stackoverflow be the same when developers got to vote about *one site* vs a site per programming language?

  32. Rob Uttley says:

    For what it’s worth, I was someone who voted against the merger, on the Ubuntu site. I must say that the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think this was a mistake.

    I’m a total Ubuntu noob, using it to solve a specific problem ‘at work’ rather than being some kind of hobbyist or enthusiast, and I was concerned that by merging the sites we’d end up with every query being answered with a million ‘why don’t you use blah instead’ or even worse, ‘if you want to do that kind of thing, you’re using the wrong version of Linux, blah-x is much better’ (etc), rather than answers directed at solving the specific problem in it’s specific problem domain.

    But on reflection this isn’t a problem on Stack Overflow (it happens, but not to a huge extent by any means and usualy it’s done in a constructive, supportive way) and I think that with a bit of careful tagging and some restraint and consideration on all sides, it would work just fine for Ubuntu and Unix too.

    So I now believe the sites should be merged, for what it’s worth!

  33. Jeff Atwood says:

    > Democracy is not always the answer. In this case, I think taking a stand would have been better. Exactly like you did when SO was started.

    I would have REALLY preferred it of 50%+ of each site had voted for the merge, to let Democracy work, but since they did a Gore/Bush perfect split nothing was decided. Sadly.

    We MUCH prefer to let the communities vote and decide, but when they cannot reach a decision, it is unfortunately left up to us … and by us I mean the team here at Stack Overflow Internet Services.

    For the record, it was my vote to force merge them — but I am not the only person casting a vote here, and I deferred to the overall sentiment of the SO Inc group, in a mini-democracy. Such as it is.

    (Full disclosure: maybe editorially overriding the community’s indecision would be a bit heavy-handed.. but I’m not afraid to be a dick when I have to, because sometimes, honestly, being a little bit of a dick is what it takes to get things done in this world.)

  34. ADB says:

    This situation looks a lot like an unsolved problem. And it feels a bit like before StackOverflow was introduced: a world in which we know forums were not what we were looking for, but they were all we had.

    I just hope you find the solution to this puzzle so we can I migrate to the next level. I know I don’t have a solution, but there ought to be one! Multiple sites so related to each other are split, lowering the potential number of people to answer them… it feels wrong.

    Maybe a tweet deck for StackOverflow?

  35. MAK says:

    I’m a ubuntu user, but I would’ve preferred a unified Linux site. I would not prefer a unified Unix site though, but I would have been ok with it. After all, tagging means that the questions get answered by the appropriate people, and the community does a pretty good job of filtering out arguments and similar garbage.

    At the end of the day, I imagine a big chunk of activity there would have ended up about Ubuntu anyway.

    The Unix world loves a lot of things. But taking sides is human nature, as you note yourself in this post. Please don’t try to pass this as a pathology of Unix users alone. Unix users are perhaps more passionate about their OS. Heck, since you’ve already started it, I’m going to go as far as saying Unix users are more knowledgeable and aware about the intricacies and little differences than most users of other OSes.

    But I agree, all this is just taking it a bit too far, and besides the point. The SO model makes it possible to have a large enough functional community to include everyone.

  36. Umang says:

    I agree with ADB. I strongly feel we should merge all these (computer related) sites and leave then as SO, SU and SF. Only categories that are clearly outside these sites: e.g Gaming should have their own side.

    I’m going to accept this decision however and participate in both.

  37. Teej says:

    Joel, what Stack Overflow need is a Steve Jobs, not a democracy.

  38. Denny says:

    +1 @Jamie Hale & others. Would love to see a site to access all of the SO network. There’s just a lot of topics with overlap.

  39. Hakon says:

    Why not be able share questions between sites?

  40. gWaldo says:

    Mr. Spolsky, I don’t envy the decision that you had to made, but personally, I found the SO/SF/SU split very satisfying. I enjoyed the fact that each community is very platform-agnostic, each categorized via tags.

    I myself am very platform-agnostic (anyone caring enough can look at my answers to see where I’m heaviest), and enjoy learning from other experts in areas in which I am weak. Unfortunately for me and my wide-ranging skillset, it seems as though it’ll be harder for me to leverage communities effectively.

    I can’t say that I’m happy about the forking, but it is your decision to make. Thank you for these fine communities with their high signal-to-noise ratio.

  41. Paul says:

    I realise it’s completely off-topic but I cannot let Caleb’s misuse (post 10) of “there” in place of “their” stand unchallenged.

    English: it’s an unstructured, confusing and ugly mess but it’s ours and we should protect and treasure it.

  42. Dr. Jochen L. Leidner says:

    Since you reference USENET, I have to state that I simply _loved_ its newsgroups. It had a structure, so for posting a Linux question, I could just go to comp.os.linux, and for a Monty Python joke I could catch up with alt.fan.monty-python. What was wrong with that?

    - USENET posts could be longer than the silly 140 character limit that Twitter imposes.
    - USENET was organized hierarchically as a tree.
    - USENET clients permitted replying to a post by pressing ‘r’, which
    - was much easier that a mouse click preceded by 10 minutes of RSI-inducing scroll wheel action.
    - USENET could use plain text, which is superior for technical problem discussions than HTML, which requires escaping characters commonly found in code and often leads to garbled responses.

    So here’s my heretic idea – why not classify SO messages using a Bayesian classifier according to the USENET taxonomy and cross-post them there?

    Signed,
    The USENET Liberation Front

  43. PointMade says:

    The reason stackoverflow has succeeded where generalized answer sites have failed is not as simple as “people like it more specific”.

    I would express it more as “those who have an interest in what they see want to participate in it and improve it”
    Consider if you had a feed reader that subscribed you to some feeds you were interested in and a whole bunch you weren’t.
    Think also about email, the barrage of stuff that isn’t worth the time it takes to identify and ignore it, which detracts from the overall usefulness.

    This makes it a signal to noise ratio that is different for every person, depending entirely on where their interests begin and end.

    Extrapolating a bit: StackOverflow works because the people who you want to participate are those whose interests extend past language barriers. Those who will take an interest in a site that ignores language boundaries are valuable to programming. It’s a perfect selection.
    On the other hand, those who would rather have a $language$ site, while they would likely participate in it, are likely to be less valuable (likely less experienced overall).

    Now this leads perfectly to the unix/ubuntu split. Who wants the join? Mainly the unix people, whose interests extend beyond the particular Distro/OS. These people, as with lang. agnostic programmers, could be considered more valuable to the community.

    Now comes the argument that although experienced people understand Ubuntu, there are people who use Ubuntu with interests cut off from the more agnostic types. These people aren’t going to grow into agnostic types anymore than an average person grows into an electrician.
    This is a fact, and this is 95% more likely to happen with a Ubuntu user than with any other distro.

    The facts are all in place, now the million dollar question:
    To merge or not to merge?

    Break it down a bit now:

    Will the separate Ubuntu community (presumably people who “don’t want to be electritians”) be able to provide good answers for each other, and so make a good community?

    Will the combined Unix community churn out bash scripts and compilation instructions to this “non-electrician” community to where you lose it?

    I believe the first question’s answer, while unable to be certain, is likely “no”, at least compared to what it would be otherwise. It will depend on people who are “electritians” to have good answers. While I’m sure there are some very knowledgable people who just want to help average users, on the whole it will likely be a second rate community.

    Now if the second question has a yes answer, even if the first has no, it could be said that you may as well separate, because it’s a mediocre community vs losing the people altogether. That makes this question the real key.

    To this second question, I must humbly submit that I believe the answer is also no. I believe that the best answer is the simplest one that works, and while in the forums of times past those were hit and miss, with the system provided in stackoverflow this should change.

    Non-electritians and those who want to help them progress will find that it’s not the people that gave bad/complicated answers, but the horrid forum systems of the past. They will find a combined site to be nothing like what’s been on the internet before.

    Please Jeff, be a dick, do the right thing.

  44. Paul Howells says:

    So what would happen if
    Ubuntu.stackexchange questions were visible to Unix.stackexchange users (signalled or tagged as #ubuntu to maintain context),
    and
    Unix.stackexchange questions remained invisible to Ubuntu.stackexchange users
    ?

    I have no idea, but I’d like to know if it could work.

  45. Roberto Lopez Bujan says:

    Not all users are invested in the tribe, but all users are invested in the answer.

    This is why I still post questions to Google’s search box, because Google infiltrates all sides and will find my answer among Stack Overflow, Superuser, and Server Fault.

    Maybe the solution is to find a way to make the stack exchange search boxes include answers from related stack exchanges with priority or preference provided to the results closest to the user’s cult interests (Ubuntu people or Universalists).

    Then everybody wins, but everyone also gets a front-end that speaks to their tribe.

  46. Peter says:

    Who’ll be the first to post the same question to both groups with: “Apologies for the cross-posting, but …”

  47. سيارات says:

    long live Ubuntu

  48. Caleb Cushing ( xenoterracide ) says:

    @Paul unfortunately I type phonetically, and my web browser does not catch when I type the wrong word. I know the difference, I just don’t always type the right one, and I’m very lazy about rereading what I’ve written before hitting submit. Unfortunately these comments have no edit button.

  49. Caleb Cushing ( xenoterracide ) says:

    @Paul I’ve also been known to type no, when I mean know, and do, when I mean due, etc and vice versa. This phonetic typing may be due to some form of undiagnosed dyslexia or something ( I don’t really know ) given that I’ve caught myself reading thing backwards. If something like that is the case… is it really appropriate for you to point out someone else’s disability?

  50. Caleb Cushing ( xenoterracide ) says:

    I want to say that I’m not sure these polls were started at the right time… Unix SE didn’t have moderators yet, I think even now we are working out what is and is not allowed. I myself have recently reversed my opinion on whether we should define ourselves by “what is also available on other platforms” (e.g. are Firefox questions allowed? ) because so many apps I use on *nix are now cross-platform, or are becoming cross-platform, and apps like Firefox have differences on Unix systems in the way the work, and even in things like menu options (though I don’t know why FF did that).

  51. Daniel says:

    At the end of the day you want a question and answer site that works.

    In my experience with getting answers to ubuntu questions I have had. I have much better success with ubuntu specific forums and websites then I ever have had with generic unix or linux sites.

    The generic unix answers are usually way above my head, are to generic or apply to a different distribution or package manager to the one in ubuntu. And often leave me trying to figure out what package X is called on ubuntu. Or why I can’t find this or thing configuration tool.

    If you want ubuntu users to find good answers to their questions you need a ubuntu specific site. Its not about tribalism, or separatism.

    Its about whether or not you want stackexchange to work for ubuntu users.

    P.S has anyone else noticed that the ubuntu stack exchange is bigger then the unix site. Which either means:
    1. ubuntu is bigger then the rest of unix put together…. unlikely
    2. distro specific sites work better.

  52. grumpy says:

    I understand why we need to separate Cooking discussions from the ones on Programming. However, I simply don’t understand why we need Server Fault, Super User, Ubuntu and Linux/Unix as separate sites. These topics are all very closely related. (I did vote for some of these new sites… but only after the fragmentation had already started.)

  53. nstenz says:

    As an Ubuntu user who’s used several other Linux distros & BSD in the past, I always check the Ubuntu-specific forums for help first. The way to get something done in Ubuntu is frequently considerably different than the way you’d do it elsewhere. I’ve messed things up several times following generic instructions that, while they worked, were impossible for me to reverse and do the “correct” Ubuntu way.
    - I removed the startup service for the network manager instead of just USING the network manager to set a static IP (duh!)
    - I killed off pulseaudio because it’s a piece of garbage, which got me basic sound in applications, but Ubuntu’s volume tray & mixer app need pulse, and the old one isn’t in the repo anymore
    - Some things that work in other distros just plain don’t work in Ubuntu because the devs decided it needed to be simpler (search for ‘ubuntu notify-send ignores timeout parameter’ for a fantastic example- it’s Godwin’s law-invoking)

    You can try to hack apart config files, tar xvf, ./configure, make, … all day, but in the end, on Ubuntu, either you use the packages and config options that are available, or you screw up your system.

    I’m happy to look for things tagged #ubuntu on a general site, but I can never be sure when looking at something not specifically tagged “Ubuntu” that an answer will be acceptable “the Ubuntu way” without trashing my system.

    You can do it either way, but I’m guessing most users are going to look for “Ubuntu” first and fall back to “linux” if they still can’t find help (at least the experienced ones).

  54. nstenz says:

    I also I agree that some sort of cross-linking or cross-posting functionality is desirable. I like the idea of the community RECEIVING the topic also having to vote to OK it.

  55. jalf says:

    From reading the comments here, it’s pretty clear that the Ubuntu community voted as they did not because a merged StackExchange would actually be a problem, but because historically, in a pre-StackExchange world, general Unix/Linux forums were useless for Ubuntu users.

    But that doesn’t mean a merged StackExchange site wouldn’t work.

    Anyway, I’m mostly worried about the precedent this is setting.

    What’s to stop a Java, Python or C++ StackExchange now? When are we going to get a SuperOSXUser site to compete with SuperUser?

    The *nix case was a tricky situation because there was no precedent, and the problem was only made apparent after both sites had been launched, making a merger controversial.

    I think the best solution had been some oversight *before* allowing the sites to go into beta. Someone to stop and think and say “Ok, we’ve got a Linux site here, and a Ubuntu site gathering speed. There is a conflict of interests we need to resolve”. Then either merge them outright, or transform them into separate Linux-Users and Linux-Hackers sites, since that essentially seems to be the distinction the Ubuntu users cared about, or along some other axis that would cover the same ground, but without the overlap.

    The solution didn’t have to be “One *nix site to rule them all”. It could have been similar to StackOverflow vs SuperUser: one site for those who want to mess with Linux, and another for those who just want their computer to work when they turn it on. The latter pretty much seems to be what the “separatists” in the comments above have requested: a way to ask questions about their Ubuntu system (which could be covered by a simple [ubuntu] tag), on a site targeted at *users*, not hackers or programmers.

    The A51 process as it stands is broken. It is a waterfall model, where the sites are only evaluated at the very end, after they’ve been in use for months. And that makes it nearly impossible to change or reject a site once it gets that far. For the A51 concept to work, a more agile approach is needed, where the sites are constantly evaluated and tweaked, not just by their own community, but by someone aware of what’s happening in the *rest* of the StackExchange universe as well. Someone who can push the scope of a site in the direction with the least overlap, and who can take the hard decisions when necessary.

    So-called democracy is just going to give us what we had a couple of years ago: a million useless forums, and no idea where to look for answers to our questions.

    I’d have thought that the founders of StackOverflow, of all people, knew better than to blindly let the community fracture itself.

  56. Legolas says:

    What Hakon said: Allow a question to be also published on multiple sites. (In fact, also allow others to tag it in a way that it also shows up on other sites.)

    Because it’s funny how you make jokes about ‘alt.taxonomy.obsessive.judean.people’s-front.popular’, but really, you have already created comp.unix.general and comp.unix.distributions.ubuntu and comp.programming and comp.sysadministration etc etc…

    So go meta: apply the stackoverflow idea to your grwoing crop of sites. If you don;t, you have just re-invented the problems of usenet…

  57. Alan Bourke says:

    Look, it’s simple. Just propose that the existing Ubuntu and *nix groups are merged into a group called ‘We Hate Windows’ and they’ll flock to it.

  58. Kiru says:

    For my part, I oppose the creation of both unix.SE and ubuntu.SE . 90% of the questions on either belong under a [bash] tag on SO, or under a [unix/ubuntu] tag on SU. The remaining 10% are idiotic popularity contests (neither community is as vicious to these as SO). Note that I’ve got a few hundred rep on both unix and ubuntu, I just think they’re terrible ideas.

    My general thought on any area51 site is always “Does this fit on SO or SU (or even SF)?”

    Good: Coffee, Japanese, Gardening and Landscaping, Homebrewing

    Very Questionable: Webmasters (SF?), User Interface, Web Applications, Software Engineering

    Bad: DotNetNuke, Ubuntu, Unix, Python/Perl/C++/whatever, Webservice APIs

    I’m split on proposals like “vim” or “emacs”. SO, SU and SF users could be expected to be roughly equal in expertise… a cross-site meta-tag is really what is needed here, and I’m not sure if a vim.SX is better or worse than the current situation.

  59. qwerty says:

    You posted the problem and didn’t seem to realize it was a problem.

    Having superuser and serverfault breaks your model of relying on tags. So now you have three sites where most of the users of any one will likely use at least one other.

    So now people have to check in two or three places.

    In other words you broke your own system of tags and are now no different than the message boards arguing about where to put questions.

    Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

    Merge all three sites! Failing that, There is no reason for an Ubuntu SE. Having an Ubuntu SE is like having a Ruby or C++ SE.

    You are really losing focus!!!!

  60. qwerty says:

    “This is generally referred to as “Google”..”

    Using Google to search SO is an excessive in frustration as Google is getting worse by the day.

    I can see keeping cooking and programming separate, but having SO, SU, and SF walled off completely contradicts the stated goals.

  61. Jeff Oresik says:

    Go to SO, click on one of my favorite tags, view, comment, answer and ask questions. Unless someone uses the Ubuntu flag because that is the name of their dog and they have a breeding question, it really wouldn’t interfere. Tags are an easy way to define communtity and not just SO in general.

  62. Chris Hayes says:

    This argument is circular. It keeps going around and around. What if you had ONE site for ALL questions and let EVERYTHING have a meta tag of some sort.

    How much salt should I add to my Southwestern Texas Style chili?

    What version of Microsoft Office Should I use?

    Point being:
    1. someone came to your site
    2. someone had a question they thought the ‘community’ could answer
    3. someone answered it

    Instead of:
    1. Someone came to your site
    2. Someone had a question they thought the ‘community’ could answer
    3. Site police came and seized your question and held your account in probation until the ‘problem’ was resolved

    I can understand the people came together intending to create a site to perform a certain function but the world of people came along and tried to shape it differently. Do we punish the people or do we try to follow the trend and profit by it?

  63. txwikinger says:

    The issue is that in fact there is not only one dimension to this issue. While a lot of the discussion is about how to divide subject matters. The arguments are also often centered on the experts rather than the users, or the target audience to be attracted in the future. However, there is another dimension that needs to be look at. That is to be user focused (i.e. focusing on a particular target audience). This does not make a fork fragmentation or tribalism, but in fact adds another facet that compliments what is already done. Evolution does not follow a path guided by scientific categories

  64. txwikinger says:

    The correct link is Evolution does not follow a path guided by scientific categories

  65. msw says:

    As Caleb Cushing notes (as others did) this was too soon. As Jeff Atwood wrote much about “the community” and the will of the “community” unfortunately, the respective communities have not yet been established and therefore cannot provide useful demographic inference.

    The numbers that follow are approximate based on time of sample etc., but the patterns are not and I’ll give them better treatment elsewhere.

    For the “unix and linux” site, out of a population of 1600 users only 1000 were eligible to vote and of those only 12% did. Similarly, of the “ubuntu” site population of 2200, only 1400 were eligible to vote and only 13% did.

    There is much hand-wringing regarding voter turnout in the US being quite low, but ~10% of registered voters in an off-(presidental)-season would be an embarrassment of meagres.

    Before a community can have a voice, it must – by definition – be a community

  66. Jeff Atwood says:

    @msw I don’t think your figures are correct; the number of registered users with the required 3+ upvotes on their posts is not that high.

    I think you’re using “total registered users” which is not the same thing.

  67. Closure says:

    I guess SA has become a place where people like to waste posts talking about how it should be somewhere else just like every other message board.

    Here is a small example and it will get worse
    http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3689721/how-is-java-inspired-by-lisp/3690499#3690499

  68. Peter says:

    Joel,

    No offense, but you’re not exactly knowledgeable about Unix, Linux, GNU, or any of that set of technologies. Love or separatism has nothing to do with it. You’re turning a technical argument into a political one, and assigning animosity where little or none exists.

    Java, C++, and C# all evolved from C, but you wouldn’t want to lump those together.

    Windows 7 and Windows Mobile came from the same core OS, and indeed, have much the same community. You still wouldn’t want to lump those together.

    Apple’s OSX, and either OS7 or NeXTStep are, equally arguably, the same OS. If either MacOS 7 or NeXT were still around, you still wouldn’t want to lump them together. The community overlap is also quite large.

    Why? Because in most cases they are different enough that answers for one are not the right answer for the other (even if they work). There’s a different right way to do things.

    The same is true for Ubuntu and Unix. I’m a member of both communities. I use Ubuntu on my desktop, and different Unix variants on servers. There is zero animosity between the communities.

    The problem is that Unix and Ubuntu are different technologies. They evolved from the same set of concepts, but that doesn’t mean that the right way to do things in one would be the right way to do things in the other. The differences are often subtle — most Unix things can be done under Ubuntu (but not all — e.g. gvs will steal devices, so they will be inaccessible to the traditional Unix utilities, and the boot process is fairly different, and an increasing number of other things are starting to fork). When things are done, the right way to do them is often different (hitting “eject” on a disk, vs. sync and umount). It just doesn’t make sense to lump them together.

  69. Weidenrinde says:

    As pointed out by others, having multiple points to search for one question is evil.

    There are 3140 questions in SU tagged with “ubuntu”, and 1201 in ubuntu.stackexchange.

    So perhaps the best way would be: Merge ubuntu.stackexchange to SU.

  70. Sergey says:

    On the other hand, the majority of Ubuntu and Unix users, who voted, are for the joined site. 72+89 = 161. 114+34 = 148.

    Then, these numbers are not exactly big numbers. How confident you can be they express the real attitude of the community? How many ubuntu users are there, who didn’t know about this voting? (I didn’t know about it, for instance).

    Deciding to split two sites forever just because there were 40 votes more in favour of a separate Ubuntu site? (If they voted otherwise, the would be no majority against the merge on the Ubuntu site). They could easily have been just a few school kids with several accounts.

    There are thousands of questions related to Unix in general and Ubuntu in particular on the SE sites now. So I assume there are thousands of users involved. Why only 40 of them are enough to decide on the split?

    If I had chance to vote, I’d vote to bring all Ubuntu.SE and Unix.SE back to the Superuser.com. There are too many sites to monitor now.

  71. fogging Hill says:

    Good point!
    There’s a technical side to “issues” about programming languages and operating systems and there’s an emotional side. The technical side is about the physical constraints in the hardwiring of our nervous system, the emotional side is about the contraints in the hardwiring of our animal heritage; whether this is physical/chemical or just misshapen usage patterns or anything else, we don’t know so far, since we don’t know shit about the maths behind the genetical code (I guess the understanding of the maths that drive the genetical code is a requirement for the understanding of the maths that drive intelligence, in the same way, that the understandig of the multiplication table is a requirement for the understanding of category theory, but to be quite honest, I don’t actu ally know, what I’m talking about).
    What we do know so far, is, that a ressource available is an avalilable ressource. I see a great chance to study human behaviour patterns here, with the almost unique property, that the combattants exercising their territory/status/whatever-patterns are by and large highly capable of abstract thinking.
    This is a chance to complete LTU. Unfortunately I have none of the knowlegde required. If anyone has an idea how to bring this issue to the appropriate fora, I guesstimate it’s a wise thing to do it.

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