The Computer Science Stack Exchange site has launched and is now in public beta (note that this is a different site than TCS). I'm an active user there, and we were wondering about the following:

Programmers.SE currently allows questions about "algorithm and data structure concepts"; in fact, it's the first bullet point on the FAQ. It seems to me that most of these questions would be on-topic for the new Computer Science site. To illustrate this: the majority of the 17 answers I have posted on this site are answers to questions that would be on-topic for the new site.

Should these questions still be on-topic for this site, considering that there is now a good home for them on Computer Science?

Now, this is quite a nontrivial thing, as this would change the scope of this site. As I don't consider myself an active part of Programmers.SE, I will defer to the opinions of this community: I just wanted to bring up the question.

  • There is going to be some overlap. What other questions would be asked here if we didn't have Algorithms? It would cause another clean-up and question counts would drop like crazy... Programmers.SE would lose any kind of activity... and that isn't that much. – Dynamic Apr 6 '12 at 15:43
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    @Jae Power? This isn't about power, it's about questions getting great answers. Most CS users are also P.SE / SO users, it's not an us vs them thing... – yannis Apr 6 '12 at 15:45
  • @YannisRizos: Wrong word. More like activity. – Dynamic Apr 6 '12 at 15:47
  • @Jae: I could be wrong, but I think the vast majority of the question on Programmers would be off-topic for CS. I skim the questions on Programmers every day, looking for algorithmic questions, as I like answering those questions, and there are not that many that get asked. Note that I'm talking about purely algorithmic questions, which I think is narrower than how you seem interpret the set of questions I'm talking about. – Alex ten Brink Apr 6 '12 at 15:59
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    @AlextenBrink I think the vast majority of the question on Programmers would be off-topic for CS I got news for you, the vast majority of questions on Programmers are offtopic for Programmers too. ;) – maple_shaft Apr 6 '12 at 21:45

I don't see why the existence of a site would change what's on-topic on another. Programmers and CS have different audiences, even though their topics overlap.

On overlapping topics, if you wonder what site to pick, ask yourself who you want an answer from. Do you want to reach the guy in the trenches, used to doing whatever it takes to meet the deadline and hopes that he'll be sufficiently anonymous when his code ends up on the Daily WTF? Ask on Programmers. Do you want to reach the guy who invented the stuff and will launch into a three-page explanation full of math? Ask on Computer Science.

You could see it this way:

  • If you expect the question or the answers to contain code, ask on Stack Overflow.
  • If you expect the question or the answers to contain math, ask on CS.
  • If you expect only text, lean towards Programmers.

I do, in fact, think that a majority of algorithm and data structure questions would get better answers on CS. So if you see someone who doesn't seem to have heard of the CS site, please refer him to it. But if someone chooses to ask on Programmers, and the question is on-topic here, so be it.

It's up to the Programmers community to decide on the scope of Programmers. While I would support redirecting algorithm questions to CS, I do not consider myself a member of the Programmers community and will not presume to decide what's on-topic here.

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    On the topic of overlap, lets keep in mind that questions about Agile project management are ontopic for Programmers or on PM. Overlap isn't a new precedent. – maple_shaft Apr 6 '12 at 21:49
  • As a side note, this is a good reason for the site name to reflect the target audience in our case, rather than the topic... – Ben Brocka Apr 7 '12 at 20:53

I'm very excited that Computer Science Stack Exchange reached public beta, but it's too early for such a discussion. I hope Computer Science will graduate to a full site , but there isn't any way to know that for sure.

So, as far as Programmers is concerned, this is a non issue until Computer Science graduates. When that happens we can evaluate algorithm and data structure questions on both sites and if there's significant overlap we can discuss what's the better home for them. It won't be surprising if both sites are equally good for those questions, which will create a minor overlap issue, but let's deal with that when the time comes.

Congrats and welcome to Stack Exchange!

  • Thank you for the welcome :) – Alex ten Brink Apr 6 '12 at 16:02
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    Wouldn't it be weird that the position of a SE site within the network changes significantly when it graduates from beta? Furthermore, the reason I bring up the question is that there is significant overlap already, as algorithms and data structures are fairly central to CS - why would the overlap suddenly start existing when CS graduates from beta, but not exist before then? – Alex ten Brink Apr 6 '12 at 16:07
  • @AlextenBrink The overlap may very well exist from the first day of private beta, but my point is that there isn't much to discuss if CS doesn't survive public beta, there are no guarantees it will. Worth noting that we have significant overlap with SO and DBA, and that isn't really a problem for us or them, as the point is for questions to get great answers. If they do in both sites, so be it ;) But your question was about changing the scope of Programmers, and I was answering to that, it's a non issue until CS graduates. – yannis Apr 6 '12 at 16:11

I agree with Yannis on this one. Until CS Stack Exchange actually graduates from beta into a launched site, we shouldn't exclude these questions from what is on-topic here. Once CS launches as a full site and gets out of beta, we can work things out in more detail, I would suggest including one of the Stack Exchange staff members, the moderators of Programmers, and the moderators of Computer Science.

However, if someone posts an algorithm or data structures question, we might want to consider letting them know that their question is on-topic here, but that there is another group of experts out there that might also be able to provide a unique answer. We shouldn't encourage cross-posting of identical questions on two sites as our expertise varies. I see Programmers addressing more system-level concerns, while Computer Science focuses on more specific details (at least, as far as data structures and algorithms go).

Personally, I feel that the relationship between the two sites is going to be very much like the relationship between software engineering and computer science. They are two sides of the same coin.

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