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In this thread, there's a comment I found in writing this question, which makes a good point:

I can see a very good use of this engine in professions other than computer programming: Lawyering, Medical Advise, Education...well, to be concise ANY type of counseling service. And, those communities would like a number of features that even SO would be benefited.

I've been thinking about this as well, and it seems clear to me that if people in other fields can be roused to use a community site such as this to solve their problems, it would be of great benefit.

And though a site like SO seems to work best for objective questions, it can also be used for good discussion and subjective questions (as meta-SO shows). Even the domain of "general advice" can take advantage of the SO engine, where now, you might ask questions in some phbb forum, or the advice column ("Ask Cathy") in the local newspaper (or go to a professional counselor, though that's probably a better option if possible).

The main challenge in making this work for non-computer-related fields is getting knowledgeable users. For SO, SF and SU, Joel and Jeff could leverage their existing readership to give the site a real boost to start with, with enough momentum going to really become popular. And this site thrives on network effects. Doing something similar for other fields would be more difficult.

You may not even be able to recruit users through Google nearly as well as the SO family does, since programmers are much more likely to scour the web for answers to problems compared to, say, doctors (you'd probably want to change your doctor in fact, if he/she was using Google for diagnosis). On the other hand, you might find many amateurs trying to find answers, such as people who do in fact use the internet to try to diagnose their own diseases. With reputation added in, this can be a good thing.

Who else thinks it's a good idea to expand the domains this type of engine is used for, and why (or why not)? And what sort of challenges would be faced in doing so? What's a good way to go about making this happen, and who should go about it?

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FogCreek is working on exactly this: stackexchange.com –  Kyle Cronin Aug 3 '09 at 23:23
    
Thanks, I wasn't aware. However, I was thinking more from a community perspective, rather than a commercial offering. Opensource would be better for society as a whole, though it doesn't help Jeff and Joel much. In any case, I somehow doubt stackexchange would take off for other fields. –  ehsanul Aug 4 '09 at 0:03
    
There has been a lot of requests on the Meta site for other sites, so chances are that someone will buy it. –  Tyler Carter Aug 4 '09 at 2:17

2 Answers 2

This was discussed on the SO Podcast a while ago. StackOverflow works very well because it focuses on technology and the whole system is delivered through technology. Computer savvy people will instinctively go to the internet to find answers.

You won't find the same happen for something like Gardening (the example used in the podcast). Gardening won't work because it is something that is done without computers, and most of the time people don't have discussion forums for it on line.

The StackOverflow system works well for technology, but other industries probably won't lend themselves well to it, simply because there aren't huge online communities like there are for technology. There may be some large online communities but (unless you count social networking like Facebook & Twitter) they don't come close to the size tech communities can reach.

I think it would be hard for a non-technology related Stack Exchange to take off.

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The SO software does not need to be the main feature of the site in question. A news site or a blog could just as easily incorporate the vote up/down rep mechanism for the comments at the bottom of its articles and posts. I would especially like the flagging for offensive material feature on some sites.

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