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It is only logical that Stack Overflow, Server Fault and Super User attract different people, but my guess is that the intersection should be rather large. Yet it seems to me that people's behavior on the three sites is pretty different. For example, I have the impression that the Super User and Server Fault communities don't like to upvote. Neither questions nor answers get any upvotes.

Is this because the number of users differ so greatly? Or because people do indeed exhibit different behaviors? Are votes/user and comments/user significantly different?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Since I cannot really comment on ServerFault (I rarely go there, just not my cup of tea), I will limit myself to the comparison between SO and SU up to this point.

  1. StackOverflow already has a pretty concrete set of guidelines about what is and isn't allowed or accepted, and there are enough people to go about actually enforcing that way of thought. SuperUser does not have this yet (only a few have attained edit capabilities so far) and it relies much more heavily on users flagging content and then allowing Jeff and myself (and any other mods) to make the judgement calls. Given enough time and enough people gaining closing power, you will start to see some stability because the people will be able to start clearing away stuff on their own they do not feel fits.

  2. So far the commenting on StackOverflow is much much more active, primarily because there is already a community established and people all have their roles to play. It is much easier to interact with people you are familiar with on a daily basis, so you are more comfortable leaving the witty comment without fear of angering the OP.

  3. The content on SuperUser early on was very CW oriented because almost every other question was a "must-have" or a list or an open-ended discussion of some sort. I see these starting to trickle off, and the community backlash against the "must haves" I believe is starting to prevent people from posting new ones. While StackOverflow is almost entirely a straight Q&A now, I see SuperUser branching into four distinct types: Troubleshooting Q&A (My X won't work), Topical Q&A ("What is X? How does Y work? Can I do Z?"), Product Recommendation ("Looking for a Notepad alternative that features built-in encryption"), and the Lists & Discussions ("must have X", "What are your favorite Y").

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I have the same impression from the beginning on ServerFault... There answers are not easily up-voted... Maybe sysadmins are just less click-happy than developers? ;-)

Don't have that feeling so much on SuperUser though.

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At the moment, Superuser is a semiopen beta. People that know the SO blog do know about superuser and the password to join. My guess is that SU community is in almost a subset of SO joined with SF.

What does this lead to: questions asked on the "almost everything goes" SU tend to be low level, easy, newb, not so interesting for most members and therefore not value us much. This is also a reason why many members of SO did not join SU. And then, Jeff and Joel are not so well known in the SF and SU arena.

I would expect this to change when SU comes out of beta. Depending on how much we will be able to promote SU to users and gain support outside of the SO-SF community. And then, are users as reputation driven as we geeks are? To an extend, all humans are equal, but people with a real life tend to earn their reputation in other ways then collecting points on a internet site ;-).

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I have 61 rep on SO, 1033 rep on Superuser. Enough evidence that the communities are different ;-)

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