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A few months ago, we had two communities; the sound enthusiasts on our site for audio and video production, and the community that had been flourishing on Sound Design. The two seemed like, and are, a natural fit for one another in one place and so far things have been working out quite well.

Originally, I was worried that our more conditioned users would find the somewhat subjective and broad questions on Sound Design and, due to how we've conditioned them to strive for a high signal to noise resource, close questions that the Sound Design community felt were serving them well.

As with all of my predictions, the opposite has happened, and this is broadly due to us not taking a bit of time to hash out what kinds of questions we should entertain here.

We envisioned the combined Sound Design site as a great resource for people that are:

  • Designing sound, both amateur and professionally
  • Working on endeavors that go into designing sound, such as:
    • Configuring and using recording equipment
    • Effects and post processing
    • Mastering / production
  • Acoustics, to achieve desired effects or quality
  • Other things I'm probably forgetting, but you get the gist

The current help center topic guideline currently says:

of interest to at least one other person interested in sound design

... this needs to be narrowed down quite a bit. The main topic of this site is Sound Design, which encompasses many skills where someone can be at an expert level and able to answer questions. We need to talk about where the bar for on-topic (and in the spirit of the very open and friendly original topic guideline) falls in the realm of interesting to someone working in sound design.

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with the question that I've linked, but think about it in the context of other sites, and how it might be asked:

  • Cooking - If I put all of these ingredients in a bowl, I'll get a cake?
  • Stack Overflow - All of these files compile to one executable file?

It's just far too broad and doesn't state something one hopes to actually accomplish. A good start to a minimum bar is a requirement to clearly specify what you're trying to actually do, and the results you hope to achieve. Beginner questions should be fine, but they've got to give us a good indication of what they're trying to accomplish. For instance?

Does a compressor deal with someone suddenly screaming into a mic?

... bad.

How can I use a compressor to normalize output levels when I've got sources that tend to randomly quadruple in volume?

... better.

I'm using a [brand] compressor with [other setup], but I can't get it to clip where I want. Here's how I have it set up, what did I miss?

... much better.

You can extrapolate that example to other things, such as questions involving Pro Tools, field recorders, etc.

What I've stated is only an example to help get the discussion moving, and I believe this is something we're going to need to make several passes on in order to perfect. The result of this should be a more refined scope, after which, we can have additional discussions to fine tune the various points that we establish.

It's important that we get input from as many folks as possible. Use answers, as many as you'd like, to bring up certain questions you feel are problematic and why. Give any thought as to how you think they could be made to fit better, or if we should consider placing them out of scope.

At the end of this, once I've consolidated everyone's input, we'll have the following things:

  • Better guidance in the help center page (which mods can edit)
  • A draft of several custom close reasons, should we see a clear need to add some
  • The beginning of a consensus when it comes to scope.

I can't reiterate enough how important it is for everyone to feel good about this - this is a process that we normally undertake during a private beta period, but it works just as well later on. We're talking about things going forward, once we've gotten things tweaked and everyone is content, we can consider looking at older questions, but I'm more inclined to leave those alone until good reason surfaces to address them individually.

Let the discussion begin and remember, we're all here to make this resource as informational, friendly and fantastic as possible. There are a few discussions of individual questions here on meta, I'm hoping to consolidate discussion here, and ideally get something in place within a week or so.

8

I'm prepared to wait a week or two to see what eventuates with the off topic stuff, but this is a forum right? I don't want it looking at my tags or whatever to decide what to display - I want it to display the most recent active questions ie new questions or questions with new answers... In that mode, if most of what is listed is irrelevant to either film sound design, field recording, game audio, or issues or work closely related (eg theatre sound design, new tools etc) then its really no longer much use/relevant to me & theres no point visiting... (I don't want to waste my time tagging & filtering/blocking irrelevant material - it would be like clicking 'unlike' on most of the current questions, is that really how I want to spend my time online?)

Live sound/PAs have nothing to do with sound design. How to program a synth belongs in a music forum How to record music belongs in a music forum At the moment, imho six of the first ten questions shouldn't be here

To be honest I am surprised to read you imported so many irrelevant questions - isn't it usual practice to do an audit pass on data before importing? Could you not have gone through & prioritised the data or deleted irrelevant questions? It seems this process has blown the focus of SSD - imagine if any other site dumped a ton of irrelevant info on to their front page... It seems an unwise approach & (as with here) I would tend to give up on that site for a while (weeks/months) and if when I return it really isn't much better, then that site becomes history... which is a shame if the original SSD has been lost due to some need to constantly grow the site

c'est la vie

  • Tim - music.se would not find those questions on topic at all. This site certainly appears to me to be the best fit, as all the topics currently present here work with what I consider possible in sound design. Remember, you don't need to add favourite tags. It helps, but as TimPost pointed out, the algorithm will skew things towards your preferences. – Rory Alsop Mar 13 '14 at 22:46
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    I agree fully with Tim. We in games/film/TV I.e. The old users of SSD really don't see the benefit of the mixing of QA's between the two old SSD and AVP areas. Does that sound wrong to you? – ErikG Mar 13 '14 at 22:53
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    A general comment from my personal perspective. Sound deign for film while definetly utilising regular audio tools and plugins is not about those tools, not at all really. It's a lot more about what we do, how we think about the choices we make, how we plan, methods of recording we use etc. but not mainly about gear, instructions, levels, and general use of typical plugins. Yes those discussions always creep in as well, and that's ok. But they really shouldn't be the main focus of a sound design site. All in my very personal and humble opinion. – ErikG Mar 13 '14 at 23:02
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    "what I consider possible in sound design" - really?? – user49 Mar 14 '14 at 21:36
  • Q: Minimal home studio based on Focuserite Scarlett 6i6 Q: Keyboard only routes to selected track in Logic Q: Silence a small section of just one channel in a stereo recording (Audacity) – user49 Mar 14 '14 at 21:37
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    what does that have to do with sound design? – user49 Mar 14 '14 at 21:37
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    those are all support questions from a music tech site, NOT sound design – user49 Mar 14 '14 at 21:39
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    Its not getting better – user49 Mar 16 '14 at 9:02
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    No it isn't. Almost all mod comments and also the basic statements of what the stack exchange is suppose to be, clearly state that subjective discussion that doesn't have clear answers don't belong here. – ErikG Mar 16 '14 at 10:02
  • @timprebble - two things you haven't taken into account: this isn't a forum, and the community is much bigger than just the folks who came from SSD. This is a merging of two communities into one Q&A site. – Rory Alsop Mar 17 '14 at 16:22
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    but no reason why? – user49 Mar 17 '14 at 21:00
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    "This is a merging of two communities into one Q&A site" - no, you are wrong about that, because you are going to lose the people you think you imported from SSD. What made SSD work was its relevance & specificity. You are deluding yourself if you think the Q&A aspect is much different to a forum - it isn't. By 'broadening' the scope of SSD you have effectively destroyed it. Thanks for nothing – user49 Mar 17 '14 at 21:03
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    I'll give it one more week & then I'm deleting my account – user49 Mar 17 '14 at 21:07
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    @timprebble I fully understand you and will likely do the same. If "the powers that be" decide to keep the mixed user groups in the sound.stackexchange.com theres really no point. I have talked this with Andrew Spitz who started it all and owns the socialsounddesign.com URL. He knows of how we feel and seems to agree with us about the current issues. – ErikG Mar 18 '14 at 8:33
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No music production; no live sound; no home theater audio; no audiophile types of questions please.

As selfish as it may be, I really want the old community back the way it was. It was a wealth of information at any point of time, and though there wasn't as many questions being asked, the ones that were posted generated a lot more discussion and the results were always useful to all of us. We had many people with a wealth of experience (tim prebble, Stavrosound, and Jay Jennings to name a few) and it would be terrible if they left the site because of the clutter in this site now. There is nothing appealing about the questions currently being posted. I appreciated SSD because it was a place where young and/or struggling sound designers needed help overcoming problems that they were facing and the community was there to aid them. Sound design is really not that simple and SSD was a place we could learn without all the rubbish clutter that usually goes along with the sound discipline. So please just let this be a page about sound design for film, tv, and animation. Let everything else filter off to a general sound page.

P.S. Please, listen to Tim!

  • Sad to say, but I think Stavrosound has already left us. – Steve Urban Mar 16 '14 at 6:34
  • that is terrible news! An actively contributing member who gave us a wealth of information. @AndrewSpitz Com'on guys please don't let all that work in SSD go to waste. The mechanics of the site matters little to what the content holds. – user6513 Mar 16 '14 at 6:42
  • Seriously? That's sad.. I liked stavrosound's responses. Has he left for good? – Arnoud Traa Mar 16 '14 at 11:16
3

I'm definitely not by any stretch considered a professional when it comes to sound design. My experience lies mostly in broadcasting, various kinds of studio work and field recording.

I'm not positively certain that questions boiling down to "I've got all this stuff, how do I hook it up?" are good for the site in the sense that they're questions that would engage more experts. On the other hand, they do provide some "Hey, I can answer that!" moments for users that are a bit shy to answer more difficult questions.

Still, I think there can be an expected twist to them that might make them useful, more interesting and more attractive to people at higher skill levels. If they're more about acoustics than actually plugging things in and getting them to work, then they might be a better fit. A question about setting up a PA for a live gig isn't all that interesting, but if you've got strange nooks in the room that do weird things to toms and snares, then it does seem to go to another level.

That said, I wouldn't want to discourage gear questions - but that hasn't been the case from what I've seen. If someone is having a hard time getting a recorder to work, or something else, and can explain a specific problem - that's been well-received.

In short, I think holding true to Sound Design is a good idea, and there's some wiggle room in there for broader, but still interesting questions that fit under that umbrella. They might not be strictly about sound design, but they would be of interest to those that design sound.

I'm in no way calling this an absolute - this is purely just thoughts I had while I was going through a bunch of questions during the massive tag cleanup we've been working on. Feel free to agree, disagree, - this is just like any other opinion you'll see collect here, I just happen to have a diamond next to my name while writing it.

  • 1
    Agree with many of your points. My personal frustration with the "I've got this kit, how do I us it……" this invariably comes back to not reading the manual and a lack of effort learning the kit. Most people on here (professional and amateur) have invested a great deal of time to get to where we are today and it can be frustrating that others are not prepared to do the same. In the same boat are questions that have been asked before (not bothered to search) and the "how do I make the synth sound from this track". This could be improved by insisting people make their questions more specific. – Bit Depth Mar 9 '14 at 11:30
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    @BitDepth I agree, the current guidance is very vague, and we're definitely going to have more of a "make sure you've done your homework" aspect to the help center entries, which can be cited when placing something on hold. We also need to take a close look at "what should I buy?" being good for the site or not. If you clearly state what you want to accomplish and things you need a piece of kit to do for you, these can be good questions, but it's very hard to get folks to do that. – Tim Post Mar 9 '14 at 12:21
  • @BitDepth - what you are describing there has tradtionally been considered "unclear what you are asking" on most SE sites, but probably have been getting let through due to those from AVP loosening their standards until we can figure out where the new bounds are. Normally it isn't acceptable for a question to depend on a link for a description of the problem. It can be used to clarify, but the words themselves should clearly define the question. (After all, links are known to go dead.) – AJ Henderson Mar 18 '14 at 14:29
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I'm using a [brand] compressor with [other setup], but I can't get it to clip where I want. Here's how I have it set up, what did I miss?

... much better.

I was under the impression that most members of SSD know how to deal with compressors and EQs but were missing practical advice discussion on application or aesthetic e.g. not "how" but "when" and "for the purpose of pushing the envelope in which direction". I'd go even farther and suggest that even asking those wasn't a big deal, things were so far out already, and that was a Good Thing™. It made SSD an unique spot, distinct from say JWSound or Gearslutz. But not now, in its latest form :|

2

I agree that some of the recent questions have veered pretty far away from the sound design topic. To some degree its because the concept of sound design is so niche, and when it's introduced to a broader audience it's not completely understood.

As such we get questions about setting up a PA, etc.

Is there a place in stack exchange for basic music recording and live sound questions to go? IMO those are off topic here as well.

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    I would say setting up a live set to achieve something in particular, or work around some kind of unique challenge would be well into the interesting mark. "Where do I plug all this stuff in?" ... probably not. – Tim Post Mar 7 '14 at 14:12
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    I mentioned it on another meta thread, but I really think that creating a music production SE would solve everything. – Mark Durham Mar 15 '14 at 8:11
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    "setting up a live set" <- is for another forum. Can you tell us what is your motive for effectively killing the old SSD? There is something going on here, other than simply 'I dumped a few thousand irrelevant questions into your forum' – user49 Mar 16 '14 at 20:36
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The folks in charge should take a real hard look Tim Prebble's very honest response. To lose such a talented, insightful member like Tim would be a real shame. I'm a musician, general audio guy as well as a sound designer and they are very different things. I loved SSD because it didn't have all the noise and was a very focused community of high caliber sound designers like Tim Prebble. When I want a forum on making synth patches, I go elsewhere, a question about protools, the DUC, gear - gearslutz, etc. etc. SSD was where I went when I wanted a community of true Sound Designers speaking of that craft and profession. I don't want SSD now SD to be a place where "anything any sound designer may have interest in" to be appropriate. I wish it to return to a place where sound designers talk about things specific to sound design, not live audio, not recreating synth patches, and not setting up USB mics. My two cents.

2

I think we need to be cautious about biting the noob. Just the audio production side of audio/video production seemed to have more activity than SSD had due to being open to a wide variety of sound related questions. It's easy to forget that all experienced people started as beginners at one time. Additionally, if you accept basic questions, your pretty rapidly get a solid base of intro question & answers and the rate of questions about new things should drop as they are closed as duplicate and people learn to understand to use the search.

Similarly, a lot of frustration seems to be about signal to noise, but this is a Q/A site, specifically NOT a forum. The point isn't to follow all the content, the point is to learn from questions about topics you are interested in and to be able to help people out when they have questions.

Tags exist for the explicit purpose of being able to categorize questions and follow the topics within a site that you are interested in. StackOverflow is the most successful of the SE sites by far and they don't say "we're only going to take expert questions about writing web applications", they take questions on any language, on any platform, of virtually any skill level.

People filter it down so that they see the questions they are interested in and those of us who actually are interested in a broader base of questions (yes, we do exist, we just avoid highly insular communities) help make sure that questions are tagged properly so they don't slip through the cracks.

The power of a community driven Q/A site like this is that a broad range of questions can be meaningfully categorized and condensed so that people looking for help can get it and people who know their particular areas can focus on those areas. This isn't a forum and it shouldn't be treated like one.

That all said, I think that this site, by nature of the communities that were merged together, ends up with a fairly broad scope. I don't think it is fair to exclude members of either of those communities as a result of the merger without offering them some home. Thus, I think we do need to be open to any questions that relate to sound design or production from a beginner level up through advanced. Otherwise, it would basically boil down to one part of the community voting the other part off the island.

I do think we can safely focus on sound related stuff rather than music though. Music design sounds like it wasn't really on topic for SSD and didn't seem to have a particularly strong spot on AVP, though it was perhaps tolerated. I think the key distinction on that front is that how to distort or alter a sound is probably on topic, but how/what to play is probably not. For example, the recent question on "Can you great people help me create a certain bassline please ! Thanks in advance :" is really more of a music question since it is focused on what to play, not just how to make it sound a particular way.

  • 'I think we need to be cautious about biting the noob.' I don't think the issue lies in the amount of noob questions. The point of most SSD users is that it are off topic (with regards to sound design) questions about noobs and experts. SSD was never a broad platform for questions about MP3 sample/bitrates or Firewire peripherals. This has been stated much better by others already btw. I really don't think we are downvoting 'noobs', we are discussing what the general subject of this Q/A site/forum is. – Arnoud Traa Mar 17 '14 at 17:03
  • @ArnoudTraa - yeah, I agree there are a few different issues being worked out. One aspect has been some pressure to close questions like things about the basics of how to use a DAW, specifically because it was basic, though perhaps that was just because they wanted it focused on how to do sound design things with a DAW and I misunderstood. Note that I do agree some stuff that doesn't really fit well has snuck in during things being up in the air too. MP3 bitrate is probably a better fit for superuser as it has nothing to do with audio production even if it is an audio format. – AJ Henderson Mar 17 '14 at 17:08
  • those of us from SSD WANT TO LEAVE YOUR ISLAND. We didn't ask to be dumped off here. Thanks. – user7731 Mar 18 '14 at 14:32
  • @Brad - I wasn't aware that SE forced SSD to merge. I understand that it wasn't what a lot of the user's of either site really particularly expected, but it isn't really true to say that SSD didn't make a decision to merge. – AJ Henderson Mar 18 '14 at 14:35
  • @AJ Henderson - Most of us from SSD woke up one day to this. The person who started SSD, Andrew, may have decided to merge to SD, and that's one man's choice but the community is very clearly not happy with it. It's not appropriate for SSD people to try and change what was here before we came, therefor, we should ask to leave, be split back off. Somethings just don't work out. It's not personal, and it's not you, it's me. :) – user7731 Mar 18 '14 at 14:40
  • @Brad - that's fair. Out of curiosity, was there any discussion of the transition on SSD and how was it brought up? I know on here we had some time where we were able to discuss it a bit and talk about possible issues, but I genuinely have fairly little insight in to how it appeared from your side of things. – AJ Henderson Mar 18 '14 at 14:43
  • @AJ Henderson - At the time, I personally didn't see any discussion about it. I just went to the forum one day and noticed my account was basically wiped out, lost the little bit of cred I had and saw nothing of interest to me anymore. I went and looked back the other day and did see a thread from Andrew propping up the merge with little substance as to what that meant and yes a few folks excited about it. I basically left for a few weeks because I just gave up on it. Only when I peeked back and saw people like Tim Prebble fighting for it did I gain back the desire to do the same. – user7731 Mar 18 '14 at 14:54
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    There was a small discussion/announcement about SE wanting us to merge with AVP - Audio Video Production. I think that pretty much 100% of SSD users assumed that to mean another group of users interested in audio for video production. It clearly wasn't... AVP seems to be like any other music interested crowd that there are hundreds of sites for and have nothing to do with AUDIO VIDEO PRODUCTION... – ErikG Mar 18 '14 at 16:47
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My experience is in two main areas - making live performances sound good (ie configuration of PA systems in venues) and creating/recording electronic/rock/blues music in the studio.

My thoughts:

On topic

  • I don't know enough about the whole creating effects from scratch side of things, but it is obviously the core of SD.
  • Tweaking sounds, recordings or samples to fit a requirement
  • As we don't have a music recording site (is definitely off topic for music production and practice) I think questions on PA's etc can fit here. Not how to plug them in, but as Tim says, how to make them do something specific, sound-wise

Off topic

  • How do I make the sound from track 'X'
  • How to connect this
  • What is the best mic/recording device/X

I do tend to err on a site's scope being more inclusive rather than less, as you can always add tags to your block list or alternately to your favourites in order to see just the content you want.

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    You raise an interesting point here Rory, the algorithm that puts together the front page of the site is orders of magnitude better at knowing what you like based on your tags than the 1.0 platform that many folks here had become accustomed to. Even without much fiddling in your favorites / ignored, you'll still be greeted with stuff that interests you when you arrive to the main page of the site. – Tim Post Mar 11 '14 at 6:59
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    No guys, the fact that its a technically better plattform is largely irrelevant. I really dont think most users of SSD had many gripes with it. It was far from perfect, but not at all bad. The users and the specific questions asked made it good. Not the format or the technology. It was a niche site, for a niche type personality the mainly niche folks in a niche business area deals with. – ErikG Mar 13 '14 at 22:38
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    Erik - not sure what you mean. Your statement doesn't have any relevance to what I said and what Tim is taking about is a useful feature of the platform, when trying to decide on strategies for keeping abreast with questions, not commenting on the relative merits. – Rory Alsop Mar 13 '14 at 22:43
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    Sorry wasn't done... Adding more users and questions and tags and filters and bloody artificial intelligence won't make it better. Users and content is what can (and did) make things interesting with SSD. Loosing the knowledgable and creative users because of the changes will not be offset by technology. – ErikG Mar 13 '14 at 22:46
  • @RoryAlsop, sorry no2. My reply was to TimPost comment on the fact that the front page algorithm is so much better now, and that there wouldn't need to be as much much fiddling with various settings. – ErikG Mar 13 '14 at 23:58
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I really don't want to see music production related questions here. Questions about mixing drum beats, making deadmau5 synth lead or tweaking guitar effect chain shouldn't be here. All of these things would fall into broad definition of sound design, but I'd rather see this place be about film/tv/game sound design like it used to be.

Maybe there should be music production stack exchange for music related sound design and mixing questions? I really didn't expect the flood of these questions considering there are already many places to ask these. Every second music genre has own forum somewhere and then there are places like Kvraudio and Gearslutz.

  • It's only a flood because I sent over a thousand questions over in large batches. In a week or two, you'll see a much steadier stream of stuff that interests you with occasional things that don't, but you can generally keep that out of view using tag filters. I know it seems like a huge tidal wave, but that's in perception mostly - once natural 'churn' kicks in again, it will be different. – Tim Post Mar 13 '14 at 14:40
  • @TimPost what are tag filters, how do we use them and where can I set these up? – Steve Urban Mar 15 '14 at 1:04

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