How successful has the Private Q&A option been so far?

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Free up resources
It’s expensive and time-consuming to answer the same questions over and over. By making the right information searchable, your private Stack Overflow community serves as the centralized source-of-truth, allowing your entire team to focus on building better software.

The product is divided into three plans; private team, business and enterprise and sold at three different prices.

I am most interested in knowing about its most economic option, private team, the annual subscription means a client has to pay $5 per user per month, this plan also includes a free 14 day trial.

Has the venture proven to be successful or is it still early days?

My reason for asking is two-fold.

  1. First, last year's “left nav, responsive design” was fundamentally a business decision. Stack Exchange provided sites with a consistent look and a standardized platform for its potential clients. In fact, the product page specifically says

Unlimited questions and answers in a searchable archive
Every Q&A post is indexed and easy to search, and you can export your data at any time. Built on Stack Overflow’s flagship Q&A engine, the platform 50 million users know and trust for answers.

One of its selling points is the following

Onboard faster
A challenge for teams of all sizes is ramping up new coworkers fast without taking up too much of everyone’s time. Give the newest members of your team instant access to everything they need to know in your private Stack Overflow community.

The aforementioned redesign, affected each and every site on SE, and it had varying degrees of success. Some sites heaved a sigh of relief when key elements of their favourite themes were preserved, while other users were upset with the new layout; high-rep and low-rep users alike expressed dissatisfaction with the company's decision, their favourite site had either lost its unique identity and appeared blander or the responsive design just made a site objectively uglier.

Some of these sites had beautiful designs previously and now have a less striking look. Unsurprisingly, the response to these changes has been somewhat very negative. source

In any case, users across the network had no choice but to accept the simplified theme. In fairness, some users were very supportive of the Ch-ch-ch-changes , but overall the subsequent transition was not handled well by SE and community managers had to defend the reasons behind the new responsive design in a torrent of criticisms and heavy downvotes.

  1. My second reason for asking is dictated by an initiative announced recently by Juan M♦, SE's Community Manager since 2015.

We're testing advertisements across the network

From the opening paragraph:

[…] However, as we've continued to grow, the resources needed to maintain our network have also increased. Thanks entirely to the efforts of the network's communities, we have become an amazing resource on the Internet. Generating revenue from non-technology sites will enable us to dedicate more resources to meeting your needs so this is good news!

The announcement was not received well, as of today it has 189 downvotes and 70 upvotes but the announcement is neither asking for users' blessing nor stamp of approval, it is only asking for their cooperation. The backlash has been surprising for me, why should users downvote a post asking its community members to keep an eagle eye on spammy, intrusive or misleading ads? If you want to find out, I suggest visiting the page. The experiment, started in May of this year, however, will continue regardless.

Could it be that this experiment is a sign that the Private Q&A venture has not taken off? Or maybe it has not generated the revenue that the team was hoping for, hence the economic necessity to sell advertising space on non-technology sites.

Possibly following Google's lead, we all know that Google's products (Gmail, Google maps, YouTube and Google Play) are all ‘free’ but the multi-billion company sells “advertising opportunities” on the search pages that we use every day.

Charging for every click
The attraction of the service to advertisers is they can target advertising at Google users who have already expressed an interest in what the advertiser sells and ignore Google users who have not. This is known as contextual advertising.

How successful has Stack Exchange (or is it Stack Overflow's?) product been so far or is it still early days?

Thank you for reaching the end of this long post. I wish to emphasise that I am genuinely interested in knowing the answer.

  • 2
    Questions about Stack Overflow for Teams should be asked on Meta Stack Overflow, not here. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Jun 23 at 6:37
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    @SonictheBracketedHedgehog I can see why you rushed to that conclusion but the changes that were implemented last year and have been proposed in May this year (the introduction of ads on non-technology sites) affects everyone across the network, not just Stack Overflow users. – Mari-Lou A Jun 23 at 6:39
  • 3
    The Teams development team is active on that site, and is the most likely source of an answer to your final question of "how successful" Teams has been. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Jun 23 at 6:41
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    @SonictheBracketedHedgehog I think the answer, if any answer will be forthcoming, is of interest to everyone, not just to users on Stack Overflow. I am proof of this. – Mari-Lou A Jun 23 at 6:42
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    I'm inclined to leave it here unless a CM or a Dev disagrees. I'd eat my hat if different teams didn't talk to each other, and in this context, it affects the broader community. – Journeyman Geek Jun 23 at 6:46
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    I'm on a couple of teams and while it's great to have a private area those sites aren't particularly busy, that tells you nothing about other sites that are frequently used by whichever company and how truly useful it is to them. Due to privacy I don't think there's an accurate answer to your question, but I'd draw a parallel with the SE sites across the board; some do well, some don't, sometimes an influx sometimes an outflux, the difference being that the site is created and paid for by the people whom wanted it. The privacy policy hides the information you need to accurately answer. – Rob Jun 23 at 12:52
  • Explaining my downvote: it's not our business. Literally. :) – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jun 24 at 6:53
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    @ShadowTheCurlyBracedWizard it is your business if you have invested time, effort and care in your contributions. But I'm not asking for a specific number, only if there are positive signals (has it been successful) or if it's still early days. Why is that such a terrible thing to ask? – Mari-Lou A Jun 24 at 8:06
  • 1
    Nothing is terrible... just not something I'd ask, or answer if it was my place to answer. If it's a failure, what good would it be that SE will say "It failed, we are out of money now?" It will only cause more sadness and won't be helpful. We have to trust SE to handle their business to the best they can, and handle their internal mistakes themselves, not out in the open. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jun 24 at 8:34
  • Not directly what you want to know, but a broader overview of stack's profitability and the motivation behind the ads experiment, hence as comment: meta.stackexchange.com/a/329893/308386 – mag Jun 25 at 12:13

I suspect there are a few slightly incorrect guesses here. I know about as much as you do (really!), so most of this is based off stuff we've heard in public, or common sense.

The new site designs are based on Stacks, a unified library for all the designs. While Jin's old designs was quite beautiful, having bespoke designs for each SE site resulted in a wee bit of paralysis. We didn't really get much attention for design outside Stack Overflow's...well, fairly regular top bar tweaks. The business decision wasn't just Teams, it was also spending less effort for more site designs. Some sites lost their super-awesome designs. Some mistakes were made (we made quite a fuss over our Super User design), but this means that, at least in theory, we can get new designs for graduated sites without the old logjam, and presumably they can be updated more easily in future. It's not just about Teams or Enterprise (though it helps). It's about whipping off the Band-Aid of technical debt. Admittedly, some things could have gone better, such as starting with smaller, non-designed sites first, but it's not something that they do every day. They boiled the frog in one go, not slowly.

The presence of ads on smaller sites isn't in any way an indication of the health of Teams. There have been indications that this will happen for a while , so it's hardly reactionary.

Annoyingly, any insight I have into the internal politics of the company is...well either third-hand or nonexistent and unsharable.

Logically though, having an additional revenue stream from the smaller sites does probably make a case for them. How that would actually translate to better community resources is yet to be seen, as how investment in the community would go.

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