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I recently participated in the Embedded Systems private beta. It will be closing down next Friday, because there was not enough activity. In the meta post on the closing of the site, Andrew, a Robotics pro-temp moderator suggested that four beta sites are merged together to create one viable Embedded Systems site:

I collected some statistics from Area 51 for each beta (as of Aug 8, 2015):

Site      | Q : day | Answered | Users (200+ / 2K+ / 3K+) | A : Q | Visits / day
----------+---------+----------+--------------------------+-------+--------------
Arduino   |   9.5   |   72%    |      150 / 13 / 6        |  1.9  |     5106
Rasp. Pi  |  11.9   |   82%    |      438 / 24 / 17       |  1.8  |    21548
Robotics  |   2.3   |   88%    |       125 / 9 / 3        |  1.8  |     1516
Emb. Sys. |   7.7   |   85%    |        24 / 0 / 0        |  1.6  |      80

Some numbers may be lower than normally due to summer holidays in the northern hemisphere.

Currently, Raspberry Pi seems to be the most viable, followed by Arduino. However, I think every site could be helped by a merge, because they have actually a lot in common.

  • A search for "Arduino" on Raspberry Pi.SE yields 215 questions (2.6%), of which only 11 closed
  • A search for "Raspberry Pi" on Arduino.SE yields 71 questions (1.9%), of which only 3 closed
  • Robotics.SE most used tag is Arduino (208 Q). It also has a Raspberry-Pi tag (57 Q)
  • Raspberry Pi.SE has an Arduino tag (100 Q)
  • Arduino.SE has a robotics tag (35 Q)

To illustrate the great overlap between these sites: I myself am a hobbyist and a computing science student. I own a Raspberry Pi and some other embedded systems like Particle's Photon. I also own I have worked with LEGO robots and Arduino. I have several modules that can be used with an Arduino which I use with PIC microcontrollers. I am currently working on a PIC32-based standalone text editor.

I do not think we would have many issues defining a scope which is distinguished enough from Electronics, Programmers or Stack Overflow. After all, your site and the others have been doing that already for quite some time. Think of the suggested merge as the least common multiple of the four sites.

I have looked through the questions on all four sites and have the impression that questions on many of these sites are of interest also to users on other sites. I'm most sceptical about Robotics.SE. Anyway, this overlap is what makes me think Andrew's suggestion might be a good idea. But what do I know? I'm not active on any of these sites!

So, what do you think? Would your community benefit of a merge with (some of) these sites?

Disclaimer: I do not know what SE, Inc. thinks about this. Polling the communities seemed a good idea to me.

I opened the same question on Arduino Meta and Robotics Meta.

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    Despite the negativity in my answer, I'm glad you asked this -- thank you. You should also ask on Embedded at some point, maybe in a day or two so that people who still have their hopes up there are not too offended. They may in the end appreciate the effort. – goldilocks Aug 8 '15 at 11:59
  • @goldilocks I thank you for your answer. I won't discuss too much, because this is not my community. I had hoped for some more discussion, also on the other metas, but that may still come. I should have posted it on meta.embedded as well indeed, but now it's late (I forgot about it), and the original idea has been mentioned in an answer there already - sorry anyway. I'll leave this here for some time and then see what we can do to bring the interested communities (if any) together. – user32161 Aug 10 '15 at 13:48
  • Wait, this got upvotes? Possible duplicate of meta.raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/370/… – MDMoore313 Aug 10 '15 at 17:22
  • @BigHomie that was an idea to merge with a different, older proposal. Arduino is only briefly mentioned and Robotics not at all. – user32161 Aug 10 '15 at 17:23
  • @CamilStaps no I know, it technically is the same site, but I was just surprised your suggestion was welcome with such opened arms and mine wasn't :) – MDMoore313 Aug 10 '15 at 17:24
  • And there is also the glaring red flag that if RPi did merge that questions about user space apps are off topic at Embedded.SE which would cause RPi fragmentation, since most RPi questions are either about OS or user space apps, which is okay, it's just a point that should be noted. – MDMoore313 Aug 10 '15 at 17:25
  • I believe, especially StackOverflow as a platform for multiple programming languages is the best example how different scopes can coexist in the same platform. And nothing is more flexible for new devices on the marked than a platform which is by definition for all of them. And for those who case about numbers: you should also search for open and closed raspberry/banana/arduino/lego/etc. questions on unix.stackexchange.com, hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com and serverfault.com – Daniel Alder Dec 8 '15 at 21:07
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Steve (our other active mod, no offence to Jivings) and I were discussing this yesterday because of the failure of the Embedded proposal, and you've actually beat me to the punch on putting up a question about expanding our scope. Not exactly this question, however. I mention this because I may still put that up later this weekend, and I don't want you to feel it was in reaction to this one.

After thinking about the proposal for the monster merge (Arduino, Robotics, us, & Embedded), I am not convinced it is a good idea, although I am not vehemently against it either. I have some pros and cons, but more cons...

Pros:

  • Larger community means more eyes and more expertise. Although this might be mitigated by more work for them to do, I think if that were in proportion to the number of eyes, it would still be more efficient (because individual specializations will come more into play with scale).

  • Many of our current members are doing robotics and embedded work and/or use the Arduino, so may appreciate the more generalized community.

Cons:

I'm being slightly pessimistic here because I think if a combined site were to work it could be great, but if it didn't we'd have taken something that is decent, and has been stable for a long time, and trashed it. Possibly three things, in fact.

  • A very high percentage of our questions are from people who are new to the pi and Stack Exchange. Because of our focus, we are a reasonably welcoming place for hobbyists, students, and "newbies" of all stripes. This is not to say we don't still expect a certain minimum effort from people, of course, or that we don't field questions from professionals and commercial/industrial users. Changing our name, however, and watering the stream down with more-or-less unrelated questions, may intimidate and confuse some people; a lot of the questions we get on a daily basis may not get asked, meaning the people who would have asked them perhaps could not find anywhere to ask. That would failing the community that is supposed to be our raison d'etre.

    In this regard, it is worth contrasting our "Visits / day" stats (from the question) with the other sites; we have more than 3 times the volume of Robotics, Arduino, and Embedded put together. Of course, Embedded did not really get a fair test, but both Arduino and Robotics have been around for more than a year; Robotics has been around almost as long as us. Somebody is reading all this stuff (even if they don't/can't vote on it enough...), whereas the audience for Robotics and Arduino appears much, much smaller. We may end up driving many of those people away.

  • We have 3+ years worth of questions, ~8200 currently, meaning unless some significant pruning were done, more than half the questions on the new site would be from here. Since many of those were written on the presumption that they were being read on "Raspberry Pi Beta", they may appear very confusing on a much more general site. This can be mitigated a bit by adding a "raspberry pi" tag to all of them, but not much.

  • A decent proportion of our questions are not really embedded development questions; they are at best questions about using a particular embedded system from a consumer perspective. I'm thinking especially of Kodi oriented things, which are appropriate enough here but would be pretty out of place on "Embedded.SE". Those people could be shoe-ed over to U&L, but I don't think anyone would benefit.

  • It's fairly clear in the Embedded private beta that many of the people most excited about it were hoping for a site that would attract embedded developers (read: experts and professionals) from Stack Overflow to create a site where the quality is higher. This is an enviable but very lofty goal, and if it fails, I fear those people (perhaps correctly) may blame the merge. Since there will now be the Embedded mega-site (whose questions are 2/3rds about the Raspberry Pi or Arduino, presuming we both continue to generate ~10 questions a day, and Embedded + Robotics can generate 10 more), their chances of ever accomplishing that goal will be pretty much quashed.


I do not think we would have many issues defining a scope which is distinguished enough from Electronics, Programmers or Stack Overflow. After all, your site and the others have been doing that already for quite some time. Think of the suggested merge as the least common multiple of the four sites.

Something very interesting to me from the closure announcement on Embedded is this:

Looking at recent technology betas the most successful sites focus on well-defined communities such as elementary OS, CiviCRM, Vi and Vim, and Emacs users and developers.

Those are some pretty obscure topics. Although it could be that there are more vim users around than people with an interest in embedded development, you'd still think the latter a much more viable topic for an entire Q&A site. So what's the deal here?

Notice the first thing on that list is for Elementary OS, a "Linux distribution based on Ubuntu". But there's already a full fledged Unix & Linux and Ask Ubuntu! How is this necessary or feasible?

I think it has to do with the specificity. I had not thought about it before, but it helps to explain why we have remained stable;1 people use this site because they are Raspberry Pi users. It is, as you say, what distinguishes us. I do think we could open our scope up somewhat to include some similar hardware (that's another question...) but going with the "lowest common multiple" may in fact result in something which pleases no one, unfortunately.

Put another way, there's an element of psychology/user perspective at play. It seems to me this was no small part of the original impetus for the Embedded site: Some people felt they were getting a short stick on S.O., U&L, etc., and wanted their own place separate from that. It is easy to say all these things fit together conceptually and I agree, but my experience as moderator tells me that many people, particularly if they are new to the whole SE system and milieu, won't be comfortable, making it harder (not easier) to attract users with a broader scope.

1. Full disclosure: I was not part of creating this site and joined when it was already a year old. If I had noticed it in Area 51, I would have gone, "Nah, that's silly -- too specific. Now a general Embedded site, that would be a good idea...". Occasionally I'm completely wrong.


I'm most sceptical about Robotics.SE.

I think the best idea actually is a "Robotics and Embedded"; it seems to me these two topics fit very well together. After all, a robot is an embedded system. Stats wise, the problem on Robotics is just low volume; they have a noticeably better "asked and answered" ratio than us or Arduino.

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    I whoieheartedly agree – Steve Robillard Aug 8 '15 at 19:23
  • I believe that this question should be revisited and should also look to include being able to ask questions about the NextThing Corp. CHIP devices. They are very similar to the Raspberry Pi in that they run Debian. They are also different in that they are more like an embedded device by using MTD (Memory Technology Device - Flash), UBI (Unsorted block images) and UBIFS (UBI File system). – HeatfanJohn Jan 24 '17 at 15:35
  • @HeatfanJohn The opportunity for the merge is gone (and I believe was also rejected by one or both of Arduino and Robotics; Arduino.SE certainly has nothing to gain and much to loose). However, the general question of broadening our scope could be revisited -- but I recommend waiting until after the moderator election, so it can be done under "the new administration", so to speak. – goldilocks Jan 24 '17 at 15:39
  • Here are the parallel questions on Arduino.SE and Robotics.SE. On Arduino the outcome was ambiguous (2 answers against with 5 upvotes total, 1 for with 5 upvotes) but again I think they'd be crazy to want this (just my opinion). On Robotics everyone was against it. – goldilocks Jan 24 '17 at 15:43
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This is a copy of my answer to Camil Staps' copy of this question over on Robotics


Although I am open to the idea, my current preference is against a mega-merge of Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Embedded and Robotics.

As I said in my answer to Embedded Systems StackExchange (suggesting merging Embedded and Robotics):

Having had a look at the questions on the site and only been able to identify one, I don't think that any kind of merge would be appropriate, but we should certainly suggest (using that answer) that any questions which are on topic here be migrated here.

I think that part of the problem here is that people seem to think that there is something wrong with a site which is asking good questions, getting good answers and accumulating page views and users, but hasn't yet graduated.

In fact, there is nothing wrong with this situation, and Stack Exchange have finally woken up to the idea that some small, niche sites will never reach graduation criteria, but equally will never disappear, and that we need to handle this state of 'perpetual beta' more gracefully.

See Graduation, site closure, and a clearer outlook on the health of SE sites and Should we rename or remove the "beta" label?

As I mentioned in a comment on Andrew's answer to Closing this [Embedded] site on Friday, August 14

The problem is that merging four sites with four scopes and four communities risks destroying all four. In particular, a clash of cultures and alienation of existing users is a big risk. Ultimately any stack exchange site needs to stand on it's own and now that permanent beta is the rule rather than the exception, we have to accept that small workable vertical sites may well be better than broader based, artificial amalgams. In essence, a strong & growing community, even if it is small, is preferable to a weak diminishing one.

In the long term, I hope that perpetual beta sites will start to get some of the benefits of graduated sites, even if it isn't worth Stack Exchange spending time and development resources on a custom site design.

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