Jeff Atwood of the popular Coding Horror blog, has a new site in closed Beta right now called StackOverflow. It’s awesome and is addictive as hell. The site has a digg style interface for programmers to interact and ask each other questions, and hopefully this will be the nail in the coffin for that godforsaken hell hole known as Experts Exchange, and their ROT13 nonsense. I got fast tracked on the waiting list (apparently already in the thousands?) by transcribing a section of the project’s weekly podcast, and this will definitely be a site that I hit up 10 or more times a day.
In my brief experience with StackOverflow so far, I’ve noticed a handful of innovative and interesting features that I think make this site stand out regardless of its content matter. I really like the fact that the site uses openID, because unless sites start using it - it’s not going to gain critical mass, and I don’t feel it was that inconvenient to signup for one. This site actually made me finally go take the 15 seconds to acquire one from verisign, and I’m glad that they finally made me get around to doing this. The interaction model also seems much more solid than a regular forum, in its methods for the community to self-police and up/down mod posts via a reputation based system. What this boils down to, is that if you ask good questions, or provide good answers - other users will notice and boost your reputation, which increases your standing in the community and allows you to have more influence on the site. For example, until I hit 100 reputation, I lack the authority to down-mod anything which will be an effective measure against griefers and spammers.Looking at how StackOverflow is handling their beta, I will admit right now I intend to steal their process for managing signups and feedback because it is that solid, and imitation is the highest form of compliment. Signups for the beta are handled via a Google Spreadsheet form, which is quick and painless to set up - requiring maybe 15 minutes tops to get running, and that’s assuming you didn’t already have a Google account. Second, the developers are leveraging a new service called uservoice.com, which allows them to have a Dell Ideastorm feedback system at no cost, and no effort. This is huge. A public beta is useless if you can’t get effective feedback from your users, and I guarantee that my new venture pip.io will be using this webservice.
If you haven’t gotten your name on the waiting list yet, do it now. Even at closed beta, the community is vibrant and lively. At 8 AM CST I was able to ask a question regarding good workarounds for the fact that Java has no unsigned byte primitive and got 3 answers within 10 minutes. This is awesome, don’t wait, this site is going to become the defacto place to get programming answers online.