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The StackEgg game's terminal state, following birth out of Area51, private beta, public beta, and graduation, is "winning the internet." The progression of the game seems to indicate that this state is achieved by maintaining certain levels of content quantity and quality, user happiness, and traffic for a certain amount of time.

Stack Exchange, Inc. already communicates its notion of when sites have achieved, in real life, the other milestones simulated in the game by launching sites into private beta, public beta, and full member statuses. There is even public information about specific statistics necessary to get from Area51 to private beta, as well as some qualitative information about what SE looks for to progress a site to later stages. However, as far as I know, SE does not currently say anything about either which sites have, in reality, won the internet or what the criteria are for winning the internet.

  • Which sites does SE consider to have won the internet in real life?

  • What characteristics would indicate that a site has won the internet?

  • How can a site determine what to concentrate on to best get it closer to winning the internet?

To be extra-clear, this question was motivated by the game states in StackEgg, but it is about the actual lifecycle of real SE sites.


This question is only slightly tongue-in-cheek. I think that it could be possible for SE to provide serious answers to these questions, and that these answers could be a good way to communicate high-level thinking about what SE wants its graduated sites to accomplish and strive for.

  • Gotta check Arqade question on stackEgg and check the StackEgg leaderboard. On a semi-serious note, SO's probably the only winner there. – Jonathan Drapeau Apr 1 '15 at 17:35
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    @JonathanDrapeau the question is about winning the real internet, not the simulated one. I've edited to make this more clear. – Isaac Moses Apr 1 '15 at 17:39
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    Stack Overflow. Definitely. – nicael Apr 1 '15 at 17:44
  • @nicael, yeah, I'd say so, given its total dominance of its domain and mega-popularity in absolute terms. But is the bar all the way up there, or is internet victory achievable by smaller sites, too? – Isaac Moses Apr 1 '15 at 17:53
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    I think TeX - LaTeX has also "won the internet" in its space - none of the existing (La)TeX resources on the internet are remotely comparable; virtually all searches for typical TeX issues will have a TeX.SE link at the top of the results; and it has a dazzling array of uber-experts like egreg, Werner, and Heiko (among others). – senshin Apr 1 '15 at 18:21
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    MathOverflow has also "won the internet" in a sense, but unlike with TeX.SE, I think this is more because MO never really had solid competition on the internet in the "research-level mathematics questions" space. – senshin Apr 1 '15 at 18:23
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When people talk about "winning the internet" they normally imply that the other person said or did something so amazing/funny/remarkable that the entire internet (hyperbolically) has taken notice. I don't think any of our sites should aspire to that. (If it happens anyway . . . what are you going to do?)

Instead, sites should aspire to win individual questions when Googling for them. For instance, Skeptics is the runner-up in the Jerusalem earthquake race. Anyone investigating whether the Shroud of Turin was create by neutron particles emitted as a result of massive earthquake three days after Jesus' death will find an answer very quickly with that search. Even tiny beta sites might be "winning the internet" if they happen to rank highly in a narrow question.

I've done a lot of self-evaluations on a lot of different sites. If a question is reasonably well written and narrow enough (or if the topic space isn't saturated with similar content), I find the Google search test tends to be an easy bar to clear. It's no secret that Stack Overflow excels in Google rankings. (Well, it does seem to be a secret to the handful of SEO consultants that contact us each week.) So attracting traffic tends not to be the difficulty. Rather, most sites could maximize their benefit to the internet by:

  1. Increasing the diversity of questions posed, and
  2. Improving the correctness and clarity of answers.

In theory and given enough time, all human knowledge will be represented in Q&A form on at least one of our sites. Perhaps someone will ask Earth Sciences about earthquakes in Jerusalem and get a more comprehensive answer than my own limited debunking of an obscure religious claim. If so, the Skeptics question would still turn up as a top result for an 8.2 earthquake in Jerusalem but not for the the more general question. I would consider that an ideal outcome.

Have you ever noticed that Wikipedia is almost always the first result Google returns when you type a single word (other than brandnames) into a search box? Wikipedia has pretty much won the encyclopedia space on the internet. As commenters noted, besides Stack Overflow, TeX/LaTeX and MathOverflow have won their respective topics too. In those cases, virtually all practitioners of the fields they serve:

  1. Are aware that the site exists,
  2. Probably have used it at least as a reference, and
  3. Implicitly trust that the answers on the site are better than answers found elsewhere.

Finally, reputation on those sites strongly correlates to real-life reputation in the field of study.

I don't know how many other sites share these characteristics, but I believe Craft CMS is one of them. As evidence, the founder of the company that makes the product is a top user on the Stack Exchange site. Several other employees of the company are active as well. The site comes up third when searching for Craft CMS. In this case, the experts decided they wanted a Q&A site hosted on our network, got the site through Area 51 in record time and relentlessly use it. This is the exception, not the rule.

Most of our sites are enthusiast sites. That means the experts in the topic largely ignore the related Stack Exchange site. Personally, I think there is space for people who are excited about a topic to boil down the knowledge of experts into something more digestible to the general public. There's also room for sites like Gardening, DIY, and Mechanics where the experts are too busy working outside to be much help on the internet. And there's nothing wrong with people enjoying what they do in a format (Q&A) that they appreciate using. "Winning the internet" one question at a time is a fine strategy for most sites.

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