Too many different forums/categories?


by ShawnD
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ShawnD
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Dec18-06, 07:00 PM
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Does it seem like the forum is divided in too many ways?

Homework
The homework forum has 6 different categories. Do we really need to separate simple and advanced physics? Does math need to be separated into calculus and not-calculus? The engineering and technology forum appears to be unused since engineering is technically physics and technology homework is more about creating projects, so any tech questions would be theoretical, and would thus go into one of the forums under Technology.

Career
The career guidance forum has a sub-forum of archived homework help threads; shouldn't that archive be under homework help?

Physics
Physics is divided into 7 different forums which could probably be merged into 1. Quantum may be worthy of its own forum, but even that is debatable.

Astronomy
General astronomy looks like it could be a standalone forum. The threads in astrophysics and cosmology look like they could easily be posted in the physics forum since they mainly ask physics questions.

Math
7 math forums? General and algebra are the same thing. Calculus and differentials are the same thing. Differential geometry is still differentials, put it under calculus. Statistics should probably go under general math. Number theory I'm not sure about.

Engineering
The engineering forums could probably all be merged together.

Other Sciences
I really like the layout of this one. Chemistry has just 1 forum. Biology has 1 forum. Good stuff.



It's nice to be organized, but being too organized can be a bit confusing. On Sunday I posted a physics question and I actually had to ask myself which forum it goes into. General? Relativity? Nuclear? It sort of dealt with relativity, but it sort of dealt with nuclear reactions as well. If I post it in general I'll get the most views, and a better chance of somebody solving it. Where did I end up posting? I can't even remember.
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chroot
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Dec18-06, 07:05 PM
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So you're suggesting that we should have perhaps 5 forums, total?

- Warren
cristo
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Dec18-06, 07:07 PM
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I think intro/advanced physics and calc/non-calc in the homework forums needs to stay as it is, due to the number of posts each day. If all physics and all maths questions were posted in only two forums, then it would get rather confusing!

ShawnD
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Dec18-06, 07:19 PM
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Too many different forums/categories?


Quote Quote by chroot View Post
So you're suggesting that we should have perhaps 5 forums, total?

- Warren
It would be more than 5 but certainly less than the current 38.
robphy
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Dec18-06, 07:21 PM
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Quote Quote by ShawnD View Post
Does it seem like the forum is divided in too many ways?

..snip...

Physics
Physics is divided into 7 different forums which could probably be merged into 1. Quantum may be worthy of its own forum, but even that is debatable.

..snip...

It's nice to be organized, but being too organized can be a bit confusing. On Sunday I posted a physics question and I actually had to ask myself which forum it goes into. General? Relativity? Nuclear? It sort of dealt with relativity, but it sort of dealt with nuclear reactions as well. If I post it in general I'll get the most views, and a better chance of somebody solving it. Where did I end up posting? I can't even remember.
So, should the website be renamed to physicsforum [singular]?

To decide where to post is actually a good thing... it gets the question-poser to think about where the heart of the problem lies. (At times, many advanced problems that a student are stuck on end up being a problem with basic kinematics or basic dynamics or mathematics, and not the advanced physics itself.)
Gokul43201
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Dec18-06, 10:26 PM
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Quote Quote by ShawnD View Post
Does it seem like the forum is divided in too many ways?
No, it does not seem that way to me.

Why on earth should someone that's only interested in say, experimental condensed matter physics be made to wade through pages and pages of classical physics, relativity, astrophysics, high energy physics, string theory, quantum gravity and what not to find the odd thread of interest to them?! That makes absoluteley no sense.

I, for one, visit the solid state sub-forum more times than all the other physics sub-forums put together, and similarly with materials engineering.

Do you think there really aren't many people here that specialize in any of these subfields? Do you think people visit all subforums of a given forum equally?
ShawnD
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Dec18-06, 10:56 PM
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Quote Quote by robphy View Post
To decide where to post is actually a good thing... it gets the question-poser to think about where the heart of the problem lies.
Theoretically speaking, knowing the problem makes you better able to find people who know the answer (post in the correct forum). But what if you don't exactly know what the problem is? Many simple physics problems end up in the advanced physics area because the person posting doesn't know what constitutes simple or advanced physics. Once something is in the advanced physics forum, a much smaller audience will see it. I don't even look in there because I'm not at that level, but I could probably help answer some of the simple questions that accidentally get posted there.

This same logic applies to other areas of the forum as well. For example, it seems reasonable to post a question about doppler shift of stars in the astronomy forum. Doppler shift is something we all learned back in grade 11, so anybody on this forum with a high school diploma would be able to help with such a question. Unfortunately, astronomy isn't all that popular, so the good majority of us capable of answering that question wouldn't even see the question because we wouldn't be hanging around the astronomy forum just hunting for stray questions that we might be able to answer.

In return I could just as easily ask why the chemistry does just fine wth only 1 forum. Why not divide chemistry into organic, inorganic, spectroscopy, chromatography, and nuclear magnetic resonance? They're all involved in chemistry aren't they? The answer is quite simple. Splitting it into organic and inorganic is getting too specialized; people who know one of them will probably know the other (sort of like how people who know calculus also know how to do differentials). Spectroscopy and chromatography are also very specialized (much like relativity and quantum), so they might as well just be merged with general chemistry. Nuclear magnetic resonance is also too specialized to draw a huge audience (just like number theory). After they all get merged together it creates 1 generic chemistry forum where every thread related to chemistry is seen by anybody who has any interest in chemistry.

The people who post things seem to agree that having a general forum is better. Ever notice how the General Physics forum is 6x as big as the Classical Physics forum, even though they contain essentially the same posts? Things about heat transfer, Newtonian physics, waves, etc.
The math forums are also like this. Things are either posted under General Math or Calculus. Anything posted in one of the other math forums will probably not be seen.
ShawnD
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Dec18-06, 11:07 PM
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Quote Quote by Gokul43201 View Post
Do you think people visit all subforums of a given forum equally?
That's exactly my point. We all know damn well nothing will ever be seen if it's posted in the differential geometry forum, so it will probably end up in the calculus forum because that's a good place to find a solution to a problem involving differentials of any kind. On a similar note, anything that is related to Mind & Brain Sciences will not be posted in the forum with that name. Those posts end up in the Biology and Social Sciences forums simply because the audience is bigger.

While you look into the Mind & Brain forum hoping to see something interesting (which it is), you won't find much because those posts end up in more generic forums which don't catch your interest as much (Biology).
Gokul43201
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Dec18-06, 11:25 PM
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Quote Quote by ShawnD View Post
Theoretically speaking, knowing the problem makes you better able to find people who know the answer (post in the correct forum). But what if you don't exactly know what the problem is? Many simple physics problems end up in the advanced physics area because the person posting doesn't know what constitutes simple or advanced physics.
The mods here move threads to more appropriate places, when they notice them posted to the wrong forum. They do not catch every misplaced thread, but the majority do get moved to a more appropriate forum. If you find a thread stagnating because it's in the completely wrong forum, make use of the "report post" feature to alert the mods.

Once something is in the advanced physics forum, a much smaller audience will see it. I don't even look in there because I'm not at that level, but I could probably help answer some of the simple questions that accidentally get posted there.
This only shows that the subdivision has served a useful purpose - it lets you stick to the stuff you are more likely to be capable of helping with. The folks that feel qualified to help with the advanced questions could direct more of their attention there rather than have to sort through all levels of questions.

This same logic applies to other areas of the forum as well. For example, it seems reasonable to post a question about doppler shift of stars in the astronomy forum. Doppler shift is something we all learned back in grade 11, so anybody on this forum with a high school diploma would be able to help with such a question. Unfortunately, astronomy isn't all that popular, so the good majority of us capable of answering that question wouldn't even see the question because we wouldn't be hanging around the astronomy forum just hunting for stray questions that we might be able to answer.
Again, the mods exercise their judgement on where a given thread will likely get the best response and move it accordingly, if necessary.

In return I could just as easily ask why the chemistry does just fine wth only 1 forum.
Because it sees very low traffic. If I visit the Chemistry forum every other day, I will have to dig through pages to find topics of my interest.

Why not divide chemistry into organic, inorganic, spectroscopy, chromatography, and nuclear magnetic resonance? They're all involved in chemistry aren't they? The answer is quite simple. Splitting it into organic and inorganic is getting too specialized; people who know one of them will probably know the other (sort of like how people who know calculus also know how to do differentials). Spectroscopy and chromatography are also very specialized (much like relativity and quantum), so they might as well just be merged with general chemistry. Nuclear magnetic resonance is also too specialized to draw a huge audience (just like number theory). After they all get merged together it creates 1 generic chemistry forum where every thread related to chemistry is seen by anybody who has any interest in chemistry.
This is not the reason! The reason is that the Chemistry forum has 2000 odd threads while the Physics forum has 25,000 or so threads in it.

The people who post things seem to agree that having a general forum is better.
The General forums are useful for hobbyists, casual learners or interested layfolk. There are a large number of these people that visit PF and the "General" forums serve them very well. It also serves the additional purpose of giving you a place to post your thread if you're not sure which sub-furom it is best suited to (the mods can then move it appropriately). Also, General Physics looks bigger than all the rest of the Physics subforums put together, because it has some 8000 threads in sci.phys.research and the archives(locked).
robphy
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Dec18-06, 11:29 PM
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Quote Quote by ShawnD View Post
Theoretically speaking, knowing the problem makes you better able to find people who know the answer (post in the correct forum). But what if you don't exactly know what the problem is? Many simple physics problems end up in the advanced physics area because the person posting doesn't know what constitutes simple or advanced physics. Once something is in the advanced physics forum, a much smaller audience will see it. I don't even look in there because I'm not at that level, but I could probably help answer some of the simple questions that accidentally get posted there.
A mentor will probably move it to the appropriate place.


Quote Quote by ShawnD View Post
In return I could just as easily ask why the chemistry does just fine wth only 1 forum. Why not divide chemistry into organic, inorganic, spectroscopy, chromatography, and nuclear magnetic resonance?

..snip...
The people who post things seem to agree that having a general forum is better. Ever notice how the General Physics forum is 6x as big as the Classical Physics forum, even though they contain essentially the same posts? Things about heat transfer, Newtonian physics, waves, etc.
The math forums are also like this. Things are either posted under General Math or Calculus. Anything posted in one of the other math forums will probably not be seen.
It seems that the General Physics thread count (14000) includes sci.physics.research (5000) and archives (3000). From a rough look at the other thread counts... except for the general and homework ones, the active ones seem to be about 2500. The entire Chemistry forum by itself is about 2000, which is smaller than many of the subforums in Physics.

It might be interesting to look back at how the forum divisions developed over time: archive.org's physicsforums.com.

I'm sure there is some logic behind it based on natural divisions and levels of activity prompting various rearrangements.... the forum administrators will be probably have a better answer for why they did it the way they have.

I like not having everything in one forum so that I can concentrate on what I enjoy and where I can help and be helped. That's why I don't read sci.physics anymore. (I actually came to PF because I got tired of reading sci.physics.relativity.)
Gokul43201
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Dec18-06, 11:35 PM
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Quote Quote by ShawnD View Post
That's exactly my point. We all know damn well nothing will ever be seen if it's posted in the differential geometry forum, so it will probably end up in the calculus forum because that's a good place to find a solution to a problem involving differentials of any kind. On a similar note, anything that is related to Mind & Brain Sciences will not be posted in the forum with that name. Those posts end up in the Biology and Social Sciences forums simply because the audience is bigger.

While you look into the Mind & Brain forum hoping to see something interesting (which it is), you won't find much because those posts end up in more generic forums which don't catch your interest as much (Biology).
Can't disagree more! I'd much rather have the number theorists look at my number theory questions. And I'd much rather have the solid state physicists have a look at my solid state threads. Putting these in the general forums will greatly increase the likelihood that my target audience misses my thread.

Take a look at the thread in General Discussion regarding the math prof that has suggested an extension to the reals that allows a definition for 0/0. You'll find all manner of folk who are likely unqualified to criticize the work doing just so with reckless abandon. Did the thread get a lot of attention and response from being posted in GD? You bet! If anyone was actually interested in addressing the mathematical content, would they have been satisfied with the quality of response? No freaking way!
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Dec18-06, 11:52 PM
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Quote Quote by Gokul43201 View Post
Can't disagree more! I'd much rather have the number theorists look at my number theory questions. And I'd much rather have the solid state physicists have a look at my solid state threads. Putting these in the general forums will greatly increase the likelihood that my target audience misses my thread.

Take a look at the thread in General Discussion regarding the math prof that has suggested an extension to the reals that allows a definition for 0/0. You'll find all manner of folk who are likely unqualified to criticize the work doing just so with reckless abandon. Did the thread get a lot of attention and response from being posted in GD? You bet! If anyone was actually interested in addressing the mathematical content, would they have been satisfied with the quality of response? No freaking way!
To concur with this statement and turn the thread upside down somewhat, I have noticed that the general physics forum tends to get most of its content moved elsewhere and might question the value of that forum. I understand there could be a question that occurs that covers several fields of physics and will require such a forum, but they appear to be very rare.
danscope
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Dec19-06, 12:15 AM
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Quote Quote by ShawnD View Post
Does it seem like the forum is divided in too many ways?

Homework
The homework forum has 6 different categories. Do we really need to separate simple and advanced physics? Does math need to be separated into calculus and not-calculus? The engineering and technology forum appears to be unused since engineering is technically physics and technology homework is more about creating projects, so any tech questions would be theoretical, and would thus go into one of the forums under Technology.

Career
The career guidance forum has a sub-forum of archived homework help threads; shouldn't that archive be under homework help?

Physics
Physics is divided into 7 different forums which could probably be merged into 1. Quantum may be worthy of its own forum, but even that is debatable.

Astronomy
General astronomy looks like it could be a standalone forum. The threads in astrophysics and cosmology look like they could easily be posted in the physics forum since they mainly ask physics questions.

Math
7 math forums? General and algebra are the same thing. Calculus and differentials are the same thing. Differential geometry is still differentials, put it under calculus. Statistics should probably go under general math. Number theory I'm not sure about.

Engineering
The engineering forums could probably all be merged together.

Other Sciences
I really like the layout of this one. Chemistry has just 1 forum. Biology has 1 forum. Good stuff.



It's nice to be organized, but being too organized can be a bit confusing. On Sunday I posted a physics question and I actually had to ask myself which forum it goes into. General? Relativity? Nuclear? It sort of dealt with relativity, but it sort of dealt with nuclear reactions as well. If I post it in general I'll get the most views, and a better chance of somebody solving it. Where did I end up posting? I can't even remember.
Hi, Use your "subscribe to threads" tool. And remember: If it makes you think, it might be a good thing. You shall enjoy more difficult challenges ahead.
Smile and press on for a hungry world awaits you.
Best regards, Dan
ZapperZ
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Dec19-06, 04:19 AM
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Quote Quote by Kurdt View Post
To concur with this statement and turn the thread upside down somewhat, I have noticed that the general physics forum tends to get most of its content moved elsewhere and might question the value of that forum. I understand there could be a question that occurs that covers several fields of physics and will require such a forum, but they appear to be very rare.
No. Rather, most of the post that were moved were homework-type postings made by members who simply didn't pay attention to where such things should go (even when there's a STICKY in there telling them not to post it in the GP forum). It would not matter if we change the forum or not since these people won't pay attention to the instructions.

There's one good thing about this thread though. Next time someone suggests we have such-and-such a forum on PF, I'll point him/her to this thread.

Zz.
jtbell
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Dec19-06, 09:52 AM
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As I understand it, the "General Physics" forum is for physics-related topics that don't fit into the more specific physics forums below it. Perhaps that would become more obvious if we renamed it to "Other Physics Topics" and moved it to the end of the "Physics" section?

The first thing that comes to my mind when I see "General Physics" is the college/university level introductory physics course (which often has that name in the USA). I suspect that may be the case for many students also.


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