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I am curious as to how the first question and the first answer was posted on Stack Overflow. So the first person who has a question about, say JavaScript, sees that the whole site is empty - and decides to post his question to a non-existent audience?

Or was there an initial network of people hired to provide the answers to the first questions? How did this community get started?

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+1: I have often wondered how SO started. It seems like it would require a certain critical mass(like an Area51 site does) before it could succeed. –  John Jan 24 '11 at 5:34
    
+1: Thhis will help my SE/SO ebook. Thanks @Arjun J Rao –  Benny Jan 24 '11 at 6:05
    
possible duplicate of How did Stack Overflow succeed when it was starting out? –  Pops Sep 29 '11 at 18:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The founders of Stack Overflow (Joel Spolsky & Jeff Atwood) both had large communities of existing followers from their previous online endeavors (Joel On Software and Coding Horror respectively). They invited members of those communities to participate in a private beta, in which they seeded the site with content so it didn't launch with no content whatsoever.

If you want to know more about this topic than could possibly be useful, I suggest you listen to some of the early podcasts...

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+1 for "more about this topic than could possibly be useful" –  Jeff Atwood Jan 24 '11 at 6:21

Stack Overflow got started with:

  1. A cool idea
  2. An excellent implementation
  3. A critical mass of users (from Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky's blog readership)

(Those three elements combined are the reason that the vast majority of people who think "Hey! That's obvious, I could have done that!" probably couldn't have.)

Some further resources:

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As for why someone else didn't do this even though it is obvious in retrospect that the idea worked: Well, someone else could have done it. Many details of the implementation are straightforward, but no one else did it first. It's the law of inertia. Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. –  Rising Star May 29 '12 at 3:23

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