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One of the choices made in the design of stackoverflow was to unite all programming languages in one Q&A site. The reasons, as I understood them, were the following:

  • programmers often have knowledge of a variety of languages
  • some questions and answers are independent of language
  • a good answer for one language may well be applicable to another language

There is a parallel to this in the domain of what I call "machinery maintenance and repair":

  • mechanics often have knowledge of a variety of machinery
  • some mechanical questions and answers are independent of type of machinery
  • a good answer for one machine may well be applicable to another machine

It seems to me that for the same reasons stackoverflow is language neutral, this site would benefit from being machinery-neutral.

Consider this list of machinery:

  • machine tools (lathes, drill presses, milling machines, etc)
  • mechanics tools (hydraulic presses and jacks, pneumatic impact wrenches, air compressors, etc)
  • small engines (pumps, lawnmowers, weedeaters, leafblowers, generators, etc)
  • small vehicles (motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles, jet skis, etc)
  • "motor vehicles" (cars, trucks, buses, RVs, truck tractors and trailers, etc)
  • boats and ships (propulsion drivetrain, winches, generators, etc)
  • heavy equipment (bulldozers, excavators, scrapers, graders, combines, harvesters, snow groomers etc)
  • aircraft (helicopters, propeller-driven planes, jet-driven planes)

Here are a few points about this list that I think are noteworthy:

  1. All of the machinery in the list is commonly repaired and maintained.
  2. A very large proportion of fundamental parts is common amongst the machinery in the list. (e.g. nuts, bolts, bearings, shafts, splines, fluid reservoirs, hoses, valves, switches, connectors etc)
  3. A large proportion of systems is common amongst the machinery in the list. (e.g. liquid cooling, internal combustion engines, transmissions, brakes, clutches, hydraulics, exhaust, air conditioning, electrical, turbochargers, windshield wipers, etc)
  4. A large proportion of repair and maintenance principles is common across the machinery in the list. (e.g. good lubrication, keep fluid systems clean, strategies to fight corrosion, troubleshooting vibration, etc)
  5. A single mechanic often has experience maintaining and repairing a variety of machinery.
  6. A mechanic of one piece of machinery has a great deal in common with a mechanic of any other machinery in the list.

Given the above 6 points, restricting this site to "motor vehicles" seems rather arbitrary. It seems analogous to restricting stackoverflow to "Java".

So, my questions are as follows:

A. Am I missing a fundamental principle that makes it good for programmers of different languages to have a common site (i.e. stackoverflow) but bad for mechanics of different machinery to have a common site (i.e. mechanics.se)?

B. Should this site be broadened to "Mechanical Maintenance and Repair" which would encompass all of the machinery in the above list? If not, why not?

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11

I say NO.

  1. A counter-example to the absorption proposed above: https://askubuntu.com/ and https://unix.stackexchange.com/ These sites are overlapping to the casual viewer. To the dedicated enthusiast, they are dramatically different.

  2. This is the key point in my mind: Broadening the scope of this site does not add immediate value. For example, check the discussions on the martial arts site that ensued after the firearms site closed. The martial arts folks concluded that, yes, there technically are some areas of overlap in the interest areas. However, they are very specific and of nearly zero interest to most of their current community at the time. As such, they decided to migrate a few select questions and let the rest of the topic die.

  3. The customers of this site are a distinct set with sometimes time-critical problems. If they drop their question into a stream of questions and discussions about helicopter parts, they're going to be disappointed at best.

Let's be clear: I think helos are super cool. There are quite a few on the pad right now and the maintenance crews clearly have a lot to do. I'd be very interested in something like uh60.stackexchange.com, though I don't think I'd add a lot of short term value. Mushing that into car maintenace is too big a stretch.

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  • Thanks for your reply. WRT (3), i'd say that broadening the interested, skilled audience is more likely to yield good answers fast. In the same way that my naive question about docbook yielded a very good, timely answer from an XML expert, I would expect that questions about say, cleaning fuel injectors, would be expertly answered by a heavy duty mechanic, engine rebuilder, etc. Questions on stackoverflow don't really get lost. The tagging system works good. – alx9r Jan 26 '13 at 18:15
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    WRT (1): For the record, unix.se.com users voted to merge as did a plain old majority of the two sites together (vote results). Jeff thought they should be merged despite the vote. – alx9r Jan 31 '13 at 6:20
  • Also WRT (1): The askubuntu/unix merge is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Here we are talking about broadening scope to encompass a larger community not currently served by SE at all. In that case there were two separate area 51 proposals that succeeded at the same time. – alx9r Jan 31 '13 at 6:27
  • @alx9r, if you're concerned about a community that is currently not served by StackExchange, I suggest that you make a proposal at area51.stackexchange.com. – Bob Cross Jan 31 '13 at 13:14
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My immediate thought is that many (if not most) of the casual visitors we have here are soley interested in fixing their car. Therefore, they're likely to overlook a 'machinery' site as they wouldn't expect it to give useful car-fixing information. IMHO The words "Motor Vehicle" in the title are key to bringing in new visitors.

That isn't to say questions about any other sorts of machinery are off topic or unwanted, we've had a few, and they usually get enthusiastic answers, but I don't think we should shift the primary focus.

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  • The FAQ restricts the scope to Motor Vehicles and implies that if it's not about a car, truck, or motorcycle, it is off topic. Do you have an example of non-motor vehicle questions that were not closed as off-topic? – alx9r Jan 31 '13 at 5:55
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    There are a couple on marine engines, e.g. mechanics.stackexchange.com/questions/759/…. There are also some on small engines, such as mechanics.stackexchange.com/questions/930/… – Nick C Jan 31 '13 at 11:42
  • Nick's point is a good one: this site is still in beta. It is perfectly reasonable to ask a borderline question and see how the community reacts. Funnily enough, some of the deleted answers to those questions underline why we want to keep the focus more rather than less tight: they get spammy fast when the topic is too broad. – Bob Cross Jan 31 '13 at 13:21
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I disagree. Not everything mechanical, nor motor should be part of the Vehicle Stack.

Small regular Internal Combustion Engines(ICE) could be included, I'm thinking lawnmower and tractor in scope, these could be managed here and don't function much different than the motors in vehicles. Might have to add some tags for them.

For two of your examples there already is a proper location that isn't here.

  • aircraft (helicopters, propeller-driven planes, jet-driven planes) 1]Aviation Stack

  • boats and ships (watercraft in general) is already covered in the Outdoors Stack. If you are talking massive cruiseliners -- these people wont be asking questions on stack, they have direct access to manufacturer's reps.

Devices which are primarily Electric and not vehicles should not be included. they are a completely different animal, and may be better addressed elsewhere, maybe electronics?

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  • Disagree with your statement about the outdoors stack. Almost all questions there concern people or wind powered travel. While there are occasional questions re: motors they are about the applicability, not about their care and feeding. – Sherwood Botsford Feb 19 '19 at 22:34

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