Stackexchange.com is currently home to various network-wide features:

  • Hot questions across all sites in the network
  • Tag sets: follow tags across all sites
  • Leagues: weekly, monthly, yearly, and all-time reputation leagues
  • Network profile: view your top posts from across the network, network-wide recent activity, reputation graphs, and global inbox

But the question is: what to do next on the master stackexchange.com pages. Here are some ideas we've been kicking around:

  • Network badges
  • Flashy homepage that updates dynamically
  • Cross-site leaderboards, a la Stackathlon
  • Graph your position in the leagues over time, and show "overtakes" ("which users, at their current rate of rep gain, will I pass and when?")

So if you have a cool idea, let's hear it – all suggestions will be considered.

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  • Do the features to be suggested here have to be Stack Exchange related, and as such, network-wide? Is this a requirement because of the structure of the team and/or workflow? Because my feeling is there are "local" things that need more attention than the network-wide ones... – Pekka Apr 13 '11 at 22:44
  • @Pekka They don't have to be network-wide. For example, the leagues aren't really network-side. They just have to be features that would logically belong on stackexchange.com, as opposed to an individual Q&A site. – Emmett Apr 13 '11 at 22:52
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    @Emmett would this be about stuff that is programmed, or would design related requests fit in as well? – Pekka Apr 13 '11 at 23:33
  • @Pekka It can be anything, but we're looking for major-ish features, not little CSS adjustments. – Emmett Apr 14 '11 at 0:02
  • @Pekka @Emmett but just to be clear, this is features for the stackexchange.com site, not for the Stack Exchange Q&A sites – David Fullerton Apr 14 '11 at 3:04
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    Ooh I totally called network badges – David Z Apr 14 '11 at 6:26

10 Answers 10


I personally think the entire StackExchange site needs a close looking at from an unexperienced, non-tech-savvy user's perspective.

It has a lot of great features for power users, and does a fine job showing how busy the sites are, but if I'd tell by mother to go check out Stackexchange.com, she would have absolutely no idea what to do there.

I miss the carefully crafted minimalism that I've come to love so much on SO. From that perspective, Stackexchange.com is not yet doing as well as I would expect from what is the public face of the network, and its official headquarters.

I don't have a clear idea of what needs to be done, but I would like to see the site taking a more intuitive and beginner-friendly approach to exploring the network.

I would also like to see a comprehensive introduction to the common basic philosophy and usage of all the sites here. It would be the most fitting place.

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    I definitely agree that there needs to be a good explanation of what Stack Exchange is. When I try to direct people to SE, it would be nice for it to say something about what it is. – nhinkle Apr 14 '11 at 1:42
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    @Pekka I'm not sure you should be telling your mother to go to stackexchange.com. Shouldn't you send her to a particular Stack Exchange site she might be interested in? – David Fullerton Apr 14 '11 at 2:53
  • @Pekka @nhinkle re: Comprehensive Introduction, have you seen the new stackexchange.com/about page? I think it does a pretty good job of explaining the network. If you're new to stackexchange.com, you see a big banner pointing you to the about page. – David Fullerton Apr 14 '11 at 2:53
  • @DavidFullerton, that's handy. I hadn't seen that before, since I've always been logged in when I visit the site. Thanks for the heads up. – nhinkle Apr 14 '11 at 2:58
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    @David, well that begs the question: what is the 'entry door' of the network. All of us old hands 'discovered' StackExchange via one of the trilogy sites, is that what you continue to expect people to do? In that case SE.com isn't really a portal, but more a dashboard. What is your thinking on this? – Benjol Apr 14 '11 at 5:58
  • @David that's a valid point. But bear in mind that people will be coming in through the main page - maybe not my mother, but everyone who learns of you as a Q&A network instead of through an individual site (like, journalists researching the Q&A market). I second @Benjol's question in that case, how do you guys view the SE.com front page? What is its goal? – Pekka Apr 14 '11 at 10:08
  • @Pekka Try viewing stackexchange.com in an incognito window. I think it gives e.g. journalists (1) a clear link to good info about the company, and (2) a list of interesting questions to give a sense of the flavor of the network. Yes, these questions skew towards "popular" questions, but we want to show them something interesting, not a really deep technical question (even if that's more what SO, for example, is about). But for someone who we want to engage, we want them to dive into a site, not just skim the surface of the network. So we really want to get them off of stackexchange.com – David Fullerton Apr 14 '11 at 14:59
  • @Benjol the "entry door" of the network is Google. You search for a question, find your answer on one of our sites, think "hey, cool, maybe I could try this out". The number of people who will find Stack Exchange because someone told them "check out stackexchange.com" is tiny compared to the number of people who come in through Google. – David Fullerton Apr 14 '11 at 15:03
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    @David, ok, so re your comments, SE.com seems to have a dual purpose - partly springboard/portal/hoarding to inform and engage new users; but also a sort of 'dashboard'/inbox for regular users? That duality needs bearing in mind when reasoning about your question, I think. – Benjol Apr 15 '11 at 5:06

Move meta.stackoverflow.com to meta.stackexchange.com. Put a redirect from meta.stackoverflow.com (start with a 5 second delay, increase to a 35 second delay) for about a month so people will move over. Then start a fresh meta.stackoverflow.com.

Stackoverflow is big enough that it really needs its own meta so people can more easily coordinate actions without getting lost in the noise that is meta-status-quo.

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    Probably a necessary step. +1 – Pekka Apr 14 '11 at 12:38
  • @Pekka I know they are planning to do it, but I'm hoping they do it sooner rather than later, especially if they are focusing on stackexchange.com now. It's also an easy way to get an active userbase onto that site to help them figure out what else it needs to be. – Pollyanna Apr 14 '11 at 14:14
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    Please don't mess with Meta. – Lance Roberts Apr 14 '11 at 15:21
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    @Lance I think stackoverflow not only deserves its own separate space, it's increasingly obvious that it needs one. It's not fair to Stack Overflow to intermingle everything forever. – Pollyanna Apr 14 '11 at 15:51
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    @Adam, Since Stack Overflow is a few orders of magnitude larger than any other SE site, the problems it has relate to all of them anyway. The distractions the other sites bring here are pretty miniscule compared to the volume of Stack Overflow related requests. If Stack Overflow had it's own site, then Meta would be completely dead. Traffic has been noticeably curtailed by the other Meta sites already. All you would really be doing is making Meta like all of the other Meta sites (which I don't think work as well). – Lance Roberts Apr 14 '11 at 15:59
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    @lance I tend to agree; the problems Stack Overflow has are simply problems other sites have not had yet but will as they grow. For example, the painful work we are doing around flagging to make handling 1k+ flags per day .. sustainible .. makes handling the 10 flags per day on other sites super-mega-stupidly-easy – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '11 at 22:55
  • @Jeff, yeh, that reminds me, I just lost 10 points on a flag, because before the mod got to it, the user had edited his post to take out the offensiveness. But of course I realize that it's getting to be a complicated system. Seems like at some point you'll have to sluff off some of the flags on the 10ks (or 20ks). – Lance Roberts Apr 14 '11 at 22:58

I frequently switch sites (between SO, Skeptics, and English Usage, more rarely Programmers and User Experience) and look at the newest questions page to see if are any interesting questions or questions that I think I can answer easily. I would like some feature where I can see the newest questions in a combination of sites that I choose.

But I would prefer them to be in separate columns, and not intermingled, so that I can scan it in a more meaningful way.

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    Does the hot questions list not do that for you pretty easily? Also, tag sets ... something about tag sets ... – jcolebrand Apr 13 '11 at 23:41
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    @drachenstern Hot questions just seem to the popular questions, and I rarely answer any of them. Tag sets are helpful on SO, but on other sites e.g. English Usage, the tags are less useful because my capability to answer English questions is not as narrow and constrained to a few small categories as my ability to answer programming questions. – Peter Olson Apr 14 '11 at 0:18
  • @drachenstern - Hot questions definitely does not do it for me, mostly because they tend to already have lots of answers. I want to see new questions across some of the network. – Dori Apr 14 '11 at 2:23
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    @Peter Seeing newest questions is exactly what tagsets does. You can add entire sites to a tagset (not just restricted to a tag), and you can easily have a few tagsets that you can quickly toggle between. I'm really at a loss for what's not already done here. – David Fullerton Apr 14 '11 at 2:55
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    @david it's just discoverability.. we might even need a wizard-ish page or something to set this up – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '11 at 4:07
  • @peter you can add "all questions from site X" to a tagset – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '11 at 4:12
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    @Jeff Cool! But it took me way too long to figure out how to do it – Peter Olson Apr 14 '11 at 4:21
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    @PeterOfTheCorn wasn't there like a blog post that walked people through it a while back? :S – jcolebrand Apr 14 '11 at 4:25
  • @drach Probably. But I haven't read every blog post. Even if there was, that doesn't keep it from being hard to find and figure out how to use. – Peter Olson Apr 14 '11 at 4:35
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    @David, why should I have to make tag sets? I already have my interesting and ignored tags on each site, can't you use them? TBH it took me ages to understand what tag sets were about, and I'm still not 100% sure they're of any use to me. – Benjol Apr 14 '11 at 6:07
  • I agree re tag sets. They are an incredibly powerful feature but it's terribly hard to figure out how to use it. – Pekka Apr 14 '11 at 10:25
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    Maybe there could be a default tag set present if the user has not yet created one himself. It could be autogenerated from the user's favorite tags and/or general activity on SE sites. Together with a notice how the tag-set can be customized it could improve discoverability. – Mad Scientist Apr 14 '11 at 10:36
  • @Fabian @Benjol when you first go to the tagset page, there's a big button that will import your existing favorite tags. If you already have tagsets, just click "new tag set" and then you can click the big import button. – David Fullerton Apr 14 '11 at 14:29

How about a completely customizable page with widgets that users can choose from.

Throw out ideas for the name of this page also:

  • The Meh Page

  • iStackExchange

  • Global Dashboard

Some widget examples (all in context of the whole network):

  • Recent Favorite Changes
  • Interesting Questions
  • Track Competition's Rep
  • Review Questions by Filter
  • Mod dashboard (for sites w/ 10k+ or mod status)
  • Rep changes
  • Last several messages from favorited chat rooms
  • Tag Synonyms to be voted on
  • Give me more widget ideas or edit them in please. – Lance Roberts Apr 14 '11 at 0:27
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    +1 for a good idea; -1 for the name. – John Apr 14 '11 at 16:54
  • @John, It was the first thing that came to mind. Throw out some suggestions. – Lance Roberts Apr 14 '11 at 16:56
  • Meh. Fair enough. – John Apr 14 '11 at 17:06

I'm still not sure that I'd get a lot out of having recent questions on my interesting tags intermingled there from the various sites, but I could see real value in having the system point out topics that correlate very highly with my expertise (as determined by my rep per tag) that I might have missed - even if the questions are old. How can the system find the gems I missed? I don't know, but it's an intriguing question.

Further, it would be nice if other sites which I don't participate in reached out and touched me. Using tags on sites I do participate in, try to find interesting questions on other sites and show them to me.

Lastly, As nice as the supercollider multidropdown thingadongdong is, I'd really like a single page which showed items I might want to take action on in a more expansive format across all sites, including (and perhaps especially) area51. It would be nice if it were ajaxy and smart enough that if I clicked on the excerpt, it would expand it to show the context, and give me enough of the content to comment, answer, edit, etc right there, rather than opening a new tab to the content and dealing with each question on its own page.

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    hey, you just invented Quora! Have fun over there; see you later. :) – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '11 at 4:08
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    You want the temporal dual of the Activity page, "Future Activity" :) – Benjol Apr 14 '11 at 6:17
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    +1 for the single page idea. I don't see what's Quora-y about that. Goes to show that separate ideas should be put into separate answers I guess :) – Pekka Apr 14 '11 at 10:26
  • @Pekka I've removed the meta suggestion and placed it in a new answer. – Pollyanna Apr 14 '11 at 12:30

Change the "hot" list on the front page to a list hand-picked by staff and/or the community on a daily basis.

The list would have fewer items than it has now; the questions would be picked to reflect what each site is about, and what makes it so especially valuable. Or simply put, "what questions would you want to show somebody who is getting their first impression of the site?"

While the "hot questions" list is absolutely great and an invaluable feature for existing users - under no circumstances get rid of it! - algorithmic hotness tends to favour the popular question, which is usually not representative of the questions that make the site valuable in its day-to-day business.

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    I think it'd be too much work for the mods to pick new hot questions every day, but allowing each site to "pitch" itself isn't a bad idea. Maybe the mods could fill out a slightly longer description of each site, show some "best of" questions, etc... – David Fullerton Apr 14 '11 at 2:58
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    this hand-picked stuff will certainly not pass the Joel Spolsky "we gotta do everything algorithmicalalalalaly!" test, and I am starting to agree with him simply because manual crap doesn't scale. At all. You Are What You Don't Automate. – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '11 at 4:13
  • @Jeff fair enough. @David interesting idea, especially the "best of" part! This is a bit like the "my best answers" selection you do in your CV. You'll pick some of your highest-rated questions of course, but you also want to show that you have a solid understanding of day-to-day business, which may be best illustrated by a number of answers that never received much upvoting. Also, a hand-picked list of well-put questions could give new users better guidance on how to ask than the "latest questions" list. – Pekka Apr 14 '11 at 10:06
  • @pekka you should be looking at the faq tab which counts intra-links, either within a tag or among all – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '11 at 10:10
  • @Jeff the FAQ tab on each site, or something on SE.com I'm not seeing? Not sure I understand what you mean. – Pekka Apr 14 '11 at 10:13
  • @pekka there ya go, slappy: superuser.com/questions?sort=faq – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '11 at 10:15
  • ah, nice! I never really noticed that. And it even works in tags! I like. Although on SO, the #1 entry shouldn't be there really IMO - bobince's answer is legendary, but not that FAQ-worthy. – Pekka Apr 14 '11 at 10:59
  • @pekka: donno... That's pretty much the definition of a frequently-asked question... – Shog9 Apr 14 '11 at 15:04

Simple User Blog

A number of core users make SE and these sites their home. Some have built blogs based on the answers they give here (eg Explain Extended). I think it would great if there was a simple blogging system a user (maybe at a specific rep) could use to discuss their and other users questions and answers across the site -- when they want to go deeper into a topic.

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    There's something like this already in the works. So if it doesn't get any love don't get upset. – jcolebrand Apr 14 '11 at 2:10

Make shortcuts to the sites that I use on the bar at the top.

I switch sites often, and to do this, I click the stack exchange dropdown, click the all sites tab, and go to the one I want. This makes it take too long to find the one I want, because sometimes I will have to scan the list several times before I find the one I am looking for. It would be so much less painful if there was just a list of icon shortcuts on the toolbar at the top of the site for the sites I am signed up for.


Add meaningful context to the "featured users" list.

At the moment, the list is a bit dull. There is no indication why a user was featured, and there is no way to interact with them, or to follow up on them in any way. All I see is some faces that got picked by the system for some reason that I'm not told.

The human touch is fine, but it needs a vision. Why are we showing these people there? To what end?

Miscellaneous ideas:

  • Start asking featured users to give a short statement about their experiences on the sites, and display that underneath their icons.

  • Look for users who are doing something special on a SE site, like work on a project and ask (good) question as it progresses. Add these users manually, including a paragraph about why they are being featured.

  • Show why a user was featured - because they're new, because of a lot of rep gain, etc..

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    I really like this one. Additionally I'm gonna call out to other mods on this one as a way to do additional site promotion. – jcolebrand Apr 14 '11 at 1:46
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    I don't get it. Right now, the list doesn't look like a competition - it's just a sampling, a "who we are". In contrast, there's the "top users" page (leagues) that lists users who've excelled at rep-gathering. It kinda sounds like you want a human-curated "our fav users" list, which... Seems like both busy-work and contrary to the normal focus of these sites. – Shog9 Apr 14 '11 at 2:10
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    @Pekka Wow, never realized people hated that featured users list so much. It's just a list of the people who answered the hot questions to give them some face time, because they almost always deserve more credit than the person who asked the question. – David Fullerton Apr 14 '11 at 3:01
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    @David nonono, I don't hate it. I just always end up looking for more context, a big idea behind what is a nice human touch but currently just shows some seemingly random faces without any way to follow up. I take @Shog's points, but I think the list needs some enrichment. I also don't see how the "personal statement" idea is busywork or competitive: It works nicely in the Area 51 commitment process, and makes users say a few words about their relationship with the site, something that doesn't have a place nor need elsewhere on the network. This would fit fine on a "featured users" list. – Pekka Apr 14 '11 at 10:37
  • @pekka the context is "these people provided the best answers today". It's really quite simple.. – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '11 at 22:58
  • @Jeff fair enough, why not point that out somewhere? – Pekka Apr 14 '11 at 22:59
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    @pekka we are changing the wording on that <h2> – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '11 at 23:31
  • Implement "Featured Questions" (bounty questions, probably sorted by bounty amount), put it in Stack Exchange Main page's sidebar.
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    featured questions as in questions with bounties? not clear here – Jeff Atwood Apr 14 '11 at 4:09
  • Ah, @Jeff, My original thinking is the one like feature tag in meta. Putting bounty questions could be another idea. – YOU Apr 14 '11 at 4:12
  • @Jeff, ok, I have changed my mind, my original idea about Featured Question cannot be done programmatically, so I going to change this as bounty questions. – YOU Apr 14 '11 at 4:19

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