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We all know that stackoverflow is pretty much self policed and that the community will enforce rules etc. I would like to actually define WHO the community is and also define what is NOT considered the community. As best practices are discussed for the future growth of stackoverflow, it will definitely help to have a general understanding of who the community is exactly.

Update....
It seems like the folks who have responded generally view the community as any registered user. Therefore, every registered user would have an equal say or an equal opportunity to voice their opinions...

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I am Spartacus. –  TheTXI Jul 7 '09 at 15:21
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@TheTXI - I had you pegged as Batman. –  RSolberg Jul 7 '09 at 15:22
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I'm him too. . –  TheTXI Jul 7 '09 at 15:24
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@TheTXI, sounds busy. –  devinb Jul 7 '09 at 15:51
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Only superman could manage that workload. –  devinb Jul 7 '09 at 15:54
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devinb: I would kindly appreciate it if you didn't pry so much into all my alter-egos. –  TheTXI Jul 7 '09 at 15:56
    
@TheTXI: s/alter-egos/delusions of grandeur/ –  Hilarious Comedy Pesto Jul 7 '09 at 15:58
    
Yes Mr. GatesJobsStallman, from now on I'll respect your right to anonymity –  devinb Jul 7 '09 at 15:58
    
@TheTXI is also Superman, he just hasn't told anyone yet. –  RSolberg Jul 7 '09 at 15:58
    
Come on, we all know that TheTXI's real identity is Dark Horse. –  Brad Gilbert Jul 7 '09 at 21:14
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9 Answers 9

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Short answer: You are the community.

Slightly longer answer: Everyone who decides to post to StackOverflow is the community. Even the drive-by askers. They all define, in some way, how StackOverflow works. Be wary of those who hide behind the will of the community because you will often find that they believe will of the community just so happens to be their personal opinion as well.

This makes for interesting dynamics as some issues are pretty cut and dry: No asking about dental surgery, for example. But then there are issues which are contested. Generally we should try to reach a consensus or at least a compromise where both sides give a little. And there are also sub-communities within the larger community as well. This is where most of the rub comes from I think. People start believing that their sub-community is the community at large. They start defining community by some arbitrary metric that excludes people they don't like.

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Community: me.
Not Community: the late Michael Jackson

Use these two samples in comparison tests to answer your question.

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@Shog9 - Does this imply anyone who is a potential user of the system is part of the community then? –  RSolberg Jul 7 '09 at 15:28
    
Touche Shog, very touche. –  toast Jul 7 '09 at 15:29
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For the longest time I thought that Michael Jackson of "Jackson Structured Programming" and Michael Jackson of "Thriller" were the same person. –  nb69307 Jul 7 '09 at 15:32
    
@Neil: Which would have been that much more awesome. King of Pop and Structured Programming. –  toast Jul 7 '09 at 15:44
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@toast It would indeed. As someone that somehow had never come across JSP, when I first heard about it I envisioned Michael leaping from whiteboard to terminal, while babes handed him his marker pens. But I could see that the guy explaining JSP to me saw this going through my mind - he said "It's mot THAT Michael Jackson!", and another dream faded. –  nb69307 Jul 7 '09 at 15:56
    
That would be the easiest support vector machine I've ever built! –  JP Alioto Jul 7 '09 at 16:19
    
@Neil: Michael Jackson also wrote an excellent book on home brewing. Oh, if only... –  ajm Jul 7 '09 at 16:19
    
I am the community, ... I have a bad case of multiple personality disorder –  Brad Gilbert Jul 8 '09 at 0:07
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Everyone but RichB ;)

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@Joel - be careful man... They just went after me for my answer below because I used his name in my example... Dangerous territory! –  RSolberg Jul 7 '09 at 16:17
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@Joel: +1. Pure hilarity. –  GEOCHET Jul 7 '09 at 16:19
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@Rsolberg: I will say that, as a general rule, you walk on thin ice when singling out another user. It all depends on how that particular user reacts. –  Kyle Cronin Jul 7 '09 at 16:26
    
@Kyle: It more has to do with the spirit of the post. –  GEOCHET Jul 7 '09 at 16:28
    
This one may interject some humor into it, but I don't know if I'd go as far to say that the spirit of mine and this are any different.... –  RSolberg Jul 7 '09 at 17:17
    
@Rsolberg: This is a polar opposite to your post. Spirit and intent go a long way. –  GEOCHET Jul 7 '09 at 17:22
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In soviet russia, the community is you!

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I think the community is whoever decides to take an active part. Anybody who uses this site as more than just a drive-by answer site. Many of us have invested a lot of time and effort into the success of this model of website.

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@TheTXI - define "active." Also, since we allow anyone to use the site, are they not part of the community if they are less active? Very slippery slope... –  RSolberg Jul 7 '09 at 15:24
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@RSolberg: Everybody's equal. Some are more equal than others. –  Eric Jul 7 '09 at 16:08
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The community is anybody who is registered to put it plainly. Much like your home-community is anybody who is on living in that area. Whether they interact or not, smile or not, or even leave their home is not important.

That being said, there are active members in the community. Following the analogy, those who visit in the park, volunteer at the shelter, etc. Similarly, there are active members here - most of which spend a lot of time on MetaSO.

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@Jonathan - Being active doesn't make you any more or less a part of the community. You still have an equal say as everyone else in the community. Your opinion may be heard more though, but that is still your opinion and not that of the community - true? –  RSolberg Jul 7 '09 at 15:32
    
Being active doesn't make you any more of the community, no. But being active certainly makes you more influential in your community. –  Jonathan Sampson Jul 7 '09 at 15:36
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Stackoverflow is you.

The topic of the post is not necessarily relevant, but I thought the title applies.

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I believe that the "potential community" is more important that the existing community. I'm fairly new to SO, and was immediately drawn in by the overall utility of the site: I need an answer... I got an answer... right away. After that experience I tried a few more times, and I feel myself getting sucked into what you may be referring to as "the community." I now "care" about the how as well as the utility.


Added: Everyone enters the community from the outside... one of the "potential community." Their ideas of what is or is not acceptable have been formed from a range of online experiences. Some of these people may do things at first that are outside of the existing community norm (myself included), but may have much to contribute in the long run (I hope this includes me). I think that the future value of this "potential community" should always be taken in to account when dealing with newbies.

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The model of who is the community is pretty well enshrined in the gaining of privileges through reputation. Those who contribute, and whose contributions are respected and valued by the users of the site, become more able to shape the site and how it works. A community is not a "who's in, who's out" rule, but an entire structure.

If only democracies could work the same way!

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