ROS and Gazebo Answers Migration to Robotics Stack Exchange Process

I’m happy to announce that we’re getting ready to execute the migration of answers from and to Robotics Stack Exchange. (Previously discussed here)

tl;dr See Call to Action below

The OSRF has chosen to do this because we believe it will provide a better user experience for the ROS and Gazebo communities. Being part of the Stack Exchange network brings a lot of benefits. It has a much bigger community overall and has a team focused on improving the Q&A experience. Spam and low quality posts, a perennial problem on ROS Answers, are automatically flagged, making the job of moderators much easier. Similarly, stale and unanswered questions are automatically pruned if they remain unanswered. They even have bots that periodically find and surface older content if it looks like it might be of interest. All of these features mean Stack Exchange hosts the premiere Q&A sites across the web. and we believe that Robotics will be yet one more of those great places.

Unfortunately, we can’t transition all ROS Answers content, and it will not be perfect. However, we plan to be transparent about what’s happening, and respond to community feedback about the process.

The foundation is working closely with the Stack Exchange team to make this transition happen and this will allow us to partially migrate some account information. For example, if you have a Robotics Stack Exchange account it will be possible to credit your account with the answers you made on ROS Answers or Gazebo Answers. We will be creating form for you to submit your accounts for association during the import process.

As an open source project we value using other open source tools, and responsibly stewarding the data generated by our community. We’ve chosen to step away from those things because the community has grown to the point where we are unable to provide an adequate level of support for this aspect of the ROS infrastructure. Earlier in the project, when we were a smaller community, it was very important that we make sure that there was a dedicated space for ROS and Gazebo users to congregate. Now that we’re a worldwide community with a large user base, maintaining these platforms has become a full-time job, and we see that our community is spreading out to more places for asking questions and finding solutions. It’s already common to see ROS questions on Robotics Stack Exchange, and they’re getting answered there too! And having to choose, “do I ask a fundamental question about Robotics in one forum or a specific ROS question in another and get bounced around because I didn’t understand the concept well” is much worse than just adding or removing a ROS tag on the same site.

I mentioned the open source ethos of controlling your data and not relying on others. This transition will push our community to rely on Stack Exchange for hosting our communities’ content. Stack Exchange has a strong track record and has proven a reliable site for many different communities. Furthermore, the content in Stack Exchange will retain the same Creative Commons license, CC BY-SA, and they do not prevent the data from being exported. In fact they have API access available as well as a specific data query portal where you can construct your own query. There is significant value in having the long tail of questions available, but the most important thing for us to provide to the community is prompt answers to their current problems. This is what Stack Exchange is better at facilitating than our own Q&A sites. Similarly, there’s often confusion among new users who regularly look at Robotics.SE and wonder why there’s not much ROS or Gazebo content there. They ask why ROS isn’t just over there. If Robotics Stack Exchange had existed when the ROS project started we likely would have been there to begin with.

I know that many people will have mixed feelings about this. I do, too. I was the person who proposed setting up a Q&A site, evaluated options and eventually set up what you know now as based on Askbot. I’ve spent a lot of time answering questions and much more time moderating the site. You’ll see me near the top of the Karma list for the site and I’ll be losing that as we transition. But during this exploration phase I’ve made a commitment to visit Robotics.SE regularly and have built up my reputation there over the last year or so. I encourage you all to visit Robotices.SE and get involved there. We will be bringing our best rated questions and answers to the site, but the really important part of the site is the community who help each other get things working.

As you transition to Robotics.SE, remember that they have a slightly different approach to answering questions. Over the years of maintaining and growing Q&A sites they have learned a lot about how to make such sites work best. A lot of what we’d like to get out of the site is to improve the experience for ROS and Gazebo users. To that end, we as a community should strive to leverage those learnings which are well laid out in their Q&A answering policies.

If you’d like to know more please read up here: Help Center - Robotics Stack Exchange

It’s also helpful to understand that there’s a Meta exchange for talking about process. This is a great place for asking questions about any parts of the process.

Call to Action

Migration and backwards compatibility

We know that many people rely on linking to specific answers at and with deep links. To prevent link rot, we will switch both sites to read-only mode after the transition.

As we get further along in this process, we’ll be able to provide a more definite timeline of what’s going to happen and when. Please provide your feedback in the next 2 weeks.

10 Likes, the link for the tag mappings, gives me a 404, which on Github usually means I don’t have access.

Sorry about that. The tag mapping repo is public now.

1 Like

could you say something about how content is migrated for which there is no matching SE account?


Questions and answers for which we do not have a mapping between users the posts will have a bot user attribution. Likely the temporary account:

Which will be closed out after this migration.

An example test of this is here: installation - gazebo with player - Robotics Stack Exchange

Where you can see that there’s an attribution box which will call out the original post, original author providing the original attribution.

And comments will be embedded inline like here: gazebo no version declared - How do I make the coffee cup appear? - Robotics Stack Exchange

Hm. That example post shows the migration / import is less seamless than I expected.

Is the comments-embedded-inline a result of SE having a strict “comments are not for (extended) discussion” policy?

From this:

it seems there are also some people on the “other side” not necessarily completely convinced of the migration idea.

It’s more on the technical side. The comment limits on SE are stricter than we enforced on the ROS and Gazebo sites. And especially if we want to be able to embed attribution back to the original we can’t fit that into the more restricted field size.

We’ve worked on improving the process. Our random selection of questions for testing wasn’t the greatest especially out of context.

There’s been more communications in the background and my understanding is that Chuck’s supportive of the migration. He posted supportively in the meta since then:

The look&feel of the site has aligned with the rest of Also links at the page top to other pages. Those helped giving an impression of web site to be monolithic and helped finding what I want, IMO.

I’m all for the move to Is there a chance they will add links back to to begin with.

I like how well different categories of web resources on (and on some external domains) organized. That said, there are a lot of different web domains one might want to go through in order to reasonably educate yourself (and at least from my experience early days in ROS that was achieved so well, almost everything I had to know was on I found the set of links at the top of (and some other domains) is quite helpful. As stackexchange is someone else’ yard/domain, I’m a bit afraid the semantic links b/w and SO/SE would be lost and thus users may get confused. I know this is a bit too ROS-centric view but just voicing up.

It’s worth speaking up. We definitely want to make sure that people can find what they’re looking for. Part of this effort is to not keep ROS as isolated from the rest of the robotics community so we don’t have to maintain things separately and meet people where they already are naturally.

You’re right that there wont’ be top level links back as it’s a broader reach. One of the places that we can make sure to connect people back to the best documentation resources is in the tag wikis. Each tag has an editable description which can include links.

It would be good to make sure that we have good descriptions there with links to appropriate documentation of the relevant packages.

For example the Stack Overflow ros tag wiki has already been updated by a community member with this news to help guide people to

And if you search globally has strong representation already. Hopefully this will continue to be the case. You should generally be able to use your favorite search engine to find the answers you’re looking for without needing to scope it specifically for ROS.

I think that we’ll also want to evolve the how to ask guides to bring in some of the guidance from the ROS guides so that if people are asking about ROS we can guide them to ask well worded questions with appropriate links etc.

Furthermore, I generally hope that answers about ROS questions will link to the primary sources for the documentation which will provide a path back to where that content is located. And once people are there they can learn to traverse laterally within our various sites with different resources. We’re also looking to reduce the overall number of sites/resources that you have to discover.

Looking from the other side, for ROS users wanting to find Questions we will definitely update our header bar to point to maybe with a specific tag filter for ros by default. That way people will get to the right forum quickly. We’ll also update all of our Support guidelines to point to the new site.

And we’ll work to update rosindex to also embed the Q&A feeds from Robotics.SE just like we already do from Such as ROS Package: tf2_ros under the Q&A tab.

With this we’ll have both package specific connections to as well as the top level quick links. There’s been feedback on what should be tagged versus just be accessed through search and I think that this is a good reason to swing the needle back on making sure that we use tags for packages so that they can be filtered quickly or else be able to generate feeds from searches instead of just tags. I’ll follow up on the discussion here if you want to participate or follow as well.

The robotics.stackexchange moderator election has concluded, and I’m very happy to see that @tfoote has been elected as one of three moderators!

This is great for the ROS community and its move to robotics.stackexchange. As the person who started, Tully has been a great moderator of ROS help and support for many, many years. His becoming a moderator at robotics.stackexchange enables us to take his long experience along with the ROS answers content, and positions him to act as a bridge between the ROS community and the existing robotics.stackexchange community. In this role, he will be able to help guide the two communities in moving closer together, which I hope will assuage any concerns about continuity and legitimacy of the ROS community in this migration.


I started using R.SE and imo., apart from some “startup quircks” (e.g. adding comments not allowed until 50 reputation), it’s an easy transition.
But it seems most people are still using ROS and Gazebo Answers for now.

Maybe it would make sense to already disable posting new questions on ROS and Gazebo Answers, and refer to R.SE to post new questions?

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