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.

  • 1
    This is maybe tangential, but to what extent do the communities themselves have a voice in this? Not being a user of the Quantum Computing site, I don't have much information; were the users told about this prior to launch, and did they have a voice in the decision. I'm also thinking ahead to how this kind of process will play out in the future: Will sites get to give feedback to a proposed sponsorship, or even accept/reject it entirely? – HDE 226868 Mar 12 at 17:11
  • 1
    @HDE226868 No problem. Yes, all Quantum Computing proposal followers were contacted for questions and feedback about the announcement. This is being administered as a marketing/ads program so there's really no more or less collaboration than with any other ad sponsors on the network. Incidentally, I've actually discussed features enabling a bit more collaboration over which ads might fit on which site, so maybe someday but not currently. – Robert Cartaino Mar 12 at 17:18
  • 15
    It's great to see another experiment that could justify more continued investment in Q&A. Good idea, and I hope it goes well! – user Mar 12 at 17:47
  • 1
    Is the sponsorship permanent or for a fixed period of time? – ben is uǝq backwards Mar 12 at 18:17
  • 2
    @benisuǝqbackwards Since this is being administered as a marketing/ads program, it depends on the agreement reached, but the site itself would persist either way under our normal site workflow whether the sponsorship continued or not. – Robert Cartaino Mar 12 at 19:02
  • 2
    What does the company who sponsors gain? Is it simply increased visibility? – Tim Mar 12 at 19:53
  • @Tim The motivations for why anybody might support a site vary from person to person. Some project teams may simply want the notoriety or increased exposure, while others might see an intrinsic value in helping assure this community succeeds. Sometimes project teams want to help expand awareness of the industry itself, or to have a place where they can support their own community as folks gather around this subject space. In the Strangeworks case, it was a "all of the above." – Robert Cartaino Mar 12 at 20:10
  • 1
    Is creating a new site only in this case, as a proof of concept? And then if it works, in the future existing sites will be sponsored? Otherwise I don't think I understand how sponsorship equates to "bringing resources back"; creating more sites sounds like spreading resources out. Maybe I'm just doing a poor job of reading the post. – Josh Caswell Mar 13 at 15:22
  • @JoshCaswell I think you may have misunderstood (or I did a poor job explaining it). The point isn't just to tout this one site, but the roll out of an entire new product category ("site sponsorships") which should bring much needed attention, community numbers, and financial resources back into the Stack Exchange Q&A sites. Anything developed because SE has larger financial stake in improving the Q&A benefits every Stack Exchange site. – Robert Cartaino Mar 13 at 17:11
  • Thanks for expanding. So this new category, sponsored sites, will generally be brand new sites. But whatever work is done on those sites will be shared across the network. – Josh Caswell Mar 13 at 17:32
  • 3
    @JoshCaswell Not quite. It’s the sponsorship offering that’s new; not the sites. Sponsorship may very well spur the creation of new sites at some point, but the immediate focus is more on companies wanting to support our existing communities. – Robert Cartaino Mar 13 at 17:38
  • Okay, cool, I think I finally got it. :) Thanks. – Josh Caswell Mar 13 at 17:42
  • @RobertCartaino Is the goal of this blankly to make more money, to further foster smaller communities and make them "official" or to enable y'all to re-dedicate dev ressources to Q/A, or all three? – Magisch Mar 27 at 14:24
  • 5
    Will this affect the creation of new Stack Exchange sites (via Area 51), e.g. in a way that would allow companies to skip the creation process for a site they are interested in or will sponsoring only work for sites that already exist (or are about to exist, as in this case)? – TuringTux Mar 27 at 18:20
  • 2
    @TuringTux For general subjects, no; we would not currently allow a company to create a general site for something like "manufacturing" (for example) without going through a community-building process first (Area 51). At some point, we MAY consider letting a company create a product-centric site for their customers for which they own the Trademark — but we are not actively seeking such a partnership right now. We've looked at some basic requirements for what such a product might entail, but it's tricky. – Robert Cartaino Mar 27 at 21:00

So from what you're saying here this sounds great:

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.

Given this, what's in it for the companies sponsoring this? Is this more of a "we want to advance knowledge in our field for altruistic reasons" thing for companies, or is this supposed to give them a profit eventually. If so, by what mechanism?

So this is apparently the monetization aspect:

A sponsorship generally entails enabling ads relevant to the subject and affixing a small "sponsored by..." logo in the upper-right corner.

Are the "tags relevant to the subject" functioning like sponsored tags? For quantum computing, will that mean that product specific tags for strangeworks products will be created? What if the community creates product specific tags for a competitor product? Will strangeworks have the opportunity to remove them?

You say that the control remains with the community, does that mean that the company sponsoring the site doesn't get preferential treatment when it comes to matters of policy. For instance, if one of their tags is a meta tag, can it still be burninated?

I'm not knocking the concept I think this has some great potential working with some of the more ethical companies out there, but it'd be nice to know these things before considering participating in one of the sponsored sites.

  • 2
    Tags are created by the community for whatever folks are asking about. We do not pre-create tags (except system tags), and saying "competitor tags" does not make sense in this context (but I know what you mean). This site is home to the quantum computing community, so no, a sponsor would not be allowed to disallow questions about a competing product, nor would they be able to block or remove tags they don't like. Sponsor employees are free to participate like anybody else, and if an apparent conflict-of-interest arises, we have a meta support site and Community Managers to work that out. – Robert Cartaino Mar 28 at 19:12
  • 1
    @RobertCartaino Thats largely what I though, but it's nice to see it confirmed. Best of luck to you guys. I like that stack is gaining new revenue models, it makes the future of this site we've all come to rely on more secure. – Magisch Mar 28 at 19:44

How do these new sponsored sites differ from existing partnered sites, if at all?

As mentioned in the post, Stack Exchange has had partnered sites before that have seen good success. We saw Ask Ubuntu in 2010 (Canonical, Ltd) and Ask Patents in 2012 (USPTO). Both sites Ask Ubuntu seems to have a healthy community that still continues to this day.

Does Quantum Computing differ from these previous partnerships? Or is it simply reviving an old idea for a new site?

  • 3
    Ask Ubuntu was started through our normal Area 51 processes by the Ubuntu community and quickly drew some extra attention and cross promotion through ad hoc cooperation between our companies; nothing super formal. Quantum Computing (site sponsorship) is a product we now offer formally which is administered similar to any other ad campaign through a reciprocal arrangement with the project team sponsoring the site. – Robert Cartaino Mar 27 at 21:08

I very much appreciate that it's a sponsorship as opposed to advertisements. (Full disclosure, I think full out ads would diminish SE:AI, where sponsorships, particularly from such venerable companies as IBM, serve to reinforce the value of our little stack, and translates, for me at least, as a not insignificant validation.)

IBM has been involved in AI since the advent of modern computing and I can't think of a more perfect inaugural partner.

(Here's hoping we get some scientists, engineers and interns from Big Blue wandering over to see what all the buzz is about!;)

You must log in to answer this question.

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