# What will be the benefits in having a separate Arduino site?

The Arduino site proposal is moving forward at a good rate. As a part of the scope of the Arduino site will cover questions that currently fall in the scope of EE, what will be the benefits (and problems) in having a separate Arduino site ?

This post discusses this issue in some detail, and I mostly agree with the views given there.

• March 28 - The proposal is now in the commitment phase.
• April 9 - The proposal is now in private beta.
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For what it's worth, this is the fifth Arduino proposal to land in Area 51. We opted to close the other ones because we felt they would drain the audience from this site. This may or may not turn out to be the case again, but it's good to see a discussion about it here. Thanks for starting it! –  Anna Lear Feb 13 '13 at 2:39
Relevant/Related : discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/9112/… –  AsheeshR Feb 13 '13 at 9:35
In due time, we'll add Arduino.SE to migration options. Perhaps, the Arduino people will add EE.SE on their end. –  Nick Alexeev Apr 11 '13 at 22:17
At the moment, the Arduino proposal is in private beta. I wonder if we can migrate question into the new Arduino forum at this stage? This one for example, is an excellent candidate for migration Unable to upload arduino sketch to Uno using AVR ISP MKII and Ubuntu 12.04. –  Nick Alexeev Apr 18 '13 at 19:04

The analogy to Arduino and Electrical Engineering should be clear.

This question asked by an Arduino user got me thinking about a different concern. The OP there is making a very good effort to break out of the Arduino abstractions and move to the right on this chart, to electrical engineering.

The difficulty, it seems, is that there's a clear incremental path to move left on this scale, but to move to the right is more difficult. Sure, there's a huge body of knowledge that a physicist possesses that a mathematician does not, but an experienced mathematician wanting to move to the left will start at basic physics, while a physicist trying to move to the right will start at advanced mathematics.

The analogy breaks down here, because you'd expect every physicist understands that their field is built upon mathematics, and they'd know well enough that they have to jump all the way back to basic mathematics and work to the left to bridge the gap. However, I've had some Arduino users tell me they know some electronics, as if knowing to use an Arduino is like basic electrical engineering. But it's not: knowing the fundamentals of a field is not the same as knowing the applications of a field. Consequently, it seems to take a bit of tough love to get people wanting to move from Arduino to electrical engineering to realize they lack the fundamental understanding necessary to implement a circuit that doesn't come ready-made on a shield, and that they need to back off and focus on the fundamentals.

It would seem to me that having a separate site for Arduino would benefit both communities by making that movement more clear.

I'd be interested to know if this concept of jumping backwards being harder resonates with anyone else. I learned assembly first and Python last, which isn't how most people do it, but I tried going in the other direction of abstraction and found it really hard. Am I just an odd learner?

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Brilliant analogy. I agree. Sometimes I feel like that line everyone's walking on, too. –  Anindo Ghosh Feb 11 '13 at 17:29
Entertaining, but a poor answer. I can't tell from this whether you think there should or should not be a separate arduino site. –  Olin Lathrop Feb 11 '13 at 23:10
@OlinLathrop I do support a separate site. I didn't write much about it since I thought other people had covered the viewpoint pretty well. A more direct analogy would be that Arduino SE is to Electronics as Electronics is to Physics. More abstraction, less purity, different field. –  Phil Frost Feb 12 '13 at 0:09
I saw the question you linked to from the arduino user, but skipped it because it is too long. There is a lot I could say about detecting volume, but doing so is too much work when he pre-supposes solutions that you then have to explain why they will or won't work. If he just asked how to do it without all the babble, I would have given him a straight answer hours ago. As it is, he's made answering too complicated. I can't just show him the circuit and explain how it works. –  Olin Lathrop Feb 12 '13 at 21:13

Well the only thing I can see is that EE.SE is unfriendly to questions that are not well thought out.

Let's face it: Everyone here expects the OP to have read the relevant technical documentation, which in itself is quite complicated and difficult, to be able to provide relevant information and there are numerous questions where users are simply chanting "SCHEMATIC, SCHEMATIC" and OP fails to deliver one. There's also the distributor side: From what I've seen typical distributors of Arduino community are different from typical distributors of EE community and often Arduino community distributors simply don't provide easy access to relevant information about their products. I remember question in which OP asked about using stepper motor with Arduino. He provided link to distributors webpage and it took some effort just to find the pinout of the motor. Some basic information like power ratings or normal coil resistance simply wasn't there.

Another thing that's often assumed is that OP is actually in control of circuits which he uses (and let's face it: Arduino users wouldn't be using all that much Arduino if they could easily make their own PCBs with needed components) as well as software (and from what I've seen, standard Arduino procedure is to use already available libraries even for "simplest" tasks).

There's also the measurement instrument problem which I think many Arduino users face. Here it's more or less assumed that everyone has at least a good multimeter. Oscilloscope is also considered a basic tool of electrical engineering, but that's something that most Arduino users won't have access to.

Another thing would be familiarity to the ecosystem: I've seen many Arduino users expecting us to actually know names of each shield and what components it has and so on. On the other hand, more or less each board a "typical" user here makes would be a custom board. There's the ever-present hatred for Fritzing diagrams here (I understand why they aren't all that useful, but many Arduino users won't), which seem to be the default way of presenting information for the Arduino community. Learning how to use even the simplest EDA tools is quite complicated and probably isn't what an Arduino user would be interested in, at least initially.

Another thing I've noticed in the Arduino community is what I'd call cargocultism. Very large number of tutorials don't actually explain what's happening in any detail. They simply list the spell ingredients and magical words to be written into the IDE. This may seem a bit rude to that community, but I understand that most of its members don't actually want to know details. They just want to get whatever it is they're building to work.

So if there's an Arduino web-site that will cater to users who have the habits I've listed, then I guess such community would be beneficial to them, since they'd have a "friendly" environment in which they could grow. One thing I fear is that most problems I've noticed with Arduino questions here are also typical problems of what we call "bad questions". This is also related with what we expect to be the "due diligence" when posting a question. Something obvious to an EE wouldn't be as obvious to Arduino user.

I know that this wasn't part of the question, but I'd like to write a little bit the other side: What would be the downsides of having an Arduinio site: Well first, we'd be separating communities and doing so a bit artificially. This could might the "grumpy experts" to down and close-vote Arduino questions here. Another side-effect would be the encouraging spread of bad practices that are currently common in Arduino community. For example I've seen many posts that show something as simple as using interrupts instead of busy-waits as a revelation.

There's also the fact that sooner or later Arduino user is going to have to go outside of the Aruduino comfort-zone. Here we'll be able to provide the needed guidance, which may or may not be available on Arduino-specific site.

Finally there's also the fact that we have both Ubuntu and Unix sites. I understand that some people like their GNU/Linux with "training wheels" and I see that similar situation exists with respect to the Arduino and EE.SE.

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Greatly written, I think I agree all of it :) –  abdullah kahraman Feb 10 '13 at 21:47
This is an excellent, balanced post, I love it... My frequent interactions with visual artists including photographers who I work with, performance artists, and other non-technical people, all proudly flaunting Arduino LilyPad wearable tee-shirts, or using Rainbowduino backdrops for images or art installations, and never even owning a soldering iron or looking at a datasheet, would absolutely agree with you. –  Anindo Ghosh Feb 11 '13 at 9:18
I only disagree with one thing Another thing that's often assumed is that OP is actually in control of circuits which he uses (and let's face it: Arduino users wouldn't be using all that much Arduino if they could easily make their own PCBs with needed components) - I have a pile of arduinos that I use when I need to throw something that can talk to a piece of custom hardware together in a hurry. If you just need a ATmega and a USB-serial interface in a box, the arduino is a great, low-effort tool. –  Connor Wolf Feb 17 '13 at 6:33
@ConnorWolf exactly. Considering all the advanced users in the Maker culture that still use Arduinos, even when they have unfettered access to 3d printers, cncs, laser cutters, pcb fabrication in-house, etc, users who can easily create custom pcbs even better than the arduino, yet they still use it. The arduino (not that I care for it, I prefer the launchpad) is just damn convenient. –  Passerby Feb 19 '13 at 3:36
The idea I mostly wanted to pass when I characterized Arduino users (and do feel free to disagree) is that "competent" users would fit into EE.SE community and there's no real need for Arduino site for them. I mean two of you who complained about that here are EE.SE users in good standing. –  AndrejaKo Feb 19 '13 at 18:10
Re: your last comment. That makes sense. I guess the critical thing is to delineate between experienced people who use the arduino as a convenient dev-board, and the "Arduino culture" (which is certainly guilts of many of the things you describe in your post) at large. –  Connor Wolf Mar 29 '13 at 11:21

If they want their own site they will start their own site. That's not up to us. All we can decide is what to do with arduino questions.

Arduino questions are acceptable here if they are really about electronics. Even if a specific arduino site existed, I wouldn't want to move such questions if they were posted here. This site is for anyone that wants to understand something about electronics or low level hardware-related programming. Questions that meet these criteria and happen to include a arduino in them should be welcome here, as they are now. If you just want "giv me da codz", then you're not welcome here whether there is a arduino site or not. In other words, we shouldn't do anything different, and everything else isn't up to us.

I also want to respond to accusation that we are not welcoming to arduino users. This is false. What we are not welcoming to, and must never be welcoming to, is sloppily thought out and asked questions that lack obvious information, use baby talk instead of real English, and that can't be bothered to follow the few basic rules of the language that even non-native English speakers have no excuse for not following. For example, we see far too many posts here where the first word of each sentence isn't even capitalized. That's not unfamiliarity with English, just laziness.

I think the reason the arduino community feels they are not welcome here is because arduino users ask a disproportionately large share of the bad questions. When they rightfully get sent home without a cookie, they of course blame us instead of their laziness since we aren't there to defend ourselves. These bad apples are in fact not welcome here, as is anyone else that can't be bothered to read the FAQ and put a little thought into what they are asking and how to present the question. It only takes a few to make a lot of noise and give us a bad rep as a result. That's unfortunate, but that's how the world works. The same mentality that allows one to ask a poor question will also prevent one from accepting responsibility for the result.

One thing we must never do is lower our standards. We do get a lot of good questions too, and people that are willing to work with us to fix a question in response to comments. That is what this site is really about. Once we start down the slippery slope of allowing bad units, unlabled quantities, difficult to read schematics, and annoying to parse English, the site will only attract more of the same. Then all that will be left is the clueless text-speaking to the clueless, and anyone that knows what they are doing and has some standards will be long gone.

I have heard the accusation that this is not newbie-friendly, but that is again false. None of what makes a question bad (or good, for that matter) has anything to do with electronics knowledge. It's OK to be ignorant, but never OK to be stupid and lazy. Newbies and experienced people are both equally capable of reading the FAQ, looking at other questions to see what is acceptable and not here, writing in proper English, and keeping the context of the audience in mind. These are all obvious things to do when you enter a community, and are not hard.

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What about individuals for whom English may be their second or in some cases third language ? Don't they deserve some sort of consideration ? A lot of people consider Stack Overflow to be full of the rudest users of the network, but even there users tend to correct basic English, grammatical errors, formatting, to make such posts readable. If content is lacking, then and only then are posts downvoted (usually). Your post seems to suggest, that users' need to know "proper English". –  AsheeshR Feb 11 '13 at 0:42
@AshRj: There is a big difference between genuinely not being good at English and just laziness or sloppiness. For example, not capitalizing the first letter of every sentence it just sloppiness, but we see that here too often. Wrong tenses, grammatical error so long as we can still figure out the meaning, and the occasional misspelling can be overlooked when someone is clearly struggling with English. Those are very different symptoms from laziness and sloppiness though. Really bad English to the point of causing confusion can't be tolerated though. There has to be some line somewhere. –  Olin Lathrop Feb 11 '13 at 13:40
Actually, Arduino is part of our site actively, this site actually does have something to say about a new site being formed. –  Kortuk Feb 12 '13 at 18:34
@Kortuk: Does that mean we get to vote on whether the should be a new arduino site? What is the mechanism by which we approve or disapprove of the new site? –  Olin Lathrop Feb 12 '13 at 18:55
@OlinLathrop not that blatant, but if we feel we strongly support the arduino platform and that the new site should not be formed as it is just poaching members we already handle when we are not SO's size then the site can be blocked. That is if the community feels it fits here strongly, right now it does not seem that way. The last proposal was closed as a duplicate of our site, this one is a bit more broad. –  Kortuk Feb 12 '13 at 21:30
@Kortuk: If that's the question, then no, I don't feel it will hurt this site. –  Olin Lathrop Feb 12 '13 at 22:07
@OlinLathrop when you consider the average number of questions per day (even the dumb ones), and subtract the average number of arduino questions per day, would you still think it won't hurt the site? –  Passerby Feb 13 '13 at 2:54
@Passerby One of the things mentioned in this post is that a large part of the "bad posts" are Arduino related questions, so essentially this would put most of those questions off this site. How can an improvement in quality of content hurt the site ? –  AsheeshR Feb 13 '13 at 4:01
@AshRj A bookstore with only the best books will die from lack of foot traffic. It's all the common rubbish that brings out people. In the same way, quality is great, but quantity of users makes a website live. –  Passerby Feb 13 '13 at 4:05
@Passerby You do realise, with the responses that Arduino questions get on this site, a lot of new users anyways don't return again ? –  AsheeshR Feb 13 '13 at 4:08
@Passe: Arduino questions are a larger share of the dumb questions than of overall questions. A good many, maybe even the majority of the arduino questions aren't interested in learning about electronics, just about how to get their particular problem solved in the most expedient way and by having to fire up the minimum number of brain cells possible in the process. This site is about learning, which many of the arduino questions are not. Good riddance. –  Olin Lathrop Feb 13 '13 at 14:37
@AshRj two things, one, you are listing to one of our sticklers here, I dont agree that arduino is lots of low quality question. Second, you have never participated in our site, I find it quite surprising you speak of how our community interacts. You dont know how many new users dont return, you dont have access to that data and you can't gauge it based on user interaction unless you are spending a very large amount of time watching the new users and only doing that on the site. –  Kortuk Feb 13 '13 at 21:08
@Kortuk Yes, I have not participated in this site, but I have seen some of the Arduino questions and the responses they have got. Moreover, I have spoken in person to some individuals who had tried to use this site, and they were not all comfortable posting here. So, my experience is limited to some of the questions that I have observed and some of the opinions I have gathered by speaking to individuals. So, yes there you are correct. –  AsheeshR Feb 14 '13 at 6:02
So, that (I believe) makes me an impartial external observer, based on which I would like to say a few things. One, going by the responses on this page itself, there seems to be a general agreement that Arduino users are more on the user-oriented side of EE than the real engineering/theoretical side which makes me believe that this distinction is sufficient to warrant a separate site, similar to how AskUbuntu and Unix&Linux exist. –  AsheeshR Feb 14 '13 at 6:10
@AshRj I think some arduino users are only every going to be users, and some are going to develop, but I dont see the issue with it. I am confused why I hear so much about rude and we see maybe 1 question a day with rude flags. –  Kortuk Feb 14 '13 at 6:12

The idea of StackExchange having multiple sites for multiple subjects is a very good one. It keeps the sites clean since there is a strict policy on on- and off-topic questions. I consider it to be a very good thing that SuperUser and Electrical Engineering are separated, since it is definitely a different users group.

However, we shouldn't have too much sites. There are questions about arduino that would be a better fit for EE, for example: What kind of power supply can power this stepper motor connected to an Arduino? This question has actually nothing to do with arduino, but simply because an arduino is used in the project, it would go to the arduino site. You will say: we can handle that with making it clear in the FAQ and do migrations. Yes, it is possible, and it would cost you some time and energy.

Many arduino questions are either coding problems, "I haven't read the datasheet now what should I do"-problems, or "what part should I use"-questions. These problems aren't specific to arduino and are useful to anyone using a microcontroller. By migrating all these questions to a new arduino site, people will see the title of the site: "Arduino" and think: "Meh, arduino, I don't like arduino, it won't be useful" while the post actually is useful as the question isn't specific to arduino.

We have a living arduino society here on EE, what will be the benefits of having to look at two sites instead of one? I can't imagine anyone who would go to an Arduino site but won't go to EE. With favorited and ignored tags you can do a lot to make the site as you like. For example, I've never used with ARM, so I ignored the relevant tags and don't see those questions anymore. I do like PICs, so I favorited the relevant tags and get those questions highlighted. Arduino users can do the same to make the site as they wish.

Making a new site will just be unuseful for anyone working with arduino since they will be interested in EE as well. Also, questions on the arduino website (like coding problems, part recommendations) will pop up on EE as well. There would be an enormous overlap between EE and Arduino, which makes it not useful.

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"I can't imagine anyone who would go to an Arduino site but won't go to EE." Go through the list of followers on the proposal page. Just two people who are on EE. "Making a new site will just be unuseful for anyone working with arduino since they will be interested in EE as well." Not at all necessary. Discussed at great length in chat. –  AsheeshR Feb 11 '13 at 8:52
Quoting the Arduino homepage It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. Knowledge of EE is certainly not necessary or a prerequisite for any of those of groups. –  AsheeshR Feb 11 '13 at 8:58
"I can't imagine anyone who would go to an Arduino site but won't go to EE." - I meet an average of 20 (out of 25) such people at each artist's "Maker Faire" type workshop I participate in, which is about 10 times a year. A quick study of http://carnival-of-ecreativity.com which is one such annual event with huge international participation, would be indicative. There are about 3 participants each year with any interest in EE outside of Arduino and its off-the-shelf shields, me being one of them. –  Anindo Ghosh Feb 11 '13 at 9:11
But why should having interest in EE outside of Arduino and whatever component they want to use be a prerequisite for using EE.SE? Also how would they help themselves if they don't actually know anything about EE side of things? By poking until they manage to figure out something? –  AndrejaKo Feb 11 '13 at 9:15
@Anindo Ghosh The link you provided isn't working for me (I get redirected to a blank page). Do you have any more resources which explain what type of people are those "makers"? I'm not sure I really understand them. –  AndrejaKo Feb 11 '13 at 9:19
@AndrejaKo Just google for "Carnival of e-Creativity". The people in question are, to quote another comment I made above: "visual artists ..., performance artists, and other non-technical people, all proudly flaunting Arduino LilyPad wearable tee-shirts, or using Rainbowduino backdrops for images or art installations, and never even owning a soldering iron or looking at a datasheet". For instance, the RainbowDuino is very popular for backdrops among photographers and video artists these days. Deejays love LilyPad clothes with VU meters and "music driven" laser or LED displays. –  Anindo Ghosh Feb 11 '13 at 9:25
@AndrejaKo Also, the auto-formatting seems to have broken the URL in my previous comment, the displayed URL works fine by copy-pasting. –  Anindo Ghosh Feb 11 '13 at 9:28
@AndrejaKo To respond to your "How would they help themselves...", they buy shields, they download the requisite code, they sometimes even get someone (like me) to dump the code onto their device so they don't have to fire up the IDE, they sew the device into their clothes, and they are happy. They "help themselves" in their chosen discipline, which is often art, and to them the Arduino and its ecosystem are merely tools, like the cameras I use but do not repair or design, in my "other" career. –  Anindo Ghosh Feb 11 '13 at 9:32
@AndrejaKo To draw a parallel, photographers participate in photo exhibitions, photography workshops, and such, but you will rarely if ever find them at a workshop on autofocus design or ultrasonic motor design or CCD sensor technology or even hand-held device ergonomics. –  Anindo Ghosh Feb 11 '13 at 9:36
@Anindo Ghosh This does bring me closer to understand that group but it still doesn't solve the "How would they help themselves..." side. When I use an appliance whose internal construction I'm not familiar with and it malfunctions, I have it repaired by a (hopefully) skilled professional. I understand that EE isn't their main focus and that majority doesn't want it to be. This however leaves us (or maybe I should say "them", meaning future Arduino site users) with a problem that's common (from what I've seen) in many non-expert communities. –  AndrejaKo Feb 11 '13 at 9:47
And that's: What are they going to do when they exhaust their accumulation of technical knowledge. When an issue needs to be solved, in such cases it boils down to frustrating experimentation, since users can't detect or interpret feedback or simply making the problem disappear by avoiding it. Still, maybe Arduino.SE should worry about that side of things. –  AndrejaKo Feb 11 '13 at 9:49
@AndrejaKo The Arduino-using art community I know closely, simply goes ahead and buys a replacement Arduino or shield, or sends the malfunctioning part out for repair to the shop they bought it from, or both. Problem solved. I've seen an Arduino going back to the shop for changing a VU-meter display tee-shirt from log to linear. Works for them, it's the kind of support they need. –  Anindo Ghosh Feb 11 '13 at 9:54
@AndrejaKo Dont forget, that is just one of the subsets of the people who use Arduino. There are other non-EE but technical-background individuals who use Arduino as well. I am majoring in Software Engineering, and I use the Arduino from time to time. There will be such users who will extend the bridge further, so to speak. –  AsheeshR Feb 11 '13 at 12:00
@Kortuk What shield works with this Ethernet shield? What shield can I use for result X? Can I use shield Y with external battery? Is this particular display shield available in blue backlight? If I use shield Z with LED strip Y, will I be able to use blue LED strips instead of the red ones they sent me? (By the way, the answer to that last is "no, that shield drives only LEDs under 2 Volts"). There are many, many such questions which would drive EE gurus nuts, or just get down-voted and closed. –  Anindo Ghosh Feb 14 '13 at 7:08
@AnindoGhosh Links? Some of those questions are poor, which shields work with Ethernet shield, I thought there would be a very long and unending list there. It would almost be worth instead discussing which features it ties up. The rest sound like with a little detail in the question they are good fits. The first does not sound like a good fir for any SE. –  Kortuk Feb 14 '13 at 14:18

I don't want to have to search another site for Arduino-specific things. What's next, PIC and AVR will have their own sites?

It's not hard for people to ignore questions tagged Arduino, and similarly, for people interested in it to favorite the tag.

For example, I know nothing about Apple programming (Carbon, iOS, etc.) and have hidden those tags on StackOverflow so I see and can focus more on the things I do know.

Imagine if someone asks (on an Arduino site) about what value of capacitor to use for such-and-such. Is it going to get migrated back here?

There's a very wide gray area, in my opinion. It's somewhat difficult deciding whether to ask AVR programming questions here or on StackOverflow. I typically get better responses here, because people are familiar with the electronics and the programming; I just try to ensure that my question is appropriate to electronics engineering, rather than programming fundamentals.

I think there are very few, if any, benefits to having a separate Arduino site.

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Maybe the Arduino tag is ignored by default and the EE.SE site asks you if it should remove its "ignore" setting for the first time you visit after the change? –  abdullah kahraman Feb 10 '13 at 21:51
PIC and AVR are microcontrollers, whereas Arduino is a hardware + software platform that incorporates a microcontroller, its bootloader, an IDE, a set of high level function libraries, and an entirely distinct (some would say insufficiently technical) philosophy of doing things, compared to coding down to the metal on any MCU. The comparison is thus not apples-to-apples at all. Yes, questions would on occasion migrate, as they do from SO or DIY.SE to EE.SE or vice versa –  Anindo Ghosh Feb 11 '13 at 9:03
@Anindo I agree Arduino is practically its own "subculture" of electronics. Still, I fail to see the harm in hosting Arduino questions here. At the end of the day, it's still electronics engineering related. –  JYelton Feb 11 '13 at 17:07
I think that's what we have been debating the last couple of days, in meta and in chat. The jury's still out, and I must admit I am biased because of my real-world associations :-) –  Anindo Ghosh Feb 11 '13 at 17:28
@AnindoGhosh Pic has its own software platforms also, it is lightly less different since arduino hides so much of the baremetal, so there is more similarity between atmel and pic, but you could still argue those starting. –  Kortuk Feb 13 '13 at 21:19