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I keep running across a ton of questions that have been closed as being not within the scope of the site, and it seems like the usefulness of this site is really being hindered by its limited scope and, to some extent, the mods themselves (no disrespect intended). Here are some problems I've noticed just in the past day or two:

  1. The FAQ explains that the scope is effectively just a tech support site for people having problems with their phones, which by definition means the information will become less useful and will go stale as new phones, apps, and OS versions are released.
  2. Questions that have broadly useful information are closed so the information ends up going stale and, in some cases, becomes incorrect over time and cannot be corrected by anyone.
  3. New questions asking for updated information that is not included in the stale answers are marked as duplicates of the old answers with little (or, in the case of a closed question, zero) hope of getting a correct answer.
  4. In the most extreme case, I even found a community wiki answer that the mods changed to an individual answer after closing the question as "not constructive" despite being something that any true "Android Enthusiast" would actually want to know. So now nobody can edit the answer, nobody can add an updated answer, and nobody can ask the same question without getting it closed as a duplicate. Example: Which hardware sensors are supported by Android?, 507 views in 9 months

In More Discussion on the Scope of Android.SE, it is mentioned that the site is not for programming questions, but sometimes there are lower-level or more technical questions which are useful to programmers but not at all suitable for Stack Overflow or any other SE site. To me, this is the type of information an enthusiast would want. Why wouldn't one want these to be included on the "Android Enthusiasts" site? It seems misleading for android.stackexchange.com to be so limited in its scope.

Or, to put it another way...

In any other discipline (automotive, electronics, underwater basket weaving, etc.), an "enthusiast" is defined as someone who mods, tinkers with, completely understands the internals and mechanics of the subject matter, and who pushes the machinery and materials to their limits and beyond--in fewer words, an expert in the field. But it seems like Android Enthusiasts is much more watered-down, to the point that its only target demographic is Jane or Joe User who is having a problem with his or her phone, and the site perhaps would be more aptly named Android Owners or Android Tech Support. Although I certainly can appreciate the need for that type of content, it seems like the current scope as outlined in the FAQ and enforced by the mods unnecessarily creates a need for yet another Android site that specifically caters to enthusiasts as the term is applied to other disciplines. I would think you'd want as many of these people as possible to use and promote the site, but instead you're basically telling the most excited Android experts and evangelists to go back to xda-developers and other forum-based sites which are very poorly-suited for Q&A-style discussions.

The Question

Most other Stack Exchange sites aim to be the singular canonical reference on their domain, crushing most other sites that previously were the better-known resources. But it seems Android Enthusiasts considers everything but specific technical support questions to be off-topic (except in a few cases, where questions normally considered inappropriate for the site are allowed simply because people would otherwise keep re-asking those same questions hundreds of times). Why is the scope of Android Enthusiasts so severely limited? Is it simply because there aren't enough mods, or is it something deeper?

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    Closed questions (and answers on closed questions) can be edited, and anyone on the site can suggest an edit, so you may wish to revisit many of the points you're presenting here (i.e. #2 and #4 are seem incorrect, you could edit an old answer or leave a comment if it needed to be updated). – eldarerathis Jun 14 '13 at 0:05
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    @eldarerathis my general observation on most stack exchange sites is that people don't edit other people's closed questions or their answers because there's not really any incentive to do so. There is a very contrived method by which you can hope to add an answer, but it's inconvenient and non-obvious. It is also NOT true that anyone can suggest an edit, at least via the "edit" function--for example, the button is disabled for me on questions and answers that I did not write. In any case, thanks for the very thoughtful answer you posted below. – rob Jun 14 '13 at 2:26
  • You should be able to suggest an edit to any question or answer provided that the post is not locked (a different status than closed). That's the way it's documented on MSO at least, so I'm unsure why you would be seeing that behavior. – eldarerathis Jun 14 '13 at 3:05
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I'm not sure that there's an authoritative way to answer this aside from "because that's how it was originally defined" back when it was proposed on Area 51. The SE 2.0 sites operate with a pretty good amount of autonomy, so the process was:

  1. A user on Area 51 wrote a site proposal and definition
  2. Other users committed to that proposal to help launch the site
  3. The current users maintain the site

I haven't really seen the scope change much since the original definition, really, at least not in any particularly significant ways. If you want to trace down the "why" of the current scope, then you'd have to go back to the start, I suppose.

Beyond that, I think your concerns might benefit a bit from some concrete examples of things that you think are currently considered unsuitable for this site, but should be. While a large portion of the scope is tech support type things (i.e. "using your Android device"), we also do handle more technical things that I would consider "enthusiast" questions and not layman concerns. Some selections to serve as illustrative examples:

All of these generally involve things I would consider tweaking or modding outside the normal bounds of the device (and outside the purview of Joe Android Owner). These are perfectly valid questions for our site, and there are others in the same vein as well.

It is true that we generally avoid broad questions, but that's as much a product of the framework we operate in as it is a product of the site's specifically defined scope. Stack Exchange sites are great for getting a definitive answer to a concrete question. They are very poor for aggregating large quantities of information, shopping for suggestions, or other opinionated/discussion-y type queries. Every site in the network balks to some degree at questions that are too broad; each site has some flexibility to decide where they want to draw the line, but most have settled on fairly narrow interpretations because it's what the communities (by and large) feel works best. It just isn't what we strive to be.

We aren't everything for everybody, but then, that's not what we're trying to be anyway, and it's not what the Stack Exchange model was predicated on. Would "Android Owners" or "Android Users" be more appropriate names for the site? Maybe. I don't know, really, because we do cover topics that I would say are only relevant to enthusiasts. Then again, maybe you and I have different ideas about what makes someone an "enthusiast", and maybe someone else has yet a third opinion. None of this is particularly cut-and-dry.

Maybe there's room for us to widen our scope a bit. Maybe there isn't. Either way, it's not something that will happen overnight. We'll have to hash it out here on Meta and see where the chips fall, because it's a dialogue that would have to include everyone involved on the site. However, even if we stick to the current scope, I think we're still serving a good niche. There really isn't anywhere else on the internet where you can imply ask a "How do I do X with my Android device?" question and get a direct, no-nonsense answer. XDA and other forums are great resources - don't get me wrong - but there is just much more noise in forum environments, whereas we can keep the signal very high. It's not always a perfect system, but in my opinion, it works better than a lot of alternatives.

  • Thanks for the thorough and thoughtful answer. The examples you gave are more technically-oriented than the other questions I've seen, but it does still seem like there's a lot of room for expanding the scope. I've found it difficult to find information on XDA and other forum-based sites because there are several threads about the same thing and as you mentioned there's a lot of noise to sort through in the threads. – rob Jun 14 '13 at 2:38

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