NOTE: This is purely an idea I had and in no way represents an intended feature we're going to add. I'm posting it to see if it could be shaped into something useful, get feedback, etc. I haven't even asked the rest of the company what they think yet, because I'm not even sure this idea would work.

One of our core values is that anything we do to make money as a business has to benefit the community as well. This is the entire reason we put so much work into Careers 2.0.

I was thinking yesterday about how Careers can let you leverage the reputation you've built at SO into something tangible (hopefully an awesome job), but this doesn't help all the people who already have jobs they love. One of the companies we work with was lamenting the fact that there's no easy way for them to show off the fact that they have some really high rep, smart SO users on staff and that they are very proud of this. It could actually help them recruit people. And it would be valuable for the people who work there to shine some of their awesomenessTM on their company (if they wanted to). They could probably do it in an ad-hoc way but maybe we could assist.

I rolled up a bunch of my ideas into this mockup:

enter image description here

  1. The companies can sponsor (i.e. pay us for) a landing page. Maybe it's at company.stackoverflow.com or stackoverflow.com/company
  2. The landing page is company branded - logo at the top, they pick which questions show up by choosing their 'tag set', and they can show an ad as well as any job listings they are currently advertising.
  3. Employees can somehow set their current company which adds them to the 'employee' page for the company. Maybe this shows up as a piece of flair where their name/gravatar/rep appears when they answer questions.
  4. There is a spot of honor like our user leagues but specific to the company.

This gives employers a virtual place on Stack Overflow that they can point people to. You could go there and interact with Stack Overflow in exactly the same way you do now (except the tag set is restricted).


  1. Is this appealing to employers? Is there anything we could add to make it more appealing?
  2. Is this appealing to happily employed SO users who like their employers? Is there anything we could add to make it more appealing?
  3. Is this a good idea? If not, is there anything I could change to make it better?
  • 3
    Funny. I've had a very similar idea for months but in a completely different context: Topic sub-groups like "Software testing" to better cater to fields in the area of programming that don't have the popular ones' traffic. I never got around to fleshing it out into a question, but I should have a sketch somewhere....
    – Pekka
    Feb 27, 2011 at 10:08
  • 3
    I turned the above thoughts into a suggestion: Create sub-communities on Stack Overflow
    – Pekka
    Jun 10, 2011 at 11:14

7 Answers 7


Is this appealing to employers?

Yes, as someone who guides marketing and hiring dollars, I like the idea. We don't have a very large developer base (well, we might if you count the contract folks) but all of us are regular Stack Overflow users.

Is there anything we could add to make it more appealing?

Yes, access to analytics for the company landing page.

Is this appealing to happily employeed SO users who like their employers? Is there anything we could add to make it more appealing?

I'm kind of fond of the idea, but there's also the 'what I say / do on Stack Overflow is an action that me, not my employer takes'. However it is implemented, I think it's important to not blur that line.

Is this a good idea? If not, is there anything I could change to make it better?

I think you're on to something, because this (could) be a kill two birds with one stone proposition. Recruitment + marketing/brand building + analytics all in one place is extremely appealing.

BTW - To move the turtle in MS LOGO, you have to use edlin.


Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I'd be slightly worried about the peer pressure this would put on the employee to accept having his account associated with his employer.

(And shouldn't the employer be paying him for using his rep too?)

  • 2
    yeah, it changes the focus of the site considerably, and not in a good way. Mar 1, 2011 at 18:50

I think it's an interesting idea. Here's what I'd do:

Remove the 'questions' section of the mockup. It really doesn't fit in with the 'company page' idea. What are they questions for? What the company's users have posted? Those can go on the user's stat's page. Not every company makes a product that developers use, so it's not a good idea to tie tags or answers to a company.

Users? Great thing to tie to a company. It increases a company's visibility to developers, letting them know it's a good place to check out.

You reward what you measure. By rewarding good companies that hire good developers (by showing that their SO users are good contributors to the community), you entice them to hire good developers. It's a feedback loop we should be happy to enable.

I see the company page as more like a Tag wiki; with Jobs and SO users that have that information in a hidden (and possibily visible if they want it to be) Employer field.

Jeff doesn't like this idea, but what I don't think he sees is that it enables developers to see what the good companies are out there, and that's important for us. The fact that it promotes a company is ancillary. It's a Joel Test by-example. What could be better than that?

  • "What could be better than that?" - Right now I'm thinking a nap, or a new car! (But I do agree with you.)
    – jjnguy
    Mar 1, 2011 at 14:16
  • When you wrote "answers" above, did you mean "questions"? Mar 1, 2011 at 14:22
  • @Michael Pryor. Whoops. You're right (although I see the answers as far more useful than questions, so I guess that's why I gravitated towards answers). Mar 1, 2011 at 14:41
  • I was thinking this was one of the more valuable parts to the proposal. The tags you included wouldn't have to be just your products... it's just whatever tag set you want to advertise. It also gives companies a reason to send people there and a reason for people to come back (if it was just a list of employees, it wouldn't be visited often). So it becomes an even better advertising product that we're offering... Mar 1, 2011 at 14:48
  • Ah, I can see where that would make sense. I feel like it's a page trying to do too much, but if it works it works. Mar 1, 2011 at 14:52
  • As an eager user of this proposal, the 'Questions' section would be essential for us because we'd want all the Twilio/SMS/Voice questions to be highlighted on our page. Mar 1, 2011 at 18:28
  • @John Sheehan There are cases where I like that idea; there are other cases where companies that don't deliver software to the public would have a giant hole there (like the company I work for now, even though we have an awesome software dev organization). Mar 1, 2011 at 18:34
  • One complaint... if companies are participating via a system like this, and the rest of the community decides 'this questions is too localized -- closed' to one of the company's customers, then you have a huge conflict between company and SO (both Inc. and site users). Mar 2, 2011 at 22:28
  • Well one reason we don't answer too localized is because we often can't, it's too obscure. If the developer of the product is on SO, he's far more likely to be able to answer it. So it would be a bit strange for the community to tell him he's not able to answer it. Either way, the company could still edit the question to be broader, more general or something else to get it reopened and I don't see that as a negative. The companies would have an interested in improving questions, rather than seeing them closed @Michael Pryor
    – Ivo Flipse
    Mar 3, 2011 at 11:56

I am probably somewhat of an anomaly on StackOverflow. I am a developer, and an early, avid user of the site with 25k rep. I also am responsible for marketing for a software tools company that advertises on StackOverflow.

I would very much like to engage with the StackOverflow community as my employer more directly. I would like to do that in a way that is beneficial to the community, and I don't think that ads are the best way to do that.

I don't want to do anything that isn't beneficial to the community. I think there are things that would be (even if I am unsure of what that would be).

Starting from the point that http://company.stackoverflow.com exists, what would you want want to be there?


One of the companies we work with was lamenting the fact that there's no easy way for them to show off the fact that they have some really high rep, smart SO users on staff and that they are very proud of this

That company has a spectacular lack of imagination, since all they need to do to promote their company is have their Stack Overflow users link to their employer in the "about me" field.

How many people here don't know that Jon Skeet works for Google? Or that Eric Lippert works for Microsoft? I'd say off hand I know who employs a solid chunk of our notable users for one simple reason: it's listed in their profile.

They're awesome, so their employers become awesome by proxy. Reversing this does not work, and is completely counter to the philosophy of the site.

Is this a good idea? If not, is there anything I could change to make it better?

The only way this idea works is if you shift it away from employers. That doesn't match our model at all; we're not a support forum for Microsoft, or Splunk, or Netscape, or whomever. Instead, switch it to focus more generally to topic / tag groups. See Pekka's comment.

  • 6
    Unfortunately the About Me field has zero visibility unless you know the specific user you want to see. For example if I'm looking at a job posting on Careers, there's no way for me to see all of the other people from SO who already work there so I know the caliber of people at the company. Mar 1, 2011 at 13:35
  • I disagree about not being a support forum for those companies technologies. Besides the obvious that .NET makes up the majority of our questions, we gladly welcomed Google pointing their Android devs at stackoverflow: android-developers.blogspot.com/2009/12/… Mar 1, 2011 at 13:43
  • 2
    Good points, except... who the heck are "Eric Lippert" and "Jon Skeet"?
    – Pops
    Mar 1, 2011 at 15:26
  • @michael that's fine for giant topics like "android" that are universally useful to devs, and happen organically. Except now it's a pay-for-play payola scheme and every company in the world will want their piece of the pie, in an artificial "we give you money, you make this work" way. That's simply not what Stack Overflow is about, and never has been. I'm not necessarily opposed to making the employer field more structured (right now there is no employer field just general about me) but pretty violently opposed to everything else listed. Mar 1, 2011 at 18:55
  • @Jeff except for the inordinately large number under his name, I never really knew much about Jon until watching Tony The Pony's public debut. I don't think it's inappropriate for SO to provide companies a venue to say "We're doing interesting stuff, this is what we're interested in and who works here"
    – user50049
    Mar 1, 2011 at 21:02
  • @Jeff I added a suggestion fleshing out the idea in the comment: Create sub-communities on Stack Overflow
    – Pekka
    Jun 10, 2011 at 11:17

I don't think the page should focus on what company-X's employees have done on SO, but rather what the community as a whole has done with their products.

In case of SO, Microsoft could highlight great questions or answers that solve problems when programming for Windows or use Visual Studio. Apple could highlight use iOS-programming questions and Google the Android ones.

I think this is more appealing, because as Steve Ballmer said it: DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS!!! Companies employ only a 'limited' amount of SO-users, but have thousands of them as their customer.

Besides, just because you're an employee doesn't mean you're the best person to answer question. So the companies might prefer highlighting their highest rep user, rather than one of their own. Off course, if your employee happens to be a SO-rock star, then you should be highlighting him, but at least you get a bigger pool to fish from.

Making it revolve around products, also allows the concept to more easily spread to other SE-sites. Especially broad sites, like the original Trilogy, would benefit if certain tags got the same attention and love as Ask Ubuntu or Apple.SE get (from the company or community). Perhaps it would also counter some of the fragmentalism we're currently seeing on Area51.

I've mentioned it to Jeff before, that I wished companies could brand their tag pages/wiki, naturally this idea takes that even a step further and would let companies have their own landing page. But perhaps letting companies choose tag sets, allows for more flexibility and some overlap (not every tag is exclusive to one company).

And I like the idea of allowing companies to brand their landing page, because I hope some companies would start to use our sites as their semi-official Q&A channel. Currently, showing affiliation with a given company is somewhat frowned upon (SPAM!!!), so why would anyone even dare mention their affiliation when answering? But I would expect a Microsoft employee or MVP to answer a Windows question on superuser.com/microsoft.

Therefore I think companies should have the opportunity to have their employees answer questions with a distinctive branding.

Screenshot from social.technet

That way they will also feel more in control over the answers, off course it will still be up to the community to vote whether or not the answers were useful or not.

Off course, most companies shy away from 'outsourcing' Q&A, but they forget that a lot of the problems their users/customers have is their product interacting with other products. These are subjects are impossible to anticipate and are most of the time based on customer complaints. By using our sites, they can crowd source their Q&A and if necessary answer it themselves.

And because we provide the data dumps + API, they can easily retrieve all the relevant questions and republish them on their site (with attribution), so they don't have to fear that when we disappear their content will be gone.


So yes, I think it would be appealing to employers, but they would need the chance to provide branded answers. And by showing that you're employed by the company, other users will hopefully trust your answers on that topic more, because you might have access to inside information. By wearing a company badge, users should also feel more freely about answering questions during working hours.

  • Off course employees shouldn't be forced to show their company branding or it should only be used on tags, that the company included in their tag set. This would allow users to still answer questions 'off the record'
    – Ivo Flipse
    Feb 27, 2011 at 9:51
  • This also extends to Gaming or Web Apps, it would be helpful to have game publishers or web app developers using our sites in a more official fashion.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Feb 27, 2011 at 10:17
  • 4
    I hate the idea of "branded" answers. MS is probably a bad example simply because of their size, but... There's a world of difference between a C# answer by Eric Lippert and "random MS employee #37235". Answers, in general, should stand on their own without needing author credentials to lend them credence.
    – Shog9
    Feb 27, 2011 at 21:29
  • Perhaps that's true in programming, but that's not necessarily true when it comes to products @Shog9 Besides the network is larger than SO itself. And with branded I would just mean a small icon or something on the flair to distinguish it
    – Ivo Flipse
    Feb 28, 2011 at 7:42
  • 2
    One of the few times I disagree with you and agree with @Shog9. An answer should stand on it's own and it does 100% apply to even Super User or Apple. What makes the site successful is that a newbie in Windows might answer a complex Windows question with a good answer, why should we discount them because they are branded Linux. The problem with branded answers is that they skew the way we look at the answers and question. Remember SE is about the Q&A and not about the users. The users and it's management is a by product. Mar 1, 2011 at 8:14
  • @Diago not everyone is going to bring their questions to us, just because we're the best place to get them answered. Besides, I'm not worried about spam, because who's recommendation would you prefer: that of a high rep user you trust or someone representing the company? What I think would be more important is that users feel they're asking their questions in 'the right' place and that they'll get an answer. If Microsoft says: heej, you can trust these guys! I think that's a big plus for our Q&A
    – Ivo Flipse
    Mar 1, 2011 at 8:20
  • @Ivo We will agree to disagree :) Mar 1, 2011 at 8:58

Is this appealing to happily employed SO users who like their employers?

I'm a happily employed SO user who likes my employers and... I'm not sure. For me:

  1. I'm the only user in my company who regularly checks SO.
  2. I'm the only user in my company with greater than 100 rep.
  3. I don't use my real name on SE, although it isn't too hard to find it from my profile.

To add to that, my company:

  1. Probably can't afford a landing page. Well, we can, but there are other things we're likely to want to afford rather than a community landing page for one user.
  2. Uses a range of technologies that, if given tags for them, for example , , , , , , are incredibly disparate. Is a filter for those questions worth paying for? The sheer breadth of those fields doesn't really benefit us being next to our name.
  3. With our brand being associated with the page, we'd want to prevent any noise or anything negative appearing there. Yes, I know, SO moderation handles that pretty quickly - but we're a company and I don't think we'd be too happy with a delay, or, even worse an argument spiralling out of control under our page.

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea, but I think this belongs as an opt-in part of careers.so. I'd propose the creation of:


profiles, where careers users who wish to opt-in on SO can. That way when a company contacts a user, or posts an advert, the user receiving this can check the company page and view the users who have opted in there.

You might also consider offering the ability for users to count their reputation towards the company without appearing on the company page. So you might show a total reputation/badges per company and number of users on SE as an additional way to "show off".

tl;dr: I think this really belongs exclusively as part of careers. I'm not sure about the value of question portals in this scenario, and it confuses the role of technology domains like facebook.stackoverflow.com. For example, I'd expect microsoft.stackoverflow.com to be a portal of questions related to the MS stack. There's a subtle difference there - microsoft.stackoverflow.com would be MS tech questions, not MS the company - and you might break it down other ways (dotnet.stackoverflow.com, etc).

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