And how did the first voters on Stack Overflow pull themselves up by their bootstraps?

It's been insinuated in answers about proposals on Area 51 for new Stack Exchange sites that proposals don't do well unless they somewhat overlap with a popular SE site. (Example; example.) This way the site can bring in at least 100 beta users with an association bonus, who presumably know their way around the Stack Exchange web application enough to reward good questions. This association bonus provides, among other things, the privilege to upvote questions and answers. Users earned their association bonuses by, say, having eight answers upvoted to 2 and three accepted on a different site.

But who upvoted them on that different site? People who brought association bonuses from another site could have, but that's disproven by infinite descent unless there was a base case that awarded the first association bonus. It turns out that in the beginning, there were the "trilogy" or "SOFU" sites (Stack Overflow, Server Fault, and Super User), which Jeff launched as an ExpertS-exChange clone without having to go through anything like Area 51 commitment.

On day one of the trilogy's private beta, when everybody had 1 rep, Jeff and the other moderators were doing all the voting. So someone didn't have to provide a 0-rated answer to a 0-rated question, wait for that answer to be accepted, and then use the 15 reputation from that to cast the first votes on all the 0-rated questions on the front page. But who was the first non-diamond to earn earn enough reputation to cast a vote?

(Incidentally, the oldest non-deleted questions on SO appear to be one by Jeff's unprivileged alt account about setting opacity for a form in Windows Forms and another about div widths in Internet Explorer 7's box model.)

  • 5
    During the private beta phase of a site, most of the reputation requirements for privileges are severely reduced. Upvoting and downvoting only requires 1 reputation during that time.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Dec 25, 2014 at 20:03
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    @animuson Was this true of the trilogy's private beta as well? Dec 25, 2014 at 20:04
  • I would imagine so. It doesn't make sense to set all the privileges at absurd numbers when a site is just starting up. I wasn't here for the beta though.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Dec 25, 2014 at 20:05
  • 1

2 Answers 2


Ran some queries :) BECAUSE SCIENCE, DAMMIT.

Jarrod cast the first vote still in the system, however it has an ID of 1, so I'm assuming it was in fact the first vote (and not purged after a bunch of testing stuff).

The timestamp on that magical moment is:

2008-07-31 21:28:01

It was a down-vote, and I'm certain it was done in testing.

The first vote still in the system that wasn't cast by someone that works here (as far as I can tell) was cast by Jax, an up-vote, and happened on:

2008-08-01 12:15:59

The initial FAQ said that if your question was of interest to at least one other programmer, then it was probably on topic - it's actually a bit harder to earn rep these days as back then, well, nothing had really been asked and we're a bit more picky when it comes to the kinds of questions we entertain.

It wasn't unlike many other private betas we've had - there were just a lot more people involved because Jeff and Joel had quite a following of programmers. The early tags tended to be stuff that Jeff / Joel were working with (MS Stack / JS / etc), however the site became more generalized pretty quickly. Also, there was no meta - just UserVoice - the first rule of SO was not talking about SO on SO.

I don't remember what the scale was, but it didn't take long for folks to get enough privileges to basically run the show. Also, remember - we didn't have a lot of things that rep unlocks today back then - I suggest digging through the blog and early podcasts for more on what was different.

Just remember that Stack Overflow was the first thing for programmers where truly useful stuff didn't get buried under noise, one of the biggest needs it was created to fill. The early message was basically what it is today, up-vote the stuff that is useful and helpful, down-vote the stuff that isn't. People caught onto that very quickly, because that's how they were finally able to do something they'd been wanting to do for a long time ... edit :)


I'd say that using information from the question on "Chuck Norris like John Skeet facts" that it would be John Skeet as he was getting reputation points for question before StackEchange was created. It is one of the basic laws of the universe that John Skeet can answer a question before it is even asked.

(Note: Not a serious answer)

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