Prerequisite: http://blog.stackexchange.com/post/518474918/stack-exchange-2-0

Question: Do you feel that requiring the committment of users of the SOFU sites will damage the flow of new content into these sites? Especially seeing as a high-ranked active user on the SOFU sites will carry a heavier vote than an unranked user.

Basically, I have a full time job and I answer Server Fault questions when I get a chance whilst waiting for something to install or compile. But let's say that a Stack Exchange site is proposed for questions about the best way to care for your unicorns and ponies.

I decide that I would love to be a ponicorn founding member, so I commit to saying that I'll help out populating the site. I'm now spending my spare time on ponicornflow.com making posting recepies for waffles - and not answering questions on Server Fault.

Why do I care? Because even though I primarily answer questions, I occasionally ask them too, and I enjoy the fact that I get fast answers.

Do you think that is is going to be an issue? Deliberatly poaching from the SOFU core members to start offshoot sites?

P.S. I have other concerns about asking the active community to commit to new SE ventures, but they're outside the scope of meta

  • I'm saddened about the fact that there's no paid, "independent" SE option any more, but utilizing the trilogy's traffic to ignite other Q&A sites is a stroke of genius IMO. – Pekka Apr 14 '10 at 11:45

I might agree with your premise if either of the following issues were true:

  1. If Stack Exchange 2.0 sites were only out to poach existing trilogy users.
  2. If all Stack Overflow users never did anything except programming.

But neither are even close to reality.

While the first sites created will likely be the "low hanging fruit" to fill out some missing pieces of the trilogy, the goal is to quickly spiral out from the center of the programming universe into much more diverse topics. As the diversity of sites grow, so does the diversity of the ever-expanding community. SE 2.0 will quickly be able to tap into those users' ever-more diverse interests to form even further-reaching sites.

Stack Overflow users' might not be up to the task of forming the next great site about high fashion or intensive aquaculture but two or three degrees of separation and you'd be surprise with what people come up with (look at the diverse range StackExchange sites).

Stack Overflow (trilogy) users have other interests apart from computer software and hardware (no really; it's true!). The beauty of the new system is that Stack Overflow users already "get" how the software works; and now you can propose Stack Overflow-like sites about any subject you like.

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How? The existing Trilogy are the anchor stores of this mall.

When the planned shopping mall format was developed by Victor Gruen in the mid-1950s, signing larger department stores was necessary for the financial stability of the projects, and to draw retail traffic that would result in visits to the smaller stores in the mall as well. Anchors generally have their rents heavily discounted, and may even receive cash inducements from the mall to remain open. In physical configuration, anchor stores are normally located as far from each other as possible to maximize the amount of traffic exposure for other stores when shoppers walk from one anchor to another.

The International Council of Shopping Centers makes the presence of anchors one of the main defining characteristics of two largest categories of malls, the regional center (with 400,000 to 800,000 square feet (74,000 m2) in gross leasable area, and the superregional center (with more than 800,000 square feet (74,000 m2) of space. The regional center typically has two or more anchors, while the superregional typically has three or more. In each case, the anchors account for 50-70% of the mall's leasable space.

Malls with anchor stores have consistently outperformed those without one, as the anchor helps draw shoppers initially attracted to the anchor to shop at other stores in the mall.

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  • It's funny you should say that because lately I've stopped shopping at the "Anchor Stores" after reading a report that in Australia 23% of every dollar spent, anywhere in the country, by anyone, ends up in the hands of just two mega-corporations. That's the highest of pretty much anywhere in the developed world. The UK it's 15% and in the US it's about 3% – Mark Henderson Apr 14 '10 at 0:50
  • Anyway, the point is that like most people in the world, I feel at my maximum committed as it is with work, family, church/community and SF. These are all committments that I enjoy, but I know that if I commit to a SE site I will have to sacrifice one of the above. No points for guessing which one it will be. – Mark Henderson Apr 14 '10 at 0:52
  • @farseeker but how is that different than any other time commitments one has? It stands to reason that the more you do, the less time you have for everything. So you pick your favorites, and go with those. – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '10 at 1:09
  • @Jeff, I'm concerned because the SU and SF "core" communities are already so small that deminishing them by even one or two high-rep users may have a severe repercussions on the sites. – Mark Henderson Apr 14 '10 at 1:24
  • @farseeker small is a relative term; SU and SF are 10x larger than the biggest Stack Exchange site, for example. I guess what you'd need to look at here is how many new users the sites are getting -- and since SU and SF are steadily growing, I don't think that's a problem. – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '10 at 2:10
  • The graph for SF looks like it's levelling off. More subjectively, when I poke around Users' profiles, I see lots of reputation graphs that have levelled off. I have seen new users come out of nowhere and climb quickly to P2 of the users list, but it doesn't seem like that many people are doing it. – Ward - Reinstate Monica Apr 16 '10 at 2:03

It doesn't matter. Even if the SOFU sites suffer slightly, the internet as a whole will be better off. The alternative is to suppress the impetus for the new sites, which would be mean and wrong.

Using Jeff's shopping mall analogy, where the trilogy are the anchor stores in the mall: Let's suppose that a new place opens in the mall -- one that just sells waffles (let's say you couldn't get waffles at the mall before this).

Your question is: mightn't the anchor stores end up with slightly less revenue/traffic in this situation? Some people who previously would have bought some crap at Wal-Mart merchandise at an anchor store may decide that they'd rather buy waffles from the new shop, and spend their time and money there.

Perhaps. Jeff's answer suggests that even if this is true, the mall might get more traffic in aggregate than the stores would in isolation. I would argue that even if the net effect on the mall is negligible, and even if the effect on the anchor stores is less traffic/revenue, then it still doesn't matter: the mall-going public now gets to have waffles, which they couldn't get at the mall before. Would you deny the public their waffles, just because you love and want to protect the anchor stores?

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  • I apologize if there is any implication above that StackOverflow resembles Wal-Mart in any way. – Zac Thompson Apr 14 '10 at 6:11

It'll only add potential noise in the number of sites out there that could in theory be a place to ask questions...

Critical mass is what will make any new community thrive. So one could argue, the barrier to entry for sites to compete with SOFU is pretty darn high.

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  • Hmm, I think that the SE team will be very careful to ensure that sites that are direct competitors to SOFU will not even get to the voting stage. At least, one would hope so... – Mark Henderson Apr 14 '10 at 0:35

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