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Personally the "allowable focus" on this site suits me fine. I'm into SDR and RF stuff and have been using my ham license as the context to explore that. But I'm a little torn:

  • seems like many potential new community members get slammed early on for asking off-topic stuff about scanners/WiFi/broadcast/etc. :-/
  • seems like I'm getting away with asking lots of RF stuff that's not really "ham radio" if you take away the fluff I add to make it seem so ;-)

Are too many actual real-world "ham seeks elmer" questions verbotten on SE, hurting this site's growth opportunity? On one hand I like that the SE guidelines tend to penalize the wives-tale stuff you see on ham forums, but OTOH asking honest questions "what antenna should I use" becomes a minefield of careful wording/re-wording to avoid opinion/shopping.

Why not explicitly broaden this site to ± "radio stuff"? I don't think that prevents us from still migrating some questions that may cross the line to far into specific "super user" (how do I reset my WiFi router) or "DSP" (what is I/Q data) or "physics" (how do toroids really work) and/or "electronics" (how do amplifiers work) or whatnot. And it certainly doesn't mean all the hams already here have to leave. It just adds to the Venn diagram of people who can help each other here.

Otherwise, why is "SDR" on topic here but "CB" I'm guessing is not? Can I ask for help identifying a shortwave signal I heard? But then what if I heard some weird bleeps on a police scanner instead? Where would I go to ask about how what really affects my cellphone's signal reception? Or how a satellite television receiver works?

There's been at least a few discussions related to this:

I think my question here is even more "meta" than those:

Why are we trying to focus on "only amateur radio" in the first place (and then in practice allowing certain other things to slide by)?

Would StackExchange allow a site like ours to "pivot?

If so, why not just say: this is where all kinds of people [hams, lowfers, SWLs, unlicensed ISM communications, general RF engineering stuff, kids taking apart baby monitors…] can learn about all kinds of radio things? Why even attempt to limit this site to just "FCC Part 97 and its international equivalents"?

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Sites do change in scope all the time, especially in beta. One of the most notable examples with the Science Fiction site, which initially did not allow Fantasy. Over a period of time, fantasy became more allowed until after a few months of discussion, they finally made it a part of the site officially. That was the kind of scope change you looked for.

As for your proposal, I agree with Kevin. There is a few sites that you could ask such questions at, such as the Electrical Engineering, and possibly Signals, sites. But let's keep this focused on Amateur Radio.

Originally this site was going to be radio.stackexchange.com. We convinced the SE employees to name it ham.stackexchange.com, specifically to keep this site to be related to Amateur Radio. We occasionally field CB/ FRS/ similar non-commercial radio questions, but Amateur Radio is the focus of the site.

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Warning: rambly, possibly poorly thought out answer ahead.

I think the way to look at this exactly parallels an aspect of amateur radio itself — the rules that amateur radio is not to be used for commercial purposes, or (in the US) “communications, on a regular basis, which could reasonably be furnished alternatively through other radio services”.

What would happen if this rule were absent? You would get people using the amateur bands simply because they're free to use, not because they care about radio for itself.

Similarly, we could widen our scope to include questions about other radio services. But then we would have a lower proportion of content particularly interesting to the particular group of people who care about radio (technology, usage, …) for itself.

Based on your other question you seem to be trying to make us a bigger site. But bigger doesn't mean inherently better. Look at the story of Radio Shack (the chain electronics store): it killed itself by chasing after what was popular and easy money (selling cell phones) and lost its unique value.


but OTOH asking honest questions "what antenna should I use" becomes a minefield of careful wording/re-wording to avoid opinion/shopping.

This is a completely different issue from site scope. If you actually ask “what antenna should I use” you'll get a steadily growing set of “I use this antenna! It's great!” answers. Are those useful? Maybe. But the problem is that they're not objectively comparable (or at least, nobody's going to buy/build all the named antennas, put them up in an antenna range, take measurements, and then up/downvote accordingly).

The point of the Stack Exchange model is to come to consensus on good answers, so people can get answers to their questions without reading through pages of conflicting claims. That doesn't work for a question like this.


Why not explicitly broaden this site to ± "radio stuff"? I don't think that prevents us from still migrating some questions that may cross the line

That's not how topicality works in Stack Exchange. From the Meta FAQ:

Don't migrate for the sake of migration. We only migrate questions because they are off-topic on the original site. It is perfectly possible for a question to be on-topic on multiple sites, but that is not a reason to migrate it elsewhere. As a general rule, if someone asks a question here, and it's on-topic here, it should stay here.

And, if your topic is “X but not (intersections of X with other sites' topics)” then how is anyone going to understand whether a question they're thinking about asking is on-topic, if they're not familiar with all-of-SE?


seems like I'm getting away with asking lots of RF stuff that's not really "ham radio" if you take away the fluff I add to make it seem so ;-)

Otherwise, why is "SDR" on topic here but "CB" I'm guessing is not?

You're not “getting away” with anything. If you look at our on-topic page you'll see this statement:

... Questions are expected to be about Amateur radio specifically, or about the technology of radio.

We in fact have questions about CB radio:

What's common about these? They're all about the technology. The equipment being discussed may be specific to CB, but the principles apply everywhere.


Why are we trying to focus on "only amateur radio" in the first place (and then in practice allowing certain other things to slide by)?

Well, we need to focus on something that is well-defined. It's been found, I believe, that a healthy site needs a topic which a substantial number of members are interested in all of. If there are several distinct sub-communities and you try to have a site that's for all of them, it creates trouble — look at the site(s) formerly known as Audio & Video Production.

Would StackExchange allow a site like ours to "pivot"?

Probably yes, if there was a clear community consensus.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very helpful, thanks! I've been a long-time but fairly casual user of SE sites and so this summary of "SE philosophy" provides much clarity. I think another key thing I'd missed was the phrase "… or about the technology of radio" in this site's own meta. $\endgroup$ – natevw - AF7TB May 14 '16 at 4:14

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