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Joel on Software

Sites for experts

by Joel Spolsky
Monday, April 19, 2010

Since announcing the new plans for Stack Exchange, there’s been a lot of discussion about what kind of new Q&A sites will work best on this platform.

So far there are 32 informal proposals on meta.stackexchange.com. We’re weeks away from opening a site where these proposals can become real.

From my answer to the Firearms proposal: “The power of the Stack Exchange platform is detailed, expert answers to extremely rare, ‘long-tail,’ highly technical questions. To get expert answers, you need experts. To attract experts, you need a site where people are asking very interesting and hard questions, not the basic questions, so that it’s clear that this is a PRO site, not a consumer/enthusiast site.... and remember, the pro sites WILL attract the enthusiasts, but not the other way around.”

From my answer to the Law proposal: “There are only 200 easy law questions, and they've all been asked 100 times on Mahalo and Yahoo!Answers. But there are 20,000,000 detailed, difficult, long-tail questions that only professionals can answer, and we'd be doing a REAL service to the Internet by creating a place where you can find answers to the 20,000,000 hard questions, not the 200 easy ones.”

Our core mission at Stack Overflow is:

Make the Internet a better place to get expert answers to your questions.

The “expert” part of that mission is important, otherwise we’re just building another place for the same questions that every other Q&A site has. We want the law Stack Exchange to attract lawyers, the movie Stack Exchange to attract filmmakers, and the aviation Stack Exchange to attract pilots. What makes a community great is great people... that is, real experts. And the experts want to hang out with other experts.


Have you been wondering about Distributed Version Control? It has been a huge productivity boon for us, so I wrote Hg Init, a Mercurial tutorial—check it out!

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About the author.

I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Exchange. More about me.

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