Customizing stackexchange.com

by Jeff Atwood

on September 4, 2010

Remember our shiny new stackexchange.com network hub? Sure you do, it's right there in the upper left hand corner of every page. Indeed, that's how you know you're on a gen-u-winetm Stack Exchange network website.

This hub exists for a few reasons:

  1. To aggregate the most interesting questions right now across the entire network

  2. As a network directory, with statistics and rankings

  3. It offers per-site user reputation leagues

And, in a very broad sense, it's there to promote camaraderie and cross-pollination of the many disparate Q&A; communities across the network -- sites created through the open, democratic community process at Area 51. (How many do we have now? 24? 26? I've actually lost count!)

We now support a form of global authentication across the entire network, so when you visit stackexchange.com, as long as you've recently logged in to any site in our network, you should get automatically logged in, like so:

Automatic logins are necessary to support our most requested stackexchange.com feature: customization! Largely through Tag Filters.

Also, we now directly link to the reputation leagues from the /users page on each individual site, so it's a bit more discoverable. And we finally provide type-to-search so you can actually find yourself (or your friends) in any given site reputation league:

You can also permalink directly to any user in any league. Simply mouse over the user and the link will appear, like so:

http://stackexchange.com/leagues/11/year/cooking/2010-01-01/1259#1259

If you want to share how well you're doing (or another user is doing), this link will always direct people to the correct page and location in the league for that specific user.

Also, we've added a few more stats to the reputation league sidebar. First, we highlight the best performing new users in the specified league interval.

Site moderators, take note: new users who find your community and generate significant reputation from their peers are the lifeblood of any fledgling Q&A; community, and should be treated as such. And if you don't have any new users entering your community and producing a modicum of reputation... well, that's something to be worried about.

We also show reputation spectrums for the specified league interval.

This is an indication of how well the site's overall reputation economy is doing, and indirectly, how much voting and activity is going on. It's instructive to compare the numbers generated from stackoverflow.com here to the other sites, just so you can see the big city / small city / new town economy dynamics at work. In particular, one of the key numbers here is how many editors (2k rep) and closers (3k rep) you have.

We have a few more things planned for stackexchange.com, but these new features -- plus the much needed customization support -- are much closer to the vision we had for a network hub that's a useful destination.

Check it out, enjoy, and as always -- we welcome your feedback!