Podcast #87

by Jeff Atwood

on April 26, 2010

Joel and Jeff sit down with our new community coordinator, Robert Cartaino, to record a "bonus" podcast discussing the future of Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange 2.0.

  • We hired Robert Cartaino as a full time community coordinator to act as both city planner, sociologist, and programmer with deep technical background. He will be pivotal in helping us move toward the brave new world of Stack Exchange 2.0.

  • Rather than the old model of "pay us to use our software", Stack Exchange is now free. We're setting up a democratic process where the community itself will determine how and when create new communities. We liken it to Usenet 2.0.

  • The tension for us is that we want to offer a public service -- a community commons that is owned, governed, and mostly operated by the community in a very transparent way -- but like Craigslist, we are walking the line between behaving like a non-profit company while remaining a for-profit company.

  • As a thought experiment, we'd love it if that three years from now a new community is created in a language we don't even understand which meets the same criteria we originally created Stack Overflow, Server Fault, and Super User under. That is, it's a community you'd be proud to be associated with, and it fills the internet with useful, practical information. Our goal is to leave the internet better than we originally found it.

  • The new site creation tool is currently under development and should appear in about a month for public participation. Right now there are 74 (!) site proposals on meta.stackexchange.com for initial discussion.

  • We believe that removing money as a motivator actually frees people to participate simply because they love the topic, without being encumbered by the "don't make me think" factor of "is it worth my time to even do this at all?" We want to bring together the intersection of those people who love a topic, and want to make the internet a tiny bit better, one post at a time.

  • As for ownership, there is a concept of site founders for those who commit to a site and follow through on that commitment, and interim moderators during the private and public beta will be chosen from the most motivated users. And of course all content generated will continue to be Creative Commons licensed and freely available to anyone who wants it.

  • You are by no means alone -- we found that "build it and they will come" didn't work well for Stack Exchange. Under the new system, the community itself, us, will seed and support your site, and we will actively promote it as neighbor in our existing site network. We want to centralize and group community rather than fragment it, which is what the old SE model tended to do.

  • One of our Big Hairy Audacious Goals is to achieve some form of mainstream awareness. This is something that Facebook and Twitter have achieved, but we don't feel that Digg and Reddit have. It's our hope that if we keep taking baby steps outside our core engineering / programmer safety zone that we'll eventually get there.

  • There is a surprising amount of friction when trying to "move" an existing community to a new format. It's almost more practical to set up another community that runs in parallel and those who are attracted to the new format can move, while the old guard can stay with the comfort of what they know.

We hope you enjoyed this "bonus" podcast. We're still not sure when or if the next podcast will occur; keep an eye on blog.stackoverflow.com for the latest news.

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