As things stand at present, questions of people who have almost no physics knowledge of their own, who are looking for help in solving a particular problem (homeworky), are mixed up with questions of physics students (university level) up to research level questions on Physics SE, so things have become too messy.

This is probably due to the fact, that two differenc kinds of audiences have developed on this site in the course of time:

  1. On the one hand we have nicely curious people who are not physicists, but who are interested to learn at a rather popular equation free level what physics is about, people who like to find answers to some applied everyday problems from a physics point of view, younger (not yet university level) students who have just started to build up a basic physics knowledge, and people who are looking for help in solving concrete problems they face (homeworky).

  2. On the other hand, there is an audience consisting of university level physics students, academics, and researchers, who like to do physics at a more advanced technical, mathematical, up to research level.

None of these two "subaudiences" seems to be very happy with the present situation since

  1. People more interested in popular, basic Q&A of physics and problem solving, see their questions often closed and not that well recieved

  2. To people more interested in higher level, technical, up to research level questions, the site looks cluttered with too basic posts they are not interested in.

That this is a real issue by now can be seen from relatively recent meta questions such as

Physics SE should emphasis on problem solving

How about a "physics problems" stack exchange?

and most recently this one

What can be done about the (current) ongoing flood of homework and very basic questions overwhelming our site?

So can there, just for Physics SE, something like an internal tag filtered minisite* be implemented, to better structure and improve the perception and experience of the site for both of the two audiences?

That "subaudience", which makes up the larger part of the present overall community, could take the role of the main Physics SE, whereas the smaller "subaudience" could be sent to the internal minisite.

With such an internal minisite implemented into Physics SE, people interested in more technical, higher level Q&A could focus on exactly this without having to dig through a large amount of posts they are not interested in.

At the same time, the criteria on allowed problem (or homework) questions, and the previous knowledge expacted to come here could be relaxed for the other group.

Given that the present overall community is probably not large enough to be splitted into two full SE sites, the minisite approach would in my opinion be the perfect solution to better serve both of the two audiences we now have on Physics SE.

**PS: I am not too sure how such a minisite works technically. Manishearth gave this short explanation of an example: Basically: It's one minisite. Facebook had an agreement with SE that their developers would also help on questions regarding the FB API. With this agreement, SE made a tag-filtered facebook* website, so that FB devs could get their own place. If it works by putting everything with a certain tag on the minisite, it is hopfully not so complicated to implement this?

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    $\begingroup$ Use this to get a minisite without any effort: physics.stackexchange.com/… $\endgroup$
    – Sklivvz
    Jun 11, 2013 at 8:00
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    $\begingroup$ I tried to propose something like this in 2010 on main meta: Provide a virtual URL hierarchy for tags. Indeed facebook.stackoverflow.com implements this, but so far it seems to remain an exclusive deal and the question How to request a tag-subdomain? remained ignored $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2013 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ @TobiasKienzler these look very helpful. Maybe they get not enough attention at MSO because they are only for Physics SE important ... Could they be repeated (migrated to) at our meta such that the developers could see if the could implement somthing just for our site? I fear that in view of the current ongoing and obviously not ceasing flood of homework/popular/very basic questions, Physics SE will lose its ability soon to deal with slightly technical or even advanced questions, if nothing gets done to help people interested in more advanced stuff find them and each other in the mess again... $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 11, 2013 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton It's not restricted to Physics.SE, other examples are e.g. game-specific subsites at arqade.com. But feel free to copy-paste the text and post it here if you think it might have a better chance to be implemented on physics.SE (exclusively, for now) $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2013 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ @TobiasKienzler it is better it is not me who writes it on our meta, since everything I write here has to overcome a potential wall of at least 5 downvotes per default to start with :-D. See the current net score of this meant to be beneficial for everybody proposal and generally the response I get for it ...:-/ $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 11, 2013 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ I'd say that the majority of your posts has a rather positive net score: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/users/2751/dilaton?tab=questions and since I'm in a rather passive mode due to work I can't invest that much time; to be honest I visit the site so irregularly that I didn't even notice the problems you and other mention... $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2013 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ @TobiasKienzler yep, the sign of my net score flipped somehow after the last elections and the (not allways positive) changes they brought to the site and character of the community, led for example to the current problems we now face ... :-/. One problem is that many people say it is not a problem if the site becomese just a popular physics site and nothing else. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 11, 2013 at 14:57

2 Answers 2


There is a lot of discussion about splitting of communities, and I personally am not in favor of split communities. I would however like better organisation within the site itself.

The so called elementary questions are very important to address. Each of you would have asked elementary questions in the past else you will not be in a position to answer more advanced questions.

What is of concern is, the site is getting disorganized. The elementary questions are not getting enough attention and/or getting closed. I think every question that is well posed and precise must have a place in this Site, however elementary or advanced it maybe.

However, It is an unpleasant sight to see questions of the nature "How does one derive keplers laws from newtons laws of gravitation?", which is a very valid and precise, mixed with current research topics. but if there is a clear segregation between more advanced and text book level questions that would help organization.

Please, the intention is not to split the community, But rather to keep it together. I think what will come out is elementary questions will be addressed with lot of patience from interested people. It would be really bad idea to split to community as people who can answer so called elementary question are the same ones who can answer the advanced questions. It an issue of organization of clutter in my opinion.

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    $\begingroup$ Yep, the minisite is not meant as a means to split the community, but to better organize things as you say, just that. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 9, 2013 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ You guys do know that you can hide tags you don't want to see, right? So just make homework tags hidden and a lot of it will go away. The power to organize is in your hands. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Jun 9, 2013 at 19:04
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    $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 That would be a very convenient thing to do. But a better segregation would help the in the long run. As I am interested in homework or textbooky question very much. But the site is getting cluttered. $\endgroup$
    – Prathyush
    Jun 9, 2013 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 for this, things should be consistently tagged then, and maybe one or two additional meta level tag to not just divied betwen homework/non homework would be needed. The filtering by tags does not resolve the issue that certain kinds of questions get almost no attention because the community interested in them is too small and they get flooded down in the question lists too quickly by other things. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 9, 2013 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ Exactly the problem is that good questions are getting flooded down. $\endgroup$
    – Prathyush
    Jun 9, 2013 at 19:20

Once again, there are two requests here. One is for a minisite separating basic questions from high level ones, and one is just a nohomework.physics.SE minisite.

Separation of "basic" questions

Within SE rules, this isn't possible. tags like and are not allowed, as they are meta tags. Even if it were allowed, it would involve massive retagging efforts.

Doing it within the current tag system is not possible as topics can't easily be separated into "basic" "non basic". Besides, the border is very fuzzy, and it varies from person to person.

So I don't think this can be realistically implemented. A hidden tag could work, but it would require non-trivial changes from the devs.

Separation of homework

I assume you mean that there will be a no-homework sub-site. I personally hope that a combination of minor changes (proactively deleting old closed HW, being a bit stricter on the policy, etc) may mitigate the issue enough without a subsite.

A few more thoughts

This reminds me of some of the discussions here and here. Separating the communities can seem elitist to many, and I myself don't think that it's an ideal way to solve the issue.

One of the flaws with this is that it gives off the impression that we are leaving the basic portion of the community to die as we go off to greener pastures.

I personally am really wary of splitting the communities in any manner, even if its by minisite.

  • $\begingroup$ Of course is the non-homework, not-very-basic, or however the separation would be done, section the smaller one to send on a hidden site. I completely agree with what Prathyush says in his answer here. Physics SE will grow and become more and more popular, and by popular I mean not only well known but popular physics oriented too. People who want to to physics here on a technical level are already in the minoriy. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 9, 2013 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: And so are people who want very basic physics. And so are people who want basic physics. And so are people who want intermediate physics. And so are people who want grad-level physics. You have to remember that the current mainstream theoretical physics, while being a majority in the research field, is still a minority if you look at the big picture of physics over the years. There are many other levels of physics, and individually each one is a minority on this site. To you, they may all be the same, but I see a gradation. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2013 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ Basically, if you set a high bar for "non-basic", you will of course have a minority of posts. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2013 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ I personally don't see popular physics becoming a problem here. It doesn't seem to be dwarfing more technical topics. And I doubt it will ever get there, a lot of popular physics qs are closed as NARQ (and solved in the comments) because the OP doesn't know what he's talking about. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2013 at 18:43
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    $\begingroup$ So it would be nice if you could refrain from calling all efforts to look for a last refuge where these few people can focus on doing more technichnical not very basic physics Q&A, for example in the form of a hidden minisite, as elitist. Maybe I am getting this wrong and please dont get angry, calling such efforts, or the corresponding people interested in higher level stuff as elitist comes over as wanting to deny them the right to exist as an internet community, at least in the SE framework. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 9, 2013 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: For the last time, I am not calling it elitist. I am saying it "comes off" as elitist and "can seem" elitist. Also, how is this, in any way, denying them the right to exist as a Net community? Firstly: nothing stops you from setting up your own site with free software. Secondly: We aren't denying them the right to exist as an SE community either. How does being against this proposal do that? Remember, we have to look out for all sections of the site. While you may hold the theoretical portion in high regard and not care about the rest, I can't do that. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2013 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ that there are two very different audiences here can not be denied, and if nothing is done the smaller of the two will lose the interest in the site. It is already the case that there are much fewer new non basic more technical questions coming in. And the ones that still are asked get often low views, low votes, no answers, -> tumbleweed, because the audience interested in them is fading away. But I guess this is ok, and the majority of the site does not miss anything if this happens, obviously. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 9, 2013 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: No, if you call the TP audience as one audience, there are about 6-7 different audiences. Lumping together the rest makes an on-paper difference. I could equally say that the popsci audience is in the minority. Or the newtonian mechanics (discounting closed HW). Or the qcd audience. You're splitting the audience at some arbitrary level, and then saying that one chunk is in the minority. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2013 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Also, remember that as the topic gets more complicated, it is harder to ask and answer questions at that level. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2013 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Manishearth, it is not meant as a split of the community, but as Prathyush says a better organization, the exact details of this organization are discussable. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 9, 2013 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: The moment you say "two different audiences", you are drawing a line somewhere in the community. That's what I meant by "split". $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2013 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ because if the hidden minisite thing could be done, one would have to decide by some means what is sent (by tagging) to the minisite, and what should be kept on the main page. Or am I getting wrong how this would work? BTW the audience we currantly have is in fact very inhomogeneous. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 9, 2013 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: Yes, so where is that line drawn? BSM vs the rest of physics? QFT/QCD vs SM and beyond? popsci and HW vs everything else? The minority thing only applies in the fist case. Yes, it's inhomogenous, but still, where you draw the line (between which two sections) is quite arbitrary. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2013 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ the line should be drawn in such a way that it does not happen what we currently have: That certain questions get almost no attention, because the group of people interested in them is too small and these questions get flooded down the question lists too quickly by other things. That questions that get not enought attention currently should go to the minisite such that people interested in them can easier find them. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 9, 2013 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is, as Prathyush says below his answer too, that good questions get flooded down at present, before anybody can take not of them, upvote, answer, etc ... $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jun 9, 2013 at 19:22

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