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The SE Network covers a wide variety of subjects. Some communities are more active than others. Over the years, I've used a variety of online forums to ask questions, but there is a convenience in having a single hub like SE to cover everything from computer programming to Christian Hermeneutics and Theology, Questions about Jewish law and tradition, Worldbuilding, Physics, Car repair...

If this family of sites ceased to exist, where would we go?

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  • 7
    Nowhere, i don't currently use Q&A (other than for the entertainment meta brings)
    – Kevin B
    Jan 15 '20 at 20:02
  • 26
    I know it can seem strange, but there were "places to go" before Stack Exchange, and there will be after it goes down (in flames, apparently). Something new will emerge, or we will go back to Usenet maybe. But there will always be possibilities. Jan 15 '20 at 20:05
  • 8
    @wha7ever Yeah, but it's not plugged in yet!
    – TecBrat
    Jan 15 '20 at 20:08
  • 11
    @TecBrat We're working on it. Feel free to join.
    – wha7ever
    Jan 15 '20 at 20:09
  • 6
    people have become too reliant on other people that they rely on a google search rather than opening the debugger. I think the collapse of SO and there being no good alternative would be a good thing for the dev community.
    – Kevin B
    Jan 15 '20 at 20:15
  • 4
    @wha7ever Not even close to finished.
    – Mast
    Jan 15 '20 at 20:29
  • 4
    @Mast You can contribute to speed up the process.
    – wha7ever
    Jan 15 '20 at 20:31
  • 11
    @wha7ever, re: codidact, who will host it? Will members have to contribute to the hosting bill? (hint: won't work.) Are you building a fully distributed system that will allow us to run it collectively from our Internet connections? (hint: won't work at work, and will be slow even with 50% users on fiber.) In other words, who will pay the bills? Jan 15 '20 at 20:39
  • 10
    @FrédéricHamidi See this discussion: forum.codidact.org/t/keeping-the-site-free/355/2 Jan 15 '20 at 20:42
  • 7
    To be honest - I don't go to SE for Q&A any more, not for a long time. I do contribute the very occasional answer, but the overall quality is so seriously down that if I had a question, SE is close to the last place I would consider going. Jan 15 '20 at 21:07
  • 19
    I am also coming to the conclusion that SO is now doing more harm than good by enabling sub-prime students to achieve qualifications they do not deserve:( Jan 15 '20 at 21:52
  • @MaximusMinimus what are the first places you'd go to? Jan 15 '20 at 22:18
  • 1
    We know that answer too.
    – Rob
    Jan 15 '20 at 22:42
  • I wonder how much hosting a service like StackExchange costs? This is, if a service would intend to replace StackExchange, what'd be a reasonable operational expense to anticipate for hosting alone?
    – Nat
    Jan 16 '20 at 2:29
  • 11
49

Codidact

This would be my top recommendation. It's currently being developed by the very same people that left this site, fed up with the ongoing controversy that Stack Exchange seems to generate on a consistent basis. It's completely open-source, community driven, and free. It has a growing list of communities.

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  • 3
    "very same people that left this site" yup, a lot of familiar... usernames are there.
    – wha7ever
    Jan 16 '20 at 14:31
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    The value of community-driven sites lies in the community, not the particular URL. Codidact appears to be a viable alternative to attract its own community. Jan 16 '20 at 17:11
49

Same place I always go: Google, and then click the first link that doesn't look like garbage. The fact that right now that first link is more often than not an SE answer and maybe later it won't be doesn't actually change that process.

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've had an actual question that isn't already asked and answered elsewhere.

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  • 8
    There was a time that I'd google coding questions and get Expert Sex Change results and Stack Overflow results. Stack Overflow obviously won that battle in the long run up to now. There was an unspoken (unwritten) subtext in my question though. What about if (when) SE becomes unbearable for reasons?
    – TecBrat
    Jan 15 '20 at 20:12
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    "THIS" is how majority of users discover and get drawn to SE. Jan 15 '20 at 20:12
  • 1
    @TecBrat I actually got a result for the hyphen site on the first page of a google search a few weeks ago. I was shocked that it's still in business. Jan 15 '20 at 21:38
  • 3
    I remember the times where altavista was better to find coding answers. Jan 16 '20 at 11:52
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topanswers

This is a community oriented Q&A alternative without commercial interests, that is already running for a couple of communities. At the time of writing this answer, it already has

  • public meta community
  • public community for databases
  • public community for TeX
  • private beta for a Unix community
  • private beta for code golf

More communities can be added, see https://topanswers.xyz/meta?q=211#question and as user of Stack Exchange you probably won't believe it, but the time scale for bug fixes and feature requests is more like 6-8 minutes/hours instead of 6-8 months/years!

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22

I think as of now, there aren't real alternatives:

  • Codidact is just emerging. I hope it will work out, but who can say right now.

  • Quora is already a really large network, but it lacks in various ways. And most notably, the Quora management is driving forward their "Quora partner program" that basically motivates people to bulk-create crappy questions. Yeah, a great community about to be ruined by the company running the servers. You can ask decent questions there, and get really good answers in many areas, but plenty of the experts are leaving that platform because of the aforementioned wave of (really) low quality questions.

And yes, I do not see Quora as a real alternative, it comes with severe restrictions. I am mainly saying: you can (or could, in the past), get really great expert advice in that place, too.

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  • 8
    Two major issues with Quora is that they don't provide any dump of the website, and most of the content cannot be conveniently accessed unless one registers to their website. Jan 15 '20 at 20:26
  • 1
    @FranckDernoncourt I didn't say its perfect. But when you have questions, or want to give answers, then registering isn't that big of a hurdle. The much bigger issue for me is the fact that questions only consist of a title and "tags". But no body for details ...
    – GhostCat
    Jan 15 '20 at 20:32
  • 4
    sure, I just wanted to inform readers about limitations. Jan 15 '20 at 20:40
  • 24
    Quora has much more severe problems with basic Q&A than SE. for one, they own everything posted on it. You need to use your real name on it. They don’t allow question bodies (but used to), which is ridiculous. Quora is objectively far worse than pre-Monica firing SE. (Some more reasons it is crappy). Jan 16 '20 at 0:58
  • @GhostCat if I had a nickel... let's say if I had an entry in my password list for every site that tells me "You can get so much just by joining", it would be thousands of sites long. I know how easy signups are. I'm just fairly cautious about crafting my internet presence rather than, say, puking it. Apr 10 '20 at 22:14
8

https://www.reddit.com/ covers a fair amount of topics, has a large user base, and all of the content can be accessed without any registration.

Downsides of Reddit:

  • threads are automatically closed ("archived", in the Reddit jargon) after 6 months. Update: Since fall 2021, some subs have removed that idiotic rule.
  • no official dumps (but unofficial ones can be found, e.g. https://files.pushshift.io/reddit/submissions/)
  • user content cannot be redistributed
  • [from TecBrat's comment, with which I agree] Each subreddit has its own rules and some mods / bots are pretty harsh to newcomers.

PS: I'm not advocating for Reddit, I'm just trying to help explore Q&A options other than Stack Exchange, because Quora has major issues (e.g., one can't write question details and has no available dumps) and other options mentioned in this thread so far have a very small user base or aren't even launched yet.

FYI: Meta QA progam: posting the same question on several QA websites

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  • 1
    threads are automatically closed after 0.5 or 1 year. That's a showstopper to me and the main reason why I'm not on Reddit (although the most active Rust community resides there). Jan 15 '20 at 20:18
  • 1
    @FrédéricHamidi I agree that this is a major limitation, though on Stack Exchange I've had hundreds of my questions being automatically removed by the Roomba... Jan 15 '20 at 20:19
  • 1
    Each subreddit has its own rules and some mods / bots are pretty harsh to the newbies. Even more harsh than I generally see here.
    – TecBrat
    Jan 15 '20 at 20:20
  • @TecBrat thanks good point, I forgot about that issue Jan 15 '20 at 20:21
  • How is "the OP can't mark an answer as accepted" a downside?
    – user603947
    Jan 15 '20 at 23:57
  • @Schrödinger'scat marking an answer as accepted can sometimes be a useful signal (e.g. to see which question has no answer that satisfied the OP). It's by far the least important of the downsides I have listed though, and I don't care that much about that feature (since some OP doesn't use the feature or doesn't mark the best answer as accepted). Jan 16 '20 at 0:01
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    My experience with that "feature" is mainly negative. it gets abused by the OP to make additional requests. If you do not address them, they unaccept the answer, someone else copies your answer, makes a minor addition and gets the tick. If you address them, the next request comes until you really do not address them any more. IMHO this is a really stupid system. How can someone who asks a question, i.e. does not understand these things very well (otherwise they do not ask), decide what the best answer is?
    – user603947
    Jan 16 '20 at 0:07
  • 1
    @Schrödinger'scat thanks for the feedback, fair point, let's remove it from the downsides to focus on the real downsides :) Jan 16 '20 at 0:09
  • 1
    Reddit is chaotic, close source, profit driven and Reddit Inc censure at will. I wont contribute meaningfully to this platform.
    – aloisdg
    Jan 16 '20 at 9:39
  • 2
    @aloisdgmovingtocodidact.com as a side note, "close source, profit driven and [censured] at will" also describes Stack Exchange. Jan 16 '20 at 17:45
6

Hopefully, in 2 years time, to my own decentralized Q&A mesh node page.

I'm not ready to announce anything specific, but I'll be watching other Q&A projects evolve, learn from their successes and mistakes, and take the best from their experience and implement it in a way that I see would be best for me, my colleagues at work, and my personal project's small community.

I believe the knowledge should be free, open source, and in the hands of the global worldwide community, and all who want should be able to roll their own instance of a Q&A platform and have a say in how it's run, but the knowledge should be copy-able in case one instance goes bad, so that the others can pick up its remaining good content.

If someone else beats me to this goal first, I'll combine my efforts with theirs, as I would in any other collaborative online development. For now, while the content here is still free to copy with proper attribution, I'll continue normal use of the network, and then take the good stuff with me to a better place. And for being able to do this I thank the original creators of this network for their forethoughtfulness.

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1

Nowhere.

Hopefully that's true of the students, too. They'll be forced to study and learn and do proper research like we did in the olden days, rather than getting spoonfed solutions to use to get qualifications that they haven't actually earnt, then enter (and dilute) the industry for quick bucks without really even knowing what they're doing.

Not trying to be rude; this is just the truth of it.

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  • 5
    "Doing proper research like we did in the olden days" is far less the efficient than cleverly using a question-answering platform. Let's not make our choices based on uninteresting people. Jan 16 '20 at 17:43
1

I expect the answer will be very different for the large sites than the small sites.

For a small site, two or three users can easily cover the cost of hosting it themselves and few modulation tools are needed. Having a single login for a network gives few benefits if all independent sites allow logging on with Google/Facebook.

If small sites are truly independent of each other, there is no reprotention risk to other sides, and hence no need for cross site enforcement of rules. However, the "hot question" list is also lost, so it is a lot harder to get new users.

For a large site like Stack Overflow, income needs to be generated to cover the running costs and staff costs. Great tools are also needed for modulation.

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  • 2
    If we're talking about emergency re-hosting, it doesn't necessarily take a lot of resources to set up a StackOverflow clone. It would be interesting to hear from someone running a large Askbot instance, but for instance Wikipedia mirrors are plenty even if the content is a lot.
    – Nemo
    Jan 18 '20 at 13:05

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