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I have an open source question with a very reduced community, among other reasons because it is a relatively new project.

The project's target audience is programmers.

I think that more developers might benefit from the project, and I am thinking of declaring stackoverflow the official support site, for two reasons:

  • To gain wider exposure

  • Because stackoverflow is cool, easy and friendly, and far more agile than the bloated support forums and trackers in the open source hosting sites.

I would do this by picking a suitable tag ("myproject") and adding in the documentation a link to stackoverflow and telling people submit questions, ideas, bugs, and suggestions to stackoverflow and tag the appropiately.

I would try to frequently monitor the tag's rss and and give support.

Also, as in meta, this would be combined with other tags such as "bug", "feature-request", "question".

As I have enough reputation to edit questions, I could track the questions with tags such as "in-review", "scheduled", "rejected", "not-a-bug", etc.

Good questions, could be copy-n-pasted to the project's official faq.

What do you think of such an idea? Please in your answers refer to how this might impact the project and how it might impact stackoverflow and how might such a thing be received by the stackoverflow community and if you think it would be welcome by stackoverflow's admins. Please also mention other issues, such as legal issues (?), whatever.

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I would like to thank you for asking this question before going ahead and implementing it. –  Nathan Koop Sep 3 '09 at 14:24

6 Answers 6

up vote 30 down vote accepted

Personally I don't think it's a good idea to use Stack Overflow like this. By all means use it as a "secondary" support system, but I think it's a good idea for an Open Source project to have its own set of mailing lists/groups and bug tracking system. Most hosting sites (SourceForge, Codeplex, Google Code etc) support this out of the box.

Aside from anything else, SO isn't really built for discussion which you should expect to be part of what the mailing lists etc give for an open source project.

Additionally, users would have to "understand" Stack Overflow itself to grok why all these extraneous questions were appearing when they only want to know information about your project. Yes, you could link to your particular tag - but you'd see an awful lot of other stuff linked etc. You'd at least need to explain this in the documentation.

As an example, Marc Gravell and I have certainly answered plenty of Protocol Buffer questions on SO - but I think it's important that we also have our own "proper" sites with bug tracking etc. You may wish to suggest a tag for people to use if they do want to ask a question on SO (particularly if it relates to how to use your project with something else) but I'd steer away from making it the primary support system.

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+1 I should have known by now that the Skeet can give a much better answer then me in half the time, and probably took less time to type it then I did mine. –  Diago Sep 3 '09 at 7:55
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Jon Skeet doesn't spend time typing answers, he gains time typing answers. –  MaxVT Sep 3 '09 at 14:10

I think it is possible, but just like support, not bug-tracking.

One example for all

SubSonic

Ask a Question on StackOverflow

There are a whole lot of people who monitor the SubSonic tag on StackOverflow - myself included. You can ask a question and get an answer usually within 30 minutes. Make sure you tag your question with SubSonic!

If you have a question, go here and tag it “subsonic”.

But I don't think it's possible to use tags like "bug" and "feature-request", for this stuff you would use some bug-tracking software.

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Please feel free to direct your users with programming questions about your project to a specific tag on StackOverflow. However, this part won't work:

Also, as in meta, this would be combined with other tags such as "bug", "feature-request", "question".

As I have enough reputation to edit questions, I could track the questions with tags such as "in-review", "scheduled", "rejected", "not-a-bug", etc.

If you try to use those tags, others will edit the posts and remove them because they don't really belong with the question.

In summary, please do use StackOverflow as a way to build a knowledge base for your product. But StackOverflow is not an issue tracker.

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I am not sure if global SO would be suitable for this.

If you need these features I would suggest looking at using StackExchange.

I can foresee the community closing these question fairly quickly, and since tags are controlled by the community, it can be here today and gone tomorrow. I don't see it working as a support forum, however people could ask question around the platform if they are generic enough. Specific questions however may be a problem. Also having a set of tags specifically for this purpose will become a headache over time.

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For a support site, I suggest http://getsatisfaction.com

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Using getsatisfaction.com seems very trendy those days for closed source applications but I'm not sure it's the best solution for open-source projects, especially if they are already using an issue tracker. –  Pascal Thivent Sep 10 '09 at 18:22

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