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I don't know anyone that still uses the term "webmaster". Is this site missing its mark because people don't take the name seriously?

It hasn't received quite the influx of visitors I would have expected considering the interest in analytics, seo, and adwords that is out there.

11 Answers 11

17

Simply, yes.

The word webmaster has a connotation covering a lot of ground, unlike other, more limiting but common words in the profession such as: developer or designer.

Granted, it's a word that is typically not used as a job title by professionals in the field. However, because of its broad connotation, it might actually be the most appropriate choice of words to compliment the content contained here.

Similar Usage Further Justifying the Name:

  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Use of webmaster@ in site footers
  • Bing, too, has Webmaster Tools (good example, given its recency)

Historical Importance and Etymology:

  • It was standard procedure for all mail enabled domains to have a postmaster account
  • Likewise, hostmaster
  • The intent was, if you need to talk to the person who is ultimately responsible for [email] that would be the so-named "master" of that platform
  • Personally, I also sense this was accepted in part because it follows suit with the title "Dungeon Master" from Dungeons and Dragons. Like it or not, there is some overlap in culture there, especially in the early days of network computing.

Rounding it all up, the common thread for all content on this site is that it's a very inclusive resource of information for the entire web platform, including many of the subtopics often within that scope.

  • I love the way you talk. – Jason Nov 15 '10 at 21:52
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Stealing splattne's comment, because it is my answer:

Unfortunately "webmaster" is an ambiguous word, but it's not an uncommon name for people dealing with websites:

http://google.com/webmasters
http://webmasterworld.com

C# is an important programming topic, but we don't want stackoverflow.com renamed to csharp-experts.com.

Similarly, SEO is an important webmaster topic, but we wan't want webmasters.se.com renamed to seoworld.se.com.

  • 3
    +1 for stealing my creative commons comment! :) – splattne Oct 13 '10 at 15:27
6

I agree, webmaster doesn't currently have a modern or professional connotation. Maybe we should focus on the task instead of the person performing it.

  • Websites instead Webmasters.
  • Professional Websites instead of Pro Webmasters.
  • Website Answers rather than Webmaster Answers.

At the end of the day, we're not trying to be better webmasters, we're trying to create better websites. A site refocused on that may inspire better and more advanced questions.

A rewrite of the FAQ might read:

What kind of questions can I ask here?

Professional Websites - Stack Exchange is for professional and enthusiast web developers, web designers, and website owners. If your question is about specific ways to improve the production, performance, promotion, or management of a website, then you're in the right place to ask your question!

  • 4
    A Q&A about "websites" is probably more confusing. What would you call it? Websites.stackexchange.com is deceptively wrong. Webbusiness.SE? Proweb.SE? Webanswers.SE? I'm not sure that's heading in the right direction. Hard to say. Tough issue. – Robert Cartaino Oct 12 '10 at 20:57
  • That almost makes it sound like Web Apps and Webmasters should be one site @Robert – Ivo Flipse Oct 12 '10 at 22:54
  • @Robert - I'm not sure that I agree, but perhaps you could explain why you think 'websites' is more confusing. To me, it seemed the simplest catch-all description that doesn't exclude any aspect of the topics involved. – Virtuosi Media Oct 13 '10 at 5:33
  • Because if I say "this is a Q&A about websites," I immediately think end users... like Webapps.SE. – Robert Cartaino Oct 13 '10 at 14:32
  • So how does one confirm that a question related to improved production, performance, or management isn't a software development (StackOverflow) or server configuration (ServerFault) question? (As I've been saying, promotion/marketing and business development seem to be the only two topics which aren't in contention) – danlefree Oct 14 '10 at 3:02
  • @danlefree - The way I personally would break it down is HTML/CSS coding questions go to Doctype, HTML/CSS questions (like, 'Should I use compression?', 'How do I set up a CDN?') that don't contain code belong here, and everything else (PHP, JavaScript, etc.) belongs on StackOverflow. Web hosting (with a third party) questions belong here, do-it-yourself server setup and management belong on ServerFault. Of course, others may feel differently. – Virtuosi Media Oct 14 '10 at 3:28
  • @Virtuosi_Media - That level of site context understanding strikes me as counter-intuitive for someone who (for whatever reason) isn't using a search engine to research an answer, but if there is sufficient moderation in place (and perhaps an incentive for moderators to shunt a question to another SE) I suppose it could be made to work. – danlefree Oct 14 '10 at 3:34
5

I don't know the industry that well so I don't know the proper terminology. In my (unqualified) opinion, "Webmaster" drums up an image of a 1990's-era IT guy who slings scripts and tinkers with Apache config files all day.

But there's a whole industry of "The business of web sites" out there that "Webmasters" doesn't even begin to suggest. I just don't know the correct terminology so I just assumed that I was wrong about my perception.

The traffic for this site is unusually low. I'd hate to see it fail outright (it is a good and important topic) and should be going gangbusters!

Maybe we should consider delaying launch if we need some sort of re-working of the site's outward purpose; what the site appears to be. That would be preferable to launching if it is "mis-branded" and missing out on the much larger audience it lacks.

Opinions welcome.

  • My gut feel is that traffic may be low because we're not doing a great job of proselytizing it outside of the SO community, but there could be other factors (like too many basic questions) that are keeping folks away. – JasonBirch Oct 13 '10 at 14:58
  • @JasonBirch : The momentum and conclusion seems to be with keeping the "webmasters" label. So the task becomes to highlight the higher-level questions (proselytizing) by linking to good QUESTIONS. It's much more effective thank linking to webmasters.SE's home page. AND focus on the branding efforts (meta.webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/292/…). Once you get people to come here, you have to make sure they know this is a place for them. That's purely an issue of proper branding! – Robert Cartaino Oct 13 '10 at 16:34
4

I guess I'm the odd one out here.

While the term Webmaster may have some baggage, it's the only term I can think of that covers what someone who has to deal with the entire kit of running a website does. My work covers search engine optimization (not marketing), html performance tuning (javascript/css call order, etc), server configuration (cacheability, compression, clean URLs), ad integration, and at times things like package installation, coding & SQL.

Although a lot of the questions here are a bit basic, the functional fit of the site is very close to what I think of as a webmaster's job, and can't think of another term that describes it well enough.

I also don't think that a SEO/SEM-focussed site would have any more traction than this site. Although a majority of the questions are tagged SEO, that's just a fact of our existence; SEO has to be considered in all aspects of running a site, as it's what we live or die by. I think we'd probably see a similar mix of tags (other than seo, since that would be meta) on an SEO-centric site.

I don't know what the answer is, other than better marketing and awareness building. Our community is pretty spread out and poorly defined (as this discussion makes clear) so there is definitely a challenge here, mixed with the fact that many domain experts run their own information resources and will likely be hesitant to cannibalize.

Overall, I'm in favour of maintaining the current name.

  • Personally, I prefer "web worker", but aside from that I think webmaster comes closest to capturing the spirit of the site. "Pro Webmasters" sounds a bit generic though. I would have gone for something more like "webmasters exchange". – Lèse majesté Oct 22 '10 at 7:03
  • The term webmaster describes my job perfectly as I am a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to developing and running websites (front end coding, back end, database, server setup, security, etc). Because a webmaster covers so much ground it's going to be natural that it overlaps with the other SE sites to some degree. I think all we need to do is find a better way to describe the purpose of this site and get that out to the community at large. – John Conde Oct 24 '10 at 14:28
4

I'd venture "Web Professionals" but WebProWorld's userbase would suggest that you'll see a similar group dynamic.

Looking over question tags, it seems that SEO is the most popular topic here by far - and almost all of the other topics belong on other S/E's:

  1. seo (160)
  2. google (69) - Are these questions about using Google? Probably not - overlap with SEO
  3. domain (55) - DNS-related questions probably belong at ServerFault; domain buying/selling questions are miscellany
  4. css (46) - StackOverflow covers CSS (19076 there)
  5. hosting (42) - miscellany
  6. website-design (42) - Either UI for front-end look/feel or StackOverflow for implementation
  7. html (40) - StackOverflow (25536)
  8. wordpress (37) - the WordPress S/E, of course!
  9. web-development (37) - StackOverflow
  10. php (34) - StackOverflow (63099)

... anyway, you see the pattern here ... there should be something to catch the miscellaneous questions, but for all intents and purposes this site should be Pro Web Marketers to avoid poaching other S/Es' questions.

Edit: (Adding to JasonBirch's answer per Jeff_Atwood's comment)

  • "My work covers search engine optimization (not marketing)" - Correct me if I'm wrong, but onsite SEO is either writing copy, coding (StackOverflow), or configuration (ServerFault). Copywriting is a subset of marketing and offsite SEO is primarily link building - could be considered business development but it's probably closer to marketing.
  • "html performance tuning (javascript/css call order, etc)" - StackOverflow's domain
  • "server configuration (cacheability, compression, clean URLs)" - ServerFault's domain
  • "ad integration" - The how's of modifying what the site does (i.e. adding code) is most likely StackOverflow's domain
  • "things like package installation" - ServerFault's domain
  • "coding & SQL" - StackOverflow's domain

The Wikipedia entry for "webmaster" pretty much sums up the problematic roots of the term - any layperson can point a domain to a shared hosting account and consider himself a webmaster, whereas someone who is well-versed in front-end markup and back-end scripting or search marketing may be called one.

I'm a generalist and I love the variety of questions which come up at Pro Webmasters (which is also why I am not a big fan of topic segregation) so I'd hate to see it go ... but at the end of the day the only topics which people regularly ask about here that are off-topic for other S/E's appear to be offsite SEO, business development, and the questions which have to be classified as community wiki on account of answers' subjectivity.

  • I don't think "marketing" accurately captures everything a webmaster needs to do, though -- see 2nd paragraph of Jason's answer meta.webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/298/… – Jeff Atwood Oct 14 '10 at 0:16
  • I've never asked a question about on-site SEO (html, site structure, url patterns, semantics, linking, etc) on Stack Overflow, but I'd always assumed that I'd get smacked down for asking a question that wasn't programm-y enough. Maybe my perception of SO (somewhat pro-developer elitist) is wrong! Same goes to asking about how the order of JS/CSS in HTML page structure affects perceived page load time, etc. Although I agree that there is lots of overlap, there is real value in asking the questions in a web-centric venue rather than a programming-specific one. – JasonBirch Oct 16 '10 at 4:30
  • @JasonBirch - html has been tagged 25,848 times at SO as of right now and the other topics (site structure, url patterns, semantics, linking, etc) tend to incorporate so much opinion and subjectivity as to be destined for community wiki (i.e. "what is the correct site structure optimal search engine indexing?" / answers: "it doesn't matter", "use a sitemap", "design for users", et cetera) – danlefree Oct 18 '10 at 8:16
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    From the user's perspective, it's much easier to visit one site for all your website-related questions than to visit 5-6 different stack exchanges. – Lèse majesté Oct 22 '10 at 6:56
2

I asked Patrick Mackenzie and Dave Collins, two people who I would consider experts in the "business of web sites" and learned a few things from them...

  • the content on our site is skewed to beginner, or at least the more expert questions are being drowned out by those questions
  • the name "webmasters" sounds like this site is for people who configure IIS (i.e. serverfault/superuser questions) instead of people, as Robert points out, dealing with the business of websites.

Someone else asked if we're shooting ourselves in the foot by targetting "webmasters" (which is a community of essentially no one because no one identifies themselves as that), and I'd have to agree with that assessment.

2

I see a lot of SEO/marketing etc questions here that definitely fit the site's description, but contain answers like "this has nothing to do with being a webmaster."

While I do think "Webmaster" is a good name for this site, I don't think it's quite descriptive enough. However, I can't come up with a good suggestion for a better name.

1

Started a new question on English language site, which doesn't fully answer this question, but at least covers why its ok not to worry about "web mistress"!

English language site question

Although, as an answered on that question pointed out web master is losing common usage, maybe the term will be irrelevant in 10-15 years who knows...

1

No, I mistook it for google webmaster tool first..

0

My biggest problem with the term "Webmaster" is that it's not gender-neutral.

I also agree with everything else everyone's said pretty much, but that's the only "new" point I have to submit.

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    I've been treating it as gender-neutral (like actor) with the mastery connotation, rather than the master/mistress meaning. I've rarely seen the term webmistress being used. – JasonBirch Oct 13 '10 at 15:02
  • webmistress is not commonly used afaik – Anonymous Type Oct 26 '10 at 0:38
  • @Anon - just because it's not common, doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Dealing in gender-equality is not a half-and-half thing, you don't get to pick and choose because "It's not common". And I've seen plenty of female-only terms being applied to men too (anyone who's ever been to any sort of baby class would know what I mean) – Mark Henderson Oct 26 '10 at 1:14
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    perhaps we are arguing the same thing but I'm not sure. English is based on words attaining common usage, not on artifically imposed constraints such as the PC practise of gender neutering our language. Still I will post on the English language site and see what others think. – Anonymous Type Oct 26 '10 at 2:26

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