By Chris Cardinal on September 16th, 2008
Joel Spolsky of Joel on Software (and FogBugz) and Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror have teamed up to build a pretty kick-ass programmer Q&A site called Stack Overflow. It’s a bit like Ask Metafilter, but focused entirely on programming. The site builds a unique system to help separate the useful versus the trolls: it’s based on a reputation system. The more answers you provide that are up-voted by the community, the more reputation points you accrue. The more reputation points you accrue, the more abilities are granted to you on the site. The ability to up-vote or flag-offensive is granted at 15 points, with 10 points awarded when someone up-votes you. At 2,000 points, you can delete comments.
The system being merit based really helps the community entirely moderate itself. Ask Metafilter (and MeFi in general) is a great community because it’s ruled by moderators who filter the signal-to-noise ratio to something entirely reasonable. But it’s simply a core group of four people, one of whom is the founder, and they were trusted to understand how things are done on MeFi. Making the community control of SO merit-based is similar in some ways to how Wikipedia is governed. The community members who clearly care the most get the most power, but in a way that should be self-policing and self-balancing.
Most importantly, the site’s purpose is to provide easy access to clear, concise answers to your programming-related questions, without having to subscribe or buy in or worry about the accuracy of the answers. Because the site is highly editable in that your posts can be edited by highly-enough ranked mods, we’ll hopefully see a holy grail of sorts for answers to all the very obnoxious problems we run into day in and day out.
Check it out: