I want to know if my slender grasp of the latter will help me learn about the former.
You can get meta data about a site as well as about all sites and users within the Stack Exchange sites network, see e.g. the following routes:
- Gets various system statistics.
- Returns a list of all the sites in the StackExchange network
- Gets all the associated user accounts across the StackExchange network as identified by the given association_id.
This kind of meta and cross site information is not available via the Stack Exchange Data Explorer.
You can fetch live data for one. The data explorer uses data that is up to a month old.
Another feature only available is the
timed_penalty_date which is the time when a user leaves the penalty box.