Engineering On Stack Exchange
It’s here! We finally have an Engineering Stack Exchange!
Give it a few months, and engineering will have a brilliant new resource to help make us all better, multidisciplinary, professionals.
It feels a bit like I’ve been talking about this forever– so it is fantastic to see a community finally form and begin to create something. But now we’ve got it, we have to use it- and prove that engineering is just as, if not more, important than coffee, home brewing and emacs, so that those masters of Stack Exchange will promote us from beta to fully fledged members…
What is it?
The Engineering Stack Exchange is a question and answer website devoted to that wonderful and diverse field that is engineering. It is built on the simple, but powerful, and well proven Stack Exchange platform, which promotes good quality questions and answers through a comprehensive reputation system (by adding a touch of gamification; making the whole process a rewarding, if not addicting, one).
Why Not X
It’s a sorry thing, but when promoting an idea- there’s often a feeling that the success of one thing must come at the expense of another. The three biggest engineering communities out there, that I know of, are the Eng-Tips forums, twitter and reddit; and I’d say that a Stack Exchange of our very own should squeeze in without too much displacement.
When you find a question in Stack Exchange, you find the answer clearly marked- and the community that develops exists solely to provide solutions to problems.
Forums are a place for discussion; responses are displayed chronologically, and, with exception of a touch of moderation, there is no real review of submissions. This is fantastic for emulating conversation, asking opinions and talking through recommendations, but its not great for forming coherent collections of knowledge. The format doesn’t lend itself to clearly pairing questions and accepted answers, or easily measuring the authority of contributors.
Reddit and twitter are aggregators; ways of sharing and discussing content. And they’re great for that; I’ve lost count of the amount of interesting stuff I’ve stumbled upon from both sources. While they do provide a rudimentary way of measuring contributions, they are terrible for persistence; with reddit posts being lost after six months and twitter only just making it on a Google search.
Conversely, Stack Exchange actively discourages discussions and calls for subjective recommendations; instead it requires that everything is either a question or an answer (or a comment when either is in need of suggestions and corrections). This means that when you find a question in Stack Exchange, you find the answer clearly marked- and the community that develops exists solely to provide solutions to problems.
What Do I Have To Do?
In a sentence: Join, ask and answer questions.
However the most important thing is to keep heart and try and get as involved as you can- our presence on Stack Exchange is still in its infancy, and there will be some teething troubles. If you want to do more, you can start curating as an editor or moderator; or get involved with the meta site and help shape how the our exchange develops.
So give it a few months, and engineering will have a brilliant new resource to help make us all better, multidisciplinary, professionals.