As our devs continue to work on features like Talent and Channels (now called Teams), I've been anxiously looking for ways to increase engagement in our current Stack Exchange sites to help assure that development RETURNS to our Q&As… as soon as possible.
As the biz-dev folks spread the word about these new products, they've actually stirred up quite a bit of interest in our existing communities. Some of these project teams have sizeable communities of their own, so it would be amazing if we could engage these organizations to actively support our current sites — along with the financial resources they bring to finally make our Q&As more attractive for active development again.
We are trying a small pilot first.
A few months ago, a company called Strangeworks contacted us about creating a channel for a quantum computing community. When I showed them a similar proposal in Area 51 about ready to launch, they jumped on the chance to support those efforts.
With the help of Strangeworks, we just launched our Quantum Computing site into private beta. As a partner who can really help us promote this site, we needed to get this going ASAP so they could announce it this week at the SXSW Convergence Keynote! A sponsorship generally entails enabling ads relevant to the subject and affixing a small "sponsored by..." logo in the upper-right corner. We've modeled this program after our "tag sponsorship" feature, but this has become even more reminiscent of our collaboration with Canonical Ltd and the Ubuntu community (Remember Ask Ubuntu? — 286,000 questions and a half-million+ visitors/day).
<I'm kicking myself for not reviving this Ask-Ubuntu model sooner>
Let's get a few immediate concerns out of the way
First — sponsors do not own these Q&A sites. Sponsors work alongside our communities who ultimately build these sites. Communities ask the questions; communities create the tags; communities conduct elections as they do now, and we are not renaming our current sites like a garish sport stadium to the highest bidder. Any ads a sponsor submits still have go through our crazy-strict ad editorial process… as it has always been. Companies do not have access to personal data, and all Q&A content remains irrevocably licensed under Creative Commons for sharing and attribution.
I am energized about the potential for working with other organizations as a way to expand our site-building process. I finally got that aging Private Beta wall fixed so access to new sites easier than ever. I know that's not the biggest feature request in our ranks, but there are a lot features in Stack Exchange which need attention, so I'm reinvigorated that this could be the start of some good things to come.
Every site will ultimately benefit.
On a personal note, I am impressed with just how attuned our partners and marketing teams have been to the concerns of our community. We will work hard to find organizations who are willing to cede so much control back to the community. It's difficult to anticipate all the hiccups we might encounter along the way, but that's okay; we will adjust. But throughout this process, we have been steadfast in the guiding principle that these ideas should NOT interfere with the main experience of the Q&A.