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I have been with the Stack Exchange community since it became popularized after its beta period. During that time I have seen it grow into the vibrant community it is now. I have also seen it evolve and change during that time, as a greater number of people have appeared on the site.

In a way, I suppose this was inevitable. As the site grows in popularity, it continues to attract new users who may not be familiar with the "gestalt" of the website, the qualities that make it special and unique. There are some who come along and insist that the website work "their way," insisting that their way is the "right way," without taking into account the history of the website, and the "friendly exchanges" that have shaped the software and the community into what it is today.

Do we do a good job of articulating this? I'm not so sure. I personally have been guilty in the past of defending marginal questions on the website, in the interest of good will and fairness. And then I have personally witnessed how the website can be overrun with ill-conceived questions, and the dialog dominated by people who don't understand why the site is the way it is, and who hijack the discourse with their own point of view.

I have also seen long-standing users grow weary of trying to defend what they legitimately believe is a community culture of professionalism that is a product of the many hours that people have put in trying to figure out what works and what doesn't.

So for those of us who came here after the beta was over, after the big decisions had already been made, can you describe why the site has the qualities it does have today, and what the process was like that led to some of the policy decisions that make the website the high-quality knowlegde exchange that it is today?

I realize that a lot of this ground is already covered in the blog, but honestly blogs are not necessarily the best medium IMO for this kind of thing (the material is scattered among several blog entries, and it is difficult to find). If the material we gather here is of sufficiently high quality, perhaps we can eventually make it a FAQ entry.

Thanks for listening, and for participating in the Stack Exchange community.

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7  
The difference between this forum and other forums is that other forums are forums... –  Shog9 Sep 14 '10 at 2:56
    
I wouldn't say that the Big Decisions were all made during the beta - the decision to cull metatags happened last month, not to mention programmers.se . –  Piskvor Sep 14 '10 at 11:14
    
People, these are all nice answers but pay attention to Robert's 3rd-to-last paragraph: ...for those of us who came here after the beta was over. Unless I've misunderstood, he's looking for input from the people who participated in the beta. Unless you participated in the beta, he wasn't asking you. –  Aarobot Sep 14 '10 at 20:57
    
See, that just what I said about meta.stackexchange.com/questions/42885/…. We need more---much more---like it. –  dmckee Sep 14 '10 at 20:59

3 Answers 3

Answers will be subjective, but here's a shot at some of the things I've seen:

  1. Very clear rules about what constitutes a good question.
  2. A community willing to enforce those rules and not just relying on a few uber mods.
  3. A community that is willing to be a little flexible about those rules.
  4. A sense of humor but one that doesn't get in the way of our serious business.
  5. A community that is incredibly civil by modern standards and generally more than willing to help out a newb.
  6. Getting some "names" to both support externally and answer questions on the site (people and corps).
  7. Solid UI. No bombardment with ugly ads. No hideous colors. It's not accidental that most successful websites don't go nuts with distraction.

And most importantly:

  1. Wide open arms for any language, framework, toolkit, IDE regardless of how esoteric.
  2. No fees unlike other exchanges of self appointed experts and no sign up of any kind required just to see an answer.
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I agree with the most importantly 2. These days, any kind of login/sign-up/think-of-another-password is an instant no-no for me. –  Benjol Sep 14 '10 at 6:16

I think StackOverflow has become such a success because...

  • Good answers and good behavior are rewarded.
  • Bad content is removed quickly.
  • The site is constantly being 'pruned' (editing, retagging, etc.).
  • There is a place to suggest improvements (right here on Meta).
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Very well deigned site.

It just works. Ugh, I hate Apple.

Lots and lots of users to answer questions in a timely manner.

Actually really simple. When you ask a question and five minutes later, the guy who helped build SQL server answers your question - that's pretty powerful.

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1  
What, exactly, does your hatred of Apple have to do with this/anything? –  Cody Gray May 20 '11 at 10:35

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