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Guru.com (probably the one and only freelancer / offshoring site I've made any significant use of) has just introduced a blatant Stack Overflow knock-off site, which can be seen at www.guru.com/answers. Right now, most of the questions appear to be guru.com policy and proposal related, but they seem to be positioning it as an alternative or competitor to Stack Overflow for their customers to connect with technical types.

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Guru Badges So the two questions I would have are:

  1. if I choose to participate there, am I violating any TOS conditions on Stack Exchange or on Guru.com?

  2. Is Guru.com doing anything illegal or unethical by copying Stack Overflow?

Yes, my question is definitely related to this already asked question, but in this particular case, much of the UI and even the elements ("Strunk & White" badge) is the exact same.

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Wow, a gold badge for 8 upvotes? Those gold badges would be absolutely worthless on Stack Overflow. –  animuson May 29 '12 at 21:46
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This is a OSQA QATO site: meta.osqa.net/questions/6627/what-is-qato –  jcolebrand May 29 '12 at 21:56
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The url when you click a question is... odd: guru.com/answers/questions/(...) –  jmfsg May 29 '12 at 22:00
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By doing this you are violating my TOS. Infractions of my TOS, as you know, because by reading any content written by me you have confirmed that you have read them and agree to them, are €100 apiece. Please send the money on its way through PayPal: pekka@gmx.de You get a 20% discount if you do it right now. –  Pëkka May 29 '12 at 22:58
    
Even the badge names are copied... That's pretty ridiculous. –  nickb May 29 '12 at 23:59
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Its violating my eyes. God, thats ugly –  Journeyman Geek May 30 '12 at 0:39
    
The lack of creativity is amazing. It's one thing to copy the platform or use it as inspiration to make this idea better, but they can't even come up with unique badge names. "Strunk & White"? I bet there's a "Fanatic" badge too, and a "Vox Populi". Wonder if the developers even know what that means or if they're just blindly copying? –  jmort253 May 30 '12 at 1:24
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No OpenID support. Fail. –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN May 30 '12 at 2:36
    
@jmort253: A "Fanatic" badge I can understand; it's a common English word. Things like "Vox Populi" and "Strunk & White" are far more egregious. Those are direct theft. –  Nicol Bolas May 30 '12 at 6:09
    
@NicolBolas Vox Populi, Strunk & White –  Lorem Ipsum Jun 2 '12 at 20:24
    
Nice big search box though -- that might help? –  Arjan Jun 2 '12 at 20:44
    
@yoda: Yes, those are known terms, but that someone would use them in exactly the same context is theft. Two different Q&A websites that came up with the idea of badges independently would not both give them those particular names. –  Nicol Bolas Jun 3 '12 at 5:22
    
Hahaha. Famous question for 500 views. –  Dan the Man Nov 26 '13 at 23:26
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5 Answers 5

up vote 22 down vote accepted

if I choose to participate there, am I violating any TOS conditions on StackExchange or on Guru.com?

As far as Stack Exchange is concerned, no problem. For Guru.com, you'll have to ask them.

Is Guru.com doing anything illegal or unethical by copying StackOverflow?

Illegal, probably not. Stack Exchange didn't invent the Q&A concept and a lot of its aspects were inspired from other sites, Reddit, Digg, etc. That said, the UI is moronically identical1.

But at the end of the day Stack Exchange is not the software, it's the community. Let see if Guru.com can clone the community.

1 An industry standard term, used when not even the slightest effort is made to hide the fact that a UI is a knock off.

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I'm pretty sure its a Q&A site about guru.com, a meta.guru.com if you will, so I don't think they're really trying to clone any SE community. –  Some Helpful Commenter May 29 '12 at 22:29
    
@SomeHelpfulCommenter most of the questions found there currently are focused on guru.com, but the marketing spam I got from guru.com seems to indicate they want to make this into a technical portal between developers (i.e. like Stack Overflow) and also a place for employers to ask technical questions (e.g. "how do I do spec out this UI for iPhone") of developers. –  Michael Dautermann May 29 '12 at 22:37
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@some Hm? I didn't mean to say that they'd clone the SE community as is, more that the driving force of SE is the community, not the platform, and while cloning the platform is relatively easy, Guru.com don't stand much of a chance of making it if their Q&A thingy doesn't get a healthy community. –  Yannis May 29 '12 at 22:54
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Competing with SO sounds like a pretty ridiculous idea, but maybe that's not really what they seriously strive to do. As a way to interact between developers (on non-technical questions) I think SO's model is brilliant. I've been waiting for other sites to finally pick it up and use it to build their own knowledge bases. It's just that good. –  Pëkka May 30 '12 at 0:12
    
I'm all for them getting some traffic from SO, average new question quality has really gone downhill. –  Jason Goemaat May 30 '12 at 9:06
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+1 for "Let see if Guru.com can clone the community". –  Jürgen Thelen May 30 '12 at 14:04
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Is Guru.com doing anything illegal or unethical by copying StackOverflow?

No, it's great! I think it's really cool that sites start to copy the SO model for their internal knowledge bases. There should be more of that, it's so much better than forums and mailing lists!

And even though it's testament of a pitiful lack of originality on their end, I don't think the site's being a blatant knock-off is a problem - the main point is they are getting their feet wet and using the system. I've been trying to rally my favourite projects and web sites to do the same, but so far to little effect.

Of course, the idea of another site trying to target SO's market with a slap-dash OSQA installation is laughable. But grabbing traffic from SO by providing an environment for programming Q&A doesn't seem to be Guru.com's main concern.

The rise of good SE clones was foreseen and even welcomed by Jeff and Joel when they decided to scrap Stack Exchange 1.0 (there was a conversation to that effect I think in the first podcast after the announcement). They weren't worried about its impact for their business model; I assume they still aren't, and I don't think they need to be. If anything, this will help the cause of the SE network (because more and more people become familiar how the concept works).

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Finally, we can get a community vetted best answer to "How is babby formed?" and "How girl get pragnant?" –  Lorem Ipsum Jun 2 '12 at 20:25
    
@yoda yeah man. And with picshurz! –  Pëkka Jun 3 '12 at 18:29
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The TOS here do not purport to inhibit using any other service, cloned or not. And even if they did, it would be unenforceable in either practical or legal terms.

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I've been experimenting recently with some of the open source Q&A systems that resemble Stack Overflow (OSQA, qtoa, etc). Pound for pound, none of them come close to the amount and quality of features that Stack Exchange sites have to offer. One of them even let the site administrator manually add reputation points to a user (that's going to go over well). Quite a few of the other SE mods joined me in putting qtoa through its paces (while creating a very strange alternate reality on a boat). From the screen shots, it looks like they're using qtoa.

Are you violating some kind of legal agreement by participating on sites that resemble SE sites? No. I'd rather participate on a site that followed a similar format. Stack Exchange can't hope to cover every single topic in the world. I'm really enthused about watches and time pieces, and that proposal has been languishing in Area 51 for quite a while. Nothing is stopping me from starting my own, or participating in a Q&A site for that topic outside of Stack Exchange.

What I can say is this, moderation is a bit of an art, and without it - you're likely to end up with a site full of junk that defeats the whole purpose of the engine. I'm extremely interested in watching the growth and quality of some 'free for all' Q&A sites that are springing up due to the availability and ease of installation of software similar to Stack Exchange.

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*One of them even let the site administrator manually add reputation points to a user * You're ust jealous of the 1337 reputation I gave to Admin –  Ben Brocka May 30 '12 at 12:36
    
Ahhhh, now he confesses. I knew it was @Ben all along! –  Tim Post May 30 '12 at 12:38
    
@TimPost Did the watches and time pieces proposal get closed? I can't find it anywhere. –  Kalamane May 30 '12 at 15:03
    
@Kalamane Yeah, I think it fizzled out :( I'm going to try proposing it again now that Area51 has a larger audience. –  Tim Post May 30 '12 at 15:15
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Talk about lack of moderation defeating the engine. Check out the comment as answer on this question by a moderator. –  Some Helpful Commenter May 30 '12 at 15:42
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Don't forget that SE won't let you pay them to use their software. As such, it's not surprising or unethical that people end up copying what they can. I bet guru.com would be happy to pay SE for the opportunity to use the better software.

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Surprising? Hardly. Unethical? Subjective. –  Makoto Jun 2 '12 at 21:53
    
It's like copying out-of-print books. It might be illegal, but it's certainly not unethical. –  Noah Snyder Jun 2 '12 at 21:55
    
Your comparison isn't really valid: Stack Exchange is an active company. Just because they chose not to offer a hosted version of their product (which they have absolutely no obligation to do) doesn't give you the right to infringe their copyright... not that I think that copying the basic way the UI works does that, though. –  Pëkka Jun 3 '12 at 18:28
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