Podcast #30

by Jeff Atwood

on November 20, 2008

This is the thirtieth episode of the StackOverflow podcast, where Joel and Jeff sit down with Richard White of uservoice.com.

  • Richard worked as the user interface guy on calendar startup Kiko.com; UserVoice was originally inspired by Richard's work on Kiko, as a hybrid of Reddit and FogBugz.

  • There are some thematic similarities between Dell's IdeaStorm and My Starbucks Idea and UserVoice -- to some degree, UserVoice is users voting on the direction your software should take. Does software democracy work?

  • UserVoice isn't just for software -- there's also Obama CTO and Rebuild The Party. This generated huge load and traffic, so if nothing else it was a good scaling test. The usual item has a maximum of 50 comments; one suggestion had 980 comments.

  • Our use of UserVoice is a bit anomalous; I prefer to (politely) decline requests that I think we won't get to. Is it more honest to let reasonable requests like this one languish in the system for literally years, ala Microsoft's Connect, then to find out that they've been set to "wontfix" after 3 years? As a user myself, I find this behavior abhorrent.

  • We do plan to talk a bit less about building Stack Overflow and a bit more about our favorite questions on Stack Overflow.

  • Joel's favorite Stack Overflow question this week is What Tricks Do You Use to Get Yourself "In The Zone"?

  • UserVoice is a Ruby on Rails app, with approximately 6,000 lines of code. A large portion of that is unit tests.

  • Jeff's favorite Stack Overflow question is What is an NP-Complete Problem. This is a followup to the blog post where I demonstrate a sadly incomplete understanding of the concept of being NP-complete.

  • Joel notes that there are harder problems than NP-Complete, namely the halting problem. There's a great Stack Overflow question on this, The Halting Problem in the Field

  • There are a lot of very hard problems in computer software that aren't necessarily NP-complete -- and we've had limited success "solving" them, such as speech and voice recognition. Furthermore, if the best algorithm we can come up with is something like n-cubed, is that a realistic solution?

  • UserVoice will be using Jan Rain's RpxNow to implement OpenID. We wondered how myopenid.com would make money; their RpxNow service is the answer to that question. Now uservoice can mark that item off their own uservoice page -- it's the #2 most requested feature by customers of User Voice.

We also answered the following listener question:

  1. Chris Conway: "After 26 episodes of the podcast, will you ever take a turn to less self-reflexive discussion?"

If you'd like to submit a question to be answered in our next episode, record an audio file (90 seconds or less) and mail it to podcast@stackoverflow.com. You can record a question using nothing but a telephone and a web browser. We also have a dedicated phone number you can call to leave audio questions at 646-826-3879.

The transcript wiki for this episode is available for public editing.