This question arises in part from my first question (since deleted). I realized while asking this that perhaps it had already been asked at Aviation Stack Exchange. While they do indeed have an "aircraft design" tag, I thought that this site is a better home for my question, as it is less about "why does this aircraft have two propellers" and more about the fundamentals of aircraft design and what aerospace engineers actually do. (As it turns out, the community agreed that it was better suited for Aviation Stack Exchange, and so I removed the post.)

This led me to wonder about our scope, and, as suggested here, we need to definitively determine this. However, I think another pertinent question that goes with this (and is illustrated by my example above). What is on-topic for this site and what should belong on other Stack Exchange sites?

There are two big examples of "grey areas" I can think of.

One example is with regards to Stack Overflow. Software Engineering is certainly something we should consider catering to, but where should we draw the line between what we will answer and what should instead go on Stack Overflow?

The other is with regards to Electrical Engineering Stack Exchange. I don't think the users of that site would be happy if we tried to absorb them. But then should we rout all Electrical Engineering questions to them? Should we define the scope of our site as "including every aspect of engineering except Electrical Engineering?

In short, what is the scope of this site, especially in regards to areas where we might overlap with other Stack Exchange sites?

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    $\begingroup$ Let's not talk about general scope at this point in time. It is much too early for that. The general scope will mature over time. Instead focus on specific elements that you want to ask if they are off-topic or on-topic. $\endgroup$ – psubsee2003 Jan 20 '15 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ @psubsee2003 Talking about specifics before generalities seems rather backwards. I've been a part of a dozen or so private betas and they all began with defining the general scope. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Read Jan 20 '15 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ @MatthewRead I've done a couple myself and we might be miscommunicating on what I mean by general scope. The scope of the site should have been set by the area 51 proposal. It is our job to figure out specifics. I guess what I mean is with such a broad topic like engineering, maybe we should be approaching by saying what is "off-topic", not what is "on-topic" $\endgroup$ – psubsee2003 Jan 20 '15 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ @psubsee2003 Thanks, yes that is clearer. I definitely find it useful to identify the major off-topic areas up front. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Read Jan 20 '15 at 23:40
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    $\begingroup$ Also consider that while there may be overlap (for example, there are questions that are on-topic for both EESE and SO), the communities are completely different. The EE community may answer a question differently from a compsci community. As such, there is no reason why the same question can't be on-topic in two places, since each community has a different dynamic to offer. ENG is going to have its own dynamic too, which will attract its own community. $\endgroup$ – user133 Jan 21 '15 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ One reason that I was glad so see this SE open, was that I was very tired of the way that another SE would vigorously (indignantly) shut down any question that had even a hint of 'engineering' to it. I think it's important to set a different tone, that the purpose here is to help each other rather than excluding topics. Direct someone to EE if you think that they'll get a better answer there or if it's purely an EE matter. Otherwise, why worry? $\endgroup$ – Dan Feb 2 '15 at 19:28


Please read this ↴ and understand that this is a non-issue:

Respect the community – your own, and others’

You cannot reasonably hope to create a site for:

"professionals and students of engineering [except for those in electrical, computer, aeronautics, <this>, <that>, and <the other>]."

It's a gerrymandered scope that is going to be completely unworkable.

Your focus is to design a scope suitable to a world-class "engineering site." Period. But that scope has to be coherent and whole to folks who may not be familiar with the Stack Exchange Network. Don't worry about other sites. You cannot start creating a bunch of asterisks* and exceptions in your site design based on the existence of other sites. That will only create a really bad end-user experience to folks who suddenly find themselves being given the run-around.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes! What I was trying to convey here. Let's not worry about fitting around existing sites. We can co-exist but we can't start saying "this is off-topic here because it is on-topic there". $\endgroup$ – psubsee2003 Jan 21 '15 at 1:58
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    $\begingroup$ So let's say we do become a world-class engineering site, catering to all types including EEs. What is the point of the EE site, then? Are we going to be scavenging their users till they fall apart? You'll have to forgive us for thinking about the network and not purely this site. It's one thing when sites overlap, but they appear to be a perfect subset of this site. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Read Jan 21 '15 at 2:16
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    $\begingroup$ @MatthewRead Not to be too blunt about it, but that's not really something you should be worrying about (here). If, for example, crypto currencies suddenly became the Next Big Thing, we wouldn't give up that (potentially huge) Q&A space because someone created a Bitcoin SE. I know this is largely hypothetical, but we just cannot give exclusive rights to a "territory" of Q&A space based on getting there first. If there's a better solution to how we apportion sites, we'll take a look at it; but we have to do it based on actual data, not hypothetical flailing about what might become of this site. $\endgroup$ – Robert Cartaino Jan 21 '15 at 2:23
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    $\begingroup$ I think careful consideration is warranted. The future is always largely hypothetical, but I don't believe that means planning shouldn't happen. Either this site fails, EE fails, or we both survive and compete. It doesn't seem worth it to invest in this site if we're not even going to think about that. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Read Jan 21 '15 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ This may be worth thinking about if, as we head into the weekend, a majority of questions here would be suitable for EE. This may be worth discussing if, after a week, the bulk of the topicality here is appropriate in existing expert communities. Assuming there aren't more pressing matters, such as a lack of expertise in other engineering disciplines or a broad lack of quality in general. At this point though, we have 30 questions total and a scant 24 answers; it's not feasible to gauge if this is a problem, a symptom of some other problem, or just an artifact of a site a few hours old. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Jan 21 '15 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Matthew Read: the problem is not so much "scavenging users" but duplicating questions. Is any mod here prepared to close questions as already asked on EE.SE (for example)? $\endgroup$ – Fizz Feb 10 '15 at 18:45

But then should we rout all Electrical Engineering questions to them?

Yes. The usefulness of Stack Exchange is degraded if the same question is on-topic on multiple sites. Fragmentation decreases the quality of answers and makes them harder to find.

Questions that are about electrical/electronics engineering should be considered off-topic and should be moved to https://electronics.stackexchange.com/ They will get better answers because they will be viewed by people who are specialized in this field, they will be seen by more people, they will not be duplicates, etc.

DSP.SE has the same issues with Stack Overflow. Questions about programming that are solved by DSP theory ("How do I calculate these filter coefficients?") are on-topic, while questions about DSP implementation that are purely programming issues ("How do I import these filtering libraries?") get moved to Stack Overflow.

Should we define the scope of our site as "including every aspect of engineering except Electrical Engineering?

I would suggest that the central scope of the site be "questions about engineering", in the same sense that programmers.SE is for "questions about programmers", but it could also secondarily be a catch-all site for engineering questions that don't have specialized sites of their own.

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    $\begingroup$ Repeated answers is a big problem that SE isn't planning to solve (hint: more text = more things for google to index = more pageviews = more FFP). If we have 10 questions linked to one answer, updating is easy because we only need to apply the update in one place. Contrast that with 10 repeated questions each having it's own posted answer. Every update will require x10 effort. Practically speaking, in such a situation the update will not be pushed to all 10 posts, leaving us with an answer fragmented into 10 posts none of which is complete. $\endgroup$ – Pacerier May 27 '15 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree 100%. Do not close any EE or AE questions here because of overlap. Ever. There may be times where a sister site has a really specific tag for something, and it would be good to point that out. Just as I have pointed out that ENG has a "traffic intersections" tag to a fellow who asked on ELU what some piece of an intersection was called. But I didn't vote to close the question on ELU. Do not assume they will get better answers on EE, for example. And don't worry about dups. Duplicates are okay. They can coexist forever. $\endgroup$ – Phil Sweet Oct 20 '18 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ @PhilSweet I disagree 100%. There's a site for electrical engineering questions and this is not it. Duplicates are harmful, and all electronics questions on this site should be migrated to the appropriate site. $\endgroup$ – endolith Oct 21 '18 at 1:18
  • $\begingroup$ @endolith I feel that decision should be left entirely to the poster. $\endgroup$ – Phil Sweet Oct 21 '18 at 12:54

I wish you good luck, and I may occasionally participate here when a more specialized SE engineering site doesn't exist, but realize that people don't go to a generic "engineering college", nor is there a generic engineering discipline as such. SO is more or less SE's software engineering site; the focus on Computer Science [CS] is rather poor on SO and there are two CS sites in the SE network: one research/graduate and one undergraduate. The same split happens with mathematics SE sites: there's MO and M.SE. This just to show you the degree of specialization that exists in other areas of the SE network.

I'm rather ignorant of how SE sites get created besides, but if you tried to create a single college of engineering where all of mechanical, electrical and what not engineering would be studied, it wouldn't fly. There are loose academic organizations at some universities called "college of engineering", but nobody gets an actually degree in generic engineering. So I think the focus of this SE site is too broad. But since the mod answering this question is the "Director of Community Development for the Stack Exchange Network"... I suppose this conglomerate Eng.SE has blessing from high above. Alas, when I clicked on his user profile that's not what I had hoped to find out, but rather what engineering fields he specialized in... (and I couldn't find out that).

On practical terms, some scope duplication between sites already exists. But generally, this should be minimized and it actually is so in most areas of SE I've seen. For example Superuser considers off-topic webapp questions, which are redirected to that specific SE site. Likewise EE.SE considers off-topic some Arduino questions, mainly those not involving much electronics knowledge. Instead this Eng.SE site seems to invite a massive degree of overlap with its current mission statement.

And I'm not sure that preempting the creation of other specialized Eng sites (that currently don't exist) e.g. mechanical-engineering.SE or civil-engineering.SE is such a good thing in the long run. Also the declared intent in some answers here to absorb parts of EE.SE doesn't bode well.

EDIT to add: What dcorking wrote below made me reconsider some of my "doom and gloom" in the following way: it seems that there wasn't enough critical mass of participants (in Area 51) to get the mech engineering site going (proposal was deleted twice apparently) and civil engineering one appears in a somewhat similar state (although currently not deleted). On the other hand, judging by SO's success in creating closely related spin-offs (I would put programmers.SE, Superuser, ServerFault, emacs.SE and perhaps even TeX.SE directly in this bin) it's quite possible that a catch-all Eng site may actually have the opposite effect in attracting enough participants so that other more specialized engineering sites get created subsequently.

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    $\begingroup$ People really do go to generalist engineering colleges. The final qualification may be in a particular discipline, but many of the courses and texts are shared (most up to second year undergraduate level). Much postgraduate and professional work is also inter-disciplinary, and new disciplines are defined all the time. However, the real answer is that attempts were made at Area51 to get several engineering SE sites going: this is one that succeeded. $\endgroup$ – dcorking Feb 11 '15 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ @dcorking: The first part of your argument is actually an interesting debate see designnews.com/author.asp?doc_id=255830 for example, but I don't really want to get deeper into it here; I'll say however that one can make the same argument that CS majors take plenty math courses (as required) in the fist one or two years in college, yet that doesn't make them math majors. Regarding the second part of you argument, I've edited my post with as it's more directly applicable to this discussion and I think you're right about being pragmatic about that... $\endgroup$ – Fizz Feb 11 '15 at 13:37

Would downvoters please explain why.
I can't see why this does not positively add to the discussion.
I'd be happy to hear convincing arguments to this effect.

The overlap with SE.EE is damaging to new users and people with minimal understanding of how things work.

I'm an engineer with 50+ years experience. An EE by qualification but necessarily conversant and variably competent in all the things you need to know about to get a good engineering understanding of the world. A very major concern of mine is that newcomers get treated well and do not get shunted around stupidly and/or have their questions closed trivially or have people pretend to not understand questions which are clear enough for anyone who spends the time to look at them. I see this happen all too often already on SE.EE BUT shunting people off into new "diluted" areas of expertsie is not the answer. Treating people decently in the best forum available IS the answer.

I have been looking at the arduino forum recently and now this one. On the Arduino forum people are asking simple EE questions and good answers are being essentially ignored - low level of acceptance and low upvoting rate. this appears to be because people there do not know a good answer when they see one and are not well served by the community in the EE area. [[I have amongst the top few "rep" scores on SE.EE - and that level is set mainly by the "degree to which I choose to 'have a life' elsewhere . - "rep"is of no interest to me per se except that it gives people some idea what to expect in an answer. I do not want "rep" on eg the Arduino site, or here, for its own sake but would like newcomers to have their questions placed in environment where they are well understood, well answered and have a good base of people liable to answer and contribute.

As an example This SE.Arduino question does have Arduino specific comment but is a very basic high side driver question that the Arduino community has ongoing trouble with. they need access to aaanswers but the question largely gets ignored by people. On SE.EE it would be answered in an instant by 10 people BUT it would be kicked out in no time because it contains the dreaeded Arduino word. We need some way to deal with such people and such questions better. Adding another diluting site does not seem liable to help.

On THIS site we have:

Does a transformer use power when output isn't under load? which "should be on SE.EE and
How does a multimeter protect itself from high voltages? - which also should be on SE.EE and has attracted comment on my comment on it and is how I came to see this thread :-).

Can we PLEASE do better by the newcomers than we are managing to do so far.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have a position on whether EE questions are off-topic or not? I don't understand what this has to do with treating newcomers nicely. $\endgroup$ – endolith Feb 9 '15 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ People who can read that and downvote it are liable to be part of the problem that newcomers have. $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Feb 10 '15 at 6:25
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    $\begingroup$ @endolith We get "not wanted here" questions on the one hand and turf wars "let's make a site that overlaps other existing ones and sucks up existing users and beguiles new users. You end up with people either being separated from groups that would best address their questions, AND users who are pushed from pillar to post, have their questions put on hold and are generally abused. New-user friendliness seems an afterthought. $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Feb 10 '15 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand. Do you think ee questions are off topic here or not? $\endgroup$ – endolith Feb 10 '15 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ @endolith Based on this comment I think he is saying they should be migrated away to EE.SE. $\endgroup$ – Air Feb 10 '15 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ @endolith (2). I'd like to see relatively inexperienced users treated optimally so that ideally they can learn and become valuable contributors, but if that is not possible, that they can find somewhere to learn well. (1) I think it would be good if we could painlessly migrate questions to groups where they have most chance of being answered well, while not causing the OP to get 'disconnected from their question. In the case of the examples above I think most have their most proper home in SE.EE. I am not trying to empire build (I can answer questions anywhere :-) ). Alas, SE.EE has a .... $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Feb 11 '15 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ .... tendency to abusively rough handle a significant percentage of beginners. Some see it as their holy duty to discourage those who they (and not list guidelines) deem do not do things "properly". The fix is not to make a nice friendly general place for the mistreated ones to flee to but to fix the mindset and permissiveness that allows the abuse. One can dream :-). I welcome the SE.engineering site - it promises to be useful and fun. $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Feb 11 '15 at 11:21
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    $\begingroup$ Answer votes in meta sites are typically for and against the policy proposed, rather than related to the quality of the answer. $\endgroup$ – dcorking Feb 11 '15 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ Well, my downvote is for regarding some sites as "diluted". They are augmentation. $\endgroup$ – Phil Sweet Oct 20 '18 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ @PhilSweet I have no desire to be rude - please read the following as an attempt to gain mutual understanding: I'd like to suggest that It's not obvious from your comment that you have read both my answer and comments well enough to understand them. The "dilution" is something that occurs in real-life due to how people behave. Please read my comments re what happens on the Arduino site to EE biased questions and on the EE site to questions which mention Arduinos (less so now with the new emphasis on the long existing "be nice" policy). I am not saying that multiple sites SHOULD NOT exist... $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Oct 22 '18 at 12:25
  • $\begingroup$ ... but that when they do, people too often badly handle questions which have some applicability in more than one group. This my observation of "what happens" - not of what should ideally happen. $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Oct 22 '18 at 12:27

EE.SE is more like 'Electronics Engineering', for the majority of cases.

You can quickly see this by looking at the range of topics in their tags. Only 198 'high voltage' questions asked, since inception. That's pretty low.

Electrical Engineering questions that we can probably absorb well:

  • high-amp
  • high-volt
  • power grid topics (e.g. relays)
  • atmospheric energy
  • multi-phase effects (sonomagnetism)
  • plasmas
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm. Maybe they should be considering a re-name if their domain is more correct. Input from the SE folks would be nice here. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Read Jan 21 '15 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ I think you'd get push-back from the people who got their degrees in "electrical engineering", but awesome if they could detangle personal/perception matters if that site nomenclature is more disambiguating. $\endgroup$ – New Alexandria Jan 21 '15 at 1:15
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    $\begingroup$ Electrical engineering (distinct from electronics engineering for the purposes of this question) is very much on-topic on EE.SE. The population of electric power engineers is much smaller than population of small signal electronics engineers. Also, electric power is given less attention in the academia. Ergo fewer questions. $\endgroup$ – Nick Alexeev Jan 21 '15 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ @NewAlexandria Agreed, I don't want to step on their toes at all. It's just a bit tricky as we want to be scoped correctly to avoid hurting either site. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Read Jan 21 '15 at 1:21
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    $\begingroup$ I know what @NickAlexeev is going at, and I'll be curious to see where the questions appear more, over time. It's not a challenge, just curious about where people will naturally migrate. $\endgroup$ – New Alexandria Jan 21 '15 at 1:25
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    $\begingroup$ For a bit of historical context, see What happened to Chiphacker? Chiphacker.com was a privately-owned SE 1.0 site that became the original "Electronics and Robotics" Stack Exchange. After a somewhat contentious debate, it was later relabeled an "Electronic Engineering" site, but without really having an explicit "engineering community" to fold in. That's why the community seems to be "electronics heavy"; it's because that is the community who built that site. Engineering came later. $\endgroup$ – Robert Cartaino Jan 21 '15 at 3:07
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    $\begingroup$ Electrical/Electronics Engineering is a very popular topic, and the continuing success of EE.SE demonstrates that. I think that electrical and electronic questions will continue to get better answers there than here. The main reason we need this site is to provide a home for all of the non-EE questions that currently get dumped into EE.SE simply because it's the only site that has "engineering" in its name. Yes, there's a lot of overlap, since EEs often need to know something about engineering the technologies they're interfacing with, but questions about those topics are off-topic for EE.SE $\endgroup$ – Dave Tweed Jan 21 '15 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ @NewAlexandria Yes, it would be interesting to see question distribution (which is a kind of a traffic pattern). It depends on the population and the questions, but also on how search users and search engines see the site. From their point of view, the URL of the site plays a significant role. Engineering.SE probably elicits a professional or academic image. On the other hand, Electronics.SE often elicits an image of consumer electronics (smart phone, TV remote). In the eyes of an average web user and SO/SE user, there is a semantic disconnect between the URL of EE.SE and it's inner workings. $\endgroup$ – Nick Alexeev Jan 22 '15 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ @NickAlexeev I grok the SEO of it. Maybe EE.SE would get more traffic with HardwareHacking.SE or even ElectronicsEngineering.SE. Makes me wonder if addition subdomains would help, like arduio.electronics.SE being an alias to electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/arduino (which is apparently a bad example, since there is arduino.SE!) $\endgroup$ – New Alexandria Jan 23 '15 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ Not the st two on your list. Tags alone are not enough. A better survey will be needed to get a good feel for the sort of questions that are on SE.EE $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Feb 9 '15 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ A lot of the EE.SE questions are asked by electronics hobbyists. There aren't many hobbyists that have a high-voltage line to play with (people playing [more or less responsibly] with pole pigs in their basement notwithstanding.) $\endgroup$ – Fizz Feb 10 '15 at 18:39

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