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Way back in March 2011, when Joel had a random open chat session, I asked him this:

The more time I spend on Stack Exchange, the more it seems like one of the biggest factors — if not the biggest — in SO's success was its seed population of Coding Horror/Joel on Software fans. Are you planning on reaching out to other existing expert communities for new SE sites?

Joel responded with this:

The Joel on Software mailing list was about 50,000 people. Stack Overflow now grows by 70,000 people a month. So the seed was Joel On Software / Coding Horror, but the number of Joel on Software people who are on Stack Overflow is probably miniscule now.

Here's the full transcript for those who care. (Please ignore the formatting of my initial message. I wasn't yelling. The bold/italic was added in later by an enthusiastic moderator.)

What Joel says is true. His 50k figure is generous, even; only 2576 SO users have the Beta badge. However, I think he missed the key point of my question (which is understandable; he was getting hit with questions from all sides at the time).

The first SO users may not have been numerous, but they were experts, and they set a high bar for quality on day one. That quality led to people having respect for SO, which led to other experts showing up, and... well, you know the rest. Without the great content — and, yes, the crowd-pleasing poll questions — that those first users contributed, it wouldn't have mattered how cleverly the SO system was designed. In short, the impact of the first users was much larger than their numbers alone would suggest.

I still think Stack Exchange sites should try to work with existing expert communities. But you know what? We don't have to wait for Joel, or Jeff, or anyone "official" to proselytize. Jeff even kinda sorta addressed this in his blog post Helping The Experts Get Answers, but that's small-scale.

Should we be doing more to get existing expert communities to work with Stack Exchange? What steps can we actually take?

share|improve this question
I think you're making an improper association here; just because the people were seeded from "Joel on Software" doesn't mean that they were experts. It's like saying all red things are apples. That said, I personally feel that he had the benefit of quantity, given the hit rate from the mailing list and the beta members. If you look back, there are a lot of horrible questions, but they are massively upvoted because they were here in the beginning, not because there there were experts asking and answering. I'd probably close a ton of them as NARQ if I wasn't going to get hell for it. – casperOne Nov 26 '12 at 19:34
And also, you could break this question down and ask it on any one of the individual metas, and you'd probably get better responses there, as those communities know who else is in the space. Having a larger, generalized discussion doesn't serve much benefit, IMO, because each expert community requires a tailored response. It's a good question, but far too broad in this context to be answered here. – casperOne Nov 26 '12 at 19:35
These questions are not horrible. They're constructivity-challenged. – Frédéric Hamidi Nov 26 '12 at 19:35
Which expert communities did you have in mind? Haven't many of the active members from EE, XYZ forum, etc already come to Stack Overflow? Isn't SO already the premier help "forum"? – Adam Rackis Nov 26 '12 at 20:16
@AdamRackis as a non-expert of all trades, I don't know. I just thought it was an idea worthy of consideration. – Pops Nov 26 '12 at 20:32
Ah - sorry, you were talking about SE broadly, and not just SO. I see now. That could be a good idea to help boost many of the SE sites, I think. – Adam Rackis Nov 26 '12 at 20:46
I would expect that the "how" of reaching out to existing expert communities is going to vary wildly, and that doing so should be an expected part of starting a new site--ideally they'd be involved early enough to help promote the proposal on area 51. A better question might be what SE can do to make it easier for a group of experts to pitch the SE platform's benefits to their peers. – McCannot Nov 26 '12 at 21:25

To reply to your excessively broad question with an excessively broad answer:

I think Jeff actually nailed it with that suggestion. The best thing anyone can do to promote Stack Exchange to outsiders is to show (not tell) what it can do for them.

One doesn't need to go large scale to start a movement. If we get buy-in from even enough active, enthusiasatic users from any community, more will come.

On the other hand, if you really feel the need to go above and beyond, nobody will stop you from running a beer night focus group with a team of your closest medical professional friends and compiling a list of platform demands to post here on meta.

share|improve this answer
This is actually much closer to my position than I think you think it is. But if it's good to have a couple random users getting buy-in from members of other communities haphazardly, wouldn't it be better to make it a slightly more organized affair? All I'm saying is that machine gun jetpacks go higher when the guns' firing is synchronized than when each gun is fired on its own. – Pops Dec 1 '12 at 18:18
So, the question is how can we get expert communities to divulge their problems so we can solve them? – TCPMAN.EXE Dec 3 '12 at 5:08
It's more about us coordinating to answer, not them coordinating to divulge. If we get a chunk of the Bicycles SE community to put extra emphasis on answering all of the questions the Springfield Cycling Club has for seven days in a row, it's more likely to draw club members to our community than if the same number of users pick their own expert communities to focus on at different times during the year. – Pops Dec 3 '12 at 15:10

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