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Software

StackOverflow For Any Topic 191

Posted by kdawson
from the let-a-thousand-faqs-bloom dept.
RobinH writes "StackOverflow, the successful question-and-answer website for programmers, is now over a year old and its top user has just passed 100,000 reputation points. Now one of the creators of StackOverflow, Joel Spolsky, and his company Fog Creek, are developing a software-as-a-service form of the StackOverflow engine called StackExchange to support any topic you want. The software is currently in private beta, but the first few beta sites have surfaced. Topics include business travel, the home, parenthood, the environment, finance, and iPhone game development."
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StackOverflow For Any Topic

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  • Joel, uhg.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RingDev (879105) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @05:45PM (#29560283) Homepage Journal

    While I wholey appreciate the community and efforts of people involved in StackOverflow, I believe that Joel is subject to entirely too much fanfair and hero worship. I'd line him up right next to Dvorak in the grouping of "Right about as often as the sun shines on my dog's ass."

    -Rick

    • by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @06:48PM (#29560745) Journal

      It's very well designed. Compared to anything else in the same category, it's like the iPhone to a generic WinMo phone. It's easy to use, it's intuitive, it's powerful, it's fast, it's obvious and yet nobody comes close.

      I've heard many people make fun of Joel, and I would have been a bit skeptical but stackoverflow is an undeniable success.

      • by RingDev (879105) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @07:00PM (#29560831) Homepage Journal

        I would agree entirely. But one success does not a savior make. I don't even think that much of the unique features of StackOverflow is what makes it great. I think it is the combination of community and marketing that have made it what it is.

        If Joel had come up with a completely different design for the site with different functionality, yet still managed the same community activity, that project would have been just as successful.

        -Rick

        • by asc99c (938635)

          Well of course a lot of the stuff Joel promotes in his articles are about building a community and marketing - and generally, pointing out that good engineering isn't all that is required to make successful software. Although of course, good engineering is required for all the other stuff to work.

          The thing I like about Joel is he just has a lot of opinions. His writing style isn't telling you what to do or think - it's just saying his own beliefs. A lot of stuff I agree with, a lot I think doesn't apply

      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        Well, they can still make fun of Joel, the software was written and implemented by Jeff Atwood (who is also dead wrong on his blog, but usually has the grace to accept when his readers put him right).

        Jeff Atwood's blog is http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/ [codinghorror.com]

        I believe Joel was involved more in the marketing and design stages, but its interesting how everyone has assumed stackoverflow is all down to him. Like how lots of people think Bill Gates wrote all that Microsoft software.

      • by mdwh2 (535323)

        Compared to anything else in the same category, it's like any other phone to a generic WinMo phone. It's easy to use, it's intuitive, it's powerful, it's fast, it's obvious and yet nobody comes close.

        Fixed that for you. Because there are other phones than just the Iphone, believe it or not. Not only does the Iphone get mentioned at every opportunity, but we now have bizarre analogies between a website to a phone, just so you can push your personal POV that your phone is the best, or get in an off-topic jab

        • by Taevin (850923) *
          I know it's hip to hate on Apple and Apple products on Slashdot, but if you honestly think the iPhone hasn't significantly changed the smartphone market, you're living in a dream.

          The iPhone brought the smartphone concept to the masses. Sure, powerusers have had access to Blackberries for a long time and it's probably true that many of the features of the iPhone are not particularly revolutionary and have been available in some form or another in other phones for years. However, the average person had no
        • Because I use only Linux and it's a bitch to sync with an iPhone.

          The fact remains that the iPhone is simply twice as good as the next best phone OS I've tried, which is Android. And it in turns is 10x better than CrapBerry I have from work or any crashy kludgy clanky winmo phone. The Palm Pre is supposedly coming very close to the iPhone but I haven't tried it yet.

          I'm talking from a usability point of view. How easy it is to get shit done, how easy it is to understand, how confused or not you get when you'r

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Personally, what I got the biggest laugh at is that, just like Fog Creek's other software, they're wanting ridiculous amounts of money for this code. Hosted? On a shared server? 10 million page views a month (Random page on Stack Overflow, 20KB, so in other words, about 200GB)? How much would you pay? For this forum / QA software?

      With Stack Exchange? A THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH.

      Wow. Just wow. Really, Joel? You think your software is worth that much?

      Or hey, you could use it on your own server. If you're wi

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Personally, what I got the biggest laugh at is that, just like Fog Creek's other software, they're wanting ridiculous amounts of money for this code. Hosted? On a shared server? 10 million page views a month (Random page on Stack Overflow, 20KB, so in other words, about 200GB)? How much would you pay? For this forum / QA software?

        With Stack Exchange? A THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH.

        Wow. Just wow. Really, Joel? You think your software is worth that much?

        Or hey, you could use it on your own server. If you're willing to pay TWO AND A HALF THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH...

        Wow, that is rediculous. Why, it's almost as much as a single MSDN subscription [microsoft.com] or an Oracle license [oracle.com] (assuming I actually read that mess properly).

        • Wow, that is rediculous. Why, it's almost as much as a single MSDN subscription or an Oracle license (assuming I actually read that mess properly).

          Leaving aside the odd choice of comparisons, "No. It ain't." A single MSDN subscription is $1,199 for the first YEAR, $799 for every YEAR after that. Running a site on StackExchange can be a thousand dollars a MONTH.

          Basic math, you fail it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jurily (900488)

            A single MSDN subscription is $1,199 for the first YEAR, $799 for every YEAR after that. Running a site on StackExchange can be a thousand dollars a MONTH.

            That said, a StackExchange site likely serves more than one person.

        • by mdwh2 (535323)

          But this website is just like an Iphone (see above), and it's far more expensive than even the costly Iphone! You'd be much better off just getting an Iphone than this website.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lysergic.acid (845423)

        Clearly you're not very familiar with "enterprice" software. Magento, which is a solid open source e-commerce solution but nothing more, costs $8900+ a year ($11,125 for the average deployment) just to license—no hosting. That's the whole idea of free market capitalism. What something is worth doesn't necessarily correlate to how much effort was put into creating it, its material/resource costs, its usefulness, or any other inherent value it has; instead, it is simply how much you can get others to pa

      • How much would you pay? For this forum / QA software?
        With Stack Exchange? A THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH.

        If I felt like I had an idea that would have a good community around it, yes. StackOverflow is simply the best forum software I have ever used for a site oriented around questions and answers (for general discussion I do not think it would work as well, for instance it could not replace Slashdot). The motivational system between badges and voting and scores is well thought out, the software works really we

        • by Jurily (900488)

          StackOverflow is simply the best forum software I have ever used for a site oriented around questions and answers (for general discussion I do not think it would work as well, for instance it could not replace Slashdot).

          In programming, the correctness of an answer is easily definable and verifiable. Stack Overflow is designed to let that one best answer float to the top, and it's perfect for its purpose.

          But if you were to ask "when should my 8 year old kid go to bed?", the answers aren't that clear anymore.

          • In programming, the correctness of an answer is easily definable and verifiable.
            But if you were to ask "when should my 8 year old kid go to bed?", the answers aren't that clear anymore.

            With a statement like that, I'd have to wonder how long you had actually been programming.

            Should you use singletons? What is the "best" development process? Is test-first the best thing ever or the spawn of satan?

            VI or Emacs - or IDE?

            These are all easily questions as the same level as "when should my eight year old go to be

            • by Jurily (900488) <jurily&gmail,com> on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:17AM (#29562723)

              With a statement like that, I'd have to wonder how long you had actually been programming.

              Should you use singletons? What is the "best" development process? Is test-first the best thing ever or the spawn of satan?

              While I would generally agree, StackOverflow is the place for immediate questions you have problems with, not general bullshit. That's why it's popular.

              Here's an example from the front page: "In Perl, how can I concisely check if a $variable is defined and contains a non zero length string?"

              • While I would generally agree, StackOverflow is the place for immediate questions you have problems with, not general bullshit.

                No, it is a place for both. It is just as valid to discuss the pros and cons of methodology as it is to ask how to copy a string in C. I have found over time that programming is really more about esoteric issues than practical immediate ones.

                In parenting the same is true, there will be some questions needing very near term answers that others will have had prior experience with, a

    • by Stiletto (12066)

      Didn't he just have another Slashdot appearance a few days ago, telling us all how great "Duct Tape" programmers (or "sloppy programmers" as I call them) are and how those stupid disciplined software designers and architects were wasting their time?

      Meh... I think I'll take my software advice from someone else, thank you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2009 @05:55PM (#29560347)

    Anyone remember the short lived Ask Slashdot section on sex? No one had any answers, so they had to shut it down.

  • Good job, too (Score:4, Informative)

    by shmert (258705) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @05:58PM (#29560373) Homepage

    StackOverflow is really impressive, and useful. I find myself adding "site:stackoverflow.com" to google queries when I'm troubleshooting some code problem. If there's an answer on there, it's almost always better than the answers on other sites. With none of the horrible multi-page answers, scribd paper, navigation hell that plagues other sites.

    Great idea to branch this into other areas, but I wonder how many dedicated users you'll see like jon skeet when it comes to a parenthood advice website.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Great idea to branch this into other areas, but I wonder how many dedicated users you'll see like jon skeet when it comes to a parenthood advice website.

      If parenting websites are any indication: a lot. There are many people in knowledge domains that are as dedicated to their chosen pursuit as hard core programmers are to theirs. It's just easy for us to forget that machines can be used for other things despite our jobs being about making them do other things.

      • Re:Good job, too (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @06:14PM (#29560491)
        However, the difference is programmers usually know how to -ask- questions that make sense to other programmers. Look at http://answers.yahoo.com/ [yahoo.com] for a moment, most of the questions there are either A) Obvious "do my homework for me" questions, B) badly worded questions or C) Simply stupid questions. Also, most programming questions are easy, either it works or it doesn't, on the other hand how exactly do you define "how hard it is to open a liquor store in Texas"? Its easy to answer programming questions because its very easy to figure out if it works, but parenting advice? You won't see the results of that for years down the line (if even that) and its impossible to determine what exactly went wrong/right.
        • However, the difference is programmers usually know how to -ask- questions that make sense to other programmers.

          You must be new on StackOverflow... ~

          Seriously, though, for about 50% of SO questions, I have to post a comment that specifically lists clarifications needed before the question can be answered - a very typical example is when people post 2 pages of (ususally incomplete) code with a comment "this doesn't work, please help!" - and no explanation of what the code is actually supposed to do, what implementation they're using (for C/C++ and the likes, where it actually matters), etc.

          Ironically, sometimes it is

        • However, the difference is programmers usually know how to -ask- questions that make sense to other programmers.

          That's more true than average. But it's not wholly true, as another poster noted you get plenty of ill-formed questions on Stack Overflow.

          So why does stack overflow work so well? Because unlike the site you mentioned, the community can upvote good questions, and close or cancel bad ones. Users who have gained a lot of credibility with the system by way of points awarded for good questions or an

        • by slim (1652)

          However, the difference is programmers usually know how to -ask- questions that make sense to other programmers.

          Fairly often on SO, you get badly constructed questions. Sometimes the questions go unanswered. But often something like this happens:

          - users comment on the question (rather than leave an answer) asking for clarification
          - the original questioner fixes up his question, based on the queries
          - OR a 'senior' user (anyone who's gained enough rep points) fixes up the question
          - With the question clarified, the answering can begin.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      I just wish it didn't rely on OpenID. A technology I loathe. LOATHE!

  • Joel Spolsky, and his company Fog Creek, are developing a software-as-a-service form of the StackOverflow engine called StackExchange to support any topic you want.

    There are already many BB and wiki systems available. By the way, a little obvious on the Slashvert.

  • by stevey (64018) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @06:01PM (#29560399) Homepage

    It is good to know that the parenting forum is asking the most important questions [stackexchange.com].

    • by sayfawa (1099071)
      I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not. But yes, it is good to know that parents are trying to do the right thing.

      Although, I can't help but to feel a little scorn for them for not knowing the answer in the first place :)
    • by noundi (1044080)

      It is good to know that the parenting forum is asking the most important questions [stackexchange.com].

      What's even more funny is that there is no single answer that isn't a serious one. If it was slashdot however... let's just say the first answer would involve a man whos rectum is severly dialated.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    over a year old and its top user has just passed 100,000 reputation points.

    That can't be right. I've been posting on 4chan for years and I don't have 1 reputation point, let alone 100,000.

  • I thought yahoo answers was where you could ask any question and get a well thought out informative response?

  • WOW WHAT A GREAT IDEA!

    THAT WONT BE OVERRUN BY COMPLETE MORONS!1!!!

    </sarcasm> morons... do they seriously think this is going to be more effective thank yahoo answers?

    • Re:Yahoo! Answers (Score:5, Informative)

      by seifried (12921) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @06:27PM (#29560593) Homepage
      Yes, because until you interact with the community and earn points it's hard to make an asshat of yourself. I recommend you watch "Learning from StackOverflow": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWHfY_lvKIQ [youtube.com]
  • by pathological liar (659969) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @06:27PM (#29560597)

    Seriously, what mouth-breather decided you should only be able to search tags instead of a full-text search?

    It's also likely that the apparent (I've only skimmed the site) quality of the questions and answers there are because of the subject matter. What works for programming questions probably won't work for a lot of other domains -- just look at the dreck that is wiki.answers.com, yahoo answers etc.

    • by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @06:32PM (#29560633) Homepage

      That'll be why it never comes up on searches.

      90% of the time if I have to hit google for answers it's because something is giving a stupid error message (google for the message text) or error code (google for the number.. that can be fun..). Keywords won't cut it, because they assume I know what the problem is already (and if I knew that I'd hit the documentation and work it out myself).

    • Seriously, what mouth-breather decided you should only be able to search tags instead of a full-text search?

      About the only time I don't preferentially use google to search on any site (e.g. {site:stackoverflow.com words I want to search for}) is when I want to search for all posts by a given user. That's the only case I can think of where google isn't superior.

    • by Trogre (513942)

      One with a blocked nose, I would suspect.

    • Seriously, what mouth-breather decided you should only be able to search tags instead of a full-text search?

      First of all, the site search searches on subject and question text as well. If you search for "If you're using PCRE" for example (no quotes), one question that comes up is only tagged "qt".

      Secondly, what mouth-breather (hint: that's a subtle slam at your own cognitive abilities since you seem willing to belittle others) doesn't realize Google is your full text search? Honestly, when is the last tim

  • Web Karma (Score:3, Insightful)

    by retech (1228598) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @06:30PM (#29560623)
    /.'s karma system and stack's rep. points both have real web uses. It would be cool to see a standardization of this idea and have it follow you across the net. Granted it could be abused, gamed, misused and just worthless to some. But no system is 100% useful. I could easily see where a standardized web karma could be very useful.

    I'm still trying to figure out if this would be make for a utopian or dystopian internet.
    • by Anpheus (908711)

      If OpenID allowed each site to assign users a reputation, and had an opt in to advertise that reputation, and sites could opt in (after receiving requests, etc) to use reputation from other sites, two sites would be allowed to peer with each other (shared rep), and there would need to be some sort of exponential scaling to adding and removing site opt-ins, and random delays on how long it would take effect (1-24 hours.)

      That would prevent these abuses:
      * A user would not be forced to have site's that abused t

  • Or will it become like Yahoo Answers?

  • I really like their site and have used it for a number of questions in the past, so I'm happy they're branching out and using their engine to generate revenue. Isn't what they're asking, though, a bit too much? The minimum price point is $130 a month! When there are a dozen open source CMS packages, and countless other sites charging nothing or very little for monthly fees for similar functionality, I can't imagine someone using Stack's engine at that price.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ChienAndalu (1293930)

      When there are a dozen open source CMS packages, and countless other sites charging nothing or very little for monthly fees for similar functionality

      Show me

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by D Ninja (825055)

        I have to agree with you, ChienAndalu - I haven't seen anything with the kind of functionality that StackOverflow has. I mean, there are moderation sites, but they don't have nearly the functionality or the usability.

  • I know slashdot likes to fling poo every new internet phenomenon, but I am really excited by this and wish Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky good luck. StackOverflow is amazing and their mission to destroy those shitty phpBB-forums with their clean and organized interfaces is very noble to say the least.

  • Nine times out of ten, the correct answer to a question posted to stackoverflow is "quit your job and go back to something you're qualified for, like working the register at McDonalds".
  • Someone please start one of these sites for Linux questions, particularly with regard to questions about install, graphics, sound, and drivers. It could actually make the Linux experience much smoother for someone just getting started.

    I appreciate sites such as LinuxQuestions.org [linuxquestions.org], but the StackOverflow approach could really bring some improvements. Looking at the highest ranked answer is a much nicer approach than scanning through 14 pages of comments.

    • I've blacklisted it from my google results along with sex change expert. It's so ugly and hard to read, the superfluous cognitive load is too much too bear when you're already trying to solve a complex problem.

  • Jon Skeet - the "top user who just passed 100k" - is an awesome guy, and that score is well-deserved. I had a pleasure of discussing things with him back when he was inhabiting microsoft.public.dotnet.* newgroups, before he moved on to StackOverflow, and he was already very helpful back then. On SO, with his nigh-unreachable (and steadily growing) score, he quickly got a kind of a cult following [stackoverflow.com].

    An interesting background, too. He's working in Google (mostly developing in Java, so far as I know), and at the

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