One of the nice features of biostars is that the site is open to people using it as a forum for supporting their own tools (i.e., as a replacement for a tool-specific email list). The tool authors that do this then follow the tag associated with their tool (e.g.,
trinity). So far that's already well in line with this site. However, issues will arise surrounding this as follows:
- Mailing lists or other tool-specific forums are, out of necessity, a bit easier going when it comes to simplistic (you can read that as "newb" if you prefer) and duplicate questions (examples abound on the deeptools google group).
- If "post on bioinformatics.SE and use/follow a tag" becomes a convenient method for tool-authors to provide support, then they'll also then want to make announcements (e.g., "version 2.0 is out with the following features ...") on the same platform. This is fine on biostars, but doesn't really fit with the SE ethos.
Some more specific background: I'm one of the developers for deepTools and spend a bit of time each week handling user support on our "google group" (i.e., a mailing list maintained and easily searchable by google). Having a mailing list is nice for the signal to noise ratio, but of course then I (or my colleagues) are the only ones providing answers to our users. In reality, >90% of questions could also be answered by other bioinformaticians with knowledge of the tool suite. Allowing people like us to migrate our support channels to this site would generate a considerable amount of extra traffic (good), but we would then need to ensure a very gentle treatment of our users (not easy) and a method to communicate releases (presumably one could use a dedicated email list for this, some tools already discriminate between an -announce and a -help email list). But of course the question is how do we, as the bioinfo.SE community, want to approach using the site for tool support when the site itself becomes the dedicated channel for said tools?