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I was somewhat surprised to discover that the proposed SE site Magic:The Gathering has now recently moved into the commit phase. I am surprised because to date I have seen no compelling argument for a separate site for this specific card game, and some excellent arguments in favour of asking these questions here.

We have 71 MTG questions here, out of 1040, over 6% of all questions. And Magic is the most popular game on the site!

I strongly believe a second site will fracture the community we have been working so hard to build here. I believe the game falls squarely under the remit of Board and Card Games. I don't believe a separate site buys Magic players anything they don't already have. I also think running a Magic beta opens the floodgates. What about Dominion, or Chess, or Go, or Poker, or...? Should they all have separate sites too?

I don't understand the logic behind allowing this proposal to proceed.

I think that both Gaming and Stack Overflow itself provide strong evidence that multiple orthogonal topics can coexist very well on a single site. Gaming appears to work just fine, despite being dominated by questions on Starcraft 2. Nethack, a game at the complete opposite spectrum, has a healthy following and high quality answers. Stack Overflow works well, despite the fact that .net and Python programmers have almost nothing to say to one another.

So what is the rationale for a separate Magic site? Shouldn't the proposal be closed? Do the SE overlords really intend to launch a Magic beta?

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    I agreed with this stance until I read this excellent answer on the subject. I think you should do the same. – adamjford Sep 14 '11 at 17:48
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    @adamjford - Thanks for that link. I don't buy the argument. I am unconvinced that board games are somehow more specialised than video games or programming concepts, or that board game players somehow overlap less than users of other sites. I think the issue of professionals not caring about other games is not an issue. Why not just follow the chess tag, if that's the only thing you care about? – ire_and_curses Sep 14 '11 at 20:49
  • Gaming.SE isn't exactly dominated by Starcraft 2 questions; they're a larger percentage there than MtG is here, but still less than 10% of all questions, and certainly not the hottest topic right now. – Dave DuPlantis Sep 16 '11 at 17:24
  • @Dave DuPlantis - I guess I don't know what your definition of 'dominated' is. It's the top game on that site, and as you say, a higher percentage than MTG here. My point is that there is an example of a site where a single topic is very popular, has a higher fractional impact than MTG here, and it still works. – ire_and_curses Sep 16 '11 at 17:35
  • @closers: Why would anyone vote to close this as 'off topic'? – ire_and_curses Sep 16 '11 at 17:36
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    Because you're asking about activity on Area 51. Even if everyone seeing this question agrees with you, it's not going to have any impact on the MtG proposal ... I think your questions are valid, but that this isn't the best place for them. – Dave DuPlantis Sep 16 '11 at 17:39
  • @Dave DuPlantis - Except that it is. The topic is directly relevant to this site, since it concerns a significant fraction of our audience, and our remit. The powers that be that run this network will see this question, wherever I post it. My argument is about the potential impact to this site. This argument has been well expounded already by Pat Ludwig on Area 51 (see my link). I want visibility for the users of this site to understand what is happening in the wider SE network. – ire_and_curses Sep 16 '11 at 20:42
  • To answer your earlier question, my definition of "dominated" would be a tag with a clear plurality. Starcraft 2 is a wildly popular game, but Minecraft will almost certainly pass it this year, if not before its release date, then after. – Dave DuPlantis Sep 16 '11 at 20:56
  • Magic is as different from Euro games as Role-playing games are. I came on here to wonder about "all the magic questions", which, even though I used to be an avid MTG player, I haven't kept up with. One additional point is that the answers to questions about MTG change, frequently, which is not the case for other board games, since the rules change. – Neal Tibrewala Sep 19 '11 at 22:02
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    I find it amusing that since I posted this question, we have been inundated with MTG questions. It feels like a snowball effect to me - more users asking more MTG questions, so more users show up, so more questions get asked... perhaps emergence has already made the decision on our behalf? – ire_and_curses Sep 20 '11 at 16:32
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    @ire_and_curses I can only speak for myself, but while this resource is the most appropriate I will use it. I think that there are tools that could be built to make things easier (custom smilies for symbols, etc) but that's a separate topic that's relevant to Go and Chess as well. Regardless, since I do play multiple games, I prefer an active general site to an inactive specific one. I use the tag filters to help cut out what I consider chaff. Even the questions I've seen over the last week shows me that it can work here (sorry if we're spamming everyone else) – Stephen Sep 20 '11 at 19:25
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    @Stephen, don't apologize for asking on-topic questions! People who don't want to see them can hide the tags, or better yet, can ask on-topic questions about other games to provide a mix of questions. "Spamming" is more about posting a lot of questions that are not valuable per the FAQ. – Dave DuPlantis Sep 21 '11 at 19:40
  • @NealTibrewala Since when is this a Euro game site? Last time I checked, it was a site for board and card games, not Euro board and card games. And last time I checked, Magic was still a card game. – Charles Boyung Oct 26 '11 at 13:52
  • @CharlesBoyung It's not. The point of my answer and what I keep coming back to is that we shouldn't divide sites based on Classification of the question, but divide them based on the usability of the site. We don't have one single stackexchange site because it's too difficult to manage that much. Programmers/StackOverflow/Theoretical CS differ not based on topic (all are computer development), but one allows subjectivity, the other required factual, and finally we have non-applied. A site filled with 90% MTG questions will be harder to manage for people who don't keep up with MTG anymore. – Neal Tibrewala Oct 26 '11 at 15:31
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I agree and view the Magic, Go, and Chess proposed sites as having a great potential to fragment our audience to no real benefit. Several other sites were shut down after I posted to area51 previously.

Whether people agree with us or not, this should play out on area51.

Here is one proposal I can get behind.

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  • I know, from the tone on Meta Stack Overflow, that the sub site solution is a long shot, but due to the repeated proposals for topic specific sites compared to the struggle this site faces, I believe a case can be made for large enough sub-topics like MTG or Poker. If you agree, please upvote the Area 51 post, and we can try to make a reasonable arguemnt. – Stephen Sep 15 '11 at 3:12
  • Since there is a facebook.stackoverflow.com I agree, that's the way to go. – ghoppe Sep 16 '11 at 3:40
  • I was about to say that there are a lot of MtG players who play no other games, as opposed to say, Carcassonne or Catan players, who generally like a more varied diet; and therefore the Magic players have a good argument for getting their own site. But having followed your link, I think a subsite is definitely the way to go! – thesunneversets Sep 16 '11 at 14:35
  • @thesunneversets - "a lot" is a very vague and likely localized way to put it. At the shop I go to, MtG players have there hands in many different games. The thoughts "Players of X tend to only like X" and "Players of X like all kinds of games." are always very subjective. – Origami Robot Oct 14 '11 at 23:25
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I'm moving in the reverse direction as some others. Given that board and card games is not viable in beta (in terms of site visits and questions asked)I don't see how subsets of BCG (MTG, Go, can be viable). More to the point, "hiving off" the more attractive of the games from BCG might make it even LESS viable.

We may have to move in the REVERSE direction and merge, say BCG, and role playing games. My sense is that a SINGLE game site might just be viable based on the metrics defined by the site if you do a simple addition of the two sets of questions and constituencies (i.e., if there is not too much overlap). Breaking up one or both of these two sites into subdivisions doesn't make sense to me.

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    I've been a long advocate of merging B&CG with the RPG (Role Playing Game) stack exchange. It appears to make sense only to me and not many others, so I haven't pushed it lately. – Pat Ludwig Sep 19 '11 at 3:48
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    @PatLudwig Yes, Gaming shops around here sell RPGs, CCGs, Board Games, Cards, Chess Sets, and Miniatures. One would think a TableTopGames merger would help get these sites out of beta. – ghoppe Sep 19 '11 at 19:00
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    There's probably just enough interest to have SINGLE (board and card, role-playing, video game) site. It would be a bit noisy and "cluttered," getting them all under one tent, but it would be worth it. That way, we wouldn't have to lower our standards for questions to drive "traffic." The alternative is that we all wither on the vine. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, "we must all hang together or die separately." – Tom Au Sep 19 '11 at 19:11
  • I think I could support merging with the RPG SE, since neither are generating the amount of activity needed to get out of beta, but both together are close. – Stephen Sep 19 '11 at 19:30
  • I don't think this site is not viable. I think as Area 51 suggests it "needs work", but according to all the other statistics it is doing "Excellent". From what I've seen the SE folks only close down proposals if people are not getting quality answers. – going Sep 20 '11 at 1:39
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    @xiaohuzi79:There are TWO ares that need work; the number of questions per day, AND the number of visits per day. The quality is there, but not the QUANTITY> – Tom Au Sep 20 '11 at 13:03
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    @PatLudwig: A merger between B&CG.SE and RPG.SE would be awesome. :) – adamjford Sep 20 '11 at 20:26
  • I think merging would be a good idea, since the domain is very similar. Once merged, if sub-sites are needed, then that's a different discussion. However, having rather similar games together, to me, would be a good thing for getting people to play other games. I know that I have picked up other programming languages simply because I read an interesting answer regarding a language I had not looked into before on SO. – cdeszaq Oct 20 '11 at 13:40
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I figure the push to have a Magic.SE site instead of being in B&CG.SE is two-fold: one, people just seem to like to have their own site instead of having to share with things they don't care about (which is selfish and not how the SE network really operates), and two, people figure it's more likely to get Magic-specific custom community/development work done on their own site (which is unrealistic as I mention above re: custom dev work.)

In fact, there's already a StackExchange (1.0) site for Magic questions that has both of the above things: Draw3Cards. I can't directly compare as I don't have access to statistics for either site (other than # of questions), but judging it and B&CG's active questions page, D3C's activity looks about equal (or perhaps even greater) to the entirety of B&CG.SE's activity. So it looks there is in fact a market for Magic Q&A, but all of the users are over on some SE 1.0 site! Boo!

Now, can we convince them to move over to B&CG.SE? I think there's a few things that D3C has that are standing in the way there:

  • expansion tags, complete with appropriate symbols
  • links to cards in Gatherer that show the card when you mouse over them
  • lots and lots and lots of Magic-specific tags

The first could be accomplished via "sponsored" tags with icons. I doubt it would be, because it would probably just be confusing to non-Magic users.

The second, however, would need to be custom functionality written by the SE team for one SE site, which as far I know is not something that they do.

Regarding the third, I figure a lot of these tags would be weeded out according to the SE network tag guidelines, but some would probably still be useful. Even less would get the chance to continue exist in a merger with B&CG.SE rather than a Magic.SE site, I think.

Overall, I'm in favour of whichever way gets more Magic questions and answers in the SE 2.0 network, whether it be attracting D3C users to B&CG.SE, creating a subsite (portal) on B&CG for Magic and attracting D3C users that way, or creating a Magic.SE site to get D3C to move over wholesale. But all of those involve somehow convincing D3C users to move over.

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  • To me their Q&A looks fun. For example, this open ended list answer question would probably get modded to oblivion here. draw3cards.com/questions/6477/whats-a-good-political-red-card it's nice that there aren't obnoxious image banner ads here, but if you want fun board game discussion, stackexchange is not going to give it to you. it's explicitly not part of the gene pool. – rrenaud Sep 14 '11 at 22:27
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    It's important to note that the person who has been reviving the MTG Area 51 proposal is the owner of Draw3Cards, who would like to see his site migrated to a SE 2.0 site. He's even proposed absorbing all the questions, answers and users into the new site. – Stephen Sep 15 '11 at 3:14
  • While all of what's being discussed might not be possible, I think it's worth talking about. – Stephen Sep 15 '11 at 3:15
  • @Stephen: That's great to hear! I really, really want to participate on D3C, but it just feels weird when it looks like an SE site, but it doesn't behave like I expect. – adamjford Sep 15 '11 at 14:54
  • @adamjford - it's an old school SE site ... it just didn't get all the new cool stuff SE has done in the last two years. I'm the owner of Draw3Cards. I think Magic deserves its own site, and will be happy if it made SE 2. Until a SE 2 dedicated to Magic exists, I will continue operating Draw3Cards, by hook or by crook. draw3cards.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/… – ripper234 Sep 25 '11 at 23:58
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I don't think the question we should be asking is why proposals for other board and card games are still open. I think the question we should be asking is why those games are not well-represented here.

Pat posted a question several months ago on Area 51, making some of the same points ire is making here: Stack Overflow accepts questions about a variety of languages, so the concept can work on an SE site; there isn't a lot of support for any of the individual proposals; experts on any on-topic game are welcome here. There have certainly been individuals who've come to this site as a result of his post, but not many.

Out of 1027 questions at the time of this answer, there are 60 on Magic, 37 on chess, 36 on bridge, 17 on poker, 9 on go, and 1 on Advanced Squad Leader. We're just not getting questions from those groups, possibly with the exception of the MtG crowd (9 this week, 22 this month). Yes, they're a reasonable percentage of the questions on the site, but that's because we just aren't getting that many questions in the first place.

Obviously all of these games already have thriving communities elsewhere. Hoping to close the individual proposals on Area 51 won't force those people to choose between this SE site or none at all; it will force them to choose between this SE site or a non-SE site, and so far, that has not gone in our favor.

If this site is to get to the point where it can go live, we need about triple the number of visits we're getting now, and about five times the number of questions we're getting. If some of that difference is going to come from the games listed in Pat's post, then we need to be drawing more of that traffic here, and I don't think we can accomplish that by telling those people that they must come here to ask questions; we need to draw them here so that they want to ask questions here.

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Why have separate stack exchange sites at all?

I think the most important factor isn't the on-topic/off-topic categorization of questions, those things can be solved with search tools, but it's in the people.

The question askers need to know what's appropriate, and the question answerers need to be able to establish reputation, so the answers can be trusted.

So, I propose this litmus test. Are there questions appropriate for one thing, that are not appropriate for the other? Second, can a high reputation for the one give you a high confidence in the answer for the other?

So, looking at Magic, Chess, and Dominion as examples:

  1. Are there questions that would be appropriate in a "magic only" site that wouldn't be appropriate in board & cards games? This gets into issues like the degree of subjectivity allowed. I can foresee many questions about strategy and deck-building that may fall too far into subjectivity for the BCG site (which tried to have 'correct' answers). Contrast this with Dominion, which, while it has many cards, has much more straightforward answers because the number of different cards is nowhere close to MTG.

  2. If someone has a high reputation answers questions about Magic, should that mean that person is trusted to answer questions about Chess, and visa-versa? This goes to the degree of overlap of that expertise. In my experience, it takes a lot of dedication to be a true expert at MTG, and that would be at the cost of expertise in other board and card games. I, for one, used to be, an expert in magic, but it's changed so much in the past 10 years that I would no longer consider myself one. This ability to have expertise go stale isn't as much of an issue in other BCG. If I haven't played the last 3 Dominion expansions, but was an expert in the first 2, I can 'catch up' with relatively little time and effort. This is not the case with MTG where the game 'completely' changes due to new rules and card sets of a tremendous scope.

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    Thanks for the answer! Your first point is a great one but I disagree with your second one. In my experience, people with high rep don't get extra upvotes with no effort. Weak, wrong answers get ferreted out regardless of the rep of the person who wrote the answer. If a question fails to get an authoritative answer it is usually obvious by the lack of voting. Sometimes, it can take a day or three for a true expert in game X to show up, but when they do, the whole tenor of a question can change and voting patterns shift. – Pat Ludwig Oct 3 '11 at 16:33
  • I think that's true of many stack exchange sites, but due to the lower numbers and volume on BCG, I think having an answer, any answer, that 'sounds reasonable' is a deterrent for another to answer the question. When things are subjective, it's hard to tell two well written answers apart, so rep is a big factor when I intepret answers. My point 32 may not be a big deal, but I do believe it's a factor. – Neal Tibrewala Oct 5 '11 at 7:07

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