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I've seen the buzz back and forth about Android and cloud computing, which has apparently raged for awhile. I'm trying to understand it. I'm a relative newcomer to the site and there is still much I don't know. I'm writing this as a real question. Phones, media players and the like are not computing platforms, so it is easy to understand why those are off-topic. There are some fuzzy areas for me

Arduino is on-topic, but it isn't what I would call a computing platform. Why is that on topic?

There are a number of "micro-OSs", mostly stripped down versions of Linux, that are used to operate "smart devices". Those aren't really computing platforms and those are on-topic.

Before smartphones, there were Palm devices. I owned several and ran emulations of the MS Office applications that approached the lightweight applications bundled with some Linux distros. It appears Palm is on-topic, although there aren't questions about it these days. BlackBerries followed. I didn't own one, but they were at least as robust as Palm devices. The wiki excerpt for the blackberry tag says it's on-topic only if the device is connected to the computer, which is a method of synching and then using it as a remote extension of your desktop applications. So it isn't clear to what extent BlackBerry is on-topic.

Early smart phones weren't what I would call computing platforms. However, what is being offered now are some pretty robust tablets that also make phone calls. Some of these are good mobile stand-ins for a "real" computer. Apparently, any device with a built-in phone is off-topic. Although, you can Skype with most computers, so that can't be the criterion.

Then you have the migration from luggables to laptops to notebooks to tablets. Many of today's tablets are far more capable than the luggables or early laptops. However, at some size, they are suddenly off-topic regardless of their capabilities. Is the key factor screen size (below a certain size, you can't effectively do serious applications)?

Android is based on the Linux kernel. It's used on many devices that aren't computing platforms, but nothing precludes it from being used for more powerful applications. It's my impression that there are Android tablets that run applications similar in capability to what you would find on notebooks. Android is off-topic.

Cloud computing has been pretty widely argued. Some say it is the future of computing. We're at the point where you can do almost any application on a cloud-based device that you can on a "real" computer. Cloud-based computing is off-topic. Why are we excluding what is becoming a huge portion of the computing universe? Do we risk becoming a "buggy whip" web site at some point, where we simply lose relevance to the external world?

Computing has fundamentally changed over time. At one time, your home or office computer was where you did your computing. Things became more mobile. Today, people's computing environment is wherever they are. People either sync mobile devices in order to work remotely or use some form of cloud-based computing for some portion of their workflow. So what is the logic behind drawing a circle around a portion of that system and saying inside the circle is on-topic, outside is not?

Are there Stack Exchange sites that deal with Android or cloud computing issues?

I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the logic behind the rules. In most cases, I know what the rules are--what's in and what's out. I'm having trouble understanding why they are what they are. I assume it's more substantive than "because that's the way it is", or "because we said so", or "because it's always been that way". Can anyone explain this to me?

  • I always thought the idea was that Super User was supposed to be more of an IT Department/Home IT Guy sort of website, where most questions would be about setting up AD, networking issues, getting this Linux box talking to that Windows Server, that sort of thing, but we would generally cover a lot of computing topics. Obviously our scope encompasses a lot of different things, like the ones you mention such as Arduino. Whether that's a good thing or not, I leave that up to the reader to decide, However do note that we do have Arduino.SE now (continued...) – Robotnik Nov 20 '14 at 6:24
  • ... and as these topics get large enough, it seems that they start to split off from a 'Generic IT support site' into their own niches. Does Super User want to continue supporting stuff like Arduino, when there's entire Stack Exchanges dedicated to the topic(s) at hand? Do we want to continue to be the all-inclusive IT environment, or the specific 'PC hardware and software only' site? More generically: How do we define ourselves? I realise these points are very existential, and should probably be debated on a case-by-case basis, but they I think succinctly cover the point you're making. – Robotnik Nov 20 '14 at 6:29
  • Also: I personally think that Android should probably be on topic, but the current community consensus is that it isn't, hence my cleanup-request – Robotnik Nov 20 '14 at 6:33
  • "...Super User was supposed to be more of an IT Department..." vs. "issues specific to corporate IT support and networks" being specifically off-topic? – fixer1234 Nov 20 '14 at 6:39
  • I didn't mean corporate IT in general when I said 'IT Department', I meant we were like an IT Department for Home IT stuff. Sorry, worded weird. – Robotnik Nov 20 '14 at 6:41
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Android has its own site - the reason why tablets are on topic and phones arn't is because we wanted to include Win RT (see this and the post where we voted on it.

I've usually felt that SU's scope is general purpose computing

Tablets are, in short, a red-headed stepchild we ended up adopting cause of circumstances.

Something like a raspberry pi, a PPC machintosh or say, my old SGI Octane have the same characteristics, and are on topic here. If you arn't dealing with code and its a reasonably open system with an OS you can use, modify and install software on without too much gymnastics or a bit of kit you would reasonably find in home use, its on topic here.

I do hope that the proper computer never dies. I have too much fun with them ;)

  • Those links were a good read. Two take-aways. 1) An underlying driver is having a core of "experts" to answer the subject matter. 2) There are two kinds of people. One kind sees the computer as a black box that does stuff for them. The other sees it as hardware and code that they can make do stuff. The core SU contributors are the latter. The criterion isn't what you do with it, but what's under the hood that you do it with. – fixer1234 Nov 21 '14 at 0:58
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I'm moving this from being buried in a comment. It seems to be an illustration of the answer. limitation of tablets

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