I'm going to be giving a TED Talk at a TEDx event my school is helping coordinate. The subject of my talk is "technology as a medium for education." I say education in relation to Stack Exchange because people do come here to teach, but beyond that, this is also about technology as a medium for learning.

I find that it would be helpful to give my background in technology-based learning, and what better way to do that than mention my history on Stack Exchange? I can't advertise on the stage, though I believe I can mention names of certain products that helped guide me in my journey (and I will get this clarified as soon as I can).

The video may qualify to be put on TED's website, although this is unlikely. But, in the event that it does, I was curious if there was a specific way you guys would recommend for presenting the network.

It could also go nameless if you guys would like, which is why I'm asking this—I'd like an official stance on the appropriateness of this and how you feel I should represent the network, if at all.

EDIT: I'm sort of also looking for tips. The only way I can really legitimately talk about SE is in a way that makes it seem like I'm selling it. Some pointers on how to be proactive about describing it in a way that does not sound like an advertisement would help as well.

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    As long as you don't call it a forum... Mar 1, 2012 at 6:54
  • @BoltClock: Fair enough. Anything else? :P
    – Someone
    Mar 1, 2012 at 6:56
  • 3
    The first rule of Stack Exchange.....
    – Nanne
    Mar 1, 2012 at 8:20
  • Sounds interesting, good luck for your talk :)
    – Felix
    Mar 1, 2012 at 9:20
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    I think the title is misleading. If I understand you right, you're looking for how to describe the network and what position you can take towards it...not how to speak about it. The title makes it sound like you're asking if you're free to express your opinion about it. Mar 1, 2012 at 9:49
  • What @Bobby says. I would change that. There shouldn't be an etiquette in terms of what to say or not to say about SE (well, except maybe for the forum thing. :)... but how to relate the way it works in a way that people understand is really a challenge, so this is a good question
    – Pekka
    Mar 1, 2012 at 10:48

4 Answers 4


One aspect that I've always found potentially interesting for education is the extreme "peer review" situation on these sites, and the initiative and, for want of a better word, "investedness" it encourages.

If you post an answer, you know it is going to be scrutinized by a lot of people - some of whom will know more about the subject than you do. If you care about your reputation (both the literal points, and the general one), you want to make sure that what you say isn't complete crap, because if it is, somebody's going to call you out for it.

At least for me, being active on SO has strengthened the following skills:

  • Writing clearly and conscisely

  • Writing in a way that is suitable for the Internet (ie. bringing your points across quickly; a tendency to avoid long monologues with a surprising conclusion, because people might tl;dr. That's not only a good thing - it can be argued that taken to extremes, this way of writing bears the danger of being one-dimensional and shallow. But on the 'net, you need it.)

  • Verifying information before making a claim; quickly looking up things from reliable sources

  • Paying attention to one's own contributions, watching how the question develops and if necessary, adding more information to clarify

I've always thought these aspects could be made use of in an educational context, although I have no clear idea how exactly - just taking the SO model and using it in a Uni course or classroom would probably not be the way, it would have to be a clever adaptation that makes use of its strengths and can be integrated into a classical curriculum. But anyway, there's no doubt SO is already a terrific resource for tech learning.


Yes, absolutely feel free to talk about Stack Exchange.

There's a section at the bottom of our Trademark Guidance page called "The Proper Use of the Stack Exchange Name" - a section literally about using our company terminology properly. :)

We will never say no to people telling the world how awesome and useful our sites are. That being said, definitely follow whatever the TED guidelines are and their definition of "advertising."

I won't give you a script or specific points to make because your talk will be best if you speak honestly about your own experiences.

There have, however, been some great posts elsewhere on the internet where SE users talk about ways in which being part of Stack Exchange has helped them - some of them specifically for an academic context:

Those are just a few examples that I can think of off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are others, and the feedback you've already gotten here is great as well.

Good luck with your talk!


Kind of depends what you mean by 'education'.

Education, to me, sounds more like a 'push'-style "I will teach you", whereas learning is more 'pull' "I want to know".

I'd say that SE is an excellent medium for learning. Asking questions and learning new stuff, answering questions and learning new stuff.


I don't speak for Stack Exchange, Inc, but were I in your shoes I'd make the following choices, based on my interactions with Stack Exchange, Inc.

  • Go ahead an mention it as part of your learning process. It's probably better to mix it in with another site or two that also helped you in similar ways (ie, if SE is the only service you mention, and you speak of it more than a few times, then it might be considered advertising - unless it really was the only webservice relevant to your growth in reltation to the topic).

  • Refer to the specific site, if any, that helped you.

  • If the network is a part of the talk, or the sea-change that it has become a part of or demonstrated, then use, "The Stack Exchange network of sites" or similar wording, as exhibited on their main page and about page: https://stackexchange.com/

  • People aren't dumb - talking about the proliferation of question and answer sites and specifically leaving out their names may seem just as out of place as mentioning the few that are preeminent, especially if you give your background as a programmer.

Chances are good you'd be just fine with the above, but if not then you can email them directly at the "contact" link at the bottom of every page for clarification.

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