Creating stable and live artificial ecosystem is ultimately hard if not impossible.

New ideas of how to enforce good behavior keep coming up. The more rules there are the more edge cases we see and have to deal with, however. Complexity of system raises exponentially due to interactions among rules. Let's face it, humankind can't manage exponential complexity.

Shouldn't we take a closer look at how natural ecosystems are organized and try to organize SO in the same way? Isn't this the only way to survive?

The less rules the better. Either a system is self-organizing, lives and evolves or is heavily regulated and destined to die.

Writing this I actually had in mind economic systems. Especially free market vs controlled or regulated markets.
What prompted me to write this is never-ending problem of downvoting. How do we downvote in a free market economy? We can't. We can only upvote (pay). And this proofs itself to be enough. Does the fact that we have downvoting in SO mean we're heading towards controlled or regulated market?

  • 2
    So J+J are the Queen in this beehive? Jul 4, 2009 at 11:02
  • 3
    this question is incredibly vague. "a closer look at how natural ecosystems are organized" can you provide specific, concrete examples. Jul 4, 2009 at 11:31
  • 4
    Are we going to have to start eating each other?
    – nb69307
    Jul 4, 2009 at 11:43
  • 1
    Either that or we will have to start flying around picking up yellow dust and then coming back and shoving it in Joel's face.
    – TheTXI
    Jul 4, 2009 at 15:10
  • Its not about economy in general, but mechanism design (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanism_design): how to design a game, so it discourages some strategies from the parties. But your market idea can be used in a form.
    – akarnokd
    Jul 17, 2009 at 18:24

4 Answers 4


Natural ecosystems allow for a multitude of organisms to thrive in them. StackOverflow has taken a stance to only cater towards certain subject matter (and even then certain types of questions).

If we were to start organizing the same way natural ecosystems organize, we're going to end up seeing and growth and abundance of the "weeds" which are analogous to all the noise questions which don't benefit StackOverflow.

I'd rather have a clean lawn and garden rather than a weed-overgrown backyard.


Your question rests on a false premise, that natural ecosystems are less complex than Stackoverflow. As I see it, Stackoverflow's rules actually serve to simplify normal human interaction by defining scope and boundaries. Rather than add complexity, they actually reduce it. The question, I think, is really whether Stackoverflow has achieved a balance between simplicity -- which provides coherence and direction to sustain interest -- and complexity -- which provides richness of experience and diversity of knowledge -- that will allow it to both continue to grow and remain useful.


It's ok for natural ecosystem to die since new one comes into place. This is actually happening all the time, species die and new one replace them. But I doubt Jeff would want SO to die even if something else would come after it :)


It is possible to do it, but I guess it has to wait for the SO 2.0 to happen.

The first problem is that SO seems to be based on some observations of human (programmer, community) behavior seen on other sites. But it turns out, SO has generated new behavior patterns by itself too.

The second problem is a vaguely defined objective function, (we could call it subjective function) and a clearly incomplete implementation, which are not even verifiable by the community. The lack of transparency is a key issue with SO.

So, how would you expect success when you have inconsistency in your model?

But these are just symptoms, which can be fixed eventually, or better yet, learn from the things what evolved here and rethink everything from scratch.

You know, in mathematics, some matematicians use a trick to achieve 'progress': they define a problem and give a solution to it, even though the problem itself has less to do with reality (at least for now, for example: optimal interplanetary mine freighter routing).

This leads us to the concept of defining things. You only need to define the ways of things consistently and then you can go and find a solution.

To return to the current behavior (nicely observable here on meta) of the architects it reminds me of the old joke:

How many Microsoft employees are required to change a bad light bulb? None, they just declare that darkness is the standard.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .