Saturday, March 23, 2013

What is Arduino.SE ?

The Arduino site proposal is now close to reaching the second stage of the site creation process on Area 51. When I had first seen the proposal, it had three followers, and I became the fourth. It has now grown to 160+ followers and over 60 example questions over the course of two months at a steady rate. When I had "followed" the site proposal, I had thought that this site would become to Arduino, what AskUbuntu is to Ubuntu.

Ask Ubuntu Logo
For the uninitiated, Canonical  Ltd. is the project leader of Ubuntu. It is also at the head of a lot of technologies that were developed along with the Ubuntu platform. Canonical and Stack Exchange had together launched and licensed AskUbuntu as the main support Q&A site for Ubuntu. Canonical also maintains a separate support forum along with a host of other online services. The support forum and the Q&A site, both function together as the troubleshooters'., the official site, also has a forum site. The Arduino Q&A site is a site that could work alongside the forums, similar to how things work in Ubuntu. This however,would require acceptance and recognition by the Arduino Team of Arduino.SE, which is a pretty big bet, but is possible.

Coming back to the site, the scope of the SE site would basically include everything that is mentioned on . The site would be the one repository of information about everything Arduino. I had initially posted my idea of the site scope with the aim in mind that Arduino.SE would cater to both beginners and experienced users. Here is my reasoning behind each point that I think should be covered in the site scope :

  1. Arduino Family

    This includes the Uno, Mega, Fio, Lilypad, Nano, BT, Serial, and others.
    Every board that uses the Arduino tag would be on-topic for the site. This includes both past and present boards.
  2. Arduino Derivatives

    This is something that may be a little contentious. There are a lot of Arduino-like products and Arduino derivatives, both of which are distinct in terms of functioning. I strictly refer to Arduino derivative boards such as Paperduino which are listed on the Arduino site and also, boards which are popularly considered derivatives, but may not be listed. Questions about these boards should be on-topic for the site as they are similar to the main platform as well as share a large part of the community.
  3. Software Tools

    This includes the IDEs, plugins, and libraries.
    Software tools are an integral part of the Arduino platform. They are as much a part of the platform, as the micro-controller boards. Software questions, at the moment, can be asked on Electrical Engineering or Stack Overflow, and this will unite them on a single site. Stack Overflow, in my experience on the site, does not handle hardware specific programming problems too well.
  4. Programming Issues

    This is a natural extension of the previous category. If we include, developing and using libraries, then there will be errors and problems. All such issues would be welcome here.
  5. Hardware Tools

    This did not need to be explicitly mentioned. This includes questions regarding help with using any specific tools that may be required for playing around with Arduino boards and circuits.
  6. Basic Circuit Design Problems

    This again, appears to be contentious. This is something that strictly overlaps with EE, however, I believe should be on-topic for Arduino.SE. I refer to the very minimal design issues that may be faced while designing circuits that may involve Arduinos'. Depending on the community we are able to establish, we could also start answering the more tougher and complex design problems. This however, would depend completely on the composition of the community and may or may not be feasible initially. Optimistically, such issues at some point, would become a part of the site completely.
  7. Circuit Component Issues

    This refers to only parts whose selection depends on the presence of an Arduino in the circuit.
    Again, an extension of the previous point. Questions about which register, diode, transistor, IC, resistors, LEDs, motors, power sources, and more would be on-topic. Troubleshooting problems would also be on-topic. There will be significant overlap with EE on this one, and I believe, that questions should be evaluated on a case to case basis, to determine where they should belong.
  8. Hacks of the hardware, and/or Extending the boards

    Possibly, the most contentious of them all. I envision this site to cater to all levels of expertise and knowledge and thus have information, both horizontal and vertical. The site should deal with issues ranging from naming, seeking permissions, trademarks, logos, and basic legal issues (assuming that we are able to get the necessary expertise). Apart from that, making changes to the board, altering characteristics, adding and/or removing components should also be on-topic. I believe this is necessary if we want to become the one repository for Arduino information. This   could make the site become home to discussions about new boards in the Arduino line-up, even
    before they are released.
  9. Hacks of/through the Software

    This is an extension of #3. Questions about changing and improving existing libraries, IDE's and APIs should be on-topic for the site. 
  10. Projects and Applications Issues

    This includes ideas, advice, guidance in specific issues or problems including design.
    Self-explanatory. Questions, about the structure and design of projects should also be welcome. To what extent, though, is something that we will be able to see from the questions that come up.  

The Community that we may be able to establish should/would include users of all levels of experience with the platform. The site should have both electrical engineers as well as software engineers and #8 and #9 are topics that would interest them. Such topics would interest advanced users of the platform as well. Beginners and intermediate users would comprise the major part of the community. The community is expected to be quite diverse having artists, designers, hobbyists as well. All in all, this will make for one interesting and vibrant site.

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